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Switzerland is perfect for hikers. With 65,000 km of marked hiking trails, there are routes for all levels. Here is a network map:
This content was published on July 20, 2022 – 16:12 July 20, 2022 – 16:12
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Before you pack your backpack, put on your hiking boots, and head out on a hike, take a look at these tips we’ve compiled for you.
Where can I find inspiration?
Suisse MobilitéExternal link offers a comprehensive index of walks listed by location, theme and level of fitness required. Switzerland Tourism has narrowed it down to the “32 most enjoyable hikes”External link . Other excellent resources are the Swiss Federation of Hiking TrailsExternal link and the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC)External link . The user-generated Hikr.orgexternal link is constantly updated with the latest advice in multiple languages. The Federal Office of TopographyExternal link sells a collection of detailed printed maps.
How do I know if it’s an easy or difficult course?
Signage is uniform throughout Switzerland (and Liechtenstein) thanks to the efforts of hiking enthusiasts in the 1930s.
The paths that require the least effort are marked with yellow signs or arrows, often representing a figure with a backpack and a cane. Elevation, junction and distance signs are also yellow and can mark different types of trails. These give an estimate of the time needed to reach the nearest points, including train stations and bus stops.
64% of the runs are yellow, or easy. © Keystone / Christian Beutler
Red and white signs, often painted on rocks, mark the paths where hikers can expect steep and narrow passages. “Users must be sure-footed and free of vertigo, and be in good physical condition, as well as aware of the dangers of the mountains”, notes the hiking federationExternal link .
Mountain hiking trails represent 35% of the network. Keystone / Alessandro Della Bella
Alpine hiking trails are indicated by Blue and white panels. These often cross snowfields and glaciers and may require some climbing with rope, pickaxe and crampons. As the glaciers melt, these trails become increasingly difficult.
Only 1% of trails are alpine style. Keystone / Arno Balzarini
In winter, snow turns many basic yellow trails into seasonal winter hiking trails. These are marked by pink panels. No special gear is needed except for decent winter boots with treads to handle chunks of ice.
Sometimes these trails intersect with ski and toboggan runs. Switzerland Wanderwege
Where can I check the weather?
Always check the weather before you go, as precipitation can result in slippery rocks. The national meteorological service, MeteoSwissExternal link , provides detailed forecasts, including warnings of danger, such as strong winds or avalanches. If possible, find out if your destination is shrouded in fog by checking webcam feeds from nearby cable cars or huts.
Who maintains all these hiking trails?
In legislation unique in the world, Article 88 of the Swiss ConstitutionExternal link requires that Swiss hiking trails and trails be maintained in good and safe condition. Maintenance work is ordered at cantonal and municipal level. Some 1,500 volunteers and helpers take on tasks such as cutting branches, repairing steps and adjusting road signs.
A municipal employee painting a marker in Val Lumnezia Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
How much does a hike cost and who pays?
Apart from shortcuts such as cable cars and the occasional break in a hiking hut, the national sport is free for all hikers. The money for the maintenance of the network comes from the cantons and from donations. The annual investment totals approximately 53 million Swiss francs ($53.4 million). According to the hiking federation, this includes operational maintenance, network repair and signaling and other costs. Also, the SAC invests several hundred thousand francs a year to maintain and improve access to its cabins.
How safe is hiking in Switzerland?
It’s important to make sure you’re on the right track. But no matter how experienced or careful you are, there is always an element of risk. Every year, around 20,000 hikers have an accident in Switzerland; a few dozen die.
“Dangerous and often difficult-to-navigate channels and gorges emerge in the seams between retreating glaciers and moraine or rock,” said Hans-Rudolf Keusen, a geologist who is co-chairman of huts and infrastructure at SAC, recently. public television, SRFLexternal link . Local authorities usually block trails as soon as they become aware of a problem. Hikers can always contact the hiking federationexternal link or the SACEexternal link for advice.
Being prepared for an accident is wise. In this video, Ian Spare, president of the Union of International Mountain Leader AssociationsExternal link, shows us what he has in his hiking backpack:
You also have to be careful with herds of cows with calves, because the mothers are very protective. However, in agricultural areas you can expect to find electric fencing even if there are no livestock in sight.
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