The Hörnlihütte (Hörnli Hut) is a lodge built at the base of the Matterhorn. For thrill seeking rock-climbers, the Hörnlihütte marks the start of the ascent up to the peak of the Matterhorn. Even if you do not wish to stand on top of the Matterhorn, simply hiking to and from the Hörnlihütte makes for an unforgettable day hike.
The Hörnlihütte hike is one of our favorite hikes in Zermatt.
For avid hikers, this trail is a must while in Zermatt. On the trail, you are surrounded by snow covered peaks, Breithorn and Klein Matterhorn are visible in the distance, and Zermatt can be seen far below. All the while the Matterhorn grows larger as you head towards this iconic, jagged mountain.
It is a fairly short hike to the Hörnlihütte, however the trail is steep. You will be hiking up rocky hills, over platforms and up staircases, and sometimes even scaling the edge of a cliff.
Hörnlihütte Hiking Stats
Distance: 8.5 km (5.25 miles) out-and-back
Total Ascent: 725 m (2,380 feet)
Lowest Elevation (Schwarzsee): 2,580 m (8,465 feet)
Highest Elevation (Hörnlihütte): 3,260 m (10,700 feet)
Average Time: 4 hours; our time was 3.5 hours which included eating a piece of cake at the hut 🙂
When to Go: July through September
Best Time of Day: Morning, ideally starting by 9 am. The lighting on the Matterhorn is perfect, crowds are still low, and it’s best to finish the hike by 1 pm, when thunderstorm chances increase. Plus, from mid-morning to midday, it’s not uncommon for clouds to form around Matterhorn so if you want to see it cloud-free, early morning is the best time to do this hike.
Toilets: Schwarzsee cable car station and Hörnlihütte
Hörnlihütte Hike Elevation Profile
Hörnlihütte Trail Map
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, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Quick Overview of the Hörnlihütte Trail
The trail to Hörnlihütte, also called the Hörnliweg (Trail #27), starts at Schwarzswee and ends at the hut.
This is classified as a technical alpine route. In Switzerland, these routes are marked with blue signs and blue and white blazes. These are more challenging trails that sometimes require special equipment. For this trail, no special equipment is necessary. You will hike along some cliff edges and drop offs and there will be some metal platforms and chains. You don’t need any special equipment, but you do need a good head for heights.
It is a mostly uphill walk to Hörnlihütte. Along the hike, the Matterhorn is right in front of you and the view is breathtaking.
Once at the Hörnlihütte, grab a bite to eat, something to drink, and enjoy the view before the starting the easier walk back to Schwarzsee.
This hike can be combined with another popular trail, the Matterhorn Glacier Trail. Details on how to do this is covered later in this guide.
How to Get to the Hörnlihütte Trailhead (Schwarzsee)
The trailhead for the Hörnlihütte hike is at Schwarzsee. Schwarzsee is a lake located in the mountains above Zermatt. The easiest way to get here is to ride the gondolas from Zermatt.
From Zermatt, ride the gondola from the Zermatt Bergbahnen to Furi to Schwarzsee. The Zermatt Bergbahnen station is on the south side of town. From the town center, it is a 10-to-15 minute walk to get here.
IMPORTANT: The first gondola from Furi to Schwarzsee does not start running until 8:00 am. Before you go, double check the times here.
Round trip tickets from Zermatt to Schwarsee start at 60.50 CHF. You can get a discount with a Swiss Travel Pass or half-fare card. The trip to Schwarzsee is also covered with the Peak2Peak Pass and the Peak Pass.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: We recommend you begin the hike early in the day because the trail can get crowded. We arrived at the Furi station at 8 am and were on the first gondola to Schwarzsee. The Matterhorn usually gets clouded in by midday as well, so if you want to have the best views of the Matterhorn then doing this hike in the morning is best.
How to Hike to the Hörnlihütte
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
Schwarzsee to Hirli
When you step off the gondola in Schwarzsee, head towards Hotel Restaurant Schwarzsee. Across from this hotel is a trail sign marking the official beginning of the hike.
Schwarzsee gondola station and the trail sign to Hörnlihütte.
Almost immediately, you will walk past the Zermatt sign, which is your first great photo op of the hike.
Continue a little farther and you will see Schwarzsee. You can walk down the hill to take photos of the lake and Maria zum Schnee, the small chapel that sits beside the lake.
Schwarzsee (photo taken on the return hike from Hörnlihütte to Schwarzsee).
Beyond Schwarzsee, the trail makes a short but strenuous uphill climb. From here you can already get a stunning view over the mountains that surround you. Below, Schwarzsee appears to stand alone amongst the jagged peaks and deep valley beyond.
First part of the trail from Schwarzsee to Hörnlihütte.
View looking back to Schwarzsee from the trail.
A second similar climb gets you to Hirli. At this point, it is about an hour and a half walk to the Hörnlihütte. From here, the trail gets a lot more interesting.
NOTE: Hirli is where the Matterhorn Glacier Trail meets the Hornliweg. If you hike the Matterhorn Glacier Trail first, you get to skip the strenuous hike from Schwarzsee to Hirli.
Hirli to the Hörnlihütte
It doesn’t take long until you reach on of several platforms on the trail. The platform runs along the side of a cliff and from here you will have great views of the Matterhorn. These views only get better as you continue to hike towards the mountain.
First platform and steps on the Hörnlihütte hike.
There is a brief, almost flat section of trail before you reach another long platform.
The second platform
Looking back at the platforms.
Just beyond platform, the trail quickly gains elevation as the trail makes several switchbacks along the cliff.
At the bottom of this photo you can see a portion of the switchbacks.
The switchbacks take you to the top of the ridge. Just past the ridge, the trail flattens out and the views of the Matterhorn are astounding on this section.
You are approaching the final climb to the Hörnlihütte, and this last climb is a big one. You will head up a steep trail that switchbacks up a rocky hill. There are staircases to climb and sections near the edge of the cliff with ropes to hold onto.
All around are fantastic views of snowy peaks, glaciers, and Zermatt far below. Ahead the Hörnlihütte slowly grows closer.
In the photo above, you can see the last of the flat section. You will then climb the rocky hill to Hörnlihütte.
One of several staircases.
At times the trail scales the edge of the cliff, like in the photo above.
Once at the top, the trail briefly levels out before arriving at the Hörnli Hut.
At the Hörnlihütte
After a tiring climb, you make it to the Hörnlihütte. From here you are at the foot of the Matterhorn. It is amazing to stand beneath the incredible mountain as it towers directly over you.
The Hörnlihütte is base camp for those who plan to ascend the Matterhorn. There is a telescope on the deck of the Hörnlihütte which you can use to watch rock climbers ascend the Matterhorn.
View of the Matterhorn from Hörnlihütte.
View from Hörnlihütte of Klein Matterhorn, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Breithorn, and Monte Rosa.
The Hörnlihütte begins serving food at 11am. If you are there before 11am, however, you can buy snacks, drinks, or a delicious slice of cake.
To return to Schwarzsee, hike down the way that you came.
How to Do Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, and Hörnlihütte in One Day
Start your day early (ideally at 7 am) to make the most of your time.
Take the series of gondolas and cable cars to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (arriving around 8 am). Plan on spending 1 to 2 hours here.
At 10 am, ride the cable car to Trockener Steg and hike the Matterhorn Glacier Trail to Hirli. At Hirli (at roughly 12:00 pm), hike to Hörnlihütte. Have a late lunch at Hornlihutte (at 2 pm).
At 3 pm, hike from Hörnlihütte to Schwarzsee and ride the gondola to Zermatt. The last descent is at 5 pm (double check this time here or at the cable car station) so keep this in mind when deciding how much time to spend at Hörnlihütte.
What to Bring on the Hörnlihütte Hike
Hiking shoes. We recommend wearing hiking shoes for this hike. The trail is rough and uneven in a lot of places and you will occasionally hike on smooth rocks, which can be very slippery. The hiking shoes will give you added traction which will be very helpful on this hike.
Water. Bring at least 1.5 liters of water per person.
Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. This hiking trail is completely exposed to the sun. There is no shade along the trail.
If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.
More Information for Your Trip to Zermatt
BEST OF ZERMATT: For more great things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Zermatt. Learn how to plan your visit with our Zermatt Itinerary, which has suggestions for how to spend your time if you have 1, 2, 3 or more days in Zermatt.
GORNERGRAT: Learn how to visit Gornergrat and hike to Riffelsee and Riffelberg.
MATTERHORN GLACIER PARADISE: Learn how to visit Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest cable car station in Europe. The Matterhorn Glacier Trail is an easy and very scenic hike that runs from Trockener Steg to Schwarzsee and can easily be added on to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
SUNNEGGA & ROTHORN: In our Guide to Sunnegga, Blauherd, and Rothorn, learn how to visit this area, what there is to do, and how to spend one day visiting the highlights.
HIKES IN ZERMATT: For a full list of hikes, check out our guide Best Hikes in Zermatt. We also have trail guides for the Five Lakes Trail, the Breithorn summit, how to hike the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, and the hike from Furi to Gorner Gorge to Zermatt.
If you have any questions about how to hike to Hornlihutte, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Zermatt & Switzerland
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.
JUNGFRAU REGION: What exactly is the Jungfrau region? Find out in our Guide to the Jungfrau Region, which includes maps and important travel planning information, and a Jungfrau Itinerary to help you plan your time. We also have articles about the best things to do in the Jungfrau region as well as the top hikes in the Jungfrau region. The Eiger Trail and Schynige Platt to First are our favorite hikes. Learn how to combine Jungfraujoch and the Eiger Trail for one amazing day in Switzerland.
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 to Riffelberg in Zermatt and hiking the Gastlosen Tour near Gruyères.
WALKER’S HAUTE ROUTE: The Walker’s Haute Route is a spectacular multi-day trek from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Learn more about this amazing journey our our Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route. For a full list and overview of the stages, check out our article about the Walker’s Haute Route Stages.
MORE GREAT HIKES IN EUROPE: From thrilling trails in the Alps to easy walks along the coast, read our article 20 Best Hikes in Europe for some beautiful hiking trails to put on your travel wish list.
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