Switzerland is an expensive country. Many backpackers shied away from it when they are backpacking through Europe due to its cost of traveling. It doesn't have to be that way though as I experienced it first hand by traveling around Switzerland for 2 weeks and spending as little as possible. That is not to say, I did not do anything. I did a lot. In fact, I even got to the foot of the Matterhorn without selling my kidney!
In this post, I will explain everything I did to minimize the cost, the equipment you will need to make it happen and which trail to take for the best full day experience.
Who is this trail for: A regular Backpacker who loves nature and is in good shape.
Duration: 8 - 12 hrs
When: Summer (I was there early September)
Closest City: Zermatt
Equipments You Need
No matter which season you decided to hike, the weather will be cold. The temperature may range from mildly cold to the extreme so appropriate gear is necessary. Here is a list of things I had with me:
- A Tent: One of the most expensive parts of Switzerland is its accommodation. By camping in a campground, you will save so as much as 30 CHF per night compared to staying in a hostel. A tent with a rain cover to prevent condensation is preferable. My friend's tent did not have one and I woke up with my hair and foot wet every day.
- Sleeping Bag: It does get cold at night so a nice and warm sleeping bag is essential. Take the down one so you don't have to carry a sleeping mat.
- Good Walking Shoes: If you decided to climb the same time as I did then a good walking/hiking shoes is more than enough. There won't be much snow along the majority of the trail (except the one leading to the hut).
- Weather-proof Clothing: The regular clothing you use to hike the mountains are fine. A weather-proof jacket is essential to keep you protected from the wind. I found wind-proof gloves are useful against the chilling wind as well.
- A Hiking Map: Before you start the hike, get the map from the Tourist Information near the train station. It will come in handy when you start the trail.
- Food and water supply: Since we will be tackling 3 - 4 trails in one day and the trip might take more than 10 hours, prepare enough for the worst.
- Power Bank: The trail we are doing is long and you might need the power to keep your camera juice topped up. Also, the campground is not the best one. They have a shared power outlet in the toilet and you will be competing for one with other backpackers so get a Power Bank to save you the many awkward talks with people in the toilet.
Where to Stay in Zermatt
Matterhorn Campsite is the cheapest option we found. The price was half of what the cheapest hostel costs in Zermatt during peak season. It is also located near the train station and a supermarket which is always convenient.
Now that I have listed all the good parts, it is time to tell you the truth. This campground is by far the worst I stayed in Switzerland. There was no Wifi, the only available shared power outlet is in the toilet, the guy at the reception was a little crazy and the campground itself looks like an abandoned playground.
That said, it was more than enough for me. We were going to hike all day anyway so we would have fallen asleep anywhere. But if you can afford a little bit more, I would suggest you to go with these hostels especially in the colder months.
How to get to Zermatt
The best way to get here is to fly into Zurich or cities nearby and take a train or a bus from there. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to Switzerland and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.
If you are traveling in Switzerland for more than a week, I would suggest you buy a 4-days pass train ticket. It should cost around 260 CHF. This is a no-brainer especially if you are 26 or under. Transportation is crazy expensive here and if you want to cover a lot of areas, the cost will accumulate fast and this ticket will save you a fortune.
Zermatt is the closest town to Matterhorn and that is where you have to go. Since the town is in a no-car zone, the easiest way to get there is by train.
You can also go with FlixBus as they are cheap, reliable and run widely throughout Europe.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Switzerland, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
The Ulimate One Epic Day Hiking Trail
We are going to combine several trails to create a one epic circuit that you can do in one full day. Below is the overview of the trail we are going to take. I suggest you download the map from the link below and save it on your phone as a backup in case you lost the physical map.
To download the full hiking map with all the available trails on and around Matterhorn, click here.
The trail begins from the campground in Zermatt. Start as early as 8 AM so that you can utilize the most of the daylight available that day. Walk toward the northeast of Zermatt and follow the cable car line toward Furi.
Walk through Furi, and continue to follow the cable car line upward. Keep in mind that there are many possible paths to go from Zermatt to Schawarzee Paradise, our first stop, so be careful.
Three hours of steep climb and your surrounding should gradually shift from forest to a completely exposed mountain. You should see a huge swiss traditional house on top of a hill. Follow the trail until you reach Schawarzee Paradise.
By then it should already be noon, and so feel free to stop here and eat lunch, go to the toilet or if you are like me, get more caffeine in your blood. Congratulation, you have completed trail #29. Once you are ready, head off to start trail #28 and make your way toward Matterhorn.
Around an hour of steady ground, you should reach an intersection with the option to either go left to the glacier or up to the Hörnli Hut. Go up and follow the trail along the side of Matterhorn.
One and a half hour of crazy steep and slippery climb, you should reach the Hörnli Hut, the last mountain hut that stood right under the mighty Matterhorn. Don't rush it. You deserve to stay up here for a while. Immerse yourself in the Matterhorn.
Once you are done, make your way down to the intersection we briefly mentioned and go right (toward the glacier). Coming down from Hörnli Hut should take no longer than an hour.
Now we start the Glacier trail (trail #26). This trail was no easier than the previous ones so don't let your guard down. Go to the bottom of the glacier, and humbly stare at the mighty Matterhorn from the bottom of the glacier. Trust me, it is quite a sight to behold.
The whole glacier trail should take you around 2 hours to complete and you should end up at Trockener Steg cable car station. By that time, it should almost be around 3 - 4PM. Go to the cable car station and while facing the station, on your right, there should be a way down to Zermatt.
Going down should take you no more than 3 hours. The way down is extremely steep though so the earlier you are able to start this last trail, the better because walking in the dark on this trail is very dangerous. I had to run down to make it back in time before it gets pitch dark. If you begin the descend at 4PM, you should be back in Zermatt by 7 PM.
By the time you arrive back in Zermatt, you should have completely exhausted all your energy while your money is still intact. That's why I like hiking. It's free. Once you are done, make sure to treat yourself with some delicious Swiss food and lots and lots of chocolate! You deserve it!
Be warned: This trail is not for everyone. You have to be in good shape to do it. Please also calculate your time very carefully if you decided to go on this trail. You are in the mountains after all and shit can happen. Leave a few hours of daylight and prepare lots and lots of snacks and water.
Do also tell someone what your plan is. I was ill-prepared, to say the least, and I ran out of water and food on my way back down. I had to fill up my water from a small waterfall along the trail. I also did not tell my friend the plan and I was gone for so long he almost reported me missing to the police! Other than that, good luck and enjoy the Matterhorn!
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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