There are few mountains as breathtaking as the famed Matterhorn. It rises high above the little Swiss town of Zermatt, providing one of the most incredible backdrops to mountain biking you could ever wish for.
With this towering peak raising the bar on the scenery front, it's good to know that Zermatt's dozens of amazing trails can match it in the quality. In fact, the one problem you'll face in Zermatt is that the riding is so engaging, it's hard to lift your head once in a while to absorb the views.
Zermatt has been hard at work developing its mountain biking options and boasts a 20-stong team of trail builders responsible for two immaculately shaped flow trails, as well as cleaning up dozens of rugged natural singletracks. The result is some of the most varied and rewarding all-mountain riding you'll find anywhere. And if further endorsement were needed, Zermatt has its own mountain bike festival, TRAILLOVE, which takes place onSeptember 14–18, and will host the final round of the Enduro World Series in 2019 and 2020.
Combine Zermatt's truly epic riding with its chilled, car-free streets and myriad hotels and spas, and you have your next bucket-list destination.
Zermatt's own mountain bike trail map (available from the tourist office) lists 100km of officially sanctioned trails, but that's just the tip of the iceberg: it has enough singletrack to fill a week or more of riding.
Riding these shared use trails relies on common sense and respect for other trail users. Check the guidelines here. While some of the more popular hiking trails can be very busy in the summer months, Zermatt's terrain is huge, meaning there are plenty of quieter trails where you can find solitude – even the most popular paths early or late in the day. A good start for planning your rides is to pick up the Supertrail map or download the Supertrail App.
Zermatt's trails spread across three different areas that sit above the town – Gornergrat, Rothorn and Schwarzsee – each of which is easily accessed by a variety of cablecars and mountain railways. You can choose between single ride tickets (from 15CHF/€13 ), day passes per lift and the Bike Pass Zermatt, which includes selected lifts (one day 115CHF/€99, four days 169CHF/€146 ). If you're looking for a longer tour, the 37km Matterhorn Valley Trail descends over 1,000m from Zermatt all the way to Visp, where you can jump on the train for a lift back up.
For guided riding try Bike school Zermatt.
Suspended among a sea of glaciers, the spectacular 3,089m Gornergrat top station makes a breathtaking start for some of Zermatt's most technical singletrack descents. A dirt road down offers an easier option, but Gornergrat's jewels are its challenging, steep rock gardens and tight switchbacks.
Several singletrack trails lead off from just below the summit and provide a solid test of skills on the way down to the Matterhorn reflecting Riffelsee lake. Trail options from here include the 'Japanese Highway' trail, a fast, sandy trail full of drifty corners that brings you to the 2,582m Riffelberg station. Several trails lead from here to Zermatt, but a good finish to your 1,600m of vertical descent from the Gornergrat is the 1.3km Moos-Trail. It'sa fun, easy-rolling flow trail that lets you relax after the hectic start to this true alpine epic.
POV videoGornergrat to Riffelsee
POV video of the descent from Gornergrat to Riffelsee in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Probably the most technical descent from Gornergrat is the Kelle trail (No. 9 on Zermatt's bike map). This is a true test of switchback riding skills that leads you down 900m and ultimately connects to the forested Rock 'n’ Roll enduro trail close to the Ze Seewijnu mountain lodge.
To reach Gornergrat, take the Gornergrat funicular train, built in 1898 as the world's first electric cog-railway, which takes just 33 minutes to reach the summit. You can also jump off at any of the Riffelberg or Riffelalp stations to skip the most technical rock gardens if preferred.
POV video: Zermatt Flow Trail
POV video of the MTB flow trail in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Rothorn and Sunnegga
The trails that dive off the 3,103m high Rothorn or the Blauherd and Sunnegga lift stations are less challenging than those of Gornergrat, but still ooze alpine goodness. Expect less rock gardens and more flow, but still with a few tasty switchbacks and steep rollovers to keep the adrenaline pumping.
The Banani Trail, which starts as a wide track from Furggji on the east side of the Rothorn peak, soon becomes a twisting singletrack that throws in a few challenging rocky sections as you near its end. It pops you out on an easy traverse that you can use to reach Sunegga's newest trail, an incredible 9km flow trail called the Sunegga Trail. This immaculately shaped, wide trail is packed with berms and easy rollers, and is ideal for any ability. It can be reached directly from the top of Sunnegga lift station, too.
A string of one funicular train and two cablecars leap the 1,483m up to Rothorn, leaving you options to ride from treeline Sunnegga or the mid-mountain Blauherd summit.
The natural singletrack trails of the Schwarzsee area sit at the foot of the Matterhorn and are reached by the single Schwarzsee gondola. A couple of trails lead from Schwarzsee directly back to Zermatt, while taking the dirt road west of the lift station leads you to the Hobbit Trail, a braided, twisting and undulating singletrack that has so many line choices it will leave you grinning, but your head spinning.
Turning left after the Hobbit Trail leads you to the Chalbermatten, while turning right and descending a little will connect you to the YoYo Trail. Both are perfect ribbons of singletrack that gently descend along the valley side, alternating between full-speed flow and tight switchback sections.
POV video: Zermatt's YoYo Trail
POV video of the YoYo MTB trail in Zermatt, Switzerland,
Where to stay
As a popular tourist destination, Zermatt is not short on accommodation options. We stayed at the modern, central, 4-star Eden Wellness Hotel, complete with its own spa and swimming pool. Zermatt is also home to 28 bike hotels that offer workshops, bike wash facilities and safe bike storage.
While the town has one small campsite, camping options are better in nearby Täsch, connected to Zermatt by the Zermatt Shuttle train service. There's a great singletrack between the two that can be ridden in either direction (5km long with 200m elevation difference).
If you're looking for an injection of adventure, then a night at one of Zermatt’s simple but comfortable catered mountain huts might be your ticket. We stayed at the Fluhalp hut, soaking up its unrivalled dawn and dusk views across to the Matterhorn, eating our bodyweight in good food and rolling straight into a perfect singletrack right on its 2,606m doorstep next morning. The Fluhalp hut is easy to reach from the Blauherd lift station.
Dining in Zermatt is a mix of traditional Swiss alpine dishes, like fondue, and international fusion. For a break from the cheese, try the menu at The Bubble restaurant (vegetarian and vegan dishes available). For post ride beers in the local mountain bikers' favourite hang out, head to Papperla Pub.
How to get there
Zermatt is 130km from Bern, 190km from Milan Malpensa, 210km from Zurich and 230km from Geneva airports
Zermatt's car-free policy means its mountain air stays how we like it – fresh and clean – and if driving to Zermatt you'll need to park in Täsch, 5km before Zermatt, and take the Zermatt shuttle train from there. It runs every 20 minutes and takes 12 minutes to reach Zermatt.
As you have to finally arrive in Zermatt by train, it makes sense to use a train transfer from the airport or plan your entire journey by train from any European city, connecting to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn in Visp. A Swiss Rail Travelpass also gives you half price tickets on Zermatt's mountain lifts and funiculars. For Swiss railway timetables and fares check here.
Most hotels have their own electric vehicle that can collect you and your luggage from Zermatt's station on arrival.
When to ride
Zermatt's elevation of 1,600m gives it a true mountain environment, with a riding season from June to October. While the Gornergrat funicular runs all year, other lifts operate from the end of May to mid October. The Matterhorn Valley Trail to Täsch and on towards Visp could be accessible later in the year, depending on weather. Like any mountain location, the weather can change quickly, and without warning, so pack for any eventuality when heading up the mountain to ride.
Thanks to our partners at Zermatt Tourism