Mark Twain Trail (Nr. 18)

On the trail of the American writer Mark Twain: a pleasant walk on the Riffelberg with breathtaking views of the Matterhorn. In his satirical account "Climbing the Riffelberg", Mark Twain poked fun at the expeditions of the 19th century into the alpine world around Zermatt.

Recommended: "Climbing the Riffelberg", a booklet containing the narrative in both English and German. In it, Mark Twain (1835–1910) mocked the enormous fuss that surrounded expeditions in the 19th century to explore the mountains around Zermatt.Pure entertainment and breathtaking viewsHikers who have prepared for their own personal expedition by reading the charming booklet can visit the Hotel Riffelberg right at the start of the trail to breathe some living alpine history. This is Zermatt’s oldest mountain hotel, built in 1855, and Mark Twain very probably spent the night here. The trail then leads gently down to Riffelalp, where the Riffelalp Resort stands today. The original hotel was built between 1874 and 1884. It can be assumed that Mark Twain saw the hotel under construction, because he arrived in Zermatt on 27 August 1878 and stayed for a considerable time. The hike and the booklet together promise a wonderfully entertaining experience, complete with glorious views of the Matterhorn, Weisshorn and the famous 4,000-metre peaks that frame Zermatt way below.

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Turn-by-turn directions

Riffelberg - Riffelalp

(Hiking time in reverse direction: approx. 1h 10)

This hike is marked on the signposts as “Mark Twain Weg”.

Start: Riffelberg (2,582 m) (2582 m)
Destination: Riffelalp (2,211 m) (2207 m)

Author's recommendation

You will find the highest tramway in Europe at Riffelalp.

Mark Twain’s “Climbing the Riffelberg” is suitable for this outing. This little book is available in German and the original English.

Technical information

  • Altitude

    2582 m 2208 m

  • Ascent

    0 m

  • Descent

    375 m

  • Technique

    Bewertung: 3.0 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Stamina

    Bewertung: 3.0 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Expérience

    Bewertung: 4 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Landscape

    Bewertung: 6.0 von 5.0 Punkten

Public transport

By train to the Matterhorn village: 3½ hours from Zürich airport or 4 hours from Geneva airport. Change at Visp onto the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (Matterhorn Gotthard Railway). From Visp, the railway leads through the Mattertal valley past idyllic small villages to Zermatt.

Zermatt is also the start and finish point for the world-famous Glacier Express panoramic train journey (Zermatt to St. Moritz or Davos).


Zermatt is car-free. Private vehicles are permitted only as far as Täsch (5 km before Zermatt). The Täsch–Zermatt road is closed to the public.

Onward travel to Zermatt is either by private taxi or shuttle train. Trains depart every 20 minutes; the journey takes about 12 minutes, and ends at the Bahnhofplatz in Zermatt.


Täsch has car parks with both covered and open-air parking – e.g. at the Matterhorn Terminal or privately operated facilities.

Onward travel: see “Getting there”.


We recommend:

  • Good footwear
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • Clothing suitable for the weather (always carry a waterproof)

Safety information

  • Plan every mountain tour carefully and adapt to participants’ fitness level as well as the weather and season.
  • Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time.
  • Inform others of planned route, and whenever possible avoid going alone.
  • Do not leave the marked routes; do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
  • Please be considerate to other walkers and to plants and animals.
  • Take note of the warning signs drawing attention to the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs.


Mark Twain, "Climbing the Riffelberg/Riffelberg-Besteigung". Zweisprachige Ausgabe Deutsch/Englisch, Verlag Dorfpresse, CH-8135 Langnau, Schweiz, ISBN 3-905480-02-6


A walking map (1:25,000) is available from Zermatt Tourism’s guest information centre, along with brochures containing tips and recommendations.