Gornergrat – Riffelsee – Riffelalp Hike

Gornergrat (3089m) – Riffelsee – Riffelberg (2582m) – Riffelalp (2211m) – Winkelmatten (1672m) // 12km, 1400 decent, took forever due to countless breaks

We are back to fabulous Zermatt for my belated birthday celebration. Patrick and Katharina kindly let us stay in their Matterhorn-view studio again.

After a strenuous 5-day hike in the Glarnerland of last week, I wanted to start with an easy stroll, without much uphill walking – something Philippe always fully supports.

Philippe found out that the Gornergrat Railway offered special free tickets to those who had birthdays during the Corona Lockdown time. The tourism industry suffers and it was very visible in world-famous Zermatt. Last time on the Gornergrat, Philippe felt as if he was on a Japanese mountain-top. This year there were close to no Japanese, no Chinese and no Koreans. So Zermatt has to go back to its roots and try to attract the Swiss customer. But a free ride? Well, it certainly works for us…

We have not done this rather touristy ride to Gornergrat for a long time. We hopped on the crowded train which brought us to 3000m in altitude in no time. No wonder this train is popular – it showcases a magnificent view of the Matterhorn under the cloudless blue sky along the way.

From the Gornergrat we originally thought of going halfway down to the shining, modern Monte Rosa Hütte which perches on a grey moraine slope. Instead, we walked further up on the reddish rocky ridge from the busy Gornergrat Station towards Hohtälligrat. It is only a couple of hundred meters away but surprisingly few hikers ventured out on this ridge walk. So we sat there for quite a while, looking at the glacier, the Matterhorn, the Monte Rosa and all the surrounding mountains quietly.

After hanging out and cherishing spectacular views there for a while, we walked back to the Gornergrat station and joined the crowd for a very popular hiking route to Riffelsee. We walked this route probably 15 years ago and still remember that famous, picturesque scene of the Matterhorn reflected on the perfectly smooth water of the Riffelsee. This time there were more cameras than people, and the water wasn’t smooth…

From Riffelsee we switched to a longer route to Riffelberg and then Riffelalp. It is a lot quieter with only a few hikers. It is a fantastic panoramic route all the way with a view of the Matterhorn and many of the other 22 summits with an altitude of 4000m or more. Near the Riffelalp the woods smelled fragrantly of flowers and pine trees.

By the time we reached Riffelalp we were quite hungry. Luckily there was an open restaurant with a terrace while many restaurants are closed due to Covid. We had a rather meaningless vegetable soup and a delicious goat cheese salad at the restaurant Alphitta. 

Philippe headed for the Riffelalp train station and I decided to walk down another hour in the beautiful woods to Winkelmatten.

The most of today’s route was touristy but with phenomenal views. We very much enjoyed the walk.

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