Facing the crown jewel of the Swiss Alps: Hiking to the Matterhorn basecamp

I may not be an experienced Alpinist that can climb up Matterhorn (yet🙅), but I can hike up to its basecamp, the Hörnlihütte, which is the next best thing. Ending up where the bravest mountaineers start their ascent to the majestic Matterhorn brings you face to face with the famous Toblerone mountain, right at its foot. It rises up so high above you that you feel completely at its mercy - it feels like if it decided to crumble you under its weight, it could do so instantly (the threatening clouds that often start gathering around it, giving it the distinctive hat, reinforced that feeling further). 

The hike itself is highly scenic and dynamic. Through some hoops and ladders (literal ones), vertigo-inducing cliff walks, you go from silky green pastures, through moon-like slopes covered with gravel, to mounts of sharp rocks. At the start of the hike, Matterhorn looks sooooo far you can hardly spot the Hörnlihütte, standing on what looks like a giant bare rock. As we were approaching it, I was puzzled as to how we will reach it without having to climb. Luckily the closer you get, the less daunting the final ascent seems, riddled with tiny, almost invisible paths and metal stairs that bring you right to the hut. 

If it wasn't for clouds that seemed to forewarn an imminent weather deterioration, I could stay on the terrace of Hörnlihütte all afternoon. Overlooking the naked and vast glacier area on one side, and the raw face of Matterhorn, it makes you feel as if you landed on Moon. Except on this moon, they serve cold beer and delicious rösti, and if you bring your binoculars, you can spend hours watching the mountaineers slowly descending from the top of the mountain. 

This has been by far one of the most rewarding hikes I have ever done. As much as I was intimidated by the prospect of climbing ladders and cliff walks, they were much less scarier in real life than in my head - actually, not scary at all. They just made rösti feel more deserved. 😉


  • Time of the year: I hiked in early September.  
  • How to get to the starting point: From Zermatt, turn right from the main train station and walk towards Winkelmatten for around 15 min, until you reach the cable car to Furi, where you change for Schwarzsee. 
  • Hike time: Around 5h there and back (excluding stops). 
  • Hike length & ascent: Around 10 km (the return hike from Schwarzsee), 707m ascent on the way up. 
  • Hiking gear needed: Good hiking boots, surefootedness.
  • Difficulty: Difficult, but doable. There are some vertigo-inducing ladders and ropes, but it's very manageable. 
  • Hike directionsThe hike starts at the beautiful Schwarzsee. This is one of the better marked hikes I have been to in Switzerland, so follow the yellow signpost for Hörnlihütte, which will soon take you uphill on a rocky path. Once you reach a gravel road, cross it, and continue going up on a narrow walking path. You'll soon reach a big building with a view of the glacier - follow the blue sign post for Hörnlihütte. You'll find yourself on a cliff walk, then continue uphill on rocky paths. Looking at the distant Hörnlihütte, you'll think it stands on a bare rock which you'll never be able to climb - but don't worry, once you come close to it, you'll see there's narrow paths and some well protected ladders to take you up there.

The hike starts at the beautiful Schwarzsee.

Matterhorn seems so far at the beginning of the hike. Can you even spot Hörnlihütte?


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