Aletsch Arena: Commanding Views and Panoramic Hikes

When it comes to hiking in the Alps, I admit, I’m in it for the views. And if it’s amazing views you’re after, there’s no other place in the Alps to compare with the Aletsch Arena. The region lies within the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site so you’d expect spectacular views of the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the Alps. It’s flanked by the highest peaks of the Bernese Alps, where from the summit of the Eggishorn you’ll have not only the best views of the glacier, but also the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Then gaze to the south and you’ll see the highest peaks of the Swiss Alps which form the border with Italy, including the Matterhorn, the Monte Rosa, and the Dom, the highest peak entirely within Switzerland.

Where is the Aletsch Arena?

As the Aletsch Glacier swoops down the sunny side of the Bernese Alps, it forms a high ridge along its southern lateral moraine known as the Aletsch Arena. The three car-free resorts below this high ridge, Riederalp, Bettmeralp, and Fiescheralp, are all easily accessed by cable car from the Rhone Valley in the Swiss canton of Valais

Aletsch Glacier

The  Greater Aletsch Glacier, or Aletsch Glacier as it is known, is the largest glacier in the Alps. The head of the Aletsch Glacier is at Konkordia Platz where four smaller glaciers converge to form the main body of the glacier. At Konkordia Platz, the glacier is half a mile thick. Those who join a trek down the Aletsch Glacier will be standing on 10 billion tons of ice. As you descend the glacier, you become aware first-hand of the consequences and extent of glacial melt, since the Aletsch Glacier is currently considered to be in retreat.  

Hiking in the Aletsch Arena

The Aletsch Arena is one of the great hiking hubs of the Swiss Alps. You’ll have easy access to over 200 miles of well-marked and maintained mountain trails. Some of the best hiking options start with a cableway lift to the summits of the Eggishorn or the Bettmerhorn.

The premier hike in the Aletsch Arena is the Aletsch Ridge Hike starting at the Bettmerhorn and descending along the ridgeline. This hike offers viewpoints along the way, with many superb views of the Aletsch Glacier, and includes many small glacial lakes before entering the Aletsch Forest with stands of 1000-year old Swiss stone pines and larch.

The great Aletsch glacier seen from the hiking area of the Aletsch forest.

Greg Witt
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