Photo: The path across the Höhbalmen towards the Matterhorn.
A long but very rewarding hike up to a quiet meadow just across from the Matterhorn. I did this as a day hike from Zermatt.
Route: Zermatt – Trift – Höhbalmen – Zmutt – Zermatt.
Length: 18.5km, +/- 1325m.
For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.
Season: Late spring to early Autumn.
Arrival/Departure: Train to Zermatt / Train from Zermatt.
Supplies: Shops and restaurants in Zermatt, restaurants at Trift and Zmutt.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: From Höhbalmen a path leads directly down to Zermatt, knocking 8.5km and +/- 300m off the length. This gives you the views from the meadow but you get less payoff for your effort. Another option is turning right at the Tift Berggasthaus to the Platthorn/Mettelhorn instead.
Exposure/Hazards: This route is mostly above the treeline and south facing – so be prepared with protection against the sun.
There are no cable cars or mountain trains up this side of the valley, so it will generally be much quieter than other areas around Zermatt.
Notes along the route
Right out of the centre of Zermatt you are going up and up. Just follow the signs for Trift (look for the alley leading up by the pizza place near the church).
The first part out of the village and into the start of the Trift gorge is probably the worst for steepness on the route (or at least it feels like it anyway).
At the top of the gorge the Trift berghaus offers a chance for refreshments. Take a left and follow the signs for Höhbalmen. Or if you are feeling more hardcore and it is clear day then you can also turn off here for the path to the absurdly good views from the very high Platthorn / Mettelhorn peaks.
Only a small climb (relative to the previous one) but the Trift Berghaus is far below and now the Trift glacier is in sight.
Almost all the climbing is done and on reaching the Höhbalmen the view opens up. The Monte Rosa massif dominates, with Zermatt far below. From here onwards you are going to get as much Matterhorn as you could ever want.
Follow the path along to the corner (it should be obvious, if only for the sign post where the shorter route drops straight down to Zermatt) where you get some fantastic views and a great spot for lunch. Then either carry along the high path for the long way, or head straight down the hillside for the shortcut.
At the highest and closest point you are at almost 2800m and less than 4km away from the summit of the Matterhorn.
Eventually the path starts to descend and circles back down the valley towards Zermatt. There is a still a good way to go (8km) but the change of scenery helps keep it interesting.
The route leads to Zmutt; A tiny rustic village with a few places to eat/drink. Worth a quick look around just for the style of the buildings.
From here you either follow the main path, or skirt off to the left on a smaller path. Both of which take you directly back down to Zermatt.