Hiking the Alps from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc

The Swiss are the inventors and exemplars of “hiking with options.” If you are eager to cut the day short after too many hours in an Alpine rain, you can board the cog railway back to town sooner than you’d planned. If your knees are sore after too many switchbacks up the side of a mountain, just take the gondola down.

Not only are the Alps crisscrossed with well-marked Wanderwegen, or hiking trails, but they’ve also nearly all been conquered by one or more forms of transportation. The Swiss (and French) have dug tunnels, laid track and flown aerial cables to even the most daunting locations.

Europe’s highest-elevation train station is near the top of the Jungfrau, reached through a tunnel more than four miles long through the Eiger and the Monch. Mont Blanc, the Alps’ highest peak, is approached via a two-stage cable-car ride from Chamonix. The conveyances include gondolas and funiculars, cog railways and narrow-gauge trains.

But mostly you are powered by our own two feet.

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