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The Mark Twain Trail from the Riffelberg to Riffelalp (No. 18)

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  • Wanderwegweiser auf Riffelberg
    Wanderwegweiser auf Riffelberg
    Photo: Gornergrat Bahn
m 2700 2600 2500 2400 2300 2200 2100 3,0 2,5 2,0 1,5 1,0 0,5 km Riffelhaus 1853 Kapelle Riffelalp Photopoint Riffelalp Kapelle Riffelberg "Bruder Klaus" Kapelle Riffelalp "Herz Jesu" Alphitta
Go on a journey through time - back to when author Mark Twain visited the Riffelberg, on foot naturally, because when he was there in 1878 walking was the only way to reach the mountain.  
moderate
Distance 3.5 km
1:05 h
1 m
380 m
2,583 m
2,203 m
This trail follows the route that Mark Twain chose in 1878 and later described in his book “Climbing the Riffelberg”.  At that time, the only way to reach the Gornergrat  and the Riffelberg was to walk up.  In his book he describes his challenging expedition and comments in his typical, humorous way on the mountain-climbing fraternity of the day.  

His hike takes him to the Hotel Riffelhaus, Zermatt’s oldest mountain hostelry built in 1855. The Grand Hotel Riffelalp was under construction at that time.  In the following years it became known as “The playground of European high society”.  Not one hundred years later the hotel was completely destroyed by fire and not reopened until 1988. 

This trail is however, not just one for seeing important touristic destinations in and around Zermatt, but is located in incomparable landscapes. Due to the openness of the region you get an uninterrupted view of the Matterhorn.  Now and again the peace and quiet might be disturbed by some tinkling bells and bleating - emanating from grazing Wallis black-nosed sheep.

Author’s recommendation

Read Mark Twain’s book about the hike “Climbing the Riffelberg” and let his humorous anecdotes inspire you! 
Profile picture of Eveline Lindegger
Author
Eveline Lindegger
Update: September 19, 2022
Difficulty
moderate
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
Riffelberg, 2,583 m
Lowest point
Riffelalp, 2,203 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Track types

Asphalt 0.31%Forested/wild trail 20.83%Path 78.86%
Asphalt
0 km
Forested/wild trail
0.7 km
Path
2.8 km
Show elevation profile

Rest stops

Buffet & Bar Riffelberg
Riffelhaus 1853
Alphitta

Safety information

  • Carry a map with you. Download the full trail description with a large scale map by clicking on "Print" at the top right of the page.
  • Use only marked trails and follow all signs and instructions - for your own safety, to protect grazing animals and in respect of wildlife.
  • Close gates after passing through.
  • Be considerate of other trail users, plants and animals.
  • Carry additional sun protection. UV rays at high altitudes can be very strong, even in overcast weather.
  • Plan your trek carefully: take into account the required fitness level of all participants, weather forecasts and seasonality.
  •  
  • Weather conditions in the mountains can change very quickly and without warning. Appropriate clothing and sufficient provisions (food and drink) are very important. If the weather is unstable, it is better to turn back early.

Tips and hints

Are you travelling to Zermatt by public transport? If you are actively travelling for several days, it is worth using the Adventure Card. This gives you free travel on a large network of trains and post buses for 2-5 days, as well as discounts on mountain railways.

 

Further information here:

Start

Riffelberg (2,582 m)
Coordinates:
SwissGrid
2'624'502E 1'093'504N
DD
45.992658, 7.754864
DMS
45°59'33.6"N 7°45'17.5"E
UTM
32T 403573 5093985
w3w 
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Show on Map

Destination

Riffelalp

Turn-by-turn directions

The trail begins at the historic Hotel Riffelhaus, Zermatt’s oldest mountain hotel opposite the Riffelberg  station.  Don’t take the path towards the Brother Klaus chapel here but take the lower path. The trail goes down gently until you reach Dristelen about 1.2 kms away.  Here the trail takes a sharp turn to the right and now goes in a north-easterly direction towards Riffelalp.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Public transport

With the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway from Visp to Zermatt. In Zermatt with the Gornergrat Railway to Riffelberg station. After the hike, the return journey on the Gornergrat Railway takes you from the Riffelalp station (2211m) to Zermatt.

Getting there

Zermatt is car-free. We recommend travelling to Zermatt by public transport via Visp.

Parking

Zermatt is car-free. The Matterhorn Terminal Täsch in Täsch is a covered multi-storey car park - under one roof with the Täsch railway station, where you can change directly to the Zermatt Shuttles. We generally recommend travelling by public transport via Visp.

Coordinates

SwissGrid
2'624'502E 1'093'504N
DD
45.992658, 7.754864
DMS
45°59'33.6"N 7°45'17.5"E
UTM
32T 403573 5093985
w3w 
///constants.blank.simple
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendation by the author

The tourist office in Zermatt provides information and brochures about the region.

Author’s map recommendations

Swisstopo maps 1:25'000: Zermatt – Gornergrat

Equipment

We recommend:
  • Good footwear and snowshoes of suitable size.
  • Weatherproof and warm clothing
  • Headgear
  • Sun protection
  • Water bottle
  • Picnic
  • Camera
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Walking sticks (optional)
  • Printout of the route (click "Print" to download)

Questions and answers

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Difficulty
moderate
Distance
3.5 km
Duration
1:05 h
Ascent
1 m
Descent
380 m
Highest point
2,583 m
Lowest point
2,203 m
Linear route Scenic Refreshment stops available Cultural/historical interest Geological highlights Botanical highlights Cableway ascent/descent

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  • 9 Waypoints
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