Backpacking in Switzerland: Tips & Trails

Ultralight Backpacking in Switzerland: A hiker looking at a snowy Swiss mountain

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Switzerland is a bucket list goal for many. The country boasts some of Europe’s most stunning landscapes, showcased across 18 nature parks of national importance, each featuring well-marked and well-kept trails totaling 37,000 miles.

In this post, we’ll dive into the realm of ultralight backpacking in Switzerland, offering crucial information for your upcoming adventure.

Furthermore, we’ll highlight the TOP 5 trails in two categories: day hikes (under 30 miles) and multi-day journeys with resupply options available every two days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Switzerland

  • What to expect: The dramatic mountain landscapes of the Swiss Alps provide stunning scenery for backpacking but also require proper preparation and precautions for the challenging alpine terrain. Getting around mountain huts operated by the Swiss Alpine Club allows backpackers to travel light between multi-day trekking stages. Advance reservations are required. Travel with Swiss Francs and credit cards as ATMs may not be available in remote mountain areas.
  • Essential gear: Be prepared for rapid weather changes in the mountains by packing layers, waterproof gear, extra food, first-aid, map/compass, and emergency shelter. Consider hiking poles, gaiters and good lightweight hiking shoes that provide stability, ankle support and weather protection in rugged alpine terrain.
  • Wildlife: Brown bears are sometimes seen in Grisons. Switzerland has two venomous snakes – the adder and the asps viper. Insect stings can harm allergic people. Surprisingly, Switzerland also has scorpions, water scorpions, backswimmers and ants that can cause discomfort from their bites.
  • Wild camping: In Switzerland, camping in the wild is usually accepted above the tree line, but there are some rules to follow. However, it’s important to note that wild camping is strictly prohibited in protected areas like nature preserves, game rest zones, hunting grounds, or the Swiss National Park.
  • Best times to go: June to September is the best season for backpacking when snow has melted from the higher mountain passes. But unpredictable weather is still common.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Explore these prime day hikes to elevate your adventures with ultralight gear:

  1. The 5 Lakes Walk (6.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Panorama Trail: Männlichen – Kleine Scheidegg (5.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Tour du Mont Blanc, Segment 7 (9.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Faulhornweg: Schynige Platte – First (9.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Stoos Ridge – Frontalpstock – Klingenstock (8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Switzerland features excellent multi-day trails with resupply points every two days:

  1. Scuol – Il Fuorn (50.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Le Grand Tour des Dents du Midi (41.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Panorama Rundweg Thunersee (40.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Sierre – Lac de Moiry – Zinal – Ayer (44.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Tour of the Jungfrau Region (70.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

Being prepared with the proper gear and clothing makes backpacking feasible year-round in most areas:

  • Spring (March-May): Increasing temperatures (50s-60s°F) and precipitation bring muddy trails. Snowmelt opens high elevation routes but be prepared for thunderstorms and emerging insects.
  • Summer (June-August): The hottest temperatures of the year (70s-80s°F) with afternoon mountain thunderstorms likely. Humidity rises moving east. Peak bug season.
  • Fall (September-November): Cooling temperatures (50s-60s°F) with less rain. Be ready for freezing nights and snow at high elevations. Bug activity decreases.
  • Winter (December-February): Frigid temperatures (20s-30s°F) and heavy snowfall limit access. More precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and North. Minimal bugs.

Before choosing your gear, check the weather forecast for Switzerland (Bern).

High °F394351596673777667584739
Low °F272732374552555548423429
Rain/Snow (D*)1091010121111119101010
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Switzerland? 

Lighting campfires while backpacking in Switzerland is heavily restricted and requires advance planning and permits. Fires are generally prohibited near forests, meadows, river banks, and alpine areas due to high risk of uncontrolled spread. Research regulations on campfires which vary by canton and municipality. Obtain required permits well in advance of your trip if fires are conditionally allowed in designated areas. Fires may be permitted only with an established fire ring or grill. Camp stoves are a safer alternative for cooking while minimizing impacts on the environment.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Switzerland?

When you go hiking in Switzerland, get ready for the changing mountain weather by bringing the right gear like insulation, rainwear, navigation tools, sun protection, and emergency supplies. Check the weather conditions and avoid hiking during storms or when there’s a high risk of avalanches. Stick to marked trails, especially in alpine regions and areas above the tree line. Be considerate of passing livestock in mountain pastures. Learn some basic German, French, or Italian phrases just in case. Look into permits needed for specific protected or private land areas. Let someone know your plans, and if possible, hike with a partner. Stay away from risky terrain near steep ledges and glaciers.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Switzerland?

Give animals like ibex, chamois, marmots, and alpine salamanders plenty of space. Do not approach, feed, or touch wild animals. Wear insect repellent and check for ticks after hiking to prevent disease. Watch your step around marmot burrows on trails. If you encounter cows or sheep in mountain pastures, give them a wide berth and yield the right of way. Back away slowly if approached by free-roaming dogs protecting livestock.

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