7 Blunders Newcomers Make When Hiking in Switzerland (And How To Avoid Them)


Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes and well-maintained trails make it a hiker’s paradise. And I have sampled more than 200 of them!

However, even seasoned travelers can make mistakes that could ruin their hiking experience in this beautiful country.

Here are eight common mistakes people make when hiking in Switzerland and how to avoid them.

1. Not Preparing for Rapid Weather Changes

Switzerland’s weather can be unpredictable, especially in the mountains. Many hikers underestimate how quickly conditions can change, leading to either getting very wet, or dangerous situations such as hypothermia.

The Fix

Always check the weather forecast before heading out and pack accordingly. Bring layers, including a waterproof jacket, and be prepared for sudden temperature drops.

I recommend using such weather apps as:

2. Underestimating the Difficulty of Trails

Hiking signs in Sattel near Zurich – Note the Red and White markings on some (means mountain trail)

Assuming all trails are easy because they are well-marked and popular can lead to trouble. Some trails have steep ascents, rocky paths, or require scrambling. Others are long, have no chance of food or water, or lead you to a dead-end valley and require you to backtrack.

The Fix

Research the trail’s difficulty level beforehand and choose routes that match your fitness and experience level. Swiss trail ratings are reliable; make yourself aware of them.

There are two things to understand with Swiss hiking trails. The trail level, which is more important when doing longer hikes, or the general type which is indicated by the signs (and is the thing most visitors will care about):

  • If you see a train with a red and white, it is a mountain trail and likely not a walk in the park
  • If you see blue and white, then that means “hardcore” with difficult routes, glaciers and often no route markings

3. Failing to Pack Enough Food and Water

Thinking there will be plenty of places to refill water bottles or buy snacks along the way can leave you dehydrated and hungry, especially on longer or more remote trails.

Although most hikes in the Interlaken and Lucerne areas are in very populous areas (with huts, restaurants etc) you should be absolutely sure of what is ahead of you in terms of food and water options.

The Fix

Carry enough water for the entire hike, and bring high-energy snacks or a packed lunch. Use a hydration pack for convenience, or at least 500ml or water per person (16 oz) for a half-day hike (and more if it is super hot).

4. Ignoring Signage and Markings

Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg Panorama Trail
Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg Panorama Trail (no red or white markings, which means it is an easier hike)

Swiss trails are well-marked, but it’s easy to get lost if you ignore the signs. Some hikers stray off the path, leading to potentially hazardous situations.

The Fix

Try to stay on the marked trails at all times. And when you are doing longer hikes, always be on the lookout for regular signs or red and white markings to know you are en route.

And, I recommend you carry a GPS-enabled phone with you and download either of these two apps:

5. Starting Too Late in the Day

Beginning a hike late in the morning or afternoon can result in you getting caught on the trail after dark, which is quite risky.

The Fix

Know how long your hike is going to be, and give yourself a buffer for breaks and lost time. And if you are hiking late, be able to navigate and bring a flashlight with you so you are not scrambling around in the dark!

6. Disregarding Local Wildlife and Flora Guidelines

Ibex

There are a few places in Switzerland with strict controls on flora and fauna. Generally it is the Swiss National Park in the South-east as well as a number of other nature parks and zones.

Usually you know you are walking in such areas as they highlight it at the start of the hike and state the rules you should adhere to.

The Fix

Stay on marked trails, avoid feeding or approaching animals, and don’t pick plants. Educate yourself on local wildlife and flora regulations.

There are not too many restrictions in Switzerland, but if you are in a protected area or the National Park, please refrain from picking flowers and chasing the wildlife.

7. Not Bringing Proper Gear

Hiking in inappropriate footwear or without essential gear like a variety of layers, a waterproof jacket or a first aid kit can lead to injuries or even an emergency.

The Swiss Alps are not to be taken lightly, especially when you are out hiking in less developed areas. The weather can change suddenly, or you could be stranded due to an accident or by getting lost.

The Fix

Wear sturdy, comfortable hiking boots and bring essential gear, including a map, compass, first aid kit, sunscreen, hat, and trekking poles if needed.

And if you are “just going on a few hour walk” be sure to at least have appropriate clothing for a variety of weather, as well as sunscreen, water, a hat and sunglasses. Not to mention mobile phone to call in case of emergency.

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2 thoughts on “7 Blunders Newcomers Make When Hiking in Switzerland (And How To Avoid Them)

  1. Hi Ashley,thank ‘s so much for all your information.I was born in Switzerland I left at 23 I being back many times,usually my relatives took us to lot of places,this time we are 5 of us one is a toddler,my
    son want’s to rent a car,since we not near a train station,plus my husband and I are in our 80th,
    I would like to explore Appenzell St Gallen,may be Inner Schwyz,and the west Lausanne
    Montreux Solothurm ,so any information you can give us will be greatly appreciated .
    I have to put my husbands e mail somehow my e mail comes up at invalid,we are in Canada.
    Thank you so much .Ursula Quadri.

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