With the sun shining and the snow laying in perfect, pristine conditions you are likely to have a fabulous train ride up to Gornergrat - a viewing point at 3100m - that looks directly at the Matterhorn and in the other direction to Monte Rosa.
Starting from opposite the main Zermatt rail station you can catch the rack and pinion railway for about a 40 minute ride up the steep mountain slopes to its other terminus at Gornergrat. There are several stops en route where skiers join in order to start once again on their downhill journey with skis or snowboards. The carriages are very much geared to the needs of skiers with areas for skis to be stored but there is plenty of seating as well.
At your destination you need to wave your ticket at the machine in order to enter and exit from the platform. There is a small waiting area in the station building which I think has machines selling hot drinks. It's all quite remarkable really given its location because it could be just like any other station building in a more accessible part of the country.
The ski run starts from just behind the station and I loved watching the skiers effortlessly zoom down the slopes. They made it all look so easy and made me wish I could do it. Sadly I didn't have the kit or the training and experience to take on a slope of that kind.
For people like me - basically pedestrian - I was content to stand and stare at the Matterhorn. I could walk up the short, snowy path first to the little chapel and onto the hotel though I didn't go in. Further up were some steps to a wider viewing platform where you could get 360degree views including the Monte Rosa range of mountains. The air up there seemed so clear and clean that you could see for miles especially because the sun was shining so brightly. At around 5.30pm the sun dropped behind the Matterhorn and slowly the night drew in. The colours on the face of the mountain and the cloud moving in the lee of the peak were wonderful to watch. It was impossible not to take photographs.
For birdwatchers like myself there was even some avian interest with a small flock of Alpine Chough, crow-like black birds with bright yellow beaks and a couple of Snow Finches mopping up the crumbs around the table legs on the café patio.
This place is definitely worth a visit especially if the sun is shining. If it's shrouded in cloud you're likely to be disappointed. Do go prepared for cold weather and strong, stout footwear is advisable because the paths, whilst swept in places, were still very snowy.
I had a Swiss Rail Pass which entitled me to a 50% discount but the return trip still cost 37CHF so it's not cheap but my memories of my afternoon ride on the Gornergrat railway to the top of the mountain will stay with me for a long, long time.
Gornegrat (3089 m) offers a spectacular mountain panorama, surrounded by 29 peaks rising to above 4000m and second longest glacier in the Alps.
The Gornergrat can be reached by the Gornergratbahn rack railway from Zermatt, a 29 minute ride to the Gornergrat peak, via Riffelalp, Rotenboden and Riffelberg, (with limited stops at Findelbach and Landtunnel just above the town).
The Gornergratbahn was the first electrical cog railway in Switzerland (1898) and is the highest open-air cog railway in Europe (3,089 m).
At the summit there is a hotel, restaurant and (small) shopping center. It is a popular skiing area. The Matterhorn is visible on a clear day.
The towers of the Kulmhotel hosts the Kölner Observatorium für SubMillimeter Astronomie KOSMA.
The Gornergrat is a ridge of the Pennine Alps, overlooking the Gorner Glacier to the south (the second longest glacier in the Alps.
VIDEO of my visit:
Another fab way to explore the alpine world surrounding Zermatt is a visit to Gornergrat, which is located 3089 metres above sea level. The journey from Zermatt to/from Gornergrat is via cogwheel or rack railway. This special railway was built in 1898, and not only was it the first electric railway in Switzerland, but today it is the highest cogwheel railway in Europe.
Departing from the centre of Zermatt, near the train station, the journey to the top takes 40 minutes, with a few stops along the way. Your train ticket allows you to get on and off along the way so you can explore. The two main stops along the way are Riffelalp and Riffelberg. At 2582 metres, Riffelberg is above the tree line, while Riffelalp is lower at 2211 metres and a good place for alpine meadow views.
Arriving at Gornergrat you will enjoy the gorgeous panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, and a large glacier, from the sunny viewing platform. You can even stay up here, at the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps, or just go for a shop at the hotel's shopping mall. Or have a meal/snack at the restaurant and lap up the views from the sun terrace.
On the way back down from Gornergrat we stopped at Riffelalp to have a look around, and enjoy some lunch at a restaurant with great views across the valley.
The gornergrat is a glacier with an observation post situated with a fantastic view of the Matterhorn. it is accessed by a cog railway although you can hike if you want and weather permits. best bet is to take the railway up and hike down (about 2 hrs)
Gornergrat is situated at an altitude of 3,089 metres above sea level.Gornergrat is surrounded by the famous mountains, like the Matterhorn,Liskamm and the Dufour.Its Viewpoint is 3112 metres(10210 ft).The Gornergrat railway was the first electric cog wheel train in Switzerland,it began to operate on August 1898.Here, you'll also find the highest hotel in the Swiss alps,the Kulmhotel Gornergrat.
Gornergrat is 3,085 meters above sea level. The journey takes you in around 40 minutes. The rack railway which is built in 1898 and incidentally the first electric railway of its kind in the country winds its way up the mountain letting the Matterhorn appear ever larger and more magnificent, while the village of Zermatt appears more and more like a collection of doll's houses.
We only had one day in Zermatt, when we left Sion that morning the weather was pretty gloomy, we drove through the rain on the way to Zermatt but then the sun started peaking through so we decided to go forward with our plan to take the cogwheel up to Gornergrat.
An exciting ride on a cogwheel train to the Gornergrat for a closer view of the majestic MATTERHORN – an experience you will never forget. The mighty mountain is one of the most famous peaks in the world and is the best known landmark in Switzerland.
From Gornegrat the views of the glaciers and the peak of Monte Rosa and others over 4000m are stunning - certainly not to be missed. Just hope you get such good clear weather as shown here. On the right of the glacier (as we look) is Monte Rosa at 4634m whilst the peak on the other side is Liskamm at 4527m
Zermatt has many spectacular mountain railways. The Gornergrat railway is the highest cog railway in Europe, at 3’130 meters or 10'134 feet above sea level - the perfect way to discover this most beautiful mountain ever since 1898. The Gornergrat-Monte Rosa is Switzerland's first track railway, and the highest to run on an open track in Europe. It is truly amazing! Here you will discover a luminous carpet of alpine flowers, mosses and lichens. The train takes you to the vast, snow covered slopes of the Gornergrat. The train stops at three points along the route. You can hike as much, or as little, of the trail back as you wish. The higher portion of the return path takes us past Riffelalp, a small, picturesque peak that Mark Twain once climbed, and is often used as a training ground for young alpinists.
The station for the Gornegrat is just across the road from the main train station and cameras will display the views at the top and the weather conditions. Try to get a seat on the right for best views. (pic taken during July 2004 visit)
Wonderful panorama at the summit station of the Gornegrat. The glaciers carve their way down like huge grooves...and so many of them too.
If I had to choose which of the big excusions to do from Zermatt I would pick Kleine Matterhorn for the views and Gornegrat for the hiking opportunities up here.
Zermatt has many spectacular mountain railways. The Gornergrat railway is the highest cog railway in Europe, at 3 130 meters above sea level it is the perfect way to discover this wonderfull mountain. The slow train takes you to the snow covered slopes of the Gornergrat and stops at three points along the route where you can disembark and re-enter as you like.
The station for the Gornegrat is just across the road from the main train station and cameras will display the views at the top and the weather conditions.
I am very pleased that I did this touristy thing.
Going up the Gornergrat is one of the several mountain-top excursions you can take from Zermatt. It was absolutely gorgeous. You are about 10,160 feet above sea level and have very impressive views of the Matterhorn, the Gorgergrat Glacier, and 28 other mountain peaks over 4,000 meters tall. To get there, you take a cog-rail train up the steep slope from downtown Zermatt. (The Gornergrat train station is across from the actual Zermatt train station.) The train ride is beautiful. (Photo compliments of http://www.rail-info.ch/GGB/fotos.en.html)
The gornegrat mountain top is simply wonderful.on a clear day you get to see the Mount Matterhorn.The open space and miles and miles of snow are just breath takingly beautiful.
You take the train to the top and ski down from there, there are also chair lifts all over the place and a sledge run. You can also take a cable car to the next hill over.