Mountain hiking trail heading to Piz Languard
Mountain Hiking Trail heading to the top of Piz Languard

The 65 000 km of hiking paths that Switzerland has are generally very well signalized and maintained, and is consistently done so across the country. There are three levels of paths plus the ones that are maintained during the winter, all identifiable by the color. On this page we cover the hiking signalization in Switzerland.

Yellow – Trail (“Wanderweg”)

These are the technically easiest, usually wide paths without any major obstacles. The path can still be steep and physically demanding. In my experience there is no need for special equipment, and I have survived without any issues with a pair of good walking shoes.

Some of the yellow trails transform into pink trails over the winter. There are no special equipment needed, apart from the normal winter gear naturally.

64 % of the trails in Switzerland are yellow.

Red – Mountain hiking trail (“Bergwanderweg”)

Mountain hiking trail with a red hiking sign
A sign post on a mountain hiking trail leading from Arosa to Davos

On red trails you will need to expect much more exposed and challenging terrain. In case there are technically difficult parts, those are typically secured with ropes or chains to help you.

To be successful (and safe) on mountain hiking trails you need proper equipment, starting from sturdy hiking boots with angle support, and weather resistant clothes and equipment. You will experience uneven surface and other challenges to make the hike more interesting also.

Around 35 % of the Swiss trails are red.

Blue – Alpine hiking trail (“Alpinwanderweg”)

Alpine hiking trail with a blue sign post
On the glacier trail between Britannia Hütte and Mattmark, close to Saas-Fee

Blue Alpine hiking trails take the challenge a (big) notch up. Whereas red trails are usually easy to follow, blue ones can have pathless sections, crossing snowfields or glaciers, and scree slopes, and might include small climbing parts.

It is recommendable to have special equipment such as ropes, and in case glaciers or snow is expected, also ice pick and crampons. Crampons especially make a world of difference when walking on ice and hard snow. And I personally didn’t found the value of walking poles until I hit my first blue trail.

Blue routes have also higher risks, as the plan B routes might not be that easily available should there be any surprising extra challenges or in worst case, accidents.

Only 1 % of the trails are blue.

Additional information on hiking signalization in Switzerland

Hiking is well embedded into Swiss culture, even constitution has an article dedicated to it (Article 88). The responsibility of the trail networks falls on cantons, and is coordinated across cantons by an organisation ‘Schweizer Wanderwege‘.

Next up: SAC hiking scale (T1-T6)