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3. Zermatt, Switzerland

A woman running on the trail in Zermatt with the Matterhorn right behind her.
No matter the trail you pick, running in Zermatt means you will most likely have the Matterhorn as your background. Photo: Mark Brightwell.

Zermatt is an idyllic village tucked deep away in the Swiss Alps. More precisely, in the shadow of Matterhorn, whose 4,478-meter (14,692 ft) pyramid of rock and ice has made the town one of the most coveted resorts in the world. Surrounded by more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) of marked hiking trails, this mountainous area is a paradise for hikers and runners, with trails that wind through green valleys, over steep rocky ridges, and up to some of the tallest peaks in Europe.

One of my favorite hikes starts in the village of Randa, taking you across Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge—one of the longest in the world—and back to Zermatt. The views from the bridge are breathtaking and the route provides a great mix of challenging uphill and exhilarating downhill sections. It’s a full-day affair, but one suitable for anyone with some trail running experience.

Other Zermatt trails for chasing that Alpine high

Another memorable trail is at Gornergrat. You can take the Gornergrat Railway to 3,089 meters (10,135 feet), and as soon as you step off the train you will see panoramic views of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks. I would recommend going from Gornergrat to Riffelsee and Riffelberg. It’s a short but scenic run—a mostly downhill 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) trail. If you get lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Matterhorn’s imposing fin reflected in Lake Riffelsee.

Finally, there’s the Gorner Gorge. This narrow and steep-sided gorge is a beautiful setting for a trail run. The route includes wooden walkways under snowy peaks and bridges over rushing waters. Such a pristine vision of Alpine life is enough to make you stop dead in your tracks and soak in the views.

Overall, Zermatt is an ideal destination for people who want to combine the resplendent beauty of the Swiss Alps with the kick of trail running. Note that the area is also quite popular among MTB enthusiasts, many of which consider it the peak of mountain biking in Switzerland.

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