Visit This Popular European Ski Hot Spot In The Fall And Avoid Crowds

Covering an astounding 65% of Switzerland, the Swiss Alps are home to dazzling lakes, medieval architecture, and a captivating landscape framed by culminating peaks. Perhaps best known for its vast, dramatic ski slopes that beckon Olympic hopefuls, the Alps are just as spectacular during autumn. While there isn't yet enough snow for skiing, the Alps are still one of the top places to visit during the fall season.

For the ambitious wayfarer, diverse trail networks spread over the peaks and snake through valleys, creating an exciting wilderness playground for backpackers and seasoned mountaineers. If climbing culminating peaks isn't your thing, capturing the vibrant blanket of fall foliage that covers the land will result in snapshots sure to make your Instagram feed pop. 

Aside from the montage of autumn colors, visiting in late September through the end of October means the landscape is free of most tourists before thick snow covers the mountains. While the slopes remain closed until the snowy winter weather arrives, Switzerland's moderate climate and cooler temperatures create an inviting fall atmosphere for exploring the countryside. From scenic train rides through sweeping valleys to fall festivals, the Swiss Alps are the perfect fall getaway.

Get in the autumn spirit with fall festivities

Is anything cozier than a scenic train ride snaking through the Alps in the fall? Hop aboard the Glacier Express, the Swiss version of the Polar Express. This picturesque ride carries travelers on an eight-hour journey from St. Moritz to the mountain resort town of Zermatt. The European mountain range shines in the fall when the leaves begin to turn and show off their warm golden hues.

Grindelwald offers several hiking trails in the Bernese Alps of western Switzerland. If the Harry Potter reference isn't enough to beckon voyagers to this mountainside village, the cozy cabin perched above glaciers will be. The extensive trail network includes a route to Bachalpsee, one of the most stunning lakes in the region. Luminous, clear waters are framed by snow-capped mountain peaks on this captivating canvas. Stay at the Baregg Hut, a short hike from Pfingstegg, and spend a long weekend exploring the mountains. The Poschiavo Valley and Rhine Gorge are also popular hiking excursions in the fall. A spectacular montage of yellow, brown, and orange birch and beechwood trees cover the alpine landscape in September and October.

While November and December promise a white winter wonderland, visit in fall to embrace the long-standing Bavarian tradition, Oktoberfest. While several major cities across Europe hold Oktoberfest festivities, the Alps' northern region, Lucerne, hosts an annual festival every September. The event features live music, crispy comfort foods, and Bavarian-style beer mugs passed around in cheer.

Capture Switzerland's stunning fall foliage

Switzerland's cobalt blue lakes contrast beautifully with its dense forests set ablaze with oranges and yellows once autumn settles in. Nearly all regions of the Swiss Alps are aglow with fall colors come mid-October. Travelers hoping to catch glimpses of the captivating foliage are invited to check Switzerland's fall foliage map which reflects the changing landscape and highlights areas with the most vibrant colors.

Zermatt is home to some world-renowned hiking trails with an impressive backdrop of golden larch trees in the fall. The Brienz Rothorn Trail is an especially popular route that leads hikers on a trek with panoramic views of the Bernese Alps and Swiss Jura Mountains. If your legs need a rest, take the Matterhorn Glacier Ride, a cable car that elevates you from Zermatt to the top of Little Matterhorn, also known as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. As the highest cable car station in Europe, you will be treated to unparalleled views of the famous Matterhorn mountain.

Ticino and Bern are also excellent scouting sights to marvel at the colorful thickets dotting the land. Forests of chestnut trees blanket the hillsides of Ticino, boasting a bountiful harvest of chestnuts in the fall months. Tucked within the Kander Valley of the Bern region, Blausee Lake is a hidden gem within the Alps and one of Switzerland's clearest lakes. Between the crystal-blue waters and surrounding auburn woodlands, this nearly 50-acre nature park creates a mirage-like vision for fall foliage seekers.