Walk this Way: Nine Epic Hiking Trails in Valais, Switzerland to Explore

With over 8,000km of clearly signposted paths waiting to be explored – ranging from gentle strolls through fragrant larch forests and walking routes snaking through sun-dappled vineyards to adventurous summit treks – hiking has never looked better than it does in Valais this summer.

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Photo credit: © Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk

The ultimate destination for active travellers, the sun-sure Swiss canton of Valais makes for a dream back-to-nature summer escape, offering verdant larch and Swiss stone pine forests, lush alpine pastures and glittering mountain lakes. With hiking routes to suit walkers of all levels, you might want to start off with Leukerbad's easy Roman Path, then work your way up to its historical (and vertigo-inducing) Albinen ladders, which overlook snowy peaks, vineyards and a diverse array of native wildlife, including adorable blacknose sheep. Or take your pick from our list below. Ready to explore hard and tread softly? See you at the gondola.

The best walks in Valais, plus directions

Photo credit: © Saastal Tourismus AG/Amarcster Media

The Meditative Trail

Best for: finding your zen

The challenge here is less physical and more about stilling your mind, with this easy, circular route serving as an idyllic reminder of just how therapeutic reconnecting with nature can be. Setting off from the post office square in Saas-Fee, you'll walk north, up to a high plateau above the Saas Valley - a dream vantage point for drinking in the view of some of the valley's 18 4,000m peaks. The trail then takes in the 1687-built chapel 'Zur Hohen Stiege'. Stop for some quiet contemplation at the same spot where shepherds once worshipped at a shrine of the Virgin Mary, before getting back on the flower-flanked path, which ends in Saas-Grund.

Distance: 4km

Insider tip: This route suits all levels, so feel free to bring the whole multi-generational travel gang along.

Getting there: Take the train to Visp, then change for the PostBus towards Saas-Fee. The walk starts directly from the bus station.

Photo credit: ©Gornergrat Bahn

The Riffelsee Trail

Best for: budding photographers

Blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year, Valais is a dream destination. You've probably seen the flawless inverted mirror-image of the Matterhorn reflected on the Riffelsee lake on countless computer screensavers before, but nothing beats seeing it with your own eyes. To reach it, take the Gornergrat Bahn from Zermatt to Rotenboden station, from where the Riffelsee hiking path is clearly marked. It's an easy, 10-minute walk to the lake, which makes a great picnic spot. Afterwards, you can either continue hiking to Riffelberg - keeping your eyes peeled for the native blacknose sheep that like to graze around here - or return to Rotenboden station. Whichever option you choose, expect to arrive back at base with at least another few hundred photos on your phone.

Distance: 4.1km

Insider tip: Looking for a standout shot of the Matterhorn with which to impress friends back home? The top of the Gornergrat offers the best panoramic view of the "Horu", as locals like to call it.

Getting there: Take the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn from Visp to Zermatt. In Zermatt, take the Gornergrat Bahn Rotenboden station.

Photo credit: ©Valais/Wallis Promotion - Christian Pfammatter

The Golden Madonna Pass

Best for: seeing two countries in one morning

Starting at the Mattmark dam, in the popular holiday region of Saas-Fee/Saastal, the trail winds upwards, taking on some treacherous old traders' paths and rock steps, towards Monte Moro, the border pass between Switzerland and Italy. You'll see the glint of the golden statue of Maria, who stands proudly on a prominent rock, before you reach the pass - she dazzles against a backdrop of flint-grey mountainside and distant, snow-capped peaks.

Distance: 7.4km (one way)

Insider tip: Hungry? Take the gondola from the Monte Moro Pass up to the village of Macugnaga and enjoy your lunch there.

Getting there: Take the train to Visp and change there for the 511 bus in the direction of Saas-Fee. Change bus in Saas-Grund, alighting at Saas-Almagell/Mattmark.

Photo credit: © Saastal Tourismus AG

The Ibex Trail

Best for: wildlife-spotting

Taking in stony ridges and sun-dappled larch forests, this moderate, four-hour hike is a must for anyone keen wildlife. Ibex were once hunted to eradication, but there are around 17,000 of these wild mountain goats in Switzerland today, thanks to a breeding and reintroduction programme. You have to go high to spot them, though. This beautiful, circular trail from Saas-Fee ascends to Mällig, at 2,760m. From here, you'll be able to gaze at breathtaking views over the Saas Valley and, if you're lucky, get some close-up photos of the resident ibex as they bask in the summer rays.

Distance: 9km

Insider tip: Set your alarm clock for the crack of dawn. Early morning is the best time of day to spot ibex.

Getting there: Take the SBB train to Visp, then change for the 511 bus to Saas-Fee. It's a 10-minute walk from the bus terminal to the gondola station, from where you take the lift up to Hannig.

The Mark Twain Trail

Best for: bookworms

Mark Twain's travel narratives are perhaps less well known than his adventure novels. This storied trail follows the route that Twain hiked and wrote about in 1878. Back then, the only way to reach the Gornergrat and the Riffelberg was on foot, but today, the Gornergrat Bahn, Europe's highest open-air cog railway, is the smart way to make the ascent. On this scenic route, walkers will be rewarded with incomparable Matterhorn views and a visit to Hotel Riffelhaus, which was built in 1853, and was once known as "the playground of European high society". Today, it's better known as a serene spot to enjoy the tinkling of cow bells than a magnet for the jet set.

Distance: 3.5km

Insider tip: Plan your hike around a lunchtime table reservation at Restaurant Riffelhaus 1853, which has made cheese dishes into an art form.

Getting there: Travel on the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn railway from Visp to Zermatt - a service runs every 30 minutes. After the hike, the return journey on the Gornergrat Bahn takes you from the Riffelalp station (2,211m) back to Zermatt.

Photo credit: Aletsch Arena © Christian Pfammatter

Aletsch Panorama Trail

Best for: uplifting vistas

An experienced hiker looking to have your efforts rewarded with unparalleled views? This is the one for you. There are several variations of this trail, so we recommend charting your preferred course before setting off. Taking walkers from Fiescheralp past the Märjelensee, you're guaranteed glorious views of the Unesco-listed Aletsch Glacier and the surrounding mountains. A challenging route, taking an average of four hours and 15 minutes to complete, the Panorama Trail is also great for mountain bikers and trail runners.

Distance: 14.3km

Insider tip: Instead of lugging your picnic with you, refuel after the hike at Chüestall, near the Moosfluh lift. The 1962-built cow stall is now a welcoming pit stop, serving up Valais specialities that can be enjoyed on the large sun terrace.

Getting there: Take the chairlift to Moosfluh, from where the trail is signposted.

Belalp to Riederalp via the Suspension Bridge

Best for: adrenaline junkies

Skip this one if you suffer from vertigo, but thrill-seekers will get a kick from traversing the 124m-long Belalp-Riederalp suspension bridge. Crossing the Massa Gorge at the dizzying height of 80m, it's impossible not to marvel at the gate of the Great Aletsch Glacier - or stop to take a few selfies. After the bridge, you have the choice of ascending through Teiffewald forest or via Silbersand. You'll then climb from Silbersand through the ancient Swiss stone pines of Aletsch Forest to Riederfurka, before descending to car-free Riederalp, exhausted but happy.

Distance: 11.4km

Insider tip: Refuel at Berghaus Toni, a pet-friendly hotel, restaurant and bar, where you're assured of a warm welcome from husband-and-wife-team James and Brit.

Getting there: Take the train to Brig station and then get the 624 bus to Blatten bei Naters.

Photo credit: ©Valais/Wallis Promotion - Christian Pfammatter

Les Celliers de Sion Vineyard Hike

Best for: having a tipple

Available from April to October, this five-hour vineyard adventure sets off from Les Celliers de Sion. The first winepark in the heart of Valais, the attraction was founded in 2017 to educate visitors on Valais wine - much of which stays in the country, leaving neighbouring Europeans in the dark as to its many charms. The good news? You'll only be hiking for one-and-a-half hours, with the rest of the time spent lingering over a three-course meal at a guérite (converted winemaker's hut), accompanied by a tasting of six Valais wines.

Distance: 5km

Insider tip: Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots for this one. Some of the vineyards are steep and the terrain is rocky.

Getting there: By car, take the "Sion-Est" motorway exit, or take the train to Sion, then the No.4 bus to Centre Funéraire, from where it's a seven-minute walk.

Photo credit: ©Valais/Wallis Promotion - David Carlier

Geological Hike to the Vieux-Émosson Dam

Best for: would-be palaeontologists

Roll over, Jurassic Park. This geologically rich hike will see you following in the footsteps of huge, crocodile-like reptiles that roamed this rocky terrain more than 240 million years ago, their fossilised footprints still clearly visible in a gigantic slab of rock at the trail's far end. Vieux-Émosson dam, the endpoint of this trail, has been providing electricity for the Swiss railway network since 1955. You'll find mountain refuges at both dams, with toilets and refreshments available.

Distance: 12.3km

Insider tip: Budding palaeontologists will want to wait until around mid-July to take this one on - the prehistoric croc prints are only visible after the snows have melted.

Getting there: Take the train to Martigny, then change to the Mont-Blanc Express. Either get off at Finhaut and catch the PostBus to Emosson dam or stay on the Mont-Blanc Express until Le Châtelard VS and travel up to the dam with VerticAlp Émosson.

The Lowdown

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