The UNESCO High Altitude Ridge Trail in the Aletsch Arena is an epic adventure for those with a good head for heights and comfortable scrambling up bare rocks. The views of the Aletsch Glacier are simply stunning and the trail, although challenging is fun. This is easily in my top three trails in all of Switzerland. It’s moderately challenging, it’s fun and the views are incredible.
One of the many amazing views from the trail.
Officially, the trail connects Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn, via Bettmergrat. The whole trail is up on the ridge, which is essentially made of big rocks. there are several ways you can get to the trailhead, or extend the hike to other areas of the Aletsch arena.
For instance, I started my hike in Fiescheralp, but it’s also possible to start it in Bettmeralp, or just take the Cable car to the Bettmergrat station. We’ll get into that later.
The Bettmergrat station, starting point of this hike
However, again, before you embark on this adventure, remember that this trail requires a good head for heights and some scrambling. Also. it’s pretty much all on rock and boulders, which means you need to pay particular attention to where put your foot. If you prefer an easier but equally scenic trail with amazing views of the Aletsch Glacier, Check out this other Aletsch Glacier trail from a previous hike.
With that in mind, you’ll have a truly memorable day on the trail. Let’s go!
Overview of the Hike & Map
The trail is rated as T4 in the Swiss trail rating system, which means it is an alpine trail and not a mountain trail. This means exposed, sections, scrambling, jagged rocks and/or glaciers, and similar hazards (more on this rating system on my main Hiking in Switzerland page). Also, it’s extremely well marked and you will have no trouble finding the white-blue-white trailmarks.
When to go: July to October would be the ideal season, but it highly depends on weather and sound conditions (i.e. ice). The first time I visited in early July the trail was closed. Anyway, here you can check if the trail is open. Due to the unseasonal warmth late into autumn, it was possible to do this trail into early November in 2023.
One last note on the data and map below; I started this hike in Fiescheralp, so that makes it about 40 minutes longer compared to starting it from the Bettmergratt station.
Also, this trail ends at the Eggishorn viewpoint and if you want to include the Eggishorn summit, it’s another 15-20 additional minutes from the Eggishorn viewpoint.
Here is also the map of the hike. You can download the GPS track for free from the activity linked below:
How to get to the UNESCO High Altitude Ridge Trail Aletsch and Parking
Getting to the Trailhead requires some planning since you cannot drive to any of the small villages (Fiescheralp, Bettmeralp, and Riederalp). You can get there only by cable car You will need to either take a trail or park the car at one of the Cable Car stations in Fiesch, Bettem, or Mörel-Filet.
Generally speaking, if you come from Lucerne/Zurich, it’s best to stop at Fiescheralp. If you are coming from the opposite direction (i.e. Geneva), it’s best to head to Bettmeralp or Riederalp.
- Driving Directions: If you are coming from the Zurich/Luzern Direction or eastern Switzerland, you would have to cross a few mountain passes – I usually drive the Furkapass or the Grimselpass as a second option depending on traffic. You also have the option to board your car on a train at Realp and avoid the Furkapass. As of 2023, the price of a single trip of passenger cars is 27 CHF. If you are coming from the opposite direction, you would be arriving via Highway A9, to take road 9 and drive from there to the valley station of your choice.
- Parking: This depends on where you plan to take the cable car. So as mentioned above, you could park at any of these locations Fiesch, Bettem, or Mörel-Filet.
- Public Transport: The Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn stops at the train stations in the valleys.
From each of these locations (Fiesch, Bettem, or Mörel-Filet) you will then have to take the cable car up to, respectively, Fiescheralp, Bettmeralp, or Riederalp, where you can start your hike to take a cable car up. The latter is only possible from Bettmeralp to the or from Fiescheralp to the Eggishorn and start the hike there.
Early morning in Fiescheralp. Yu can actually see the Matterhorn
The UNESCO High Altitude Ridge Trail Aletsch Arena
The UNESCO high altitude ridge trail can be done both ways, but I’d recommend doing it from the Bettmerhorn to the Eggishorn. This is simply because you’ll have the best views of the glacier in front of you, and you’ll end with a fabulous view from the Eggishorn Viewpoint. This is also the way I hiked this trail.
I started my hike in the early morning in Fiescheralp, bathing in the glorious, warm light of the rising sun. From there, I walked about 40 minutes to the Bettmeralp gondola station, which is where the official trailhead is. Here you will see a sign that will tell you whether the trail is open or closed.
Early morning light on the trail
The trailhead of the UNESCO High Altitude ridge trail
View from the Bettmerhorn, the first summit on this hike.
The first part is rather steep and already involves some scrambling and exposed sections. There are some safety ropes and some exposed passages on stairs too. It’s a rather short stretch of the trail that ends at the top of the Bettmerhorn, where you will find a huge cross and some amazing views of the valley below.
From here there are not many steep sections; it’s all bare rock and mostly flat with some short up-and-down stretches. The only other steep section is on the other side of the trail, where you descend onto a saddle before ascending again toward the Eggishorn viewpoint.
An exposed section in the first part of the trail, toward the Bettmerhorn
More exposed sections.
The trail continues on the ridge on mostly flat but very rocky grounds.
Looking back at the trail, from the climb to the Eggishorn
You will have to scramble up several sections and you will find safety ropes in the most exposed sections. The last downhill section requires some carefulness, but also there you will find safety ropes or steel tubes you can use as steps. in the last part, you will ascend again toward the Eggishorn hut, where you can sit, have a drink or a snack, or just chill.
The Eggishorn in the background
I also ended my hike at the hut, driving a restoring beer and a delicious “Käseschnitte mit Schinken”. That’s essentially a toasted slice of bread with melted cheese, ham, an egg, and a topping for fried onions, all the while looking at the glacier. Hard to beat!
The Eggishorn Hut
Lunch with a view.
The UNESCO High Altitude Ridge Trail Hike Photos and Photography Tips
I recommend starting the hike in the early morning if you want to catch some sidelight. The sun will rise to your right hiking up toward Eggishorn, and it will gradually lit the valley and the whole Aletsch glacier. Sunset is also good, but the sun will set behind the mountains on the other side of the glacier, so you’d have to hope for some colors in the sky to make the most out of it.
Also, a bit of a fun fact; on clear days, you can see and photograph the Matterhorn from here!
Morning light on the trail
Bettmer, and the Matterhorn in the backgound.
If you want to shoot sunrise from up there, there’s a also shortcut. The Eggishorn Cable Car offers”sunrise rides“, meaning you can take a cable car ride up to the Eggishorn for sunrise. Then you can do the high-altitude ridge trail in the opposite direction, from Eggishorn to Bettmerhorn.
This is also a great location for panoramas, with such a wide landscape. in a way, that’s also the limit. the glacier is stunning and it’s so huge there’s not much variation in the landscape. If you can only do one hike and are doing it for photography, I think the other Aletsch Glacier loop trail lower on the mountain is better. You are closer to the glacier and there’s more foreground variation as well as more vantage points.
Panorama, two vertical rows of three photos each
In terms of gear, I brought lenses to cover from 14mm to 200mm, full frame. However, I mostly used the 24-70 range, followed by 70-200 and then 14-24.
Flying drones from the ridge trail and above the glacier is not allowed. It’s a protected area. Technically, you could fly a drone on the side opposite the glacier, but then there’s no glacier view. I left mine at home too for this hike.
Video of the hike
Last but not least, here is also a video of this beautiful hike
Where to stay
The best overnight options are either in Riederalp, Bettmeralp, or Fiescheralp. These are all car-free villages that can only be reached by gondola/cable cars.
I stayed in Bettermeralp because it’s the closest to Eggishorn and the end of the hike. There are also some camping options around each of the small villages down in the valley.
Wild camping in the Aletsch Arena is not allowed; it’s a protected area where it is forbidden even if it is above the tree line.