Matterhorn

How to Visit Gornergrat and Hike to Riffelberg, Zermatt, Switzerland

Julie Switzerland 2 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

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 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.

Ticket Prices

  • One Way, Zermatt to Gornergrat, in July and August: 57 CHF
  • Return Ticket in July and August: 114 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. A 2-day pass costs 195 CHF. 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.

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

Riffelberg Station Zermatt

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

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

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.

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

Gornergrat Building

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.

If you feel like exploring, follow the hiking trail off to the east.

Gornergrat Hiking Trail

Hiking trails from Gornergrat.

 

Gorner Glacier

Gorner Glacier

 

Gornergrat Restaurant

Hiking to Riffelsee

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.

Map

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

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

Along the way, you can climb this hill for nice view of the Matterhorn.

Gornergrat Hike

Matterhorn from Gornergrat

There are lots of great photo ops along the hike.

Julie Tyler Kara Zermatt

Panoramic View of Matterhorn

Hike Zermatt

View of Gornergrat

Looking back at Gornergrat station

 

Earth Trekkers

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 Zermatt

Overlooking Riffelsee

 

Riffelsee

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

From Riffelsee, it takes approximately 30 minutes to hike to Riffelberg. There are two ways to get to Riffelberg. We followed the Riffelseeweg Trail (#21) to Riffelsberg. This is shorter and more direct that the Swiss Topwalk trail (#23).

Riffelseeweg

Swiss Alp Panorama

Best things to do in Gornergrat

Riffelberg Station

Riffelberg Station

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

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 36) or ride the Riffelberg Express to Zermatt (CHF 35). 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 35).

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 92 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.

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.

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.

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 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 plans to visit Gornergrat and have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Switzerland:

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

You Might Also Like:

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.

Comments 2

  1. I am wanting to spend at least a day visiting these mountains next month! We will have a car we are driving around various cities. If I want to do this day trip up to Gornergrat, how many days should I dedicate to the Zermatt area? Is there anything else I should do while in the Zermatt area?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Becca. Just so you know, Zermatt is a car free town, so you won’t be able to drive here. You will have to take the train in from another town. Here’s some info for you to read. To do this hike, you need one day and one night in Zermatt (and keep you fingers crossed that you get good weather). With a second day, you can also ride the cable car up to Glacier Paradise (high alpine experience similar to Jungfraujoch) and/or up to Rothorn, for more amazing views of the Matterhorn. We spent 2 days and 2 nights in Zermatt and saw all three things I just listed. Gornergrat was definitly our favorite. Plus, the town of Zermatt is lovely. Enjoy! Cheers, Julie

Leave a Reply

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