Hiking in Switzerland Preparation
- Do not immediately start your vacation with a long hike. First take a day or two for some short simple hikes to allow your body to adapt to the height and the thin air while hiking in Switzerland. If you suffer from headaches, loss of concentration or feel sick at an altitude of 2000 m (6500 ft). You might have some kind of altitude sickness. Descending is the only remedy.
- Watch the short and mid-term weather forecasts. Avoid deserted areas and high altitudes when the weather is bad. If necessary, avoid trails covered with snow. Trails at high altitudes can have so much snow that hiking is impossible, even in summer. The risk of avalanches is not restricted to the winter season.
- Avoid dangerous trails. There are some exposed trails passing deep ravines. Avoid these routes if you do not feel safe or if you are not prepared. Avoid trails crossing glaciers and trails that are in line with dangerous glacier tongues. It’s always best to have a mountain guide with you if you want to hike in these areas.
- Don’t choose a high altitude hike on overcast days. You will risk missing out on all the good views.
- Consider how to travel. Using public transport means you don’t have to return to your starting point. Make sure you know the timetable and the last trip times. The last ride for cable cars can be at the end of the afternoon! Also, understand the tickets available to you. Cheaper season tickets or combined tickets are often available. The Swiss Pass is popular, as it allows unlimited travelling by train, bus and boat. You also get discounts on most gondolas and funiculars.
- Depending on your fitness and the number of breaks you take. A hike can take longer than the signs or this website show. That’s why it is better not to start late.
- Many routes are only suitable for the summer season. That counts for most of the hikes on this website as well.
To take with you
- A map at scale 1:50,000 or 1:25,000
- A First aid kit, including a rescue blanket to prevent fatal cooling.
- A Mobile phone (NOTE: there won’t be signal in some places). The general emergency number is 112. The number for the helicopter rescue service is 1414 (Rega), 1415 (Air-Glaciers)
- Rainproof clothing. This is necessary even when the weather forecast is good. The weather conditions can change fast in the mountains. Welcome to hiking in Switzerland!
- Extra thermal sweater.
- Sun-lotion. You Sunburn fast in snowy areas. Consider lip balm as well.
- Sunglasses with a UV filter. Sunglasses without a UV filter are dangerous. The dark glass causes the pupils to widen, allowing the radiation to penetrate the eyes. Try and use a pair of sunglasses that offers side protection.
- Enough food and drinks (at least 1 liter/34 fl oz).
- Spare food in case your journey takes longer than expected.
- An alarm (e.g. a whistle) to warn people in the area if you are in trouble. The emergency signal to use if you need help is 6 signals per minute followed by a one minute break. You should repeat this until help arrives. Or until you get an answer existing of 3 signals per minute followed by a one minute break. If you don’t have a whistle, you can use other forms of signal. Perhaps the flashlight of your camera or a mirror.
Clothing & footwear
- Wearing several thin garments is more comfortable than wearing just a few thick garments. It allows you to vary the number of garments you are wearing as the temperature requires. The temperature can change due to the height and the wind.
- Hiking or climbing boots. Regular trainers are not suitable on most trails. Hiking and climbing boots come in different categories. Usually based on the difficulty of the terrain. You can get more information in your sports store.
- Thick socks without seams. These can prevent you from getting blisters.
- A pair of long trousers offers the best protection against the sun and cold. Hiking in Switzerland offers a large amount of different terrain. Long pants will limit the chances of getting scratched by bushes or sharp rocks.
- A cap to protect your face from the sun. There are caps available that protect your ears and neck as well.
- An adjustable ski pole to use as a hiking stick. Special points are available for better grip on rocks. You can buy these ski poles in sports stores. They’re convenient for both descending and ascending, and indispensable on difficult or snowy trails.
- Do not leave the marked route. Hiking in Switzerland is very well signposted. These are in place to help you to find your way. They provide information about the walking time to get to certain destinations. The signposts are on the right. There are three categories. Yellow is for normal hiking routes. White/red is for routes in the mountains and white/blue is for alpine routes. The colour codes are on signposts as well as on rocks and trees. Alpine routes are dangerous and may cross glaciers and contain sections of climbing. The routes on this website do not fall into this category.
- Stick to the pace of the slowest person in the group.
- Avoid dangerous situations. For example, do not stand still at places with lots of loose rocks on a slope. A stone avalanche might have taken place here and it can happen again. A “brook basin” can be dangerous when it transforms into a large amount of water. Generally, due to heavy weather conditions elsewhere. It can occur quicker when the brook or river is also used to drain water from a hydro-electric power station. There are many of these power plants in Switzerland. The amount of water can increase in no time without warning. Every year, many people drown because of this.
- Do not throw rocks. Even small stones can be dangerous if they land on lower situated hiking trails. Furthermore, they may cause stone avalanches.
- While hiking in Switzerland, the trails cross fields where cattle may graze. You should close the fence or separation once you have passed. Cows, in particular when accompanied with calfs, may be angry when disturbed. Be quiet and keep some distance.
- Keep an eye on the weather and adjust your plan if the weather turns bad. If necessary, take the shortest route back to civilisation.
- Try to contact the rescue services through your mobile phone in case you need immediate medical help. Provide clear information about your location. If your phone does not work at your location, go and get help in the valley or the nearest mountain hut. Keep trying your phone on your way down. Don’t rush, you don’t want more accidents. Leave someone with the victim if possible. Provide the victim with food, drink and a rescue blanket.
- Do not wave to helicopters unless you need help. This will prevent rescue helicopters from making an unnecessary landing. If you do need help, then wave with two arms. Use your body to form the letter Y.
- Look out for a different spelling of certain places. Even signposts along the way may use a different spelling for the same location. Some examples are EggeschwandEggenschwand, Usser ÜscheneAeusser Üschene and BussalpBüössalp.
- Do not throw away trash. That includes food. Throwing away food is harmful to wildlife.