The Matterhorn Glacier Trail hike in Zermatt is a great walking trail that winds underneath the Matterhorn. It is one of the best day-hikes in Zermatt and definitely one of the top places to see the Matterhorn from a very close distance without having to do any crazy incline or hiking. For an epic view of the Matterhorn with lots of lake reflection shots, this is my top recommendation for a hiking trail in Zermatt.
MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL DETAILS
Hike Distance: 6.4km from Trockener Steg to Schwarzsee
Hike Duration: 2-3 hours
Hike Difficulty: Very low. The total incline is 150m and decline 500m Sometimes rocky trail but never any danger or exposed trail.
Hike Incline: 150m total climb with 500m of decline.
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HOW TO GET TO THE MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL
The Matterhorn Glacier Trail starts just beneath the Trockener Steg cable car station. You will begin the cable car journey on the Matter Glacier Paradise cable car, which leaves from the Zermatt Bergbahnen Station.
There are multiple options for the hike depending on how much you want to walk. The trail itself is about 6km but you can add on a trip to Hornlihutte or walk down Furi from Schwarzsee if you want to add on some more trekking time. However, if you like most people, the trail is enough activity for one day you will book the following ticket:
Combo Hiking Ticket for Matterhorn Glacier Trail: The combo hiking ticket is a great initiative that allows you to catch the cable car from Zermatt to Furi to Trockener Steg. You then follow the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, which finishes at Schwarzsee station. Your combo hiking ticket then includes the cable car down from Schwarzsee to Furi to Zermatt and the loop is completed.
The cost of the Combo Hiking Ticket is $70.50 for an adult or 50% off that fee if you have a Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Half Card. I have used both and still have my Swiss Half Card and highly suggest purchasing it if you are in Switzerland for any more than 3 days. It will save you money even with just 3 days of travel in Switzerland even though it is a yearly pass!
The cable cars are open every day from 8:30 to 4:30 but you can check here on the website to double-check the updated timings.
The map below shows the pin for your starting and finishing point, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG. You can purchase your tickets for the cable car here but do be warned there are some long lines for the first few cable cars of the day so arriving half an hour early is not a bad idea if you want to be among the first up on the trails.
MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL HIKING MAP
The trail is pretty simple to find and begins at the Trockener Steg cable car station. The sign was comically small for Swiss standards but it was there. Basically just head down the hill from the station to the first lake and continue following the red and white paint markers from that point on.
At the end of the trail, you will find yourself at Schwarzsee station. I have hiked all the way down from Hornlihutte to Schwarzsee and to Zermatt before and it’s a nice hike with lots of switchbacks if you are up for some downhill action otherwise you finish up at Schwarzsee and catch the cable car to Furi and then to Zermatt Station.
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MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL
We set out pretty early to the Zermatt Bergbahnen Station and managed to be on one of the first cable cars of the day. There was no chance of any golden-hour light with the first cable car leaving at 8:30 am but it’s always good to get out there early and skip some of the crowds. If you do want to be on this trail for sunrise it is possible, you can hike up to Schwarzsee from Zermatt and it would take a couple of hours and begin the trail in reverse. It would be a mission but the alpenglow and lighting on Matterhorn would be epic.
Once at Trockener Steg Station we jumped off and had a little trouble finding the start at first but we located the tiny sign pictured above and off we went. It’s easy to follow as you skip from one lake to the next, always staying underneath the Matterhorn… right where you want to be.
The trail begins with a lake after just a few hundred meters and while it is small, you can get some great reflection shots of Matterhorn here. Don’t wear out your battery yey though, because there are many reflection lake shot opportunities to follow. If you are keen for good lake-reflection photo opportunity of the Matterhorn make sure you checkout the Riffelsee hike and the Five Lakes hike in Zermatt, which also have good photo spots.
The trail quickly skips down to another glacial lake, this time much bigger and during the time we visited it was quite murky and grey. There really isn’t a part of this trail where you can’t see the Matterhorn so you get to appreciate it from a lot of angles and take it in. It’s great to be in its presence for the entirety of the hike. Often the clouds will cover it but they move quickly, so if you have a shot in mind, take a seat and be patient as they often clear within 15-minutes and the Matterhorn re-appears.
To get across this lake, the trail sends you over a small bridge. I thought the trail, for the most part, was very simple and there were lots of families on the route due to the very small amount of incline and the Matterhorn featuring throughout. It’s a perfect way for families and those not wanting a crazy ascent to get the full Zermatt/Matterhorn experience. If you are up for a bit more adventure and want to get a closer look at the Matterhorn, I suggest the hiking to Hornlihutte as it was one of my favorite hikes in Zermatt.
The lakes continued to appear after each little stretch and over every hill. Red rocks contrast against the blue sky as clouds roll in around the Matterhorn. Small rock avalanches are heard in the distance and we are in Zermatt heaven as we slowly make our way through this beautiful train on a great summer day.
After the final lake, you pass underneath the ridge that leads to the Hornlihutte, which is the jump-off point for the actual Matterhorn climb. You can actually head up there but it will be about a 2-hour return trip minimum if you add that onto your hike. This section of the trail is quite rocky and the path is easy to lose but just keep heading towards the next red and white marker until you reach a metal bridge that takes you over the river.
At this point, you do have a bit of an incline up the hill and this is where most of the ascent happens on this trail. Once you reach the top of the hill you are at the intersection of either heading down to Schwarzsee or making a detour up to Hornlihutte. I’ve done both and can recommend the Hornlihutte hike but it will depend on how tired you are from the trail so far.
The trail now takes you down a steep hill towards Schwarzsee. Look out for the Valais sheep who hang out on the hills here during the summer. They love to chill with you and will come up for a pat.
When you reach the view of Schwarzsee you are almost at the finish point of the trail. It’s a beautiful lake right next to Schwarzsee Station and there is a restaurant here and toilet facilities if you want to rest for a little bit with views of the Matterhorn before catching the cable car back down to Zermatt.
I think this hike around the Matterhorn is a great way to experience Zermatt and definitely the best way to see the Matterhorn up close and personal without too much extreme hiking. It’s a great way for the family to get out and enjoy one of the best views of the Matterhorn, enjoy a beautiful walk along the lakes and experience Zermatt!
MY SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDES
I spent 100 days hiking in Switzerland and created a guide for different regions around the country. You can click on one of my Switzerland hiking guides below to help you plan your trip.
THE SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDE: 50 AWESOME HIKES IN IN SWITZERLAND: I spent 100 days in Switzerland making this huge guide with all of the hikes I personally explored.
4 AWESOME VIA FERRATA COURSES IN SWITZERLAND: Via Ferrata is a cliff-side climbing route where you are harnessed in. You have to try it at least once!
10 AWESOME HIKES NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN: Lauterbrunnen is the most picturesque valley in Switzerland and is situated perfectly amidst many famous hiking routes.
INTERLAKEN HIKING GUIDE: 15 AWESOME HIKES IN INTERLAKEN: Interlaken is my favorite town in Switzerland and is the number one hiking base.
12 AWESOME HIKES NEAR GRINDELWALD: A great location to base if you are a keen hiker with lots of hut-to-hut hikes and epic peaks.
7 AWESOME HIKES IN MURREN: Murren is one of the most beautiful towns in Switzerland and is surrounded by great hiking routes.
9 AWESOME HIKES NEAR APPENZELL: My favorite hikes around the Alpstein Region and other peaks near Appenzell.
7 AWESOME HIKES NEAR CHUR: Several beautiful lakes, and incredible gorge hike, and an epic Via Ferrata course.
MY PERSONALIZED SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS
SWITZERLAND BUDGET BACKPACKING GUIDE: In this blog, I talk about the cost of travel and how to travel around Switzerland on the cheap with some tips and hacks from my experience.
20 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: MY SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS: You probably didn’t even think of half of these. I didn’t either and figured many of these tips out the hard way.
MOST IMPORTANT TRANSPORT TIP: SWISS HALF CARD
OPTION 1: Switzerland trains, buses, and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheaply was to buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card before I arrived. It gives you 50% off every regular train, bus, and even many cable cars. It only costs $150 USD but pays itself off in just a few days with many train tickets in Switzerland costing close to $100 alone. OPTION 2: The second option is to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited train, bus, and (many) cable car rides but it’s pretty expensive at around $100 USD per day so if you don’t travel each day it isn’t worth it. OPTION 3: The final option is to get the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy 8 days’ worth of transit but you can choose the night before if you want to activate the next day. That way you don’t need to travel every day to get your money’s worth, you can just activate the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass on the days where you are doing sizeable transits. My advice is to book the Swiss Half-Fare Card or the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass in advance before your trip so it’s ready to go when you arrive.
Saturday 11th of July 2020
Hi Jackson, thanks very much for sharing your pics and experience on this beautiful hike. My wife and I are in our 60's and am wondering if this trail is suitable for us folks in the summer. We plan to end the hike at Schwarzsee. From your pics it appears do able with a short steep climb, even with children? We seek your opinion here. Keep sharing.
Thanks very much
Wednesday 26th of August 2020
Hi Jackson, Thank you so much for the recommendation to add the hurlihut to this hike! It was a great experience.
Saturday 11th of July 2020
Yep it was pretty good with lots of families out on that trail. You can catch the cable car up and then there really isn't much incline when you begin at Trockener Steg after catching the cable car up from Zermatt town. Then take the cable car from Schwarzsee back to Zermatt town, which is how we did it. I did another time hike all the way down from Schwarzsee and it's possible but better to take the cable car with kids :) Enjoy