The Swiss are hikers! A recent study showed that 62% of the population of Switzerland enjoys walking in the countryside. And if all the marked hiking trails in Switzerland were joined together, they would add up to about 65,000 kilometres. This is equivalent to walking around the world one and a half times!
Hikers in Switzerland enjoy an often, unsuspected variety of landscapes, from the Jura Mountains to the Alps, via an intermediate zone called “the Plateau”. Vast forests, agricultural areas, lakes, rivers and high peaks invite you to discover.
The lowest point in Switzerland is located on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Ticino (193m), the highest, is shared with Italy and is the Pointe Dufour (4634m). Quite a difference!
Hiking can be practised in both summer and winter. Cantonal associations are responsible for the maintenance of the different types of paths. Switzerland is the only country in the world with a uniform country-wide sign posting system for walking and hiking.
In addition to the 76 obstacle-free paths, which can even be used by wheelchair users, there are three types of hiking paths:
These routes are accessible to the public, by foot and public transport. They are generally located away from roads with motorised traffic and, wherever possible neither paved nor asphalted. Steep passages are often equipped with steps and places where there is a risk of falling, are secured with barriers. Watercourses are crossed by means of footbridges or bridges. No special requirements are needed to cross them. The signs are yellow.
Mountain routes may include sections that are difficult to walk, often on steep slopes, with narrow or partly exposed passages. Difficult sections can be secured with ropes or chains. Some of the streams have to be forded.
Who are these routes for? It is important to be in good physical condition, to have firm footwear and not to be afraid of heights. Shoes with well-profiled soles are necessary. Those who go on mountainous escapades should be aware of the risks of the weather and the potential terrain and as such, prepare accordingly. Clothing adapted to the weather conditions, as well as the terrain should be worn. A topographical map is essential (a paper map is advisable as telephone networks are sometimes non-existent). The direction indicators are yellow, with white-red-white spikes, which are repeated on the markings.
These are demanding and lead partly through pathless terrain, snowfields and glaciers, stony slopes, scree or cliffs with short climbing passages. The existence of facilities is not guaranteed, or only at particular locations.
These routes are reserved for those who are in excellent physical condition, who have a firm footing and do not suffer from vertigo. A rope, ice axe and basic climbing skills would be recommended for the traversing of snow fields and glaciers. Knowledge of mountains and the surrounding dangers is imperative. In addition to the equipment required for mountain trails, an altimeter and compass can be useful.
The direction indicators are blue with white-blue-white pointers, which are repeated on the markings. An information sign for alpine hiking trails at the beginning of the trail indicates the special requirements
Routes are also available for walking through our country in the winter. For this there is usually pink signposting. The signs are predominantly for snow shoeing!
There are two main web sites offering hiking routes in Switzerland
The Swissmobile website Hiking in Switzerland – Hiking suggestions, map – Wanderland
In addition to the website, which is available in four languages, a smartphone application can be downloaded. This allows you to view the routes on national maps and to geolocate yourself. Information on accommodation, a route profile and a direct link to the SBB timetable are also available.
The application offers four types of routes:
- There are seven national trails, which cross Switzerland from north to south and from east to west in several stages. They use hiking and mountain trails. These require a good or very good physical condition. They are recognisable by a logo with a number.
- There are 65 regional routes. They follow hiking and mountain trails in different regions of Switzerland, breaking them into several digestible stages. They require a good or very good physical condition. They are recognisable by a two-digit logo.
- There are 290 local trails. They are generally walking routes, with a stage, starting and finishing from the same place or between two places in a region. Physically, they can be rated from easy to difficult according to their length and profile. They are recognisable by a three-digit logo.
The website Schweizer Wanderwege | Randonner, is available in three languages and also offers hike trails throughout Switzerland. The website provides safety and preparation tips. A weekly newsletter features a hike, with a description, a profile of the hike, and accommodation and public transport options. To access the other hikes in detail, you have to make a donation of CHF 30, with which you will receive a seasonal brochure with suggestions 3 to 4 times a year.
Additionally here are some further websites or applications that may provide you with some inspiration or extra information:
- Hiking and Mountain ideas but also illustrated stories that allow you to see the key places and passages.
- Komoot | Find, plan and share your adventures with komoot. and Home to find new suggestions.
And if you want to travel back in time and discover the topographic maps of the past, then go to Maps of Switzerland – Swiss Confederation – www.map.geo.admin.ch and select the “travel back in time” feature. Here you can see the evolution of the routes and the landscape.
Finally, a few tips and recommendations before you enjoy:
- Adapt your hikes according to your physical condition and your knowledge of the mountains.
- Use suitable footwear, functional clothing and take the weather into consideration.
- Take with you something to eat and drink, as you will not always be near a mountain hut or a restaurant.
- Take a small first aid kit to treat small injuries, a pharmacist can advise you.
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