Hiking Switzerland’s Smallest Mountains

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  • Post last modified:July 3, 2021
  • Post category:Switzerland
  • Reading time:12 mins read

Everyone’s always talking about the tallest mountains, but in countries like Switzerland, the tallest mountains simply aren’t accessible for mere mortals like us. So instead of trying to climb the tallest mountains in Switzerland, we’ve been trying to climb the smallest. 🙂

Some of you will already be asking how we’ve chosen the definition for the ‘smallest’ mountains. We’ve basically taken a list (ahem Wikipedia) of the smallest mountains above 300m in prominence. This means that if you stand on top of the mountain, you would have to go at least 300m down before you can go back up to a higher point. 

So here’s the list…

  1. Rooterberg 840m, Lucerne (prominence 380m) 
  2. Pfannenstiel 853m, Zurich (prom. 333m) 
  3. Lägern 866m, Zurich (prom. 425m)
  4. Stierenberg 872m, Aargau (prom. 332m) 
  5. Lindenberg 878m, Lucerne (prom. 358m)
  6. Monte San Salvatore 912m, Ticino (prom. 602m)
  7. Bürglen and beyond

Finally before we get started, here’s what you can expect when hiking these ‘mini’ mountains:

  • You’ll get a modest-sized walk since they’re not huge peaks, and the difficulty of the hike will be modest too (with a couple of exceptions!). 
  • There will normally be nice views, since having 300m or more of prominence means that all these peaks are a bit separated from their nearest higher neighbors. 
  • A lot of these peaks aren’t particularly famous, so they’re often popular only with the locals. 
  • Finally, they’re climbable for most of the year (the smallest will only have snow for a couple of months in the winter), so they can be nice options when you want a walk but higher peaks aren’t available due to snow conditions or mediocre weather. 

1. Rooterberg 840m 

Well, let’s start at the bottom! As we’ve already alluded to here, we reckon Rooterberg takes the crown as Switzerland’s smallest mountain. Rooterberg is the highest point on a low ridge lying at the northern edge of the Alps, and the mountain itself doesn’t really have much in the way of interesting features. Still, you do get nice views across the surrounding countryside – Lake Zug, Lake Lucerne (the Vierwaldstattersee) and Rigi are all nearby. For us, the mountain is actually at its best in winter, when there’s snow on the ground to add character to the peak, but the nice views will still be there all year. 

Peak altitude – 840m 
Difficulty – T1 (easy)
Popularity – 3/5 
Canton – Lucerne 

For more details and route maps, see our post on Rooterberg here

Rooterberg Winter Hiking

2. Pfannenstiel 853m

Barely a stone’s throw from Zurich, Pfannenstiel is one of the larger hills in the flat band of Switzerland that stretches between the Jura and the Alps from St. Gallen down to Lausanne. We climbed it late on a cloudy November day with early snow on the ground. On a good weather day though, Pfannenstiel is a good option for easy and picturesque walks. There’s also a lookout tower near the peak, which always helps with getting impressive panoramic views. 

Peak altitude – 853m
Difficulty – T1 (easy)
Popularity – 3/5 (mainly locals)
Canton – Zurich

For more details and route maps, see our post on Pfannenstiel here

Snow on an autumn ascent.

3. Lagern 866m 

Lagern is one of the highlights on this list, and something of a repeating theme on this blog, since it’s already been mentioned on several lists of our favorite hikes (see here and here). Despite being well away from the Alps, this ridge has an Alpine-like feel in places, and is nothing like the much flatter ridges elsewhere on this list. As a result, the hike is not for those with vertigo but if you’re OK with the verticality of the path then you’ll be rewarded with a rocky ridge with a panoramic view of the Alps in the far distance!

The typical starting point is Baden, a picturesque town in canton Aargau, and the first part of the hike heads through the town and up past several viewpoints overlooking the town. Beyond that, you head up a steep and rocky ridge for the next 90 minutes or so, before the ridge flattens out for the second part of the walk. A great option if you want a good hike near Zurich!

Peak altitude – 866m 
Difficulty – T2/T3 (medium/difficult – some very steep bits) 
Popularity – 4/5 (popular) 
Canton – Zurich  

For more details and route maps, see our post on Lagern here

H0001 Lagern Hike Baden Zurich Ridge Walk
An evening view of Baden from the end of the ridge.

4. Stierenberg 872m (also spelled Stereberg) 

There’s a bit of a theme in these first few peaks – they’re all high points on the various ridges in northern Switzerland. This isn’t a particularly steep peak, and the top in particular is flat – we spent 20 minutes wandering around in the snow-covered trees before finding the summit! 

In general, like many of the other smaller hills in the area, Stierenberg is a nice peak for an easy walk. Stierenberg is also the most prominent point in Aargau, and would probably be even more obscure without this little ‘claim to fame’. 

Peak altitude – 872m 
Difficulty – T1 (easy) 
Popularity – 2/5 
Canton – Aargau 

For more details and route maps, see our post on Stierenberg here

The elusive peak monument!

5. Lindenberg 878m 

Maybe we can be more specific about the theme in these first few peaks – they’re all near Zurich! Lindenberg isn’t too different from Stierenberg really, and is practically next door as well – just 10km to the east and if anything even flatter – not too much to say here really! 

To tie together a nice walk for Lindenberg, we started in the entertainingly-named Buttwil (which even has a hamlet next to it called Loo!) and walked past the small grass-strip airport of Buttwil, where we had close-up views of Cessna-like planes landing and taking off. After heading over the tree-covered summit, we headed down the Gitzitobel gorge on the way down to Hallwilersee on the other side. This seems like quite a random peak when you first look at a map, but we actually got a really nice walk out of it. 

Peak altitude – 878m 
Difficulty – T1/T2 (easy/medium) 
Popularity – 2/5 
Canton – Lucerne 

For more details and route maps, see our post on Lindenberg here.

Gentle slopes on Lindenberg.

6. Monte San Salvatore 912m 

Finally, a peak that’s not near Zurich! Monte San Salvatore is still a ridge peak, but this is a steeper ridge than most of the ones mentioned above, and towers over Lake Lugano. This is another fairly easy climb, and there’s also a funicular near the summit if you don’t want to walk back down. Because it’s easily accessible and provides spectacular views, this is a really popular peak 🙂 

Peak altitude – 912m 
Difficulty – T2 (medium) 
Popularity – 5/5 (very popular) 
Canton – Ticino 

Lake Lugano

7. Bürglen and beyond

That’s it for now, but we’re working on adding to the list! Come back in a little while and maybe we’ll have an updated version. In the meantime, here are the next few mountains on the list.

  1. Bürglen (Albis) 915m, Zurich (prom. 375m) 
  2. Bantiger 947m, Bern (prom. 320m) – check out our separate post here.
  3. Wisenberg 1002m, Basel-Land (prom. 311m)  
  4. Poncione d’Arzo 1015m, Ticino (prom. 345m) 
  5. Mont Pèlerin 1080m, Vaud (prom. 327m) 
  6. Monte San Giorgio 1097m, Ticino (prom. 758m) – check out our separate post here.
  7. Bachtel 1115m, Zurich (prom. 358m)  
  8. Blasenflue 1118m, Bern (prom. 413m) – check out our separate post here.
  9. Ruchen 1123m, Basel-Land/Solothurn (prom. 392m)  
  10. Bürgenstock 1128m, Lucerne/Nidwalden (prom. 683m)  
  11. Fläscherberg (Regitzer Spitz) 1135m, Graubunden (prom. 422m)