Julie Switzerland 25 Comments

For one of the best views of Matterhorn, it’s hard to beat Gornergrat. A scenic, cogwheel train takes you from Zermatt to this alpine paradise. Once at the top station, you can simply enjoy the sweeping views of the Matterhorn and the Swiss Alps from the restaurant and terraces. Or, you can add on the short but stunning hike to Riffelberg that is well-worth the time and effort.

This was our favorite experience while in Zermatt. We could repeat this on every visit to Switzerland and never get tired of the experience. Just look at this view!

Gornergrat Best Hike

Hiking to Riffelsee

If you do one thing while in Zermatt, it should be a trip up to Gornergrat. Here’s how to do it.

Interesting Facts about Gornergrat

Gornergrat lies in an area called the Valais, several kilometers east of Zermatt.

To get here, you will ride the Gornergrat Bahn, the highest open air railway in Europe. The train operates 365 days per year and it takes 33 minutes to travel from Zermatt to Gornergrat.

Gornergrat Bahn

Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn | How to Visit Gornergrat

Gornergrat sits at an altitude of 3089 meters (10,134 feet). From the top station, you get to see the second largest glacier in the Alps (Gorner Glacier), Switzerland’s highest peak (Dufourspitze), and the Matterhorn.

For a very unique experience, consider an overnight stay at the Kulm Hotel, Europe’s highest-altitude hotel. Learn more here. 

How to Get to Gornergrat

Gornergrat Railway

The best way to get to Gornergrat is to ride the Gornergrat Railway to the top station.

It’s also possible to get to Gornergrat by hiking, either from Zermatt (5 hours) or from one of the upper railway stations. However, if you like the idea of hiking, we recommend a wonderful, easy hike that has you mostly walking downhill (keep reading!). This is a more pleasant experience than hiking up a mountain at a high altitude.

The Gornergrat Railway is located in Zermatt across the street from the main train station (look for the station with the sign “Gornergrat Bahn, the Matterhorn Railway”). Purchase your tickets in the train station. There is no need to purchase them in advance.

We visited Zermatt in early July and had no problems purchasing a ticket the same day. We got on the very next train.

Zermatt Peaks Map

Map of the hiking trails in Zermatt | How to Visit Gornergrat

Riding the Gornergrat Railway

For the best view, take a seat on the right side of the train. The views over Zermatt and of the Matterhorn are amazing!

It takes 33 minutes to travel from Zermatt to Gornergrat. Along the way, you will make several brief stops at other train stations.

Matterhorn from Gornergrat Railway

Zermatt from the Gornergrat Railway | How to Visit Gornergrat

 

Riffelberg Station Zermatt

The view of Riffelberg Station and the Matterhorn from the Gornergrat Railway.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Gornergrat?

Ticket Prices

  • One Way, Zermatt to Gornergrat, in July and August: 63 CHF
  • Return Ticket in July and August: 126 CHF

Tickets are cheaper the remainder of the year. Click here for the full price list.

Discounts: If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, half fare card, or are a child aged 6 to 16 years, you get a 50% discount. There is no discount for a Eurailpass.

If you have plans to be in Zermatt for at least two days and visit all three peaks (Gornergrat, Glacier Paradise, and Rothorn), consider buying the Peak Pass. This pass gives you unlimited access to all lifts and trains in the area. In July and August, a 2-day pass starts at 241 CHF with reduced prices the remainder of the year. Learn more here. 

Priority Boarding

For 5 CHF per ticket, you can add Priority Boarding. This allows you to board the train before those who do not have Priority Boarding. By boarding first, you are guaranteed to get a seat on the right side of the train for the best views of the Matterhorn.

Is priority boarding worth it? Maybe. If you can get in line early, or if crowds are light, you should have no problem getting a seat on the right side of the train, so priority boarding is not worth it. However, if you arrive at the train station right before the train arrives and lines are long, it might be worth it to pay a little extra money to skip the line (or, save your money and wait for the next train).

I recommend purchasing a one-way ticket to Gornergrat. There is no cost savings if you purchase a return ticket, and doing so locks you in to taking the train back to Zermatt from Gornergrat. It is possible to hike a short distance to a lower train station or cable car station and return to Zermatt a different way. From Gornergrat, we recommend the hike to Riffelberg.

Things to Do on Gornergrat

Once you disembark the train at Gornergrat, you will be standing at an elevation of 3,089 meters (10,134 feet). It’s completely normal to feel the effects of this higher elevation. You will get out of breath easier and you might feel a little dizzy or lightheaded. When walking uphill and going up stairs, take your time.

Gornergrat Train Station

Gornergrat Train Station | How to Visit Gornergrat

First View from Gornergrat

Immediately next to the train station is a wide terrace that offers a great view of the Matterhorn. Take in the view and then walk up to the main building.

First View of Matterhorn

View from the terrace next to the train station | How to Visit Gornergrat

3100 Kulm Hotel and Terraces

The main building, the 3100 Kulm Hotel, also has a restaurant, restrooms, and gift shops. Two observatories sit on two corners of the building.

Gornergrat Building

3100 Kulm Hotel | How to Visit Gornergrat

 

Gornergrat Restaurant

For panoramic views of the area, continue up the trail behind the building. From here, you can see the Gorner Glacier, the second largest glacier in the Alps. You can also see the Monte Rossa Massif and Switzerland’s highest peak, Dufourspitze.

Hike the Scenic Loop

If you feel like exploring, follow the hiking trail off to the east. This trail is 0.4 km long and offers unique views of Gornergrat, the Gorner Glacier, and the Matterhorn.

Gornergrat Hiking Trail

Gornergrat Scenic Loop | How to Visit Gornergrat

 

Gorner Glacier

Gorner Glacier | How to Visit Gornergrat

How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelsee and Riffelberg

Gornergrat to Riffelberg Hiking Stats

Distance: 4 to 5 km point-to-point, depending on the route
Total Ascent: 60 m (200 feet)
Total Descent: 560 m (1,850 feet)
Highest Elevation (at the Gornergrat train station): 3,100 m (10,150 feet)
Lowest Elevation (at the Riffelberg Station): 2,600 m (8,500 feet)
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
When to Go: July through September

Map

Map of the hiking trail from Gornergrat to Riffelsee and Riffelberg.

 

Riffelsee Riffelberg Trail Map

Hiking route from Gornergrat to Rotenboden, Riffelsee, and Riffelberg.

Riffelberg Elevation Profile

Elevation profile: Gornergrat to Riffelberg

Hiking from Gornergrat to Riffelsee

Distance: 2 km (1.2 miles)
Time: 30 minutes plus lots of extra time for photos

This short, easy hike is a wonderful experience to add on to your visit to Gornergrat. On this mostly downhill hike, you will have awesome views of the Matterhorn and you get to visit the very pretty Riffelsee lake.

From the Gornergrat train station, follow the trail downhill, heading towards the Matterhorn. There are also numerous orange signs directing hikers where to go. Follow the sign to Riffelsee.

Zermatt Hiking Trail Sign

Hiking Trail Sign | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

Along the way, you can climb the hill in the photo below, which is labeled on Google Maps as Steinmännchen, for nice view of the Matterhorn.

Gornergrat Hike

The rocky hill (Steinmännchen) in this photo makes a nice detour off of the main hiking trail. It’s a great photo spot with good views of the Matterhorn and the Gornergrat station.

 

Matterhorn from Gornergrat

View of the Matterhorn from Steinmännchen | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

 

View of Gornergrat

Looking back at Gornergrat station from Steinmännchen | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

Back on the main trail, continue the walk to Riffelsee.

Hike Zermatt

Julie Tyler Kara Zermatt

 

The farther down the trail you go, the more the views open up. Now you can see Riffelsee in the photo below.

Panoramic View of Matterhorn

More great views of the Matterhorn | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

 

Earth Trekkers

Riffelsee Zermatt

Overlooking Riffelsee | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

If you get lucky with the weather, and it is not too breezy, it’s possible to get a photo of Matterhorn’s reflection in Riffelsee lake (we didn’t get so lucky). 

Riffelsee

Riffelsee on a breezy day | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

You can end your hike here and make the short walk to Rotenboden and take the train back to Zermatt. Or, keep going for more gorgeous views of the Alps.

Hike from Riffelsee to Riffelberg

Distance: 2 to 3 km (1.2 to 2 miles)
Time: 30 to 60 minutes, plus lots of extra times for photos

From Riffelsee, it takes approximately 30 minutes to hike to Riffelberg. There are two ways to get to Riffelberg. We followed the Swiss Topwalk trail (#23) to Riffelsberg (2 km). Another option is to take the Riffelseeweg Trail (#21), which is a slightly longer trail (about 20 minutes additional hiking time and 3 km).

Just beyond Riffelsee, another, smaller lake comes into view. This is another beautiful spot for photos. 

Riffelsee to Riffelberg Hike

Things to Do Gornergrat Switzerland

We often get questions about where we took the photo below. It is taken on the rock on the far side of this small lake. In the photo above, you can see the rock.

Zermatt Switzerland

 

Beyond the second lake, here is the view of the Matterhorn from the hiking trail. 

Riffelseeweg

Hiking from Riffelsee to Riffelberg

A short distance past the second lake, the trail will split. We went right, following the Swiss Topwalk, which is the shorter of the two options. If you don’t mind a slightly longer hike, you can take the Riffelseeweg Trail, #21. Here are the views from the Swiss Topwalk.

Swiss Topwalk Trail

Swiss Topwalk Trail | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

 

Swiss Alp Panorama

Best things to do in Gornergrat

More awesome views of the Matterhorn | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

 

Riffelberg Station

Riffelberg Station | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

As you descend, the landscape gets a little greener and the views open up. From here, you can see Zermatt off in the distance.

View of Zermatt

Zermatt in the valley | How to Hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg

Once you arrive in Riffelberg you have a decision to make. It’s possible to continue the hike all of the way down to Zermatt (2 hours). Or, you can take the Gornergrat Railway back to Zermatt (CHF 40) or ride the Riffelberg Express to Zermatt (CHF 37.50). The Riffelberg Express is a cable car that runs from Riffelberg to Furi. Once in Furi, change cable cars to continue to Zermatt (included in the CHF 37.50).

You can purchase your tickets for the train and the cable car at the stations in Riffelsberg.

We rode the cable car back to Zermatt, just to have a different view.

OPTIONAL: Combine Gornergrat with a visit to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Visit Gornergrat in the morning and Glacier Paradise in the afternoon. From Riffelberg, take the cable car to Glacier Paradise, transferring in Furi. This saves you the time (and money) for a ride all the way back to Zermatt and then up to Glacier Paradise.

Summary of the Visit

How Much Does This Cost?

If you ride the train to Gornergrat and the cable car from Riffelberg to Zermatt, you will pay CHF 100.50 per adult in the summer months, without a discount.

How Long Does it Take?

This visit takes between 3 to 3.5 hours: 30 minute train ride, 30 minutes at Gornergrat, an hour and a half for the hike and time for photos, and 30 minutes to ride the cable car or train back to Zermatt. If you plan to have a meal at the restaurant or explore the hiking trail next to the restaurant, add more time to this estimate.

Switzerland Travel Guide

Tips to Have the Best Experience

If you have several days in Zermatt, visit Gornergrat on the day with the clearest weather, so that you have the best view of the Matterhorn. Check the weather here.

If you have a crystal clear day in the forecast, consider combining a visit to Gornergrat with Glacier Paradise. This will save you money and time.

Bring sunscreen. There is no shade on the trail and since you will be at a higher elevation, it’s easier to get a sunburn.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Gornergrat, Glacier Paradise, or Rothorn?

Gornergrat is one of three high alpine experiences that you can have in Zermatt.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the highest you can go in the region, at an elevation of 3883 meters (12,740 feet). It’s a great experience, however, you don’t get the iconic view of Matterhorn so it can be disappointing for some people.

Rothorn is another very popular alpine experience that offers great views of the Matterhorn. Some people say that this is their favorite view. However, this is the farthest viewpoint from Matterhorn, and yes, the view is incredible, but the view from Gornergrat was our favorite.

At Gornergrat, you are very close to the Matterhorn. And with easy hiking trails that offer spectacular views of not only the Matterhorn but also of Zermatt, we loved every minute of this experience.

If you only have time for one high mountain experience while in Zermatt, Gornergrat gets our vote.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Get to Gornergrat? 

The best way to get to Gornergrat is to ride the Gornergrat Railway to the top station. It’s also possible to get to Gornergrat by hiking, either from Zermatt (5 hours) or from one of the upper railway stations. The Gornergrat Railway is located in Zermatt across the street from the main train station.

Is a Visit to Gornergrat Worth It? 

Visiting Gornergrat and hiking to Riffelberg is one of our favorite experiences in Switzerland, so yes, it’s worth it. For the best experience, plan your visit for a day when the weather is clear, so you can enjoy those spectacular views of the Matterhorn.

How long does a visit to Gornergrat last?

If you simply ride the railway to Gornegrat and enjoy the views from the outdoor terraces, a visit will last roughly 2 hours, which includes the travel time on the Gornergrat Railway. If you add on the hike to Riffelsee, add on another 45 minutes to your visit. If you do the entire hike from Gornergrat to Riffelberg, add on 2 hours. So, it takes roughly 4 hours to visit Gornergrat and hike to Riffelberg.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Panorama Ski Lodge and highly recommend it. We had a two-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, large living room, and unbelievable views of the Matterhorn. This was our favorite hotel in Switzerland and probably one of our favorite stays in all of Europe. On a return visit to Zermatt, we would stay here again. Just so you know, this hotel is located on a hill (which is why the views are unbeatable). To walk into Zermatt, it is a 15 minute downhill walk. To get back to the hotel, it’s a very steep uphill walk. However, you can hire a taxi to take you back to the hotel to avoid this strenuous walk.

Panorama Ski Lodge Zermatt

View from our apartment.


If you have any questions about how to visit Gornergrat and hike to Riffelsee or Riffelberg, let us know in the comment section below.

More Places to Go in Switzerland:

ZERMATT:For more ideas on what to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Zermatt. Another spectacular hike is the hike to Hörnlihütte. For more alpine views, learn how to visit Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (and find out if it is worth it) and how to visit Sunnegga – Blauherd – Rothorn. 

ZERMATT: One of the most adventurous things to do in Zermatt is to climb to the summit of Breithorn.

MORE GREAT HIKES IN SWITZERLAND: The Bernese Oberland is one of Switzerland’s top hiking destinations. Hike the short, incredibly scenic trail from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg,  walk the Northface Trail from Mürren, or hike from Schynige Platte to Faulhorn, a longer, more challenging, but awesome hike in this region. We also recommend hiking the Gastlosen Tour near Gruyères.

JUNGFRAU REGION OF THE BERNESE OBERLAND: If you are planning a trip to the Jungfrau region, check out our Guide to the Jungfrau Region, which includes maps and important travel planning information. We also have a separate article about the best things to do in the Jungfrau region. Get more information on how to visit Jungfraujoch, where to stay in the Jungfrau region, and how to add on the thrilling Mürren Via Ferrata to your visit.

LAUSANNE: Lausanne is another beautiful Swiss city with lots of great things to do and it also is a great home base for day trips in the area, such as Gruyères and Montreux, Vevey and Chateau de Chillon.

SWITZERLAND ITINERARY: If your visit to Zermatt is part of a bigger trip to Switzerland, check out our Switzerland Itinerary, which has suggestions on what to do if you have 7 days, 14 days, or even longer.

EUROPE TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more great ideas on where to go in Europe, check out our article 30 Beautiful Places to Visit in Europe and the 20 Best Hikes in Europe. You can also get more travel ideas in our 10 Days in Europe itinerary guide, which has 10 great itineraries for your next trip to Europe.

Read all of our articles about Switzerland in our Switzerland Travel Guide.

 

Zermatt Hike Gornergrat to Riffelberg Matterhorn

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 25

  1. Avatar for Kenny
    Kenny

    Hi Julie, thank you for the sharing! 🙂

    We will be travelling to Switzerland coming Jan and stay over at Zermatt for 2 nights. We are planning to purchase the Peak2Peak pass and visit Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Gornergrat and hoping to hike down to Rifflesee. Any idea if the trail are open in Jan? And if we are using the pass, would you recommend going to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise or Gornergrat first?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Kenny. That’s very exciting that you will be in Zermatt in January. It’s a beautiful time to go. Zermatt and the mountains, including the Riffelsee hike, will be snow covered. In January, skiing is the thing to do here. You won’t be able to hike, but you should be able to go skiing instead. The cable cars and trains to Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise will be running, so you can still visit them. What I am not sure of, is if the cable car from Riffelberg to Furi is operating on the winter. Here is the link to the winter timetable and I don’t see it listed. If it is not running, you will have to ride the Gornergrat train back to Zermatt and then ride the series of cable cars to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise from Zermatt. If it is running, you can visit Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise in either order (I would probably do Matterhorn Glacier Paradise second, when it’s later in the day and a little bit warmer…it’s cold there even in the summer).
       
      You can also get an idea of the conditions by looking at the Zermatt webcams. To learn more about the cable car to Furi, you could try sending an email to the Matterhorn Paradise website. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Kenny
  2. Avatar for Sharon
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Early June might be too early but it really depends on the weather and if there is a late spring snowfall. Either way, you can still go to Gornergrat, but you just might not be able to do the hike. Cheers, Julie

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *