Zermatt Switzerland is one of the most stunning places in the Swiss Alps. Home to the mighty Matterhorn, it is truly one of the best places to go hiking in Switzerland. We had the privilege of hiking the five lakes trail in Zermatt starting with an early morning sunrise at Stellisee and it was a walk we will never forget. If you are planning on doing the 5 Lakes Hike, this post will give you all the information you need to make the most of exploring the Matterhorn valley.
What is the 5 Lakes Hike
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The 5 lakes trail (5-Seenweg) is a relatively easy hike that passes through five alpine lakes offering different views of the Matterhorn and surrounding Swiss Alps. The five lakes include, Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. It is mostly downhill with a few inclines and takes approximately 3 – 4 hours. What makes this hike so special is that the Matterhorn looms overhead throughout the hike. 3 of the 5 lakes have the Matterhorn reflecting in their still waters and the trail winds from one spectacular mountain vista to another.
You may also want to read: The 12 Best Hikes in Switzerland
5 Lake Trail Details
- The full hike is 9.8 km (6 miles)
- elevation 2585 meters (8480 feet)
- elevation gain 289 meters (948 feet)
- Trail conditions: Easy – moderate – Follow the signs that say 5-Seenweg.
- You can purchase lift and train tickets here.
- If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you receive 50% off Sunnegga and Blauherd lifts. For lift tickets visit Matterhorn Paradise here.
- Read our tips for saving money in Switzerland – 10 Simple Ways to Travel Switzerland on a Budget
How to Get to the 5 Lakes Trail
The 5 Lake Trail begins at Sunnegga Valley Station in Zermatt where you board a funicular up to Sunnegga before transferring to a gondola up to Blauherd Mountain Station. The gondola views are amazing and you will already have awesome views of the Matterhorn from Sunnegga to Blauherd. So make sure to keep looking out the window!
We stayed at The Hotel Aristella Swissflair Hotel & Apartment in Zermatt. It was close to the river and it is just a 10-minute walk to Blauherd Mountain Station. Its central location made for a great base to explore all of Zermatt. See prices on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
From here, it is about a 30-minute hike from Blauherd to Lake Stellisee – the first of the five lakes. This lake is the classic view of the Matterhorn that is in all the brochures. It’s worth getting there early to beat the crowds. In fact, during the summer months, you can book an early bird ticket for sunrise at Stellisee. There is a limited number of tickets sold for sunrise, so this is a spectacular way to see this beautiful reflection without the crowds.
What to Expect – Stellisee at Sunrise
Tickets for Sunrise at Stellisee can be booked up to the day before at 3 pm. We suggest booking in advance as it is a very popular excursion in Zermatt. Time change depending on the time of year (it changes with the time of sunrise) so be sure to double-check what time the funicular departs. Funicular departures can be as early as 04:45 am to 06:15 am. Our tip is to arrive at least 30 minutes early to get on the funicular first. Go to the front of the funicular so that you are first on the gondola. Tickets for Breakfast at the Matterhorn can be booked here for 72CHF.
Getting that first position puts you on the elevator up to the gondola at the head of the crowd. (If photography is important to you anyway). Being first on the gondola gives you the optimal time to hike to the lake for sunrise and to scope out the best location for your photos. For the perfect reflection, you want to sit yourself down between the two massive boulders. Check out our Our Best Switzerland Pictures
Once you reach the station, follow the trail to Stellisee, find your spot, and enjoy the view for as long as you like. Once the sun rises, your tickets include breakfast at Fluhalp Mountain Restaurant. It is another 20-minute hike to the restaurant where you can fill up with energy for the day ahead. Prices start at 53.00 CHF one way. You can purchase sunrise tickets here.
- Note: We decided to skip breakfast to hike to the next lake. Taking the sunrise gondola offered us the chance to stay ahead of the crowds. Instead, we packed some snacks to eat on the trail and made our way to lake number two. We had it all to ourselves.
Camping at Stellisee
If you don’t want to spend the 53 CHF per person, you can hike up to Stellisee or you can camp overnight at Stellisee. If we had the chance to do it again, we’d camp. The people we talked to who set up camp at Stellisee said they had amazing star trails and night skies reflecting in the lake. Drones are allowed at Stellisee. We had ours with us but found that the people flying their drones were very disruptive. It took away from the experience, so we decided to leave it in our bag.
Lake #1 – Stellisee
Regardless of what you decide for your hike to Stellisee, try to get there as early in the day as possible, be it for sunrise, camping, or the first regular gondola up. The Matterhorn tends to cloud over as the day goes on, so early mornings are your best bet for seeing the Matterhorn peak clearly.
From Blauherd, follow the Seenweg Trail signs to Stellisee to the right of the gondola. It is pretty easy to find and takes 20 – 30 minutes depending on how quickly you walk. When you reach the lake, walk directly to the far end of the lake looking back at the Matterhorn. There are huge boulders in the lake creating several different vantage points. For the classic perfect reflection of the Matterhorn, park yourself to the right of the large boulders. For a beautiful variation of the classic shot, go to the spot between the boulders to have them frame the reflection of the Matterhorn. Whichever view you decide, it is going to be gorgeous.
Lake #2 Grindjisee
The walk to Grindjisee is an easy downhill stroll along a wide gravel road. It is the same trail we rode our bikes on a day earlier, so be prepared to share the trail with cyclists. This downhill walk offered one glorious view after another and doesn’t take much effort to get from Stellisee to Grindjisee. It is only about a 30-minute hike.
Because we decided to skip breakfast at Fluhalp mountain restaurant we had the trail and lake to ourselves. We missed seeing Grindjisee that day earlier when mountain biking the Four Lakes Tour but kept an eye out for it today. We nearly missed it again. Grindjisee is a more secluded lake surrounded by trees. The single-lane trail goes through a small forest and we continued through until we reached Grindjisee. Make sure to walk around to the other side for another lovely reflection of the Matterhorn in the still waters.
Lake #3 Grünsee
After pulling ourselves away from the tranquility of Grindjisee, we continued on to Lake Grünsee. This portion of the 5 Lake Walk is still downhill, so it is a very pleasant stroll. It was now that we started to see other people on the trail, but because we were so far ahead, there were only a few other intrepid early risers on the route.
Grünsee is a popular lake for swimming with sandy banks and a sandy bottom. When we arrived there were two other people relaxing on its shores as they told us they camped overnight here. We perched ourselves on some rocks and ate our morning snacks that we carried in place of going for breakfast. We didn’t want to waste a moment seeing all these views of the Matterhorn, so it was just a short stop to fill up before moving on.
You won’t see reflections of the Matterhorn at Grünsee, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. In fact, the surrounding mountains create a massive wall reflecting in its still waters. We snapped our photos just before our new friends went for a swim ruining the mirror reflections. Whew!
Watch our video of the 5 Lakes and Matterhorn region
The walk to Moosijee is a little more rugged than the others taking us off the wide gravel road to what felt more like hiking trails. Along the way, we stopped at Mountain Lodge Ze Seewjinu restaurant where we popped in for a cappuccino. If you order food or drinks you can use the restrooms which is a huge bonus. (You aren’t allowed to use it otherwise).
Lake #4 Moosijee
Moosijee is the next lake on the 5 Lake Hike and it is reached by a series of switchbacks. Moosijee is quite different from the others. Its milky turquoise color reminded me of some of the lakes in the Rocky Mountains. There aren’t any reflections of mountains in this lake, but it is still a pleasant stop for a bit of relaxation on its grassy shores.
Leisee is the final of the 5 Lakes Hike and it is the only one that truly has an incline. This is a popular stop for families with a playground, beach, swimming, picnic spots, and a barbecue area. It is just 10 minutes from Sunnega Summit station so many people make this their one and only stop. You can also reach it via funicular in mere minutes.
The 5 Lake Hike can be done in a few hours in the morning, so you have a full afternoon to continue to explore the Matterhorn area. Visiting Zermatt is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we suggest staying out for as long as possible.
You may also like: Incredible Zermatt, Switzerland – 23 Exciting Things to See and Do
4 Lakes Bike Tour
We did a lot of this trail during the 4 Lakes bike tour. It follows much of the same path through the first four lakes of the 5 Lakes Hike but skips Leisee and in turn, goes from Moosijee along an incredible mountain path to a single lane track. You can take the easier Sunnega Trail down, or go for a more adventurous ride along the Oberer Höhenweg Bike Tour.
From Moosijee, we skipped climbing up to Leisee and instead joined the Oberer Höhenweg Bike Tour that veered to the left. There are several restaurants, lookouts and even charging stations along this steep path leading down to the single-lane trail you will hook up with.
Once we got on the single-lane trail, things got really exciting. At first, we really thought that we took a wrong turn and felt it was beyond our mountain biking capabilities. Especially when we reached a rocky outcrop dangling over a cliff that plunged into the valley below.
Getting off our bikes, we walked through this portion of the trail, and once through it, we hopped on a fun single-track trail that was perfect for intermediate riders. We flowed through this forest trail for 2km picking up some speed while enjoying the adventure. It ended at Patrullarve lift station where we continued down to Zermatt village.
That mountain biking adventure took us the better part of a day as we did explore the four lakes, several of the mountain vistas, we stopped for snacks and then explored the single-track trails. Having our mountain bikes until 6 pm, we then used them to explore more of the trails around Zermatt. It was an excellent way to get around.
During our 5 lakes hike, we decided to spend the afternoon at Gornergrat. So instead of heading back down from Sunnega, we continued on to Riffelap from Grünsee (we had seen the other lakes on our mountain bikes the day before). If you haven’t done the 5 lakes hike already, you will probably want to leave Gornergrat for another day, because this hike is spectacular.
We hiked from Grünsee to Riffelalp where we caught the cogwheel train to Gornergrat. We didn’t know what to expect, but once the glaciers started appearing out the window from the train, we knew we were in for a treat. If there is one other hike to do in Zermatt, it is Gornergrat. But that is another story, you will have to wait to read about. Stay tuned, it is coming soon!
What to Pack for the 5 Lake Walk
The 5 Lakes Hike reaches an altitude of 2585 meters, so it can be cold even in the summertime. Wear layers with a wind and waterproof outer layer. Here is a list of what we suggest you bring on the 5 lakes hike.
- good hiking boots
- two water bottles
- zip off pants – we were cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon
- waterproof outer shell jacket
- warm mid layer
- snacks for a picnic lunch
How to Get to the 5 Lakes Hike
When booking tickets to the 5 Lakes Hike you will need to purchase lift tickets for Sunnegga and Blauherd lifts. There are several combinations of lifts for hiking in Zermatt depending on how many days you will be there. You can check this website for lift tickets and prices. If you plan on doing a lot of hikes from Gornergrat to Glacier Paradise, we suggest the Peak Pass for unlimited access. See here for details. If you have purchased a Swiss Travel Pass, more reductions may be applicable.
- A Swiss Travel Pass includes:
- Unlimited travel by train, bus, and boat
- Public transportation in more than 90 cities and towns
- Including mountain excursions: Rigi, Schilthorn, Stanserhorn, and Stoos
- Free admission to more than 500 museums throughout Switzerland
- Get your Swiss Travel Pass Here.
- Two free informative apps to help plan your Switzerland journey are: Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app and the Swiss Travel Guide app
The best way to get around the mountains and to explore all the things to do in Zermatt is to purchase an all-inclusive lift package, you can search for the right one for you at the Zermatt tourism website.
The 5 Lake Hike in Zermatt is an easy hike with extraordinary views. With very little effort, you will have world-class panoramic vistas that will be etched in your memory for years to come. We highly recommend this hike. It is worth it for seeing Stellisee at sunrise alone. The Matterhorn reflected in the mirror lake is one of the most iconic images in Switzerland and if you are in Zermatt, it would be a shame to miss it. If you can, make sure to go up for sunrise to see the lake without the crowds. I do think that the sunrise viewing is what made our trip to the 5 Lakes walk all the more memorable.
How to Get to Zermatt
Zermatt is located in the Canton of Valais in the southwest of Switzerland. No motorized vehicles are allowed in Zermatt so you must make your way to Matterhorn Terminal Täsch if you are driving. If you are taking the train, you will need to book a ticket to Matterhorn Terminal Täsch. The journey from Täsch to Zermatt is included in your Swiss Travel Pass (Train Pass for Swiss Railways) find more details on the Swiss Travel Pass here.
For drivers, Matterhorn Terminal Täsch. There is a massive covered parking lot there where you can leave your car and board the train that takes everyone to the village of Zermatt. The Zermatt shuttle runs every 20 minutes and takes 12 minutes flat to get from Matterhorn Terminal Täsch to Bahnhofstrasse (the main pedestrian street) Zermatt.
Seeing the Matterhorn in Switzerland is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you do make your way to Zermatt, be sure to spend at least 3 days exploring Zermatt and the surrounding mountains. And if you can hike the 5 lakes walk, it is some of the most incredible scenery we have ever seen in our lives.
For more information on traveling Switzerland and Zermatt check out these links:
- The Ultimate Switzerland Road Trip Itinerary
- The Ultimate One-Week Switzerland Itinerary
- Things to do in Grindelwald, Switzerland – Complete 4 Day Itinerary
- Stunning St. Moritz – Summer fun in Switzerland
- Beautiful Places to Visit in Switzerland
- Spectacular Switzerland, a Visit to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe