Enjoy a meal, stay overnight, or stay longer to climb the Barrhorn
Medium & strenuous loop hikes (T2) | Rock climbing & mountain biking nearby
Turtmann hut (Turtmannhütte/Cabane de Tourtemagne) sits at 2,519 m directly across from the Turtmann glacier. The snowy twin peaks of the Bishorn — both more than 4,100 m — tower above, while the turquoise waters of the Turtmannsee glitter below.
The hut is at the end of the Turtmanntal in the Swiss canton of Valais/Wallis. Located between Leuk and Visp, this valley runs more or less parallel to the one leading up to Zermatt — but is far quieter and less developed than its famous neighbour. Old timber huts called Stafeln dot the mountainsides; these were used as stages when bringing cattle to summer grazing pastures until the 1970s and are still only inhabited in summer.
A number of trails start from the tiny hamlet of Gruben/Meiden. These range from easy road walks to Turtmann lake (Turtmannsee) to more demanding trails along the valley sides.
Turtmannhütte makes a lovely lunch or drink stop on such a day hike. There are also mountain bike and rock climbing possibilities, and many people stay overnight to climb the Barrhorn the next day.
Two hiking trails are described below; see the nearby mountain fun section for other options and activities.
JUMP STRAIGHT TO
Getting there & away
The entry point to the Turtmanntal is the town of Turtmann — located near Sion and Sierre, between the towns of Leuk and Visp in the Swiss canton of Valais/Wallis.
You can drive from Turtmann to Gruben/Meiden during the late spring, summer and early autumn. Depending on your trail, you can either park here or 3 km up the valley at the Parkplatz Sänntum, which is the end of the sealed road.
By public transport, take the train or bus to Turtmann-Seilbahn LTUO, then a tiny cable car to Oberems. From here a bus runs to Gruben/Meiden between mid June and mid September. You can ask the bus driver to take you further, but s/he may refuse (as happened to us).
Note that the road between Oberems to Gruben closes completely between early November and spring.
What to bring
You don’t need any special equipment to walk to Turtmannhütte in summer or early autumn. You may need skis or snowshoes in winter and early spring. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, take enough food and water, and don’t forget sun protection. If you’re staying overnight at the hut during the times when the hut wardens are present, then you need to bring a pillowcase and inner sleeping bag.
Turtmann hut info
The hut wardens are present at the following times:
- 4th weekend in March until the 1st weekend of May
- 1st weekend of June until the 3rd weekend of September
During these times you can buy lunch and drinks, and stay overnight in a dormitory with dinner and breakfast included. You need to reserve a bed in advance.
►Turtmann hut website (French & German)
Gruben has one hotel with a restaurant. Apart from this and the Turtmann hut, there are no shelters or restaurants along the trail — although I guess in an emergency you could huddle against a chalet or the Turtmannsee dam buildings. You can park in Gruben/Meiden and at the Parkplatz Sänntum at the end of the road; note that you need to pay.
►Hotel Schwartzhorn website (English & German)
Dangers & annoyances
The hike to Turtmann hut is not dangerous, but guard against:
- Heat stroke/dehydration
- Stomach bugs & parasites
- Sudden water-level rises under the dam
Hiking trail descriptions & maps: Turtmannhütte
The trails from Gruben/Meiden are clear, well marked, and not too steep or exposed. They range from a road along the valley to Turtmannsee (T1) to T2/T3 mountain trails on the valley sides.
Medium partial loop hike
Gruben/Meiden – Turtmänna gorge – Turtmannsee – Turtmannhütte– Turtmannsee – Blüomatt – Gruben/Meiden
From Gruben/Meiden follow either the road or hiking track along the left side of the Turtmänna river to Vorder Sänntum. If you come by car, you can save these 3 km by parking at the Parkplatz Sänntum. From the parking area, first follow the trail to Holustei then take the fork to the right to get to Turtmänna gorge. This trail comes back to the road after crossing the gorge; keep on the road until Turtmannsee. From the lake, cross the dam to the left and follow the signs to the hut. This section of the track is steep but not difficult.
To return, follow the trail back down but turn left to reach the opposite side of the Turtmannsee. Walk around this side of the lake and follow the road back to Vorder Sänntum; then take the 185 “Turtmanntaler Aussichtweg” trail to walk back to Gruben/Meiden on the other side of the river to that which you walked up.
Strenuous loop hike
Gruben/Meiden – Giigi Oberstafel – Turtmannhütte – Turtmannsee – Bitzu Oberstafel – Meidu Mittelstafel – Gruben/Meiden
Highest point: 2,519 m
Height gain: approx 1,380 m
Trail level: T2
Technical details: steep in parts
Distance: 19.1 km
From Gruben/Meiden follow the 185 “Turtmanntaler Aussichtweg” trail climbing up and then running along the left side of the valley. Leave this trail just before Holustei by keeping to the left and staying high until you reach Turtmannhütte.
To return, take the trail down to Turtmansee. Keep to the left side of the lake; once you reach the road, take the trail to the left to Bitzu Oberstafel and Meidu Mittelstafel. At Meidu Mittelstafel, turn right onto the 6 “Alpenpässe Weg” trail to descend to the valley, then turn left at the T-junction with the 185 “Turtmanntaler Aussichtweg” trail to reach Gruben.
Nearby mountain fun
Eating & sleeping
You’ll find more eating and sleeping options in Oberems and further down the valley in Turtmann and Visp.
Other hiking options
Four trails of note are:
- Climb the Barrhorn — the highest Swiss Alps peak with no need for mountaineering equipment
- The 185 “Turtmanntaler Aussichtweg” — a 13-km loop trail from Gruben running high along the Turtmanntal valley then descending to Turtmannsee and returning along the Turtmänna river.
- The long-distance Matterhorn tour runs through Gruben
- The long-distance 6 “Alpine Passes” trail also runs through Gruben.
There are no official mountain bike trails in the area; however the road to Turtmannsee is suitable for biking.
The Turtmanntal does not have any ski lifts; however there are several mountaineering ski possibilities. More information from the Turtmannhütte website (French & German).
You can watch the cows head up to their mountain pastures in early summer (inalpe in French; Alpaufzugs in German), then come back down in autumn (désalpe/Alpabzugs).
Around 130 cows of Valais’ Herens breed compete to be crowned queen in the Alpe Rotigen — one of the largest traditional Swiss cow fights (Combat de Reines in French; Ringkuhkämpfe in German). The event was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19, but hopefully will be back in 2021!
►Alpe Rotigen website (German)
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