The Matterhorn is the most photographed mountain in the world and perhaps the second most famous one behind Mount Everest. The mountain is unique due to its striking pyramid massif providing the most incredible backdrop to the gorgeous car-free town of Zermatt in the canton of Valais in the Swiss Alps. I've been lucky enough to visit Zermatt twice in my life. This is how I experienced the trails in the summer of 2018.
The Europaweg Trail
I car camped high above Tasch, having travelled up quite a precarious and narrow single lane road without any guard railings. Fortunately, there was no descending traffic when I went up and did not have to reverse onto one of the precarious pull-outs on the edge of the road. I am glad I went up to Taschalp to camp because I discovered the beautiful Europaweg trail that could take me across to the mountains surrounding the Matterhorn on a balcony trail without having to venture into Zermatt itself.
The Europaweg between Grächen and Zermatt is considered to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the Alps due to its spectacular views of the Matterhorn. While I haven't completed the trail between Grachen and Taschalp (please note part of this section is closed in 2019 due to a rock slide), I read it is still a gorgeous section to experience, including an impressive suspension bridge said to be the largest pedestrian bridge of its type in the world.
I believe the best time to hike the Europaweg trail from Taschalp is in the early morning dawn. If you're lucky with the weather you may get to see the early rays of sunrise hit the peak of the matterhorn before any other sunlight hits the valley. Furthermore, if you continue on the trail to the Stellisee, you get to experience the true reflective beauty of this world famous lake before the gondola rides start and all the tourists flood the trails adjacent to the lake.
The view just beyond Taschalp (taken a day earlier later in the morning light):
Dawn high above Zermatt on the Europaweg trail:
Early morning sunshine hits the peak of the Matterhorn:
One of the most incredible morning's of my life:
There is something magical about being high in the mountains at dawn that gives you wings:
At Tufteren I veered off the Europaweg trail to head up toward the Blauherd Gondola and then descended on the trail to the gorgeous Stellisee lake.
The Stellisee is one of the Matterhorn's most famous lakes, a lake seemingly created by nature just for photography purposes, positioned perfectly for stunning reflective photos of the Matterhorn in the backdrop. Pictures from this lake are promoted all over the world in tourism photos of the Matterhorn, and it's not hard to understand why.
From the Stellisee, there was a long descent followed by a long climb up to the Gornergrat, with some nice photos along the way:
Gornergrat and the Gorner Glacier
On the Monte Rosa massif close to Zermatt sits the Gorner Glacier, the second largest glacial system in the Alps behind the Aletsch Glacier system. Many visitors take the Gornergrat Railway--the second highest railed in Europe after the Jungfrau--to the summit of the Gornergrat where there are the most expansive views of both the Gorner Glacier and the Matterhorn.
I spent some time hiking along the trail to Hohtalli which offers differing perspectives of the glacier, away from the crowds of people.
On the trail heading up to the Gornergrat lies a beautiful little lake which offers stunning reflective views:
Once you make it to the Gornergrat, you get the most amazing Glacier views:
Heading down from the Gornergrat you can descend to another beautiful lake called the Riffelsee offering superb closer up views of the Matterhorn. Unfortunately, the weather can be unpredictable all throughout the day in the mountains. Even the Matterhorn generates its own weather at the summit, so you may have to be patient to get unobscured views of the peak.
After the Riffellsee, I started heading back toward the Europaweg trail, descending down toward Riffelalp. Here are some good vantage points of the Matterhorn and neighbouring peaks.
Now later in the afternoon there were some nice shots looking the other way toward Tasch.
The Route I took:
Adventure Tour 2019:
If you're interested in an adventure tour to these views, I am available. You can find out more here.
Some of these views you can witness by taking the trains and gondolas from the town of Zermatt. However, they are very expensive. Where I car camped and the trails I took, cost me no money at all, but I did have to spend 12 hours on the trail and travel nearly 40km on foot. Such an experience was priceless to me, and I believe this is the best way to experience the mountains. For those people with mobility issues, it is amazing these transport systems exist so everyone can share in the beauty of these mountains.