Hiking is practically a religion for the Swiss, and it's easy to see why: more than 37,000 miles of marked and maintained trails braid across a landscape bursting with Alpine farms, flower-filled meadows, and towering peaks—not bad for a country slightly smaller than Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined. Here are a few of the best routes that can be done in a day or less.
The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces (Lutry–St. Saphorin). This 11-km (6.8-mile) stretch perched above Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) offers the beauty trifecta: massive mountains, a deep blue lake, and lush green vineyards. One look and you'll see why it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can always pop down to Lake Geneva below to catch a boat (or train), rather than walk the entire way. Easy to Moderate.
Eiger Trail (Alpiglen-Eigergletscher). If you think the brooding north face of the Eiger is impressive from afar, try walking right below it. The entire 6-km (3.75-mile) trail (built in 1997 in just 39 days with hand tools) bathes in breathtaking views of Grindelwald and the surrounding peaks. Hike it in reverse if your knees can handle the pounding descent on an uneven trail. Strenuous.
Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard. The ruggedness of Switzerland's most uninhabited canton is on full display on this 9-km (5.6-mile) trail. The craggy mountain views of the entire Engadine valley make the effort worth it, as does a plate of yummy smoked meats at the rustic Unterer Scharberg hut at the halfway point. Moderate.
Zermatt Lake Trail. With the iconic Matterhorn as a backdrop, just about any hike over Zermatt will be worth the toil. Particularly special is a 9-km (5.6-mile) route from Blauherd to Riffelalp; the path is relatively easy (no major ups or downs) but you'll still climb 800 vertical feet and lose almost 2,000. Numerous huts dot the route, offering plenty of chances to soak up refreshments with some of the region's most spectacular views. Easy to Moderate.
Valle Verzasca (Sonogno-Lavertezzo). It's not hard to imagine life here centuries ago as you stroll over Roman bridges and past stone houses in this narrow valley, nestled in Switzerland's Italian-speaking canton. Easy.
Remember to wear practical shoes with good soles and ankle support and to always bring water, a few snacks, and extra clothing.
Always check your transport connections before setting out—you don't want to miss the last bus.
Bring cash, as huts rarely take credit cards, and you never know when you'll run across a farm selling cheese or locally made wine.
Have an iPhone? Switzerland Tourism (www.myswitzerland.com) has a superb (and free) app offering descriptions, maps, and practical information on dozens of the country's top hikes.Updated: 09-2013
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