Immediately upon crossing the border from Italy into Switzerland, the landscape changed drastically to fit the stereotypical Switzerland picture: charming villages spread out on rolling green hills with a backdrop of the snow-capped Alps. Our goal for the evening was to drive up Simplon Pass (free motorhome parking with water!) where we would spend the night before moving on to Zermatt the next morning. After purchasing and slapping the mandatory 40 CHF vignette on our motorhome’s front window, we began our long journey up the pass. Our motorhome sloooowly made it up, with a couple of stops to prevent overheating. At least every rest stop in Switzerland seemed to have no shortage of views and even hiking trails.
Giving our good ol’ motorhome a break:
Our final stop at the top of Simplon Pass, where we spent the night:
On our way to the car-free town of Zermatt early the next morning, we kept an eye out for free parking along the valley between Brig and Zermatt. Our original plan was to camp in Randa because it was cheaper there than in Tasch, but we found free 10-hour parking in Herbriggen at the train station.
Because it was our first full day in a new country (back to German and French and a new currency to juggle), we knew there would be hurdles ahead of us. Naturally there was no ticket machine at the train station, so we hopped into the train and hoped to buy a ticket inside, except there was no ticket machine or a ticket conductor. We rode the 3 stops into Zermatt for free. Later I found out that the 1-way ride from Herbriggen to Zermatt was a whopping 19 CHF per person, and we just happened to be lucky that a conductor hadn’t walked by to sell tickets. Wow.
We planned to take the gondola from Zermatt to Blauherd and hike the 5-Lakes Trail, but because the tourist information center informed us that the gondola stop was closed and the 5-Lakes Trail was not yet open due to snow, we ended up hiking the steep trail to Sunnegga instead. Signs stated it would take 2 hours; it took us 1 hour and 20 minutes.
View of Zermatt from the trail:
A number of tree mushrooms lined the trail as well. 😉
We occasionally looked back over our shoulders in hope that the Matterhorn would make an appearance, but the clouds never parted. Although we experienced numerous moments of sunshine over us, the craggy tip of the Matterhorn remained in cloud the entire day. Bummer.
Looking over the village of Eggen:
As we approached Lake Leisee (one of five “lakes” from the 5-Lakes Trail), I decided to explore the 5-Lakes Trail anyway despite the tourist office claiming it was closed. After all, there was no snow, and even if there was a bit of snow, what’s the big deal right?
From Lake Leisee, it was a brief downhill walk to Lake Mosjesee. There, we lunched and gazed at the Matterhorn, hoping it would come out. Nope.
We attempted to hike to Lake Grunsee next, but this lake was truly blocked due to snow. That meant Lake Grindjisee was next, which was a long, slow trudge up a steep hill. We merely passed by this lake because the weather wasn’t favorable.
What I really wanted to see was Lake Stellisee, the truest lake of them all (the rest were more like ponds). When we arrived, we found the lake partially frozen and mostly covered in snow. Although the Matterhorn was still in hiding, the scattered rain clouds and their reflections in the snow-covered lake was surreal.
Now it was time to return. Thanks to this map at the lake, we took the most straight-forward trail back to Sunnegga, via Blauherd, from where it was a steep descent back to Zermatt.
The trail granted us stupendous views of what would have been the Matterhorn:
Looking down at Eggen one last time (and that’s really the Matterhorn in the distance, I swear!):
By the time we returned to Zermatt, our legs and knees were quite shot from the unexpected long hike. We hadn’t planned on hiking from Zermatt to Sunnegga, the 5-Lakes trail, and back to Zermatt. But hey, we saved a buttload of money on gondola rides! Although we only witnessed bits and pieces of the Matterhorn, we were thankful that it never rained on us, and we thoroughly enjoyed our first beautiful hike in the Swiss Alps.