By John Miller
Hiking in the Swiss Alps is one of the best activities a nature lover can enjoy nature, relax and rejuvenate yourself in beautiful surroundings. There are so many routes varying in difficulty that there is the perfect one to suit you, and there are a range of accommodation options to choose from too. Although the Swiss Alps is a popular winter destination for Brits as a ski holiday, the summer months are the best time to visit for other outdoor activities. Hiking, mountain biking are the big draws as well as rock climbing and horse trekking too.
Preparing for your hike
Preparation for hiking in the Swiss Alps is essential especially if you aren’t used to mountainous terrain. Plan your route carefully, taking into account not only the distance of the trail but also the difficulty, including ascents and altitude. Just because a route is short doesn’t mean it is easy. Factor in time for breaks in addition to the average time it takes to complete a trail. Starting off on an easier trail is always a good idea to test yourself on the terrain, you can always move to a more difficult one later on.
Packing correctly will make a big difference when you are out hiking on your trail. Not only bringing the correct equipment and supplies but keeping everything safe and compact too. Using packing aides help to separate your food, clothing and other equipment within your backpack making it easier to access and keeping them safe from leaks or spills. I have reviewed some of the best travel packing cubes on my blog and they are a great help when packing a backpack for a trek.
Essential things to bring along with you, however long you are hiking for are: a map, a first aid kit including a foil blanket, enough food and drinks to cover your trail time and a bit more, spare layers of clothing and an alarm or a whistle in case you get into trouble.
Top tip: The emergency signal to use if you need help is 6 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. You should repeat this until help arrives or until you get an answer of 3 signals per minute followed by a one-minute break. Information from myswissalps.com.
Popular routes to take
There are many different routes to take and sometimes one route leads on to another, giving you the choice to carry on or to head to the finish of the first. Here are the most popular in different difficulty categories are as follows.
Easy-First to Bachsee, Bernese Oberland
This route enables hikers to reach a beautiful mountain lake in just two and a half hours. First is the base for many hiking trails, but this short hike of 5.8km enables you to circle back to the beginning without having to continue to more difficult climbs. The terrain is mostly meadow and high alpine with wide and even paths. From the lake, you also have a lovely view of the Schreckhorn peak.
Moderate – Hohtenn to Lalden, Upper Rhone Valley
This interesting trail takes you across meadow, through rocks and forest as well as along a railway. The moderately rated hike takes around five hours and forty minutes to complete and covers 18km. Follow the route along the southern section and viaducts of the Lotschberg
railway. There are some excellent photo opportunities of the historic railway and you might spot some salamanders too.
Difficult – Riederalp to the Aletsch forest and Bettmeralp
A relatively short but difficult hike due to the inclines to see the Grosser Aletsch glacier from the Aletsch forest. It should take you around three and a half hours to hike the 9.8km of trail through high alpine terrain and forest. There are stunning views of the Glacier once you reach the forest and there are also two small lakes on your route back down to Bettmeralp.
Of course, you can continue the trails to make then longer and move on to the next route. Planning the routes and factoring in the difficulty, weather and elevation before you set off is strongly advised. Check with your tour operator or the tourism office for examples of trails and maps to help you decide and plan which ones to take.
Where to stay
You have a vast choice of accommodation in the Swiss Alps ranging from hotels to camp sites. Hotels offer a comfortable stay and are convenient for those who want to be close to a train station or transfers travelling from the airport. They can also make for a romantic stay when surrounded by mountains, meadows and lakes.
Chalets or apartments can be a cheaper alternative to a hotel and self-catering options are quite flexible for hikers exploring the area. Bed and breakfasts and bookable mountain huts are great too for staying in places for a short space of time when hiking from place to place.
Youth hostels offer the cheapest basic accommodation when sharing a dormitory and a bathroom. A good option if you are exploring the area on a budget. Camping is a very flexible way to explore and stay when hiking. There are campsites in the valleys, inhabited areas and forests which need to be booked if you want to stay in these areas. In the mountains wild camping is allowed, apart from conservation areas. Always check before setting off to camp to make sure you are adhering to the Swiss Alpine Club recommendations.
Have you ever been hiking in the Swiss Alps?
The Swiss Alpine area is a beautiful natural spectacle to behold and whichever hikes you decide to take will guarantee you some postcard perfect views and an enjoyable experience. Check and plan your route, decide where you want to stay and away you go! Remember before you set off make sure you have packed correctly to avoid packing disasters such as these.
Do you have any experiences of hiking the Swiss Alps that you would like to share? Are there any tips hikers will benefit from before they go?