Trift

Distance: 4.5 miles (round trip)

near Zermatt in Valais

Introduction

View from the meadows just beyond the Hotel du Trift

Starting in downtown Zermatt, the trail to Trift climbs steeply up the beautiful Trift Gorge, traveling through meadows sprinkled with wildflowers alongside the rushing Triftbach (Trift Stream). After gaining over 2,300-ft. in 2.25 mile the trail reaches the Hotel du Trift, a restored Victorian building, situated in a lovely alpine valley surrounded by a gorgeous cirque of high peaks and glaciers.

Trift is the perfect place for a lazy afternoon. Eat lunch/a snack at the hotel or enjoy a picnic in the meadows above the hotel while gazing at the Zinalrothorn, Trifthorn, Wellenkuppe, Ober Gabelhorn, Mittel Gabelhorn and Unter Gabelhorn. The Trift and Gabelhorn glaciers along with numerous snow fields adorn the flanks of the peaks. Turn around for equally impressive views of the Monta Rosa massif rising above Gornergrat and the Findel valley to the east.

While many of the hillsides around Zermatt are bristling with ski apparatus, the Trift Gorge is devoid of such devices and remains wonderfully wild with meadows boasting an impressive display of wildflowers. As an added bonus signs along the way identify the flowers and describe their unique habitat. Keep an eye out for the elusive Edelweiss, with its delicate white petals.

The hike is a good workout and a nice way to acclimatize. It is also a good option for families looking for a more challenging hike. The valley is the jumping off point for a number of longer hikes including my favorite destination, the Hohbalm.

Trift Hike

From left to right, the Unter Gabelhorn, the Ober Gabelhorn and the Wellenkuppe

The Trift hike begins at the corner of Chrum and Bahnhofstrasse (the main street), a quarter mile south of the train station (Bahnhof), in Zermatt. (See directions below.) Start walking uphill on Chrum, a narrow alley. Signs a short distance up the alley indicate you are on Chrum and point toward the Trift, Alterhaupt, Hohbalm and Arbenbach trails.

Bear left where the alley splits and about 500-ft. further along turn left onto Triftweg, a paved walkway. (Look for a blue metal Triftweg sign embedded in the stone wall along the right side of the pavement.) The steep walkway initially climbs south but soon curves to the right (north/northeast) at the corner of the Omnia Hotel. Past the hotel the path turns into a dirt track ascending through meadows with nice view of Zermatt.

Follow the trail as it climbs the hillside toward the Trift Gorge, the obvious cleft in the hillside carved by the waters of the Triftbach. Along the way pass trail junctions at 0.3 miles and 0.5 miles. At each intersection continue in the direction of Trift and Alterhaupt (Edelweiss). Note: Ignore signs pointing to an alternative route climbing the Hohbalm. In my opinion the hike via Trift is the better hike with superior scenery.

After a slight bit of downhill cross the Triftbach on a good wooden bridge and then ascend to join a track coming up from town. Turn right at the signed junction in the direction of Alterhaupt (Edelweiss), Trift and the Hohbalmen, a popular viewpoint on the Hohbalm plateau.

Follow the trail as it climbs on switchbacks through a forest of larch and fir trees, leaving the river briefly to circumvent a large rock outcropping. Arrive at the Alterhaupt (6,345-ft/1,961-meters) and the Café Edelweiss at 0.9 miles. This beautiful overlooks enjoys bird’s-eye views of Zermatt and nice vistas of the Matter Valley, the Dom (14,911-ft/4,545-meters) and Taschhorn (14,733-ft/4,490-meters) to the northeast.

Just beyond the restaurant the track splits. The trail to the left signed for Höhbalmen (2h) and Arbenbach (3h 40min) is a shorter and steeper route to the Holbalm that is not recommended since it misses some spectacular scenery. Our trail toward Trift (1h 10min) and the Wisshorn (3h 10min) continues straight ahead up the gorge, ascending slightly and then dropping gently down to the river (Triftbach).

When the trail reaches the river it resumes its ascent up the gorge, crossing a bridge to the right (north) side of the Triftbach at 1.5 miles. As you climb, periodically turn around for good views of the Oberrothorn and Monte Rosa massif across the Matter Valley to the southeast.

During late July and early August the meadows along the path leading up the gorge feature an impressive display of wildflowers. Signs along the way identify the flowers and describe their unique habitat. Keep an eye out for the elusive Edelweiss with its delicate white petals.

Not far beyond the bridge views open to the Wellenkuppe’s (12,805-ft/3,903-meters) snow covered peak rising above the head of the Trift Valley. With each step the views improve and soon the pyramidal-shaped Ober Gabelhorn (13,330-ft/4,063-meters) joins the scene followed by the rugged crags of the Unter Gabelhorn (11,125-ft/3,391-meters).

Reach the Hotel du Trift (7,667-ft/2,337-meters) at 2.25 miles. The hotel, situated in a lovely alpine valley at the head of the gorge, is surrounded by a gorgeous cirque of high peaks and glaciers. Views (right to left) encompass the Zinalrothorn (13,848-ft/4,221-meters), Trifthorn (12,230-ft/3,728-meters), Wellenkuppe, Ober Gabelhorn, Mittel Gabelhorn and Unter Gabelhorn. The Trift and Gabelhorn glaciers along with numerous snow fields adorn the flanks of the peaks. Turn around for equally impressive views of the Monte Rosa massif rising above Gornergrat and the Findel valley to the east.

This is a great spot for a break and to contemplate the next phase of your ascent to the Hohbalm. The Trift Hotel provides 30 dormitory spaces and 9 private rooms along with beverages, snacks and meals. Picnic tables in front of the hotel offer a front row seat to the panorama of peaks rising above the valley. Alternately, if you are carrying your own food and beverage, simply find a nice spot in the meadows to enjoy the terrific views.

The valley is the jumping off point for a number of longer hikes. Just beyond the hotel is a trail junction with signs point right toward the Wisshorn (2h) and the routes to the Rothhornhütte (2h 30min), Platthorn (3h 05m) and Mettelhorn (3h 40min). A sign points left to the Hohbalm (1h 05min) and Schonbielhutte (4h 10min) trail. We will leave these hikes for another day.

After enjoying the Trift area turn around and retrace your steps back to Zermatt.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 4.5 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 5,325-ft. - 7,667-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,342-ft.
  • Difficulty: moderate-strenuous
  • Basecamp(s): Zermatt
  • Region: Valais

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile Trift

 

 

Driving Directions

From the Zermatt Train Station (Bahnhof): Walk south along the main street, Bahnhofstrasse, for 0.25 miles and turn right on Chrum, a small alley. As you walk along Bahnhofstrasse watch for the Mont Cervin Hotel on your left. Chrum is the first street on the right after you see the Cervin. The Unique Hotel Post is located across from Chrum Street. Gees Cockoo Club, with Grampi’s on the second floor, is located at the southeast corner of Banhoffstrasse and Chrum.

Walk about 0.1 mile (500-ft.) up Chrum alley to Triftweg, bearing left where the alley splits. As you head up the alley you will see signs indicating you are on Chrum and pointing toward the trails to Trift, Alterhaupt, Hohbalm and Arbenbach.. Turn left on Triftweg, marked with a blue metal sign embedded in the stone wall running along the right side of the street. Follow the hiking directions above.

From the Church in Zermatt: If you are staying in southern end of town, from the church at the corner of Kirchstrasse and Bahnhofstrasse, walk 0.15 miles (820-ft) north on Bahnhoffstrasse and turn left on Chrum, a small alley. As you walk along Bahnhofstrasse watch for the Hotel Monte Rosa. Churm is the first street on the left after you see the hotel. The Unique Hotel Post is located across from the street. Gees Cockoo Club, with Grampi’s on the second floor, is located at the southeast corner of Banhoffstrasse and Chrum.

Walk about 0.1 mile (500-ft.) up Chrum alley to Triftweg, bearing left where the alley splits. As you head up the alley you will see signs indicating you are on Chrum and pointing toward the trails to Trift, Alterhaupt, Hohbalm and Arbenbach.. Turn left on Triftweg, marked with a blue metal sign embedded in the stone wall running along the right side of the street. Follow the hiking directions above.

 

Trail Resources

Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Zermatt

Region Information:
Valais

Other Hiking Regions in:
Switzerland