Long distance hiking through Switzerland

Day hikes are wonderful, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the great Swiss outdoors, there are seven national routes and 65,000 km of well-marked trails (we’re Swiss!) that can transport you from one end of the country to the other. Here are 3 of the most impressive.

Via Alpina

The Via Alpina is perhaps the greatest of all the alpine hiking networks, with 5 total trails crisscrossing the mountain range. The main one, the Red Trail, has been recently revamped, and stretches in an arc that begins in Trieste, Italy and ends in Monaco and touches 8 countries along the way. Even if you want “only” to hike from one end of Switzerland to the other, it’s a nearly 400 km, 20-day adventure from Vaduz (Liechtenstein) to Montreux that crosses 6 cantons, 14 mountain passes, and includes picturesque villages, green meadows, and dramatic mountain scenery. Key highlights include the Jungfrau region, with iconic peaks such as Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, and scenic lakes such as Lake Thun and Lake Geneva.

Via Francigena

This is a totally different kind of trail from the Via Alpina. The road was known to the Romans and was used a millennia later by Christian pilgrims to Rome. The modern route, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, starts in Canterbury, England and from Pontarlier, France, crosses into Switzerland. In a time before massive Swiss tunnels, the route aimed to provide the easiest way to get from point A to point B, which means the Via Francigena tends towards valleys more than mountains – though the Rhone Valley scenery is often startling in its beauty. And you will still have some mountains to climb: the final stop on the nearly 200 km, 12-day Swiss stretch takes you high up to the Gran San Bernardo pass before crossing into Italy. Along the way, you can easily find accommodation in a network of pilgrim’s hostels and visit many wonderful Swiss towns and cities – including Lausanne.

Alpine Passes Trail

If you’re looking for a truly epic hike, there’s probably none better than the Alpine Passes Trail. It does just what the name suggests, crossing one mountain pass after another after another along the nearly 700 km, 39-day hike. The trail takes you through the Graubünden and Valais Alps, and along the way you’ll have views of dozens of the 48 Swiss peaks that exceed 4,000 m, including the Dom, the Matterhorn, and Mt. Blanc. The good thing about all these hikes is that they offer way more than a day-hike, but can still be tackled incrementally, one weekend, then one week, then one summer holiday at a time. You can jump on and jump off and build up your confidence and appreciation for the amazing Swiss Alps. But most of all, they really let you slow down, re-connect with the landscape and mountain communities you’ll come across, and experience the world at a very human pace.