Hiking Switzerland

The Seasons: or, Snow in July?
By Karen Walker, Ryder Walker Alpine Adventures
  |  Gorp.com

After choosing your destinations, you will need to set dates so you can make airline and hotel reservations. The alpine hiking season extends from June through September. If you choose to hike early in the season, you might find your choices limited to valley walks (in fact, some resorts, including those in the upper Engadine, maintain a few valley walks through the snowy months!). If you must travel in May or early June, you will be rewarded with uncrowded trails and explosions of wildflowers; however, many of the hotels and inns of the alpine villages will have closed their doors for extended holidays, and entire bustling villages will have turned into ghost towns.

Late June is a better bet for welcoming hostelries and a wider range of hikes, and the wild flowers will still be blooming their hearts out. At higher elevations, snow continues to choke the trails and passes into July. So if you prefer high altitude hiking or plan to trek across the high passes, you might be wise to defer your trip until at least July. August is high season in the Alps as the Swiss and other Europeans take their annual holidays and travel to their beloved mountains. All of the trails and hotels are open, and the railroads are teeming with travelers, especially around the Swiss National holiday on August 1. It is a wonderful, festive time to be in the Alps, but hardly quiet!

Perhaps the finest time of year to hike the Alps is the month of September. Most tourists have headed back to work or school, so the villages are quieter but still open for business, and many hotels lower their rates. The larch trees are turning golden under the Indian summer sky, and the autumn crocus is blooming in the meadows. The herders bring their cows decked in flowers down from the high pastures in a wonderful ceremony known as the dealpinage, and you will have the trails virtually to your self. At the higher elevations, snow is beginning to fall, but rarely does it prevent passage for longer than a day or two.

Thanks to Karen Walker of Ryder Walker Alpine Adventures for sharing her knowledge about Swiss hiking with us!


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