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Best Hike at Gornergrat, Zermatt: Scenic Trail Nr. 15 to Rotenboden

Best Hike at Gornergrat, Zermatt: Scenic Trail Nr. 15 to Rotenboden

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.

Find out!

Gornergrat hike nr. 15 - Scenic Trail (Aussichtsweg)
Scenic Trail from Gornergrat to Rotenboden – with the railway on your right, the Matterhorn in front of you, and Riffelsee Lake down below.
 

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. 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.

Kids hiking at Gornergrat in Zermatt Switzerland
The hiking trail between Gornergrat and Rotenboden isn’t strenuous, but it’s an Alpine hike with some steeper sections and a rather rocky trail, so good hiking shoes are a must!
 

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 (it costs 110 CHF for adults at the time of writing). 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 (186 CHF for 1 day at the time of writing). Peak Pass can be a good value if you stay in Zermatt for at least 2-3 days (a 2-day pass costs 207 CHF and a 3-day pass – 233 CHF, so just a bit more than a 1-day ticket covering all the cable cars/ trains in the area).

Good to know: Children (6-16 years) travel FREE on Gornergrat Railway with a Junior Travel Card (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 Pass or other local discount cards. However, these passes are usually too expensive if you are just visiting Switzerland for a short trip and don’t take a bunch of trains every day.

We go to Switzerland at least twice a year, usually for a week or two at a time, and it just never makes financial sense to get a Swiss Pass. The best way to save money in Switzerland is to stay in one area for a longer time and take advantage of regional multi-day cards.

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.

Map of Gornergrat Scenic Trail hike nr 15 in Zermatt, Switzerland
Gornergrat Scenic Trail (hike 15) is indicated in green.
 

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.

Mountain bikers and majestic scenery near Gornergrat in Switzerland
Majestic mountain scenery along the Scenic Trail from Gornergrat to Rotenboden.
Blacknose sheep near Rotenboden in Zermatt
Blacknose sheep near Rotenboden
 

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.

Ruinsee Lake at Gornergrat in Switzerland
Ruinsee Lake at Gornergrat. Some maps indicate the hike on this side of the railway, but we recommend hiking on the other side. But you could take a detour to the lake before starting your hike down to Rotenboden if you want to check out this area as well.
Gornergrat railway station
Gornergrat Railway Station. You can cross this bridge to get over the railway tracks, or you can just walk to the other side at the very end of the railway line. The views are amazing everywhere, so be sure to explore here a bit more before starting your hike.
Gornergrat Railway at the beginning of the Scenic Trail hike 15 in Zermatt
Gornergrat Railway should be on your right side when hiking down. From there, you just follow the trail to Riffelsee – Rotenboden.
 

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.

Gorner Glacier at Gornergrat in Switzerland
Gorner Glacier at Gornergrat. This view is easily accessible right next to the railway station.
Gornergrat hiking signs
Hiking signs at Gornergrat. Follow the signs for ‘Aussichtsweg’ or Riffelsee – Ritenboden.
 

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.

Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn view from Scenic Trail hike from Gornergrat to Rotenboden
Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn as seen from Scenic Trail hike near Rotenboden.
Gornergrat Railway - one of the top things to do in Zermatt Switzerland
Gornergrat Railway as seen from the Scenic Trail Nr. 15
Hiking near Rotenboden and Riffelsee on the Scenic Trail from Gornergrat
Just before you reach Riffelsee Lake, the trail splits. You can go down to the lake or go up to Rotenboden train station. If you hike to the lake, you can also just continue further down to Riffelberg.
 

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

Riffelsee lake with Matterhorn reflections
Riffelsee lake with Matterhorn reflections – you can see amazing reflections in the morning, but usually not during the day.
Riffelsee lake with mountain reflections
Riffelsee Lake – side view
 

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!

LEARN MORE: Riffelsee – Riffelberg Hike (Zermatt Trail Nr. 21)

Kids enjoying the view near Rotenboden train station in Zermatt Switzerland
There are several benches close to the Rotenboden train station – sit down and enjoy the views!
 

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.

Hiking Gornergrat Scenic Trail with kids
Hiking Gornergrat Scenic Trail with kids. Most children will have no difficulties with this hike, but it’s not the easiest trail, so probably not suitable for really young kids.
 

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 takes less than an hour.

It’s, therefore, quite easy to squeeze it 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 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:

Some of our favorite places in Switzerland:

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Complete guide to hiking Gornergrat Scenic Trail from Gornergrat to Rotenboden in Zermatt, Switzerland
 

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