Aletsch Glacier: Riederalp West to Bettmergrat or Bettmerhorn
|Total distance: ~9.5km one way
|Elevation gain: ~800m
|Total time: ~3hs one way
Aletsch glacier is the largest glacier in the Alps and along with the Matterhorn is one of the most iconic natural wonders of Switzerland.
The best way to explore the Aletsch region is by taking the Panorama trail from either Riederalp or Bettmeralp to Bettmerhorn.
If it’s done as a day trip from Zurich, you would need to get the first train out of Zurich HB to Riederalp West to make it to the last cable car at Bettmerhorn, which was at 16.30 in September.
If you have the time and do not mind spending a bit of extra on an overnight stay, we highly recommend staying in either Riederalp or Bettmeralp. This way you can take your time getting to this region and exploring the glacier`s surroundings. Staying after the last cable cars means you have the mountain all to yourself, well if you don’t count all the black nosed sheep.
What is even better, is to stay for sunset. You will have an overwhelming 360 degree view to admire the changing landscape as the sun goes down.
So either as a day-trip or overnight stay, let us describe and show you our experience in this part of the Valais region of Switzerland.
After getting off the cable car at Riederalp West we followed the signs to Riederfurka which is just a 15 minute walk through the village and up towards the Berghotel Riederfurka. Then we just followed the yellow signs towards Bettmerhorn.
At the beginning the trail goes through the Aletsch forest with occasional views of the glacier in the distance. The trail is easy, mostly flat with a gradual ascent and becoming more steep at the end. It’s also very scenic so it’s easy to lose track of time.
The official hike duration is 2:40hs from Riederfurka to Bettmerhorn. We certainly took it very slow as we took 4 hours taking photos, having our lunch at one of the stunning viewpoints, picking wild blueberries and lingering near all the black faced sheep, the typical sheep from the Valais region.
At the next set of yellow signs after Riederfurka we followed track 39 and in about 40 minutes into our walk we had our first glances of Aletsch glacier.
The rest of the hike is just a gradual ascent along the ridge with countless viewpoints of the glacier and the distant mountains.
At Bettmerhorn there is a restaurant and a very busy viewpoint. From here there are two trails. One goes downhill towards the glacier and another one uphill which turns into a blue-alpine track but offers a better view of the glacier.
This hike has surpassed our expectations as not only the glacier deserved our attention but all its surroundings. All the mountain peaks from bare to snow capped, from smooth to ragged to jagged, the flora and the fauna of the ridge of the hike itself provided endless amusement. In September, the wild blueberry bushes all around the ridge, not only add beauty to the landscape with their reddening leaves but provide delicious snacks. Then there are most certainly the black faced sheep that are just an amazing experience to meet.
In addition we would highly recommend climbing up to Bettmerhorn peak. The sign from Bettmergrat (Bettmerhorn Panorama Restaurant) says it is 30 minutes to get up this blue-white track. It took us 15 minutes to climb up to the cross with the 2858m sign. Then we just continued a bit more to have an even better view of the bend of the glacier.
As this is a blue-white track, it is more technical, meaning you have to hike up on rocks the whole way with some sections being very exposed. However, there are wires along these sections so it is safe. Also would not recommend it to people with fear of heights.