My partner and I will be in Switzerland for a river tour October 25-Nov3, 2021. The tour takes in Lucerne and Basel before getting on the boat. We are thinking of flying in earlier to Zurich and taking in some hikes before the tour. We are fine with using public transport and branching out in the country. We are wondering if the weather will be such that hiking is a no go. Can we hike? Where should we go? Thanks in advance for any advice.
Since you are asking specifically about hiking, you might want to look at this site: http://hikersbay.com/climate/october/switzerland/zurich?lang=en
Quite cool temps, only a small chance of sun, high risk of rain and fog, and sunset around 5pm. (All on average, YMMV). Doesn't sound ideal for mountain hiking.
Snow starts to become commonplace in mid-October at the higher elevations. have a look at the various webcams in the region to see for yourself. http://www.swisspanorama.com
We were in Murren and Bern last year mid October and the weather had some really nice, sunny days - highs around 50's and then foggy, light snow weather.
I like hiking around Pontresina and the Engadine region but it's a 5-hour train trip from the Zurich Airport. The feasibility of that location might depend on where you need to be to begin your boat tour.
We have been there in the fall but maybe not that late - I'm not sure how cold it might be.
Some hotels and restaurants in the mountains close in October and re-open later for ski season. Also, some cable cars, etc. shut down for maintenance in late October, so check about transportation in the areas you plan to visit.
Here are a few that I am familiar with.
From Zurich to Thun is a 1:30 train ride. There are several hikes in the Thun area, and you have some great views of the Alps. Or you can take the train further to Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen if you want to get further into the Bernese Oberland region.
From Thun or Interlaken, you can take a bus to Beatenbucht; then a funicular to Beatenberg, and a cable car to Niederhorn. There are nice hikes from there that are lower than the high Alps hikes and that offer great views of the Alps and Lake Thun. I hiked from Niederhorn to Gemmenalphorn and back (a great half day hike) and saw an ibix.
The Niederhorn area transportation is still running in late October/early November:
If you stay in Lauterbrunnen, you have more convenient access to hikes on both sides of the valley. However, the views of the Alps are not as grand; there are still some great views, though. Staying in Murren offers grand views of the Alps, especially in the afternoon/early evenings. It takes longer to get to hikes on the Wengen side, though.
There are nice hikes in the Lauterbrunnen valley if it’s too cold or snowy in the higher regions. You can even take a bus up the valley, then hike back to town along a river. There trails along the river between Lauterbrunnen and Interlocken; again, you could take the train and get off at a station, then hike back to Lauterbrunnen.
The most convenient Lauterbrunnen to Murren route (which is the cable car to Grutschalp and the mountain railway to Murren) will probably be closed in late October.
For example, in 2019, the Allmendhubel funicular closed on Oct 13 and the Grutschalp to Muerren service from Lauterbrunnen closed for maintenance 10/21-11/8.
You can get to Murren from Lauterburren by taking the bus to Stechelbery and riding the cable car to Murren.
From Murren, there are several great day hikes, either the North Face Trail or Mountain View Trail. With the Allmendhubel funicular closed, you would have to walk from Murren to Allmendhubel, which adds about another 2k to the distance. You can also hike from Murren to Winteregg or the Grutschalp station and back (this parallels the train route, and it’s not too steep (about an hour ten minutes one way).
The walk from Murren to Gimmelwald along the road is pleasant with great views as well. It’s steeper hiking back, so you could take the cable car back. There are several trails in the Gimmelwald area as well, including one leading to Sprutz Waterfall (which is also available from the North Face Trail.
Here’s a link to the Mountain View Trail:
In 2019, from Lauterbrunnen, you could also take a train to Wengen, then take the Wengen-Männlichen Aerial Cableway, so that’s an option the first few days you’re there depending on the 2021 schedule.
From Mannlichen you can hike to Kleine Scheidegg and take the train back to Lauterbrunnen.
Here are links to sites with great information about hikes in the area:
There are hikes in the Lucerne area, but I haven't hiked there.
All the best,
We have gone to Switzerland every year in late Sept/Oct since 2015 (except of course this year). Our favorite place is the Jungfrau Region/Lauterbrunnen Valley. It really starts to close down in mid-October. In 2019 some hotels were closing by October 8 and more were due to close, along with some lifts, on the following Monday, the 14th. So if you go, be prepared for limited access and services as the area prepares for ski season. You might even get some early snow!