Oberrothorn

Distance: 3.8 - 8.3 miles (round trip)

near Zermatt in Valais

Introduction

The Matterhorn and Dent Blanche bookend the cirque at the head of the Zmutt Valley

Hikers climbing the strenuous trail to the top of the Oberrothorn (11,200-ft/3,414-meters) are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of 38 peaks over 13,000-ft/4,000-meters. From the summit enjoy glorious views of the Ober Gabelhorn-Weisshorn Group towering above the Zermatt valley. The Mischabel Range dominates the view to the north while to the south an incredible spectacle of peaks and glaciers, stretching from the Monte Rosa to the Breithorn massifs fill the skyline. The star of the show, the majestic Matterhorn, stands alone at the head of the valley.

Ski lifts facilitate the climb to the top while a good network of hiking trails allows parties to create interesting loop hikes incorporating a trip to the summit with visits to other scenic areas around the Oberrothorn massif. This hike features a quick climb to the summit and then a long descent that visits the Stellisee, the pretty meadows along the western base of the Unterrothorn and the small village of Tufteren.

The trail to the summit climbs through a barren landscape of rock and scree, with some exposure. It should not be attempted if the trail is covered with ice or slick snow, unless parties are properly equipped. The hike is not recommended for families with small children or anyone with a fear of heights.

For the best views I strongly recommend getting an early start. Clouds can obscure views of the high peaks in the afternoon. The summit can also get quite crowded on a beautiful day given the easy access offered by the ski lifts.

The presence of the ski lifts and related equipment along some trail segments certainly detract from the hike. While not optimal, it is easy to quickly pass through these eyesores and avoid trail segments traveling directly beneath the lift lines. I believe the fabulous views are adequate compensation for these blights upon an otherwise scenic landscape.

Blauherd to Oberrothron or Rothorn to Oberrothorn

Close-up of Monte Rosa and Lyskamm

Distance from Trailhead: 1.9 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 11,190-ft.

Elevation Gain: 1,400-ft.

Hike to the Oberrothorn via Blauherd
(2.8 miles with an elevation gain of 2,755-ft)

To start the hike from the top of the Blauherd gondola (8,435-ft/2,571-meters), follow the directions (below) to the Sunnegga Funicular in Zermatt. Get a ticket from Zermatt to Blauherd and a return ticket from Sunnegga to Zermatt. (Other options are available.)

Take the funicular to Sunnegga, a popular overlook with panoramic views of the Matterhorn, and then catch the gondola to Blauherd. (Exit the funicular building and follow the signs to the Blauherd gondola.) The lifts are timed to facilitate transfers without long waits.

At the top of the Blauherd lift enjoy wonderful views of the Matterhorn to the southwest. Across the Zermatt valley a massive wall of 4,000-meter peaks, including the Ober Gabelhorn massif, the Wellenkuppe, the Zinalrothorn and the Weisshorn, fill the skyline. To the south, Monte Rosa and Lyskamm form the backdrop for the long ridge running between Gornergrat and Hohtalli.

From the signpost near the gondola station, walk east on a trail ascending toward Unterrothorn (1h 40min) and Oberrothorn (3h 10min). The trail curves around the base of the Unterrothorn, reaching a trail junction at 0.9 miles. Along the way the path enjoys great views of the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa-Breithorn group.

At the junction, turn left (north) on a dirt road climbing steeply toward Unterrothorn and Oberrothorn. As you climb, watch for a trail branching off the road to the left. Take the trail, which parallels the road, ascending through meadows. (It is best to leave the road since it is used by mountain bikers that fly down the hill from the Rothorn lift.)

Reach a junction at 1.5 miles and turn right (east) toward Oberrothorn. Ignore the trail to the left that dips down to Furggji, the saddle on the ridge between the Unterrothorn and the Oberrothorn and then climbs to the Unterrothorn cable station.

Skip down to the section entitled, “Hiking to the Summit,” to continue the description

Hike to Oberrothorn via the Rothorn
(1.9 miles with an elevation gain of 1,400-ft.)

To start the hike from the top of the Rothorn cable car, follow the directions (below) to the Sunnegga Funicular in Zermatt. Get a ticket from Zermatt to Rothorn and a return ticket from Sunnegga to Zermatt. (Other options are available.)

Take the funicular to Sunnegga, a popular overlook with panoramic views of the Matterhorn, and then catch the gondola to Blauherd. (Exit the funicular building and follow the signs to the Blauherd gondola.) Upon exiting the Blauherd gondola follow the signs to the Rothorn cable car, which ends atop the Unterrothorn (10,180-ft/3,104-meters).

The lifts are timed to facilitate transfers without long waits. Both Sunnegga and Blauherd (8,435-ft./2,571-meters) are popular viewpoints. My advice is to take a short break between rides to take in the morning views.

At the top of the Unterrothorn enjoy wonderful views of the Matterhorn to the southwest. Across the Zermatt valley a massive wall of 4,000-meter peaks, including the Ober Gabelhorn massif, the Wellenkuppe, the Zinalrothorn and the Weisshorn, fill the skyline. To the south, Monte Rosa and Lyskamm form the backdrop for the long ridge running between Gornergrat and Hohtalli. Signboards near the lift station help you identify the peaks.

From the signpost near the cable car station, descend east on a broad rutted path in the direction of Furggji, Fluealp and the Oberrothorn. Reach Furggji (9,780-ft./2,981-meters), a saddle on the ridge between the Unterrothorn and the Oberrothorn, at 0.5 miles after losing 400-ft. Here a sign points left (north) to Tufterchumme. We continue straight ahead toward the Oberrothorn.

Hiking to the Summit

(If starting the hike from Blauherd add 0.9 miles to the hiking distances. The description below counts the mileage from the Rothorn cable car station.)

The trail heads east on an ascending traverse climbing the south face of the Oberrothorn on moderate grades. At 0.8 miles the grade steepens as the path turns left (northeast) and starts climbing a series of switchbacks up rocky slopes littered with shale.

As you climb, enjoy marvelous views south to the glaciated chain of 13,000-ft/4,000-meter peaks forming the border between Switzerland and Italy, including Monte Rosa, Lyskamm, Castor, Pollux and the Breithorn. Bookending the western end of the visible chain is the distinctive pyramid-shaped Matterhorn. To the southeast the Findel Glacier flows down the slopes of the Cima di Jazzi (12,477-ft. / 3,803-meter) between the Strahlhorn and Rimpfishhorn, to the north, and the Stockhorn, to the south.

At 1.2 miles fix ropes offer a level of security where the trail, with some exposure, climbs very steeply around a rock outcropping. The trail should present no problems to experienced hikers, unless it is covered with snow and ice.

Reach the Oberrothorn’s southeast ridge at 1.4 miles. Take a short detour to an overlook at the edge of the ridge for terrific views of the Mischabel Range, including the Stahlhorn, Rimpfischorn and the Allalinhorn. The trail now turns northeast, climbing up the ridge on steep switchbacks.

Attain the south ridge of the Oberrothorn at 1.7 miles. Follow the trail as it heads north on an ascending traverse along the west side of the ridge, reaching the top of the Oberrothorn (11,200-ft/3,414-meters) at 1.9 miles. Use caution if snow is present atop the peak.

From the summit, marvelous panoramic views extend in all directions. Across the valley to the west Dent Blanche, the Ober Gabelhorn massif, the Zinalrothorn and the Weisshorn tower above the Zermatt Valley. Looking north, the Dom, Taschhorn and Alphubel dominate the view. To the east, glaciers cling to the flanks of the Rimpfischorn, Strahlhorn and Adlerhorn. An incredible spectacle of peaks and glaciers along the Swiss-Italian border, including the Monte Rosa, Lyskamm and Breithorn massifs, fill the skyline to the south while the majestic Matterhorn stands alone at the head of the valley.

When you are done enjoying the views head back down the trail. At 3.2 miles (1.3 miles from the summit), reach a signpost just before Furggji, the saddle on the ridge between the Unterrothorn and the Oberrothorn. Here you have a choice of tracing your steps back to Rothorn (a 3.8 miles round-trip hike) and taking the lifts back to Blauherd and Sunnegga or walking down to Blauherd or Sunnegga. If it is a nice day, I recommend walking to Sunnegga.

Oberrothorn to Sunnegga

View extends from the Ober Gabelhorn to the Weisshorn

Distance from Trailhead: 8.3 miles (round trip)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 7,217-ft.

Elevation Gain: -3,973-ft.

To walk back, turn left (south/southwest) at the signpost in the direction of Fluealp, Blauherd and Sunnegga. Descend steeply down a dirt road for a short distance, watching for a trail breaking off to the right. Take the trail, which parallels the road, descending through meadows. (It is best to leave the road since it is used by mountain bikers that fly down the hill from the Rothorn lift.)

Reach at junction at 3.8 miles. The trail branching right (west) to Blauherd (25min) and Sunnegga (1h 10min) is the fastest route, curving around the base of the Unterrothorn and reaching Blauherd in 0.9 miles. This path enjoys great views of the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa-Breithorn group.

The trail to the left (south/southwest), which leads to the Stellisee (50min), Sunnegga (1h 55min) and Fluealp, is longer but offers the opportunity to visit the Stellisee, a small lake famous with photographers for its wonderful views of the Matterhorn, perfectly reflected on the lake’s crystalline waters.

If you are not in a hurry and are enjoying the hike take the route to the left toward the Stellisee. Travel along the road for 0.2 miles and then take the trail branching to the right, which zig-zags down rocky meadows to rejoin the road at 4.3 miles.

Upon reaching the road, ignore the trail directly across the road pointing toward Flue and Fluealp. Instead turn right (south) onto the road heading toward the Stellisee and Sunnegga. As you descend the road the Berghaus Flue at Fluhalp is visible to the southeast.

At 4.5 miles watch for an unmarked trail (a short-cut) that heads right (east) through meadows and an old rock slide toward the Stellisee. Take this trail. If you miss the turn you will reach a road where you should turn right (east) toward the lake.

Arrive at the east end of the Stellisee at 4.5 miles. Views of the Matterhorn from the mirror-like surface of the lake are sublime. The lake is a great spot for a picnic and to soak in the sun while gazing at the Matterhorn.

When you are ready to move on, walk along the north side of the lake to a signpost at the west end of the lake. Take the trail branching to the right (northeast) toward Blauherd. There is another trail that heads east to the Leisee and then climbs to Sunnegga which is also a nice option. (Both of these lakes are very small, really more ponds than lakes.)

The trail now climbs on gentle grades to the top of the Blauherd gondola (8,435-ft/2,571-meters), at 5.7 miles. This section of the trail features nice views of the Matterhorn and the Findel Glacier area (behind you to the east).

At Blauherd you can either take the gondola down to Sunnegga or hike down to Sunnegga. If you decide to hike there are several options. Along the south side of the gondola/lift station, a trail drops steeply down the hillside and then descends through meadows to the south of the gondola, arriving in Sunnegga after 1.4 miles for a total hiking distance of 7.1 miles. A road, which departs from the north side of the gondola/lift station, essentially parallels the route of the gondola slightly to the north of the lift line, descending to Sunnegga in 1.2 miles for a 6.9 mile hike.

For hikers looking for a longer, more scenic and less traveled route, I recommend taking a side trip to Tufteren and then back to Sunnegga. From the signpost near the lift station, walk north/northwest on a broad track in the direction of Tufteren and Zermatt. Shortly after passing under a chair lift the track reverts to a trail that descends through beautiful meadows strewn with large boulders and wildflowers in season. The Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn and Ober Gabelhorn group along with the Matterhorn dominate the views along this scenic trail.

At 7.1 miles arrive at a junction. The trail heading right previously lead to Ober Sattla, a lovely viewpoint above Tasch, that is now closed due to a landslide. We turn left (southwest) toward Tufteren and Sunnegga.

Reach Tufteren (7,267-ft/2,215-meters), a small village with wooden houses and barns situated in a lovely meadow high above the Zermatt Valley, at 7.3 miles. A few restaurants serve refreshments from sun terraces with great views of the Matterhorn. Here signs point left to the track heading toward Sunnegga.

The rest of the walk is mostly level, following a broad, seldom used dirt road lined with larches growing amid pretty meadows. Openings in the trees offer nice views of the Matterhorn.

Bear left at a junction at 8.2 miles toward the Sunnegga. In a short distance you will see doorways that lead to the funicular station. Total hiking distance, including the side trip to Tufteren, is 8.3 miles.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 3.8 - 8.3 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 10,162-ft. - 11,190-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,400-ft.
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Basecamp(s): Zermatt
  • Region: Valais

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation profile for the Oberrothorn hike from the Rothorn to Sunnegga

 

 

Driving Directions

Walking from the Zermatt Train Station to the Sunnegga Funicular: Directly across from the Zermatt train station is the station for the Gornergrat Cog Railway. The first street to the south of the Gornergrat Station is Getwingstrasse (Getwing Street), which runs east. Find Getwingstrasse and walk east along the street for 0.2 miles (300-meters). The street will curve around to the south and cross the river.

Turn left (east/northeast) on Vispastrasse (also labeled as Rechte Uferstrasse on some maps), the first street after crossing the river. Walk about 0.1 miles, following the street as it curves to the north along the Vispa River. The Sunnegga Funicular Station is on the right side of the road at Vispastrasse 34.

After obtaining funicular tickets, walk through a long underground tunnel to get to the base of the funicular. The schedule for the funicular is found on the Matterhorn Paradise time table page. Select the Sunnegga – Rothorn option.

Note: At the top of the funicular you take a gondola to Blauherd. At Blauherd you catch the cable car to Rothorn. Round-trip tickets are available for a variety of ride combinations. For example you can purchase tickets from Zermatt to Rothorn going up and from Sunnegga to Zermatt going down.

 

Trail Resources

Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Zermatt

Region Information:
Valais

Other Hiking Regions in:
Switzerland