Switzerland is known for its outdoor adventures and alpine scenery and one of the best ways to experience both is by hiking the Five Lakes trail in Zermatt.
The Five Lakes Walk (5-Seenweg) is a pleasant day hike in Zermatt that offers extraordinary views of the Matterhorn mountain (you know, the one on the Toblerone chocolate bars). From gazing at the mountain from across a valley, to seeing it reflected in three lakes, the Five Lakes trail offers many incredible vantage points for admiring the famous Matterhorn.
About the Five Lakes Walk in Zermatt
The Five Lakes Walk is an easy hike (with a few moderately difficult sections) that passes by five mountain lakes- Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. Three of the lakes have reflections of the Matterhorn and the majority of the trail offers unobstructed views of Switzerland’s most recognizable peak.
The Five Lakes hike is 9.3 km and features a variety of terrain including wide, flat gravel paths, narrow dirt tracks with some protruding rocks, and a section of switchbacks.
The starting point of the Five Lakes trail is at Blauherd mountain station at 2,571 m. To get to there you need to take the underground funicular to Sunnegga, then switch to a gondola that goes to Blauherd.
From Blauherd most of the trail is downhill, but near the end of the hike there is a small section where the path makes a climb. The total elevation change during the hike is 286 m ascent and 575 m descent.
The hike ends at Sunnegga where you can take the funicular back to Zermatt.
Hiking the Five Lakes Trail in Zermatt– My Experience
My plan was to begin the Five Lakes Walk as early as possible, since the Matterhorn starts to get clouded over as afternoon approaches. Lucky for me, the weather and visibility were perfect that morning, so I excitedly walked to Sunnegga Valley Station in time to catch the first funicular of the day.
Stepping out of the station at Sunnegga, I came face to face with the iconic Matterhorn. I was so thrilled by the clear view of the mountain that I took picture after picture, temporarily forgetting about my plan to start hiking before more people arrived. I eventually drug myself away from the view, remembering that even better vantage points awaited me.
So, I eagerly hopped on the gondola to Blauherd, soon arriving at the starting point for the Five Lakes Walk.
Once I saw the view from Blauherd, I felt kind of silly for being so excited at Sunnegga because the scenery here was even more inviting. A valley framed by rocky mountains and glaciers was spread out before me.
“Wow! It’s so beautiful,” I repeated, realizing I was talking to no one. I was the only person standing there enjoying that view in that moment of time.
Again, out came the camera and I happily snapped away, preserving a scene that I knew I would never forget.
Based on the landscape surrounding me and the amount of time I was already spending admiring it, I knew this hike was going to take me a lot longer than I expected!
Once I finally set off on my walk, I was filled with anticipation for what was to come. I quickly walked along a ridge towards the first lake, stopping every so often to look back at the Matterhorn behind me.
Soon a smaller trail split off from the main path, so I followed that up and arrived at Stellisee, the first lake.
Walking around to the far end of the lake I was met with the most glorious view- the Matterhorn reflecting in the calm water.
The scene was far better than I imagined and I’m not ashamed to admit I was moved to tears. Seeing the Matterhorn had long been a dream of mine, so it was hard not to be emotional when faced with such exquisite beauty.
Nothing could ruin this moment for me, not even the guy flying a buzzing drone overhead or the people taking silly yoga-pose selfies on the rocks. I tuned it out the best I could and focused my attention on the Matterhorn and its flawless reflection in Stellisee.
I sat near the shore of Stellisee for a while soaking up the scenery, taking photos, and wishing I could enjoy this view every day. But there were still four more lakes to see, so off I went continuing my hike on the Five Lakes trail.
The journey to the second lake was really easy, as it was all downhill. Along the way there were fantastic views of the surrounding valley, Matterhorn, and distant glaciers.
Arriving at Grindjisee, it was obvious that this lake was going to have a whole different mood than at Stellisee.
The lake was more sheltered, surrounded by trees, bushes, and long grass. The path that went around the lake was also a bit more rugged, so many people chose to view the lake from the side closest to the main trail. By doing that they missed out on seeing the top of the Matterhorn reflected in the lake. But that also meant I got to sit and enjoy the view in peace and quiet.
Even though Grindjisee and its reflections may not be as jaw-dropping as Stellisee, I preferred the mellow atmosphere of being surrounded by trees. It was a great place to rest and enjoy a snack before carrying on to the third lake.
The trail to Grünsee was also downhill, with more views of the Matterhorn and glacier-capped mountains to admire as I walked. Upon arrival, I immediately noticed this lake was different to the previous two, in that it had a wide sandy/rocky shore.
Since Grünsee didn’t have any reflections of the Matterhorn, the highlight was looking out on the surrounding mountains. I felt at home because the scenery reminded me of what I see when I road trip in the Canadian Rockies.
From Grünsee, I continued hiking the Five Lakes trail, soon coming to a mountain lodge with a restaurant. I brought plenty of snacks so I kept hiking, eventually coming to a section of steep switchbacks that zigzagged down through the forest.
Now that there wasn’t such a direct view of the Matterhorn, my hiking pace was faster since I wasn’t stopping for photos all the time. Before I knew it I arrived at Moosjisee, the fourth lake.
Moosjisee had a nice milky blue-green colour, but it was still the least photogenic of the five lakes because of some concrete structures on its shore (I think it’s used as a reservoir). Seeing no reason to hang out here, I began the uphill climb to the fifth and final lake.
The last segment of the Five Lakes hike was the most difficult because of the incline, but at least there were unobstructed views of the Matterhorn to look at when I stopped to catch my breath. Even as clouds started gathering round its peak, it still was an incredible sight.
Arriving at Leisee, the last lake, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for how perfect the weather was, allowing me to experience clear views of the Matterhorn all morning long. Having such luck is unusual for me, as bad weather has ruined some of my most anticipated adventures. Not today though- this was a superb morning for a half-day hike in Zermatt!
Final Thoughts About Hiking the Five Lakes Trail in Zermatt
Seeing the Matterhorn and its reflections on the Five Lakes Walk was what I was most looking forward to during my 2 weeks in Switzerland. Thankfully, it was as special as I hoped it would be. The hike was an unforgettable way to experience classic views of the most photographed mountain in the world.
There are a lot of adventures to be had in this part of Switzerland, but hiking the Five Lakes trail is easily one of the best things to do in Zermatt!
More Photos of the Five Lakes Walk
I didn’t get anywhere very fast during the Five Lakes hike because I was always stopping to take photos and marvel at the scenery. This hike definitely had the best views of the Matterhorn I saw during my trip to Zermatt. Here are a few more pictures from my hike on the Five Lakes trail!
Tips for Hiking the Five Lakes Trail
- The Five Lakes hike is rated medium difficulty, but I would say it’s more on the easy side. The only mildly challenging parts were the section of switchbacks going downhill after the third lake, and the uphill shortcut after the fourth lake.
- The suggested time to complete the Five Lakes Walk is 2.5 hrs (2 hr 50 min in the reverse direction), but I would plan for it taking longer than that. I walk fast and it still took me 3 hr 40 min, including photo stops and a few rest breaks to enjoy the scenery.
- The route is marked with yellow signs. Follow the ones that say 5-Seenweg. The signs also list approximate times to the next destinations. The first two lakes (Stellisee and Grindjisee) are actually on a path that branches off the main route, so watch for signs to these lakes (I almost missed the first one!)
- I recommend taking the first funicular from Zermatt so that you can start the hike early, beating the crowds and hopefully catching clear views of the Matterhorn. Stellisee (the first lake) is very popular and since it’s not far from the gondola station at Blauherd, people can come and enjoy it without having to do a long hike.
- Here is where you can download a timetable of the lifts and cable cars in Zermatt.
- There are two mountain restaurants along the trail- one just after Grünsee (the third lake) and one at the end of the trail at Sunnegga.
- There are no official toilet stops on the trail but if you make a purchase at one of the restaurants you can use their facilities. At the lodge near Grünsee they had a jar for people to put money in to use the toilets.
- If you have a Swiss Travel Pass you get a 50% discount off lift tickets to Sunnegga and Blauherd.
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