Hut to Hut Hiking in Switzerland – Information and Experience!
If you are traveling to Switzerland or visiting the Swiss Alps in the summer, hiking to mountain huts and staying overnight is the best way to get up close and personal with the mountains. Hut to hut hiking in Switzerland is a more adventurous, affordable and rewarding way to experience hiking in the Swiss alps by meeting other hikers, tasting local dishes and being able to sleep on the top of the world. For anyone on a budget, or backpacking through Switzerland, mountain huts are also a cheaper and self guided way to gain an authentic Swiss experience.
Switzerland has an amazing system of mountain huts that are accessible to all fitness levels and can be combined for longer excursions. Many Swiss huts are a destination in themselves and can be visited as a day trek for lunch with a view. However if you are more adventurous and want to go for a multi day hike in Switzerland that is longer than just a day, you can continue the hike to a new hut everyday!
I have visited many of these huts in the Jungfrau region, and share with you my experience of a 3 day hut to hut hike along with general information, preparations and tips to plan your own trip!
But first, here’s some general information about the huts in Switzerland.
Swiss mountain huts are small cabins where you can stay overnight in the moutains. They offer dormitory style sleeping with mattresses, blankets and pillows (you might have to bring your own sleeping bag during covid). Some huts are serviced by a couple who lives there and will serve you dinner and breakfast included in the price.
The Swiss Alpine Club website lists all the public mountain huts, however information is not always up to date so it is best to contact the hut by phone to check if they are open and to reserve a bed. Once you have a reservation, the hiking trails nearby will have sign posts with directions and sometimes a time estimate to the hut.
The nice thing about staying in a hut is that you don’t have to bring much. Sleeping mattresses, blankets and pillows are provided, and if the hut is serviced, you don’t have to bring any food or drinks as you can buy them there. You should bring snacks and water for during your hike, a change of clothes and cash as many huts do not accept cards.
Yes, bookings are required. It is important to let the hut owners know you are coming so they can prepare food and know of any dietary restrictions. The huts get quite busy during summer in high season so they may run out of space. And if you cannot make your reservation, call the hut so that they know you have not gotten lost!
Huts are generally much cheaper than a hotel but more expensive than camping. As the price of the hut includes a large dinner and breakfast, they are quite affordable for Switzerland. You can expect to pay around 70chf per night per person.
Weather in the Swiss Alps is very unpredictable and can change quickly. Be prepared for rain or fog by bringing a waterproof layer. As you have to book your stay in advance, you may not know what the weather will be like, but the sun will come out at some point and mountain views are great in any weather!
3 Day Hut to Hut Hiking Switzerland Experience:
Lauterbrunnen to Lobhornhutte to Rotstockhutte back to Lauterbrunnen – 3 day hike Switzerland.
First of all my hiking style is focused on enjoying the scenery and taking lots of photos. I am fit enough but try to cap my hikes at 6 hours per day so that I can explore a little around each hut and relax before starting the hike again.
This is an incredibly scenic route, overlooking the Jungfrau and Bernese Oberland. Each hut is also close enough to a village that you can visit just for the day, or bail in case of bad weather. I did these routes in June, when the weather was still questionably wet, but I never got caught in a thunderstorm, just a few raindrops and some fog, and lots of sunshine in between. June is also the time when farmers move their cows up the mountains to graze in the summer fields, so you might encounter multiple cows along the paths – just watch where you step!
Starting and ending in Lauterbrunnen, which is at 800m, this two day hike goes up to 2000m and covers about 30km, the second day being the longest. However there are some shortcuts like gondolas and trains that you can take if that is too much for you.
Day 1: Lauterbrunnen to Lobhornhutte – 5-9km, 1200m up
I started out in Lauterbrunnen with just a small backpack, carrying a sleeping bag liner (during covid) and some extra clothes. It was a lovely sunny day so I didn’t mind walking the first half of the hike, up to the small village of Isenfluh. This takes about two hours and also crosses some nice bridges over flowing rivers. If you want to skip this part of the hike and start a little higher up, there is a bus that goes from Lauterbrunnen to Isenfluh a few times a day.
Once in Isenfluh, you can continue up to Sulwald on the walking trail which passes a big waterfall (in springtime). Otherwise you can also cheat a little bit and take a small gondola up to Sulwald, it is not included in any travel card but well worth the 8chf to take you up 500m. It is a fun experience and I usually opt for this route. Coming down from the top in the other direction is a little interesting as you have to use the phone to call the man operating below and let yourself in and out of the cable car.
From here in Sulwald, the hike really begins. You still have a lot of elevation to cover and it takes you up through the forest, part of it being built in steps. When I went in June, I came across a large milk jug full of cheese! A local dairy farm down the road made an honesty shop along the trail for you to buy the local cheese, just leaving the cash in a small tin.
Once you get above the forest, the trail follows the river up to a valley. The river is quite beautiful and from here it is only 30 minutes to the Lobhornhutte. The whole hike from Sulwald to the hut can take you 1.5 – 2 hours, so you can start after lunch and be there in time for dinner at 6.30pm.
The Lobhornhutte has a great location overlooking the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain range. It’s south facing panorama offers amazing sunsets and sunrises and there is a small lake nearby that you can jump in. The hut itself sleeps about 16 people (less during covid) and offers an a la carte menu during the day, and a set dinner and breakfast when you stay overnight.
Mountain huts that are manned will serve you three courses for dinner, which is great after a long hike! When I was at the Lobhornhutte, we were served the local gernstensuppe to start (barley vegetable) and my favourite, alpenmacaroni with applesauce as a main. They make large portions so don’t be afraid of going hungry, and we got desert! I had a delicious hazelnut cake with cream. This hut also has lots of games and cards to play in the evenings, but usually everyone is quite tired from the hike and goes to bed early. Waking up here is amazing and the breakfast of bread, jams, cheese, musli and fruits fills you up for the long hike ahead.
Day 2: Lobhornhutte to Rotstockhutte – 17km, ~500m net
Hut to hut hiking in Switzerland consists of a lot of uphill. However some days you go up and down and back up again. This was one of those days. Even though these two huts are at the same elevation, this is the longest day of hiking as you traverse across the mountain range. The great thing is that most of the time the view of the snow capped Alps are directly in front of you. Starting around 9am, (after a quick jump in the lake) I hiked back to the valley with a large river and then took a different turn towards Grutschalp and Murren.
Hiking Lobhornhutte to Murren
For a little over an hour, you are walking through the forest and across another valley where it eventually opens up into farmland. I came across a farmer walking his cow herd along the path, which was a little scary as the cows are really big and this time of year they also have calves that the mothers are very protective of. I decided to climb up and around the pathway so as to not disturb the cows on the narrow path!
After this point, you are nearly at Grutschalp from where the route takes you along the panoramaweg (panorama path) towards the quaint village of Murren. This is a lovely route just to do on a day by itself, as it is not too difficult but very scenic. Within another 2 hours you arrive in the village of Murren which makes a nice stop for lunch or to restock on any supplies. I always like going to the Alpenblick for fondue, although it is difficult to get moving again after that!
Hiking Murren To Rotstockhutte
The trail to Rotstockhutte is quite varied, going through farmlands, up over a switchback rockface and then through some rolling hillsides before you end up in what seems like the end of the path, surrounded by rockface. There are different routes you can take here (and short cuts with cable cars) but the main route only take 2.5 hours from Murren and is well marked along the way.
On our way up to the hut we were walking through the clouds, so we could barely see the building until it was right in front of us. Then within ten minutes of arriving the rain started to come down very hard and we saw the pathway that we took being engulfed into a river as all the water rushed down from the surrounding mountains! The sky cleared up again later and we were able to spot chamois and other local birds and animals with binoculars.
The Rotstockhutte is another quaint little hut manned by a Swiss couple that lives there in the summertime. They have cold beer on tap which was a nice surprise and modern toilets which felt like quite the luxury up in the middle of nowhere! We were served 4 courses here – a soup, salad and pasta with a custard for dessert – so with the additional bottle of wine, we slept very well and were even offered a local shot of herbal schnapps.
Day 3: Rotstockhutte to Lauterbrunnen – 9km, 1100m down
Following the signs to Stechelberg from the Rotstockhutte, it was a long downhill hike for the final day. Our final day of hut to hut hiking starting around 9am and we did not see anyone else for the next two hours! We were following a small path through the forest and alongside a gushing river, and passed a rockface that had water coming down the front where you could have a little shower if needed.
We took the turn to Gimmelwald to stop for a coffee before continuing down to Stechelberg. This added a half hour to our trip but it was a nice break for the knees and Gimmelwald is such a cute little village that it was well worth it. By 1pm we were down in Stechelberg and caught the bus to Lauterbrunnen, back to where our hike began. The whole trip was incredibly scenic and yet not too difficult for an occasional hiker like myself!
Hut to Hut Hiking Switzerland – The Take Away
I hope this gives a glimpse of what it is like hiking hut to hut in the Swiss Alps, as there are many more mountain huts all over the alps. There are also plenty more huts in the region so you can book a few in a row to go for a longer trip! It can be fun to mix it up with an unmanned hut on the first evening and then carry on to the serviced huts once your supplies are finished. I believe hiking hut to hut in Switzerland is the best way to see the alps!
Mountain Hut Tips;
Bring cash as many huts don’t have credit card machines.
Dress for all kinds of weather, as it can change quickly in the mountains.
Be considerate of other guests, trying not to be too loud in the night time.
Be sure to reserve your bed at least one day in advance.
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