We arrived in Zermatt by train on the Glacier Express from St. Moritz. Before we continued to Montreux, we had some time in Zermatt. We decided to hike the 5 Lake Classic Hike, also known as the 5-Seenweg. A scenic hike in the mountains around Zermatt. You’ll follow a route around 5 lakes with amazing views of the Matterhorn and the mountain range around it.
I was very doubtful if I could complete the hike and if I could do it. After much contemplation, I decided to hike it with my boyfriend. And it turns out: it was the best day I had in Switzerland. We hiked the 9,3 kilometer (5.8 miles) around the lakes of Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee. We enjoyed our time in the Sunnegga mountains and the views of the Matterhorn in the distance.
This story is to explain to you what the hike is like, how to arrange it yourself and what to expect. I hope it makes it easier to decide if you can hike it too and to inspire you to hike the 5 Lake Hike in Zermatt yourself!
5-Seenweg or 5 Lake Hike: Facts and figures
In the German language, a “See” is a lake and a “Weg” is a route. So the name 5-Seenweg is very descriptive of what the hike will be like: it connects 5 lakes on a route. But not just any route! Located high in the mountains around Zermatt, you can hike from one lake to the next. 3 out of the 5 lakes have stunning reflective views of the famous Matterhorn mountain. Some facts and figures:
- Name: 5-Seenweg or 5 Lake Hike
- Duration: 2,5 hours but it took us well over 4 hours to complete
- Distance: 9,3 km (58 miles) but my step counter said I walked nearly 15 km that day
- Ascent: 286 meters (839 ft)
- Descent: 575 meter (1,886 ft)
- Start point: Blauherd at 2.571 m (8,435 ft)
- Finish point: Sunnegga 2.288 m (7,507 ft)
- Lowest point on the route: 2.124 m (6,968 ft)
- Highest point on the route: 2.578 (8,458 ft)
- Best time to hike: June to September, depending on weather conditions
These are some impressive numbers but after reading them, I still had no idea if I’d be fit enough to do it. If you hike from Blauherd to Sunnegga, you mostly walk downhill because you start at almost the highest point. Only in the end you’ll have to climb back up.
If you start in the morning, you’ll have the sun in your back for most part of the route and you face the Matterhorn for the duration of the hike. We did came across some people hiking the other way around.
My hiking experience and physical challenges
So why did I have such a hard time to decide if I’d hike the 5-Seenweg or not? Well, being overweight and in terrible shape, I didn’t want to put myself in any danger hiking at high altitude without a way to return.
In Lugano, we hiked down the San Salvatore mountain which was an immense struggle for me. Hiking down on an unstable underground becomes more and more scarier to me. It all started with my terrible adventure in the Colca Canyon and since then, I lost all confidence and move like a tortoise going down. I just don’t enjoy it. Hiking Cinque Terre was a challenge too although everyone says “anyone can do it”.
Climbing up is less of a struggle for my body but I need to catch my breath every 5 steps so this goes even slower. All in all, a simple hike can be quite challenging for me.
Add in my back problems and a painful knee and you have the recipe for a painful day. That morning I woke up with a head stuffed with snot, I just wanted to stay in bed and not hike in any mountains.
Online reviews of 5-Seenweg Zermatt
It didn’t really help that I searched online for help. I found several Tripadvisor reports that found the hike dull and not beautiful and people were disappointed by the size of the lakes. Other reviews raved about how amazing the 5-Seenweg was and what a great way to hike in the mountains. I decided to ignore all the bad reviews and see for myself.
After all, this was Zermatt. The bright blue sky beckoned me to come play outside. My boyfriend bought me a jar of Vaporub, which allowed me to breathe again and I was all good to go! Off we went.
How to get to the start point of the 5-Seenweg and what does it cost?
We walked around in town and finally found a little sign next to the station of the Gornergrat Bahn that pointed to Sunnegga railway. We walked through town and finally found the Zermatt ZBAG-zsb. They are located on Wiestistrasse in Zermatt.
We purchased our ticket for 38 CHF per person. This included the ride up the mountain via a rack railway and the cable car to Blauherd. From there, we’d walk the 5 Lake Hike and go down the mountain from Sunnegga. There are several discounts available, like the 50% discount you get with the Swiss travel cards. Unfortunately for us, the Interrail didn’t give any discounts in Zermatt.
We hiked the 5-Seenweg in September, but the best months to take this hike is from June to end of September. Check locally for weather conditions and accessibility when you want to hike.
Our hike around the 5 Lakes of Sunnegga
We started a little later because of my doubts and the search for Vaporub that took a little longer. But eventually, we set out to find the start point. After we purchased our tickets, we walked through the tunnel towards the train. Located in a near vertical tube, the first leg of the journey was through the tunnel.
Crazy idea to whirl through a mountain, under people’s houses to higher up the mountain. At Sunnegga we got off the train and continued towards the cable cart that would take us to Blauherd. This would be the start point of our 5 Lake Hike in Zermatt.
Route from Blauherd to Stellisee
After we left the station, we looked for the signs to show us the start of the route. We headed for the Stellisee and basically followed all the other people walking around. We walked along a rim of the mountain, where all kinds of information panels were located. They learned us a lot about local wildlife and survival at high altitude in the Alpine region. It was quite interesting but not as interesting as looking over my shoulder. A clear view of the impressive Matterhorn mountain. The other glacier and mountains were clearly visible which made for a spectacular view this high up.
We continued until we reached the Stellisee.
What is the hiking to Stellisee like?
The route was quite flat. We walked on a small path along the rim of the mountain. We had to stop occasionally to let other people pass or give room to others. I can imagine this part can get quite overcrowded in summer months when it’s even busier. The ground was hard and the surrounding area very green. The views of the Matterhorn were amazing from this stretch.
Stellisee or Lake Stelli
The Stellisee was the first lake we encountered on our hike. It is also the most famous one and in my opinion the most beautiful one. Seen from the right angle, and without any wind, the Matterhorn is beautifully reflected in the water of Stelli Lake. Seen from the far end, the lake looked like an infinity pool with mountain view!
It was quite busy here as some people only walk this stretch and then take the cable car back down again. Very easy walking and stellar views! We managed to get some pictures without too many people around and enjoyed the view. In the far distance, I saw a hotel or restaurant but we didn’t need anything at this moment, so we continued.
Route from Stellisee to Grindjisee on the 5-Seenweg
We walked all the way around the Stellisee and ended up where we reached the lake. I read online it can be tricky to find the correct route and I agree. Different signposts pointed in all directions and the sign for Grindjisee pointed in the two opposite directions.
Many people walked along the broad gravel road down. Easy hike, but dusty and not as interesting. I think this isn’t the official route but it would have made the hike a lot easier and shorter. We decided to follow different signs that took us back through the green landscape on the small path. This meandered down the edge of the mountain.
What is hiking to Grindjisee like?
The path was very stable with firm ground but small. We descended quite a bit in this part so it was quite hard on my knees. I looked down most of the time and had to stop every now and then to take in the amazing views of the Matterhorn mountain range.
I was glad I wore sturdy hiking boots because of the gradient in the path and some loose rocks here and there. At some points, we had to cross some rocks but all in all, not a technical hike. The sun was shining fiercely down on us and blinded me at some points, but nothing that a bit of sunscreen and a hat or sunglasses can’t solve.
Grindjisee – Lake Grindji
In the end, it took us quite some time to reach to Grindjisee. Slowly, we meandered down from the mountain edge and reached some trees, we saw the lovely Grindjisee in the distance. Some major rocks form a great place to have a picnic but we decided to continue a little bit further away and sat in the shade.
We filled our water bottles with the fresh crystal clear water from the stream and rested for a little while. The Matterhorn’s reflection can also be seen in the lake but the trees and some unfortunate small clouds spoiled my picture.
Route from Grindjisee to Grünsee
While having our break, we talked about how to get back up again. We must have missed some signs or the little lake flooding prevented us from following the most logical route. We heard people walk on the road above us so we scrambled up a steep path to get to that road.
What is hiking to Grünsee like?
It was one of the broader gravel roads for downhill cyclist and vehicles. Much easier walking but not as interesting. As we descended quite a bit since the start, lovely trees and bushes surrounded us.
We walked through a part with a warning for sudden flooding as the area is used as a hydro-power plant. We saw several structures to generate hydroelectric energy along the route. This part of the hike was really easy, although not as interesting. The Matterhorn hid behind the mountain range but we did have great views of the glacier above Zermatt.
Grünsee or Green Lake
On the broad road, we had to take a left and climb a few meters to find the Grünsee. What a surprise all of a sudden. And Grün means Green, so you can probably guess what color this lake was? The lake was stunning!
The intense green color of the Grünsee contrasted nicely with the ruby red color of the scrubs on the mountain behind it. This was the perfect autumn color palette and we sat down at one of the benches to take it all in.
Behind the rim of the mountain, we could see the tip of the Matterhorn but it doesn’t have the same reflective beauty as some of the other lakes.
Route Grünsee to Moosjisee
As we took quite some time to reach the first 3 lakes, I was a bit worried we’d took too long. I wasn’t exactly sure when the last ride down the mountain was, so we decided to pick up the pace.
Unfortunately, my Crohn’s disease played up and we had to make an emergency toilet stop (twice) along the way. On the route from Grünsee to Moosjisee we found a little restaurant and we used it for my toilet break and to get some sugary drinks in. The Berghaus Grünsee has amazing views of the mountains and the Matterhorn so I’d definitely recommend saving some time for a break here.
We might have been a bit distracted by the restaurant stop, as we continued our hike behind the restaurant, down the hill, but only found signs for the Leisee. This was a bit weird as that would be the 5th and final lake.
We decided to follow the path and finally came to the broader gravel road again with a turn off to the meandering path down to the Moosjisee.
What is hiking to Moosjisee like?
This was also a lovely part of the hike. Part of it was on a small path through the green hills with lovely autumn colored scrubs and bushes around us. On the left, we had clear views of the Matterhorn again.
Once we started to descend to the river, the path got a bit steeper and I had to carefully watch my feet again. Some turns were over rocks and I got anxious a couple of times. Once down at the river, it was a flat part towards the Moosjisee.
Moosjisee – Lake Moosji
Well. Moosjisee. Lake Moosji. Or should we call it the basin with water at the end of the hydro-power station? The turquoise water was impressive but with all the technical houses and wires across it, it just doesn’t make that much of a view. There are no benches around and it’s not very inviting for a stop to take in the views.
We didn’t take much time to see the Moosjisee as we saw where we’d be heading next.
Moosjisee to Leisee
We reached the last part of our 5 Lake Hike. I knew the toughest part was still to come. After hiking for over 4 hours, we had to climb 500 meters up to the Leisee.
The path is narrow and circles up the mountain through the grass, fields, and scrubs. If I wasn’t struggling that much to catch my breath, it would give pretty impressive views of the mountains in front of us.
What is hiking to Leisee like?
For someone who has to catch her breath after taking a single flight of stairs and with 35-kilo overweight, it was grueling. I struggled. I tried to keep moving slowly but steadily but I felt like I could drop dead at any given moment. My boyfriend was far ahead of me and I struggled to keep moving.
Every time I stood still to catch my breath, it took longer and longer to recover. Some stretches were really steep and I had to stop midway. In between the steep climbs, a small section of nearly flat route enabled me to move and catch my breath at the same time.
Luckily, the path was well trotted so technically it wasn’t difficult but I found it hard because of my lack of fitness and my sore knees.
Finally, we reached the Leisee! To be honest, I might have given it 2 glances. I was so tired and absolutely beat. I felt my whole body aching and my heart didn’t stop beating at 189 beats per second.
And to be honest, the Leisee wasn’t the most beautiful one. Maybe it was my tired judgment but the Leisee is more a kids playground. You can recline on the sun loungers, or take a dip in the lake. There is a playground and different toys to play in the water. As it is so close to Sunnegga mountain station, people go here with their kids to spend the afternoon.
It does offer a great view of the Matterhorn, but so did the terrace at the top. Luckily there was an elevator because I felt not capable to walk the last kilometer up.
End of the 5 Lake Hike
As we reached the Sunnegga station I felt immensely proud. Yes, I was hurting and in a foul mood, but that quickly vanished when we sat in a chair, in the sun, with a beer in front of us and had something delicious to eat. Maybe I was just hungry.
We had plenty of time for the last ride down, so we enjoyed the view of the Matterhorn mountains and talked about our 5 Lake Hike.
After an hour or so, I was able to walk again and we descended with the mountain railway. In the end, it is not the pain and suffering and the moments of struggle I remember our hike of the 5-Seenweg.
What remains is the memory of the amazing views, the gorgeous weather and the amazing views of the Matterhorn. Oh, I said that twice. But it is true. The views are spectacular and impressive. Experiencing them while being out all day in nature was an unexpected gift and I loved it. The hike around the 5 lakes turned out to be my favorite day of 2 weeks in Switzerland!
Is the 5 Lake Hike for you?
So, is this hike for you? I’m tempted to say yes. If I can do it, you can do it too. I showed that even when you’re overweight, you can hike this. Even when you’re a bad climber or descender, you can hike it.
The route is not suited for small children in strollers, but any family with children above 6 who can walk 10 km can do this. Many families with children overtook me while running up the mountains.
Maybe the 5-Seenweg is even too easy for you. Only 10k and mostly downhill. If you’d like to challenge yourself, you can always walk from Sunnegga to Blauherd and then the hike is mostly uphill. Good luck to you.
Practical Tips for hiking the 5-Seenweg
Of course, I have to include some practical tips for hiking the 5-Seenweg in Zermatt.
- Write down (or save this blog on your phone) the names of the lakes and which order you hike them in. Because the names were unfamiliar to us, we spent a lot of time figuring out what lake was lake number 2 or 4. Just take a simple paper and write down: start in Blauherd- Stellisee (1) – Grindjisee (2) – Grünsee (3) – Moosjisee (4)- Leisee (5) and finish at Sunnegga.
This will help you navigate easier as the directions are very clear but it doesn’t mention what lake is next.
- As always with hiking, bring plenty of protection. Sunscreen for mountain activities, a hat or sunglasses, a warm layer to take off when its too hot and wear sturdy hiking boots.
- Bring plenty of refreshments for the route. It was very hot up in the mountains and we drank a lot of water. Luckily my boyfriend took his LifeStraw water bottle so I could safely drink from the lake’s water too.
- Research the options to get a discount ticket for the journey up and down the mountain. If you also want to visit the Matterhorn Glacier Palace, local discount cards might be cheaper for you than a single ticket.
- The 5 Lake Hike was easy to navigate without a map. Just follow the signs that are everywhere. If you do want a route, you can see the route and the altitude profile here.
- Take enough time to hike the 5-Seenweg. The area is beautiful and if you’re not as slow as me, you’ll have enough time to take in the views or enjoy a lunch at the restaurant.
- Make sure to know when the last ride down to Zermatt will be. I wasn’t sure and we might have rushed a bit too much. Take it too slow, you might miss the last ride!
- Looking for accommodation in Zermatt, check out this post with hotels for every budget.
Hike in Zermatt
Are you ready to go hiking? Will you visit Zermatt? Is the 5 Lake Classic Hike on your itinerary? I hope I was able to explain to you what the route is like and how lovely it is. I’m sure it is just as great in late spring or summer as it was in the fall.
Have you done the 5-Seenweg in Zermatt? What was your favorite lake? Did you find it hard to hike? Share your experiences in the comment section below. I’d love to hear it. Feel free to save this article or share it with your friends on social media.
Images in the post have been taken by myself or my boyfriend. I paid for all tickets in full myself but this post contains affiliate links. If you decide to book something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra costs to you.