Zinal is a typical ski resort village in the Swiss Alps. It’s situated in Val d’Anniviers in the Valais canton, and it’s best known for its extensive ski pistes and cross-country ski runs. But skiing is certainly not the only way you can have fun in this lovely village!
While there’s no denying the fact that the vast majority of people visiting Zinal come there for the slopes, the village does offer other attractions to entertain the visitors. Hiking, wildlife, and ice cave visits are just a few of the other things you can do in Zinal, none of which entail you strapping two long pieces of plastic to your feet!
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Things to Do in Zinal in Winter
Skiing & Snowshoeing
The Grimentz-Zinal ski resort is one of the best in Europe with approximately 115 kilometers of ski pistes and a total of 21 ski lifts and chairs. More than half of the pistes are red runs, which makes this area perfect for intermediate skiers who want a bit of a challenge, but aren’t necessarily ready for black runs.
Some 23% of the pistes in this resort are easy blue runs, while the remaining 26% are challenging black runs at an altitude up to 2,900 meters above sea level. That just goes to illustrate why this remote ski resort is so popular with avid skiers from all over the world.
Snowshoe hiking is a popular alternative for travelers who aren’t that into skiing. Many of the region’s popular hiking trails are accessible only with snowshoes in the winter and offer spectacular panoramic views of the area’s serene landscapes.
Zinal Glacier Ice Caves
Zinal Glacier is south of the village and can be accessed by an easy snowshoe walking trail. It’s approximately a two-hour hike to the glacier from Zinal village, and it’s undoubtedly worth the effort because the ice caves are absolutely impressive.
It’s worth noting that the caves differ every year, so it’s absolutely worth repeating visits. We actually had to go twice because it was canceled due to bad weather the first time. The hike up is quite easy if you are used to snowshoeing or hiking. You need to take a guide, which you can book at the guide center at the beginning of the village in Zinal. DO NOT attempt to go in the ice caves without a guide as it can be extremely dangerous.
Also, there are mountain huts near the Zinal glacier, where hikers can stop and rest, or even spend a night if they want to explore the area even further.
Cross-country skiing is another popular activity in the valley region, with some 20 kilometers of trails easily accessible from Zinal village. The cross-country ski trails are suitable for both classic and ice-skating styles, and some parts of the trails are lit up until 9 PM, making them ideal for late-night ski adventures.
Avalanche Training Center
The avalanche training center in Zinal offers courses on how to locate hikers and skiers who get buried in avalanches. The classes include practical training, in which course-goers are taught how to use avalanche transceivers to find buried victims.
This might not be the most exciting touristy thing to do in Zinal, but it’s absolutely a useful skill to have in your life if you often go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Exploring mountains is absolutely fun, and even more so if you’re adequately prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Things to Do in Zinal in Summer
All those fabulous snowshoeing trails and cross-country ski runs turn into exciting hiking trails come summer. One of the most popular trails in the region is the hike to Cabane de Moiry, an SAC mountain hut south of Lake Moiry. This trail ends right at the glacier so offers amazing views. And a chance to see wildlife if you stay in the hut overnight, as the best animals always come out at dusk and dawn, as you might know. It is quite a challenging hike of 12.4 kilometers and an elevation gain of 649 meters across many switchbacks.
Other popular hiking trails from the village can take you to Gruben, La Navisence, Cabane de Tracuit, Volermo Waterfall, Corne de Sorebois, and Lake Arpitettaz.
We also did an amazing overnight hike to Cabane du Mountet a few years ago. It was one of the more strenuous hikes I have done over the years, but the views at the end of the valley (see image above) were stunning.
It’s worth noting that these are just a few of more than two dozen hiking trails accessible from Zinal, all of which offer incredible views of untouched landscapes.
Zinal is situated at the foot of multiple mountains, which means that the climbing opportunities from the village are abundant. Whether you want to climb the amazing Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, or even Switzerland’s fourth-highest peak (Signalkuppe), you can do so if you plan a summer visit to the resort village.
While you might be able to attempt some of these ascents on your own, it’s generally best to sign up for guided climbs, especially in adverse weather conditions. Some of the most popular guided ascents from Zinal are to Bishorn, Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Blanc de Moming, and Dente Blanche.
Val d’Anniviers offers some of the best mountain biking trails in the entire Switzerland. But that’s to be expected of the region that’s home to the Grand Raid, one of the most challenging mountain biking marathons in the world.
The great thing about mountain biking near Zinal is that it’s suitable for everyone, regardless of their skill level. Whether you’re looking for easy trails that will allow you to sightsee while riding, or you really want to test your skills and maybe prepare for a marathon race, there’s an MTB trail for you.
Some of the most popular MTB trails from Zinal are the Pase de Luna loop, the loop around Lake Moiry, and the loop from Zinal to Col de Torrent 2916. Additionally, it’s worth noting that most hiking trails in the region are perfectly suitable for mountain biking.
Wildlife observation can be both a planned activity and a merry consequence. If you just go hiking in mountain biking on the trails close to Zinal, there’s a good chance you’ll spot some wildlife going about their days.
There’s also a proper wildlife observation point in the village, but it’s not quite as exciting as just hiking and coming across red deer. In any case, there’s plenty of wildlife in Val d’Anniviers, and it’s usually enough to walk just a little away from the areas where there are lots of people and you’ll get to the animals.
How to Get to Zinal
Zinal is not a car-free village, so the best and quickest way to reach it is to just drive there. The village is quite remote, so it’s not the easiest place to reach by public transport. Renting a car (here’s a list of the best car rentals in Switzerland) and driving will save you from waiting for a connection at trains and bus stops, and it will most likely end up being cheaper than paying for multiple train and bus tickets.
The driving times to Zinal are approximately 4 hours from Zurich, two hours from Bern and Interlaken, an hour and a half from Montreux, and an hour from Visp. It’s worth noting that you would be driving on tolled roads, and would therefore need to purchase a Switzerland vignette. Parking is possible in front of a hotel, private accommodation, or just on the street in the village.
Zinal is most easily accessible from southwestern Switzerland by public transport. Trains don’t run through the village, and the closest you can get to by train is Sierre, where you can get on a bus that will take you to Zinal, with one change in Vissoie. Direct trains run from Geneva, Montreux, and Visp, but if you’re trying to reach the village from a further town, you will need to change at least two or three trains.
It takes about three hours to travel to Zinal from Geneva, anywhere between two and a half hours and three and half hours if you’re departing from Bern or Interlaken, and approximately four hours from Zurich or Lucerne.