This steep but rewarding hike brings you to one of the greatest viewpoints in the valley. Ascend through the quiet Trift valley, then up to a grand balcony high above Zermatt called Höhbalmen.
Distance 20 km
Highest point2,745 m
Lowest point1,605 m
The high ridge of Höhbalmen is one of the premier view walks of Zermatt. With no cable cars or trains on this side of the valley, you get far away from crowds, and can take advantage of incredible views in relative solitude. It's a big day, but this is a great hike to appreciate the majesty of the Matterhorn region away from the crowds.
The full hike is very nice, but for a somewhat shorter day you can turn directly down from Höhbalmen to return quickly, and quite steeply, via the barns at Herbrigg.
There are restaurants at Trift and Zmutt, but you could carry a picnic today, and stop at the top when you get to the Matterhorn views at Höhbalmen.
If it rains... The hike up as far as Trift is a good rainy day hike. It’s fairly steep, but not high or exposed, is often in the woods, and brings you to the cozy Hotel du Trift where you can duck inside for lunch and a drink. If the weather improves, you can continue, but there’s not much point in going up to an exposed 9000 ft ridge in the rain. If the weather is bad, just come back the way you came.
Zermatt (1,605 m)
32T 403102 5097436
The trail starts in Zermatt. From the train station, walk down the main road and through town. Across the street from the Hotel de la Poste, next to Grampi’s Pub, look for the trail sign on the building pointing you up to the right, into the alleyway to Trift. This trail winds up (stay straight at the next intersection), soon passing the modern Hotel Coeur des Alpes and out of town, zig-zagging through the fields above Zermatt.
Continue with the signs to Trift (not the sign to Höhbalmen yet). You may catch a few glimpses of the Matterhorn off to the left.
The trail heads up steeply through the woods, passing the Edelweiss restaurant after about an hour, then into the narrow Trift valley, reaching a high basin, and the popular Hotel du Trift and restaurant a little over 2 hrs after starting out. The route up is filled with wildflowers and is a good place to spot Edelweiss later in the summer.
Trift has great mountain views all around, indoor and outdoor seating, and is a perfect place to stop for a snack and their homemade ice-tea and fruit pies. If you're not in a hurry, be sure to stop.
The Obergabelhorn and Zinal Rothorn are the two huge mountains that anchor the ridge at the end of this valley, with the Gabelhorn and Trift glaciers stretching down toward the valley. There are a few good out-and-back hikes from here, including up to the Rothorn hut or a minor hiking peak ascent to the Mettlehorn. Both good options for next time. Today you’re heading south over the shoulder that separates the Trift valley from the Matterhorn.
Continue behind the hotel, where you’ll find the sign to Höhbalmen pointing you to the left with an estimate of 1 hr 5 min. There’ll be noticeably fewer people after Trift, and you’ll make a long rising traverse of the southern hillside eventually cresting Höhbalmen, an open meadow with breathtaking Matterhorn and Monte Rosa views. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the solitude and one of the Alps greatest panoramas! The Matterhorn is particularly powerful from this angle.
Shorter day: If you’d like to get back to town sooner, you can turn left here on the steep downhill trail posted to Zermatt, 1 hr 45 min (perhaps just over 2 hrs if you’re taking your time). This trail passes through some old barns, but no restaurants, at Herbrigg, and deposits you quickly back in town.
Longer day: If you’d like to stay up high for awhile, the continuing trail (signposted to Zmutt) from Höhbalmen is fantastic, with continually superb views of the North Face of the Matterhorn and an easy trail that allows you to take in the scenery. You stay high on a relatively level trail for about 40 minutes, before starting to drop back down into the Zmutt valley just north of the Matterhorn.
Follow the trail towards Zmutt down into the woods. Rockfall danger has led to many trail detours here, so the trail may vary from your map slightly.
Stafelalp has a nice restaurant on the south side of the valley, and is a very short detour. Follow signs.
You take the trail downhill, with one short but steep ascent near the river, before strolling into the cluster of wood-darkened chalets that is Zmutt. There’s a great restaurant in the middle of the hamlet that makes an atmospheric and restful stop. We almost never pass Zmutt up... the restaurants here are very charming and invite lingering.
The trail from Zmutt is easy, wide and popular, as many people hike up here for lunch and then back down. It takes an hour to return to Zermatt on the main trail.