Riffelsee: wild camping with Matterhorn and Gorner glacier views

Riffelsee hike: 1 hike with 2 amazing views only 5 minutes apart

The Riffelsee Gornergrat hike will give you the luxury problem: shall I wild camp at Riffelsee with Matterhorn views or shall I wild camp on the Gornergrat with views of the Gorner glacier? Either way, you’ll remember this hike forever. 

View of the Gorner glacier in Switzerland

Quick facts Riffelsee and Gornergrat hike

  • Hiking duration: 50 min or 1h 10min (one way, without breaks), depending on the route you choose
  • Hike starts atmountain station Riffelberg
  • Gondola departs from: Zermatt
  • Gondola to takeZermatt – Furi – Riffelberg 
  • Gondola ticket price: 60,50 CHF pp (return, price 2023)
  • Costs for getting to Zermatt: Zermatt cannot be reached by car, so you’ll need to park in Täsch. Parking costs 24 CHF per day in Täsch (it’s a bit cheaper per day if you stay longer, price 2023). You can pre book a parking spot at Matterhorn Terminal Täsch online. From Täsch take a quick train ride to Zermatt. The train between Täsch and Zermatt costs 16,40 CHF pp (return, price 2023).

Wild camping at Riffelsee

Is it busy at Riffelsee? Do many people camp?

When we camped at Riffelsee in August there were 5 other tents there. The area around the lake is quite vast so we didn’t hear the other campers and we hardly even saw them. Enough adventure if you ask me!

You don’t need a hammer for your tent pegs when wild camping at Riffelsee, the ground is soft enough. 

Can you see the other tents at Riffelsee?

Pros wild camping at Riffelsee

  • Evening sun is a big plus at Riffelsee to keep warm
  • Mornings at Riffelsee are best for photos 

Best times to take photos of the Matterhorn from the Riffelsee

Wondering when is the best time to take photos of the Riffelsee with the Matterhorn in the background? I think the following moments are the best because there won’t be bright backlight:

  • Evening or sunset
  • Morning
Sunset at Riffelsee
During the mornings at Riffelsee there is no backlight, so it's a great time of day for photos.

Alternative: wild camping on the Gornergrat

There are enough flat patches of grass to pitch a tent on the Gornergrat just over the hill from the Riffelsee. I only saw two small tents on the Gornergrat side. 

Pros wild camping on the Gornergrat

  • Less people camping on the Gornergrat than at Riffelsee 
  • Morning sun, not so good for photos but nice to wake up with warmth

Best time to take photos of Gorner glacier from Gornergrat

In my opinion the following time of day is best for taking photos of the Gorner glacier from the Gornergrat:

  • Afternoon
Gorner glacier in the afternoon
Sunset at Gorner glacier as seen from Gornergrat
Gorner glacier at sunset

So, camp at Riffelsee or on the Gornergrat?

We chose to camp at Riffelsee. There is more than one glacier in the world, but there’s only one iconic Matterhorn in the world!

This means you can combine Riffelsee and the Gorner Glacier together very well! These highlights have alternating ‘ideal photo times’. It’s only a 5 minute walk to get from Riffelsee to the Gornergrat for views of the Gorner glacier.

Don't miss the Gorner glacier when at Riffelsee

Did you know it’s only a 5 minute walk from Riffelsee to see the Gorner glacier? Don’t miss out!

My itinerary for an overnight hike to Riffelsee

  • 12:30 have a filling lunch in Zermatt
  • 14:00 grab the gondola up, start hiking 
  • 16:00 arrival at Riffelsee, take photos of the Gorner glacier and relax in the sun
  • 18:30 start cooking and setting up camp
  • 21:30 bed time
  • 06:00 rise and shine!
  • 06:30 breakfast and pack up stuff 
  • 09:00 start hiking down and then take the gondola
  • 10:00 back in Zermatt 
Unfortunately, in 2023 Toblerone announced the famous Matterhorn will disappear from the packing. So you won't be able to snap this picture anymore.

Practical information Riffelsee hike

Hiking map Riffelsee hike

On the official Matterhorn website you can find the official interactive hiking map with different hiking trails including estimated hiking times per trail.

Which gondola goes to the start of the Riffelsee Gornergrat hike?

If you take the (expensive!) Gornergrat train, that will set you back 134,50 CHF per person (price 2023)! There is an alternative, cheaper way to get to Riffelsee. Take the gondola Zermatt – Furi – Riffelberg which ‘only’ costs 60,50 CHF per person (return ticket, price 2023). Check out the current prices on the official ticket website

Return tickets are slightly cheaper than two seperate one way tickets. Tickets remain valid for 10 days, so your return ticket remains valid when you wild camp and return the day after.

Riffelberg mountain station

Budget tip: Alternative route down from Riffelsee hike

Optionally you could do the 5 Seen weg (5 Lakes hike Zermatt) on the way back from Riffelsee. This requires a different gondola ticket for your way back. Your gondola ticket will look like this: 

  • Gondola up: Zermatt – Furi – Riffelberg 
  • Hike from Riffelberg to Blauherd (start 5 Lakes hike Zermatt)
  • Hike along the 5 lakes and then to Sunnega
  • Gondola down: Sunnega – Zermattt

Not only will you have seen Riffelsee with Matterhorn views and Gorner Glacier, you will also have done the well know Matterhorn 5 Lakes hike! Three beautiful views all in one hike!

Weather around the Matterhorn

For me the weather predictions were identical for 3 consecutive days: clear blue skies and no rain. The weather was very different on all 3 days (day 1: partly cloudy, day 2: clear blue skies with strong sun, day 3: heaving clouds in the afternoon with light thunderstorms at night).

Normally the website Mountain Forecast gives me pretty accurate predictions, but not for the Matterhorn area. Keep in mind the weather changes quickly in the mountains. 

Have fun wild camping at Riffelsee

Have fun wild camping at Riffelsee with unique views of the Matterhorn!

Further reading

More hikes and activities near Zermatt

More hikes and activities in Switzerland