Hiking the Five Lakes Trail in Zermatt
I love Zermatt as it is a great base for some of the amazing hiking routes into the surrounding mountains overlooking the resort. One of the top and in some ways, the easiest hiking route to do is known as the ‘Five Lakes Trail’ to the east and I heard that three of the lakes have the Matterhorn mountain reflected on their water surfaces. Because of this I always wanted to do this.
At the start of this amazing day, I have to admit I did the tourist route. I didn’t commence the hike from Zermatt itself so I took a train ride from Zermatt to Sunnegga to get to the heart of the route. The valley station of the Sunnegga-Rothorn railway is located around ten minutes walk from the main Zermatt train station. When at the station, visitors can find themselves already 1,620 meters above sea level and are about to go even further up on this funicular ride which goes through a tunnel high up into the mountain. There’s not much history regarding this particular ride as it is a recent addition to Zermatt, opening in the early 1980s. After renovation in 2013, the funicular ride can carry 2,500 passengers an hour and the journey takes three minutes. By doing it this way it does cost a bit but if people are either short of time or want to burn their money and cheat a little, then this is for you. I had a lack of time of course.
After the short ride up to Sunnegga (located at 2288 meters above sea level), I then took a short gondola ride up to Blauherd where the hiking trail begins. (If hikers want to, the route can also be started from Sunnegga and finish at Blauherd but will take longer as there are more uphill ascents. I decided on the reserve option as there are more downhill ascents on the trail). Each gondola can take up to eight passengers and only takes a few minutes to reach Blauherd which is located at 2,571 meters above sea level. When arriving at Blauherd, straight away there are amazing views of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks to be had. Even if visitors are not hiking, it is still worth a visit here just to admire the alpine views and relax.
From Blauherd, the first lake known as Stellisee is not far to go. I think I walked it in about twenty-five minutes. I saw many burrows where marmots live, however I didn’t see any marmots on this day. Just lots of holes in the ground so look where you are going when hiking (however it is best to stick to the paths and not disturb the natural habitat). The skies cleared up very quickly and I reached Stellisee with ease.
A quick introduction to the Five Lakes Trail. This path starts off at Blauherd and leads past the lakes of Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee. Each lake is very different as they are different shapes, have different water colour, size of course and character. When walking to each lake I could see why this trail path is number one of the hiking trails in Zermatt and which most visitors want to do as it is easy and family friendly.
The Steillisee is probably the most beautiful lake out of the five and is great to walk around. Once walking past the whole lake, at the other end there are a couple of benches to sit on and take in the view of the Matterhorn as well as seeing its reflection on the water's surface. Unfortunately I didn’t see the reflection as there was a little bit of cloud and the wind was picking up but I still had a great time chilling out next to the lake, eating fruit and gazing in its glory.
The walk to the second lake was the quickest as it’s mostly down hill. The tall mountain peaks overshadowed me and the clouds were quickly going away, drifting over to Italy where they belong (I am joking of course, Italy is a great country). The hike was great but very dusty. Every time my foot took a step forward, I was kicking dust up in the air. Also on this part of the hike the trees have gone so I needed to apply a lot more sun tan lotion to my skin.
At the second lake, the Grindjisee there is also a great opportunity to see the reflection of the Matterhorn but this did not happen. However I got to see some rare flowers on the shores of the lake which I had never seen in my life. This is also a great place to sit on a huge rock on the eastern side of the lake and take in the surrounding noises of nature and have some nibbles which I took for the trip. However walking around this lake requires some good footwear as it did rain a few days before I came up here and was very boggy.
The third lake I came across was the Grünsee and this lake on a good day can also have amazing views of the Matterhorn. However on the hike I did that day the clouds were about and the place seemed dim and grim. I was fortunate enough to have plenty of space around me as this lake is quite open and lots of huge rocks to sit on and take in the views and have a snack (or if you are that bored, take in the fishes and see why all one hundred small fish are attacking one fish as we saw!). The lake looks out over a more rugged landscape where Swiss stone pine trees manage to grow among the sand and scree.
The walk from the third to the fourth lake was quick and simple as it was the steepest downhill section to tackle. Luckily the paths weren’t too rocky or tricky so I was there in no time. However the lake which looks very clean and spectacular from above with its milky blue watery surface is in fact also used as a reservoir and the water it contains powers electricity in Zermatt down below. The lake is known as Moosjisee but I didn’t see any Moose around here, however there are great views of the surrounding mountains and is a great place to chill out.
The hike from the fourth to the fifth lake can be a toughie if anyone takes the wrong route. The easy route which is signposted (lookout for the yellow signs with 5-Seenweg written on them) is longer but a little bit easier whilst walking on thick dusty road trails but I decided to take the shorter but tougher route which took me uphill towards Leisee. At this moment of time it felt like the scene from the ‘sound of the music’ with the green grass surrounded by snow-peaked mountains and the sun rays shining on me.
The Leisee is located near the Sunnegga train station and is a great lake for children to play nearby (there is a huge play park here) and is an ideal lake to swim in (I've been told but on this day I saw nobody tempting fate). Here there is also another great chance to see the Matterhorn reflection on the lake surface but not much luck today.
The best thing about doing this hike is at the finish. After walking about three hours going up and down dusty trails and of a short time a hike through a forested area, at Sunnegga there is a nice buffet restaurant to chill out at. I went for the traditional Swiss Rosti meals (potato meal with fried egg) plus a large beer. Sitting outside the outdoor terrace it was a perfect location in the sunshine to eat a traditional Swiss meal and get light headed before taking the train back down.
Overall, this was a very nice easy hike to do and can be done with anyone. A lot of people say the route I took can be done in 2h30 but I took about 3h45 including breaks, photographic opportunities and toilet breaks (shouldn’t have said that as there are no official toilet stops en route). Then with the food top at the end I spent about five hours enjoying the beautiful Swiss alpine scenery. This is an ideal short-hike for anyone visiting the area and is not that hard.
Top bits of advice about hiking in the Swiss Alps:
Plan each hike carefully and look at the weather details and what season you are in. Do not hike here if there is six feet of snow everywhere and make sure you have the right fitness level to do the hike. The Five Lakes Trail can be done by anyone above the age of six as its short in mileage and not much ascent as its mostly flat and a lot of descent involved.
The weather conditions can change very quickly in the mountains. Make sure you have the appropriate clothing and if on longer hikes, make sure you have adequate supplies of food and water.
Avoid going alone if you are not an experienced hiker and if you can, inform others of the planned route.
Do not leave the marked routes, do not venture onto glaciers.
Be considerate to other walkers and to animals and plants.
Take note of the warning signs. Do not disobey them. They are there for a reason.
Also I like to mention, if hiking this route with a family, do you plan to stop at the mountain restaurant or take a picnic. This is one question a family should ask themselves before going on this hike. Either way, they are both fun. I would also say the best time to challenge this hike is between June and September due to the season and weather conditions.
Other photos of my hike on the Five Lakes Trail:
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