There may be no country in the world as into hiking and mountaineering as Switzerland. The Alpine nation is criss-crossed by trekking trails and dotted with remote hiking shelters.
Most of those shelters are basic—a roof, a few beds, an outhouse, perhaps a wood burning stove. But one Swiss shelter is very much not basic: the Monte Rosa Hütte. It’s been nicknamed the Bergkristall (mountain crystal) and those who have visited are calling it “the mountain hut of the future.”
The hike to the Monte Rosa hut starts from Zermatt, an absurdly scenic Swiss resort town in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Head out after breakfast and you should reach the Monte Rosa Hütte by mid-afternoon—assuming you don’t get lost. A large network of hiking trails tentacle out from Zermatt so a good hiking guidebook and/or hiking GPS is suggested.
If you set out for the Monte Rosa Hütte on a sunny day you’ll see the hut well before you arrive glistening in the distance like a Frank Gehry designed mirage. That glistening is emblematic of the twin purposes of the Monte Rosa Hütte. The first is to be architecturally stunning. The second is to be environmentally friendly.
The architecture came courtesy of the Swiss Alpine Club and the design firm Bearth and Deplazes. They sought to be “exceptionally innovative” while also blending the four-story building in with the physical surroundings. The mirrored exterior was their way of reflecting back the surrounding glaciers and mountains.
The Zurich University of Science and Technology developed the green aspects of the Monte Rosa Hütte, a challenge since it is completely off the grid. For water they collected snow and rain. Electricity comes from solar panels. Heat is collected from multiple sources including—and we see no need to get into detail here—human waste. The Monte Rosa Hütte also has a small power plant that uses rapeseed oil for fuel.
We’re not sure how many mountains huts will exist like it in the future. We do know that the Monte Rosa Hütte is a cool, unusual place to spend the night today.
Staying at the hut: There are 120 beds at the Monte Rosa Hütte, making it what must be one of the largest “huts” in the world. Still, the hütte fills up way in advance—book early! For those who aren’t members of the club that runs the hun, nightly rates are 45 francs (around US$48 or €35) for an adult, 28 francs for a child (7 to 18 years old) and 9 francs for younger ones.
5 Cool Glamping (Glamorous Camping) Destinations
Zurich’s Airplane Airport Restaurant
Whitepod: The Eco-Ski Resort That Disappears ← it’s in Switzerland
The House That Slides
5 Amazing Towns on Perilous Cliff Sides