A Swiss Hiking Map
So, there’s one tried and trusted Swiss hiking map that we use, which is available as a website or as an app. We like the app because the map is detailed and it allows you to use GPS to track your location. If you’re gonna rely on the GPS, make sure to have a spare battery with you, you don’t wanna be hiking and have your battery run out on you.
Both the website and app show you all the public transport stops in Switzerland and you can use the stop names in the travel app mentioned below to determine how to get there. In addition to that, this website shows you trails for other summer and winter activities like cycling, canoeing, snowshoe hiking and sledging!
App: SwitzerlandMobility (Stiftung SchweizMobil)
We’re mostly fair-weather hikers and often use the Swiss Meteo app to figure out where the sun is shining. Admittedly, sunshine doesn’t always mean good weather in Switzerland – think summer thunderstorms! Depending on the time of year and the hike, you might also have to consider rain, snow, high winds (foehn or bise) or avalanches, for example – and it can also be extremely hot sometimes, with high UV levels that can lead to some uncomfortable sunburn.
The weather can also be very different in different parts of Switzerland, so if it’s raining in Zurich perhaps have a look to see if Valais or Ticino is sunny. The varied weather means that most weekends there’s somewhere in Switzerland with good enough conditions for some nice hiking 🙂
App: MeteoSwiss (Bundesamt für Meteorologie und Klimatologie)
We find that the MeteoSwiss website and app actually provide a somewhat different layout and functions, so it’s worth trying both to see which suits you better. For example, the app has a longer forecast on its rain radar map…
We don’t own a car so we mostly just use public transport for our hikes; this can be a mix of trains, buses, cable cars and sometimes even a ferry across a lake. The SBB app or website is just what you need to figure out how to get from A to B. It’ll tell you if some bus or cablecar services are not running because it’s low season or if a train has been cancelled or delayed or even how busy the trains normally are at a given hour.
There are admittedly a few corners of Switzerland that can be a real drag to get to by public transport. On such occasions, one option is to take the train to a nearby station and rent one of the red cars from SBB’s car sharing mobility scheme (you need to be a member of this scheme). But in general, if you don’t have a car and/or don’t want to drive, there are still loads of convenient options so you won’t be missing out on much. Using public transport allows you to easily go on one-way hikes as well!
App: SBB Mobile (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB)
Hiking Difficulty & Signs
Personally, we generally avoid paths that need equipment like ropes and harnesses – I guess this fits with the idea of laid-back hiking! Switzerland uses a T1 to T6 scale of hiking difficulty, with T1 being the easiest and accessible to most people, even beginners. T2 is medium difficulty & T3 paths are typically a bit more challenging, for example narrow mountain paths where being sure-footed and having some experience is recommended.
Generally, the easier T1 paths are signposted in yellow in Switzerland, and the T2/T3 paths are signposted by white-red-white markers, though we do find some yellow signposted paths that feel more like T2. At the hard end of the scale, T4-T6 paths are mostly alpine routes (white-blue-white signs) and require an increasing degree of scrambling, ropes and hiking/climbing experience. We don’t often venture onto alpine paths, and almost all of our hikes are T1 to T3.
We’ve added a special mention for Google Maps because we know that even if we don’t list it it’s often the first app used to sort out location, route and even transport. If you’re gonna use Google Maps for hiking we strongly recommend you use it in combination with the apps listed above. Google Maps is our go-to in cities too but we’ve found it to be limiting in the mountains as it often doesn’t show hiking paths.