Visiting Gornergrat in Zermatt, Switzerland, and looking to do some hiking at Gornergrat, but not sure which hike to choose?
While there are several nice options, there’s one hike that really stands out above all others, and that’s Gornergrat – Riffelsee – Rotenboden hike nr. 15. This hike is also known as Scenic Trail and indicated as ‘Aussichtsweg’.
Gornergrat Scenic Trail is a short downhill hike with some of the best views around Zermatt. From glaciers and snow-capped mountains to picture-perfect views of the Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn – hiking at Gornergrat is as easy as it is rewarding.
In this guide, you can read all about this short and spectacular Gornergrat hike: where exactly to go, what to expect, and why it’s a must-do in Zermatt.
Gornergrat – Riffelsee – Rotenboden Hike Overview
- Official trail indication: Aussichtsweg (Scenic Trail). Hike nr. 15.
- Starting point: Gornergrat (3,089 m), accessible by train from Zermatt.
- End point: Rotenboden (2,815 m), accessible by the same train, one station lower. See also the map below.
- Season: July to October.
- Distance: 2 km (1.25 miles).
- Hiking time: 40 minutes if going downhill. Count an hour if you do this hike in the opposite direction, from Rotenboden to Gornergrat.
- Difficulty: Easy/Medium.
- Elevation difference: Ascent 11 m/ descent 284 m.
- Facilities: There is a hotel, a restaurant, shops, and bathrooms at Gornergrat. There are no facilities at Rotenboden.
- Equipment/ clothing: Good hiking shoes, sun protection, and a bottle of water are a must. Hiking poles are nice to have. On a cooler day, pack a windproof and waterproof layer and a sweater.
Good to know: Gornergrat – Rotenboden trail is officially marked as a medium-difficulty hike. You’ll quickly see why – it’s quite a steep mountain track, with some loose rocks and gravel, and also a few stairs.
If you have the right footwear (light hiking shoes or hiking boots), it’s not a difficult hike at all. In fact, I’d classify it as easy. However, many day tourists do this hike as well, many of them with sneakers or other shoes that are really not suitable for hiking. And with the wrong shoes, this hike is much more challenging, of course.
If you have problems with your knees or just want some additional support, hiking poles can be quite useful when hiking here. It’s not a must for this hike, but nice to have, especially if it’s wet.
TIP: Everyone in our family now owns a pair of these light and foldable hiking poles from Black Diamond. They are so small that they even fit in a small kids’ backpack. We always pack them with us when hiking and never have to worry about not having the hiking poles when we need them.
Getting to Gornergrat & Tickets
Gornergrat is easy to reach by train from Zermatt. The ride is extremely scenic and takes 33 minutes. During the day in peak season, there are trains every 24 minutes, and you don’t have to reserve a specific train in advance.
If you are just visiting the Gornergrat area, it’s best to get a day ticket for the railway. You can use it to hop on and off the train as much as you like.
If, however, you are planning to visit other areas in Zermatt and take cable cars as well, you’ll need a Peak Pass. It’s valid for all trains and gondolas and is therefore really expensive if you just get it for one day. The Peak Pass can be a good value if you stay in Zermatt for at least 2-3 days (a 2-3-day pass is just a bit more expensive than a 1-day ticket covering all the cable cars/ trains in the area).
Good to know: Children (6-16 years) travel free of charge on Gornergrat Railway with a Junior Travelcard (younger kids are always free). The card is easy to get in all major train stations in Switzerland (also for foreigners who live abroad) and costs just 30 CHF for a year (free from the 3rd child). It’s a real bargain that will pay for itself after taking just one train ride. For Gornergrat, you’ll need to show the Junior Travel Card at the ticket desk in order to get a scannable day ticket.
Also adults can get discounts for Gornergrat Railway with a Swiss Travel Pass or other local discount cards. However, these passes usually only make sense if you are visiting Switzerland for a longer trip and plan on taking lots of trains every day.
Map of the Gornergrat Scenic Trail (Hike 15)
Below, you can see the map of the hike. We indicated it in green.
Further below, you can find more information about where exactly to hike, trail description and photos, and some useful tips.
Why Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelsee and Rotenboden
With such easy access to some of the most impressive mountain scenery from the Gornergrat Railway and also from the viewing platforms at Gornergrat itself, you might be wondering whether it’s even worth doing a hike that practically follows the railway tracks. It definitely is – here’s why!
The views from the Gornergrat – Riffelsee hike are unparalleled. You can see 29 mountains above 4,000 meters all around you. And even though you can enjoy some of that amazing scenery from the train as well, it’s not comparable to what you see from the hiking trail. Not even to mention that you go much slower, have 360° views, and can appreciate it all so much better.
The Scenic Trail is truly one of the best hikes in Zermatt! It offers the most phenomenal mountain panoramas, jaw-dropping views of the nearby glaciers, and picture-perfect angles of the Gornergrat Railway with the Matterhorn in the background. In summer, you can sometimes see the famous Zermatt Blacknose sheep in this area as well.
Good to know: Most of the famous pictures of the Zermatt – Gornergrat train in front of the Matterhorn are taken from this scenic trail 15. And you can easily take some similar pictures when you hike here as well. For more info on the best places for pictures and other tips – see the hike description below.
Where Exactly to Hike
On the current Zermatt hiking map, the Scenic Hike nr. 15 is indicated on the right side of Gornergrat Railway (when going downhill), on the same side as at Ruinsee Lake. However, the other side is closer to the glacier and the views are more spectacular. That’s also where pretty much everybody hikes.
If you check the official hike description and map on the website of the local tourism board here, you’ll see that they also recommend hiking on the side of the glacier and the Matterhorn. So I’m not sure why the printed maps of the area indicate this hike on the other side.
Anyway, there are indeed several options where you can hike between Gornergrat and Rotenboden. But once you get to Gornergrat, you’ll see that the best views are on the left side of the railway when going downhill (the side that’s closer to the glacier), so the railway itself is to your right. That’s the hike that we did and recommend, and that is described in this article.
To make it completely clear where to hike, we indicated this hike in green on our map above and included some pictures with the explanations below.
Good to know: You can also do the Scenic Trail in the other direction, from Rotenboden to Gornergrat. However, it’s quite a steep ascent and you’ll constantly be running into all the people who are hiking down. So it will likely take you at least an hour if you hike up from Rotenboden to Gornergrat compared to 40 minutes if hiking downhill. Furthermore, the nicest views will be behind you if going up.
Trail Description & Photos
The Gornergrat – Rotenboden hike starts at the Gornergrat Railway Station. So after you explore everything at Gornergrat and are ready to go down, head back to the station and look for the signs to Riffelsee, Rotenboden, or ‘Aussichtweg’.
In practice, this means simply going to the same side of the railway where you arrived and following the well-trafficked hiking path downhill. As already mentioned, the railway should be on your right-hand side when you walk downwards, and you really can’t go wrong.
Don’t rush down just yet, however. Some of the best views of the Gorner Glacier and the other glacier tongues can be seen at the beginning of the hike – right next to the train station.
Don’t forget to look all around you once in a while along this hike. While the best scenery is definitely in front of you (with the Matterhorn stealing the show), the views are really amazing in all directions.
PHOTO TIP: About three-quarters through the hike (closer to Rotenboden than to Gornergrat), you’ll be walking quite close to the railway tracks. Because of the way the railway turns here, you can find some nice angles where you can take pictures of the Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn.
Trains run at regular 20-minute intervals during the day, in both directions, so you are bound to see at least a few trains passing by when you hike between Gornergrat and Riffelsee/ Rotenboden.
However, once you find some of the best angles, you might have to wait for the next train for a few minutes. But with a bit of patience, you can definitely take some of those postcard-perfect pictures yourself.
Soon, you’ll see Riffelsee Lake down below in front of you. It’s a tiny lake and doesn’t look like much from a distance, but it’s one of the most scenic and most photographed places around Zermatt. When the water is calm, you can see excellent reflections of the Matterhorn at Riffelsee.
However, if you hike here during the day, the water will likely not be calm enough for reflections, and the lake will look quite ordinary. So for the best experience, be sure to come here very early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.
For more information and top tips for visiting and photographing the lake, please refer to our detailed guide to Riffelsee via the link below. It also has some tips for how to best plan your time so that you can be everywhere at the best possible time. Check it out!
LEARN MORE: Riffelsee – Complete Guide to Visiting, Photographing, and Hiking at Riffelsee Lake
After visiting Riffelsee, it’s just a short 5-minute uphill walk to the Rotenboden train station, where this hike ends. From Rotenboden, you can take the train back to Zermatt, or explore some of the other areas along the Gorngergrat Railway line.
Alternatively, you can skip Rotenboden and just continue hiking from Riffelsee to Riffelberg, which is the next train station further down the same line.
Rotenboden – Riffelsee – Riffelberg is an easy hike that takes about an hour extra. The scenery is spectacular and because you are hiking at a lower altitude, it’s much greener and quite different from the trail described here. If you have an hour to spare, I highly recommend extending this hike and hiking from Gornergrat all the way down to Riffelberg!
Hiking from Gornergrat to Rotenboden with Kids
Because the Scenic Trail 15 is quite short and not too strenuous, you can definitely do it with children. For our 10-12-year-olds, it was a walk in the park and we had difficulties keeping up with them (also because I kept stopping for pictures, waiting for the train, etc.).
If the weather is nice, you have plenty of time and good hiking shoes, I think you could do this hike from Gornergrat to Rotenboden via Riffelsee with kids from about 4-5 years.
Because of the elevation and the rocky descent, I’d be a bit hesitant to do this hike with really young kids. It helps if your kids already have some hiking experience – this is not the best trail to introduce young kids to hiking.
So, this is our guide to hiking between Gornergrat and Riffelsee/ Rotenboden. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect.
We did quite a lot of hiking in Zermatt, and – in my opinion – if you only do one hike in the area, the Gornergrat Scenic Trail is the one that is worth it the most. The views are spectacular, it’s not strenuous, and it takes less than an hour.
It’s, therefore, quite easy to squeeze this hike in your itinerary even if your time in Zermatt is really limited (here you can see our tips on how to spend one day in Zermatt including all the musts and this beautiful hike).
READ ALSO: Best Things to Do at Gornergrat
TIP! Another hike that we really recommend in Zermatt is the Matterhorn Glacier Trail. However, it’s a bit more challenging and takes at least 2 – 2.5 hours without any photo stops (and you’ll want to stop all the time!). But if you have the time and the weather is good, definitely check it out – it’s one of the best hikes in Zermatt!
If you have a few more days in the Zermatt area and you like more challenging hikes, check out the 5 Lakes Hike. Another nice trail is the hike to Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, near Randa just on the road to Zermatt. The hike takes 3-4 hours and you get to walk over the longest suspension bridge in the Alps (and one of the longest in the world).
READ ALSO: Top Places to See & Things to Do in Zermatt
More inspiration – our favorite hikes in Switzerland:
- Hiking at Schynige Platte – a real lesser-known gem.
- Oeschinensee Hike – one of the best hikes ever!
- Stoos Ridge Hike to Fronalpstock – amazing views of Lake Lucerne.
- Four Lakes Hike in Engelberg – Swiss Alps at its best.
- Bachalpsee Lake – one of the most popular hikes in Switzerland.
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Some of our favorite places in Switzerland: