Hiking Trails – Switzerland is a hiker’s paradise

by Pepe Strub, March 29, 2021

Almost half of the Swiss population hikes on a regular base. We hike on weekends, on holidays, on sunny and rainy days, to get fresh air and to enjoy pretty views. 65’000 kilometers (more than 40’000 miles) of hiking trails are telling how much we love hiking. That compares to “only” 71’400 kilometers of roads and 5’100 kilometers of railways through Switzerland. The distance consists of the totality of interconnected hiking, mountain hiking and alpine hiking trails.

About 50’000 signpost locations provide accurate information about the trail category, destination and, if applicable, the time of the routes. All signposts and hiking trails are walked and thoroughly inspected every year. When hiking in Switzerland you can see 3 main types of hiking path signs:

Hiking Trails (yellow signs)
Hiking trails often are wide paths. They can also be narrow and uneven and sometimes steep passages are overcome with steps and fall-off points are secured with railings. Apart from the usual attention and caution, hiking trails do not require any special or local knowledge. It is however recommended to wear sturdy trekking shoes with non-slip soles, to have equipment suitable for the weather conditions and clothes to be worn in layers. Make sure to always bring a rain jacket, even on a bright sunny day. The weather can change fast in the mountains.

Mountain Hiking Trails (yellow signs with red and white arrows)
Mountain hiking trails include paths over impassable terrain and are often steep, narrow and partly exposed. Particularly difficult passages are secured with ropes or chains. Hikers should be sure-footed, free from vertigo and in good physical condition. Being aware of the dangers in the mountains (falling rocks, danger of slipping and falling, fast changing weather conditions) will protect you and enhance your experience. The before mentioned equipment recommended for hiking trails is required for mountain trails.

Alpine Trails (blue signs and blue arrows)
Alpine trails can lead partly over snowfields, glaciers or scree slopes and through rock with short climbing sections; sometimes pathless. Structural precautions including ropes and chains cannot be assumed. Users must be really sure-footed, free from vertigo and in excellent physical condition, as well as being very familiar with possible dangers in the mountains. In addition to the equipment for mountain trails, compass, rope, ice axe and crampons may be necessary.

Winter Hiking Trails
Signalized winter hiking trails at resort destinations are generally accessible, prepared and controlled trails that are usually intended for people on foot. They run as far as possible away from roads for motorized traffic on mostly snow-covered ground. The trail layout meets the technical requirements of a yellow-marked hiking trail without obstacles. Winter hiking trails require increased attention and caution with regard to weather conditions and the risk of slipping. The wearing of sturdy, warm boots with snow-grip soles or spikes and equipment appropriate to the weather are recommended.

What to bring on a hike
Packing depends on the duration and the difficulty of the hike you are planning. The organization which maintains the trail network at a minimum recommends sturdy shoes, a decent daypack, a reusable bottle with at least 1.5 liters of water, a picnic and some snacks, but also sun, wind and cold protection, a first aid kit and thermal blanket, and a phone to call emergency numbers.

Being well prepared, you can react appropriately to various situations. To enjoy your hike without surprises, observe the following points:

  • Follow the signalized trails
  • Close fences and pasture gates
  • Rest regularly and drink plenty of fluids – even if you are not thirsty
  • In case of bad weather approaching: Turn back in time or seek shelter in a hut or shelter
  • In case of sudden indisposition or other difficulties: do not take risks and do not force anything, turn back in time
  • Observe the regulations in nature reserves
  • Be careful when lighting fires. Avoid fires altogether during prolonged drought
  • Grazing livestock: keep your dog on a leash. Avoid cows calmly and at a distance of 20 to 50 meters.
  • For the sake of nature and the environment: Hike with the motto “Take nothing but your impressions – leave nothing but your footprints”.

For interactive maps, selected hikes, the most beautiful Swiss journeys, the free App and more check out SwitzerlandMobility

Would you like us to set up your Switzerland hiking vacation? Get in touch and we’ll take care of everything – the only thing you’ll have to do by yourself is to walk.

Covid-19 Rules
Do not shake hands with your fellow hiker(s). The distance of 1.5 meters must also be maintained when hiking. If you cannot ensure this, you must wear a mask. You do not need to put on a mask when crossing narrow paths, as the contact in this situation is very short. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm. Wash your hands if possible. Please do not wash your hands with soap and do not use cow watering troughs for this purpose! If you cannot wash your hands, use a disinfectant as an alternative. Pasture gates must be closed again after opening and passing. Use your sleeves or a tissue for this purpose.