“Awesome views of the Matterhorn, Gornergrat Glacier, and Zermatt in the valley below.
— Lost Justpastnowhere
This ride is all about the views. Wake up early and use lights to climb up to the Schwarzsee to watch the sunrise. The first 8-10 km are on asphalt and then it becomes a gravel road. Take a break and some photos of the Matterhorn (Monte Cervina to the Italians) and admire the solitude before the lift opens. Check out the Virgin of the Snow chapel on the Schwarzsee. Then start the long downhill back into Zermatt. Be aware that some sections are steep with loose gravel, but it's mostly a gravel road all the way down.
Need to Know
Zermatt is a car-free city. If you drive, you'll have to park in Täsch. There is a large parking garage at the station and trains run to Zermatt every 10-20 minutes during the day. Of course the train system in Switzerland is excellent, so it may be wiser to forego a car. Just be sure to get a velo ticket (or a half fare ticket) for the bike - you don't want to be caught on the trains in Switzerland without a valid ticket.
If you want to skip the climbing take the Matterhorn Express lift. This will drop you off just above the Schwarzsee. Then continue counter-clockwise for the best descent. From the top of the lift, the clockwise direction is probably suitable for children 8-10 years old. If you do take the lift, be sure to get a separate ticket for the bike.
Head south from the center of Zermatt (towards the Matterhorn) along the Zmutt River. Cross over to the left side and take Schluhmattstrasse which passes by the valley station for the Matterhorn Express lift (or take the Matterhorn Express lift if you don't like climbing). After about 0.2 mi, turn right onto Moosstrasse, crossing a small creek. Follow Moosstrasse until it passes the middle station for the Matterhorn Express lift.
At this point, you've climbed about 1000 ft in 2.8 miles. Proceed past the middle station and continue climbing, or get on the lift if you've already had enough climbing. Shortly after the middle station, the way becomes forested and parallels the Zmutt River. If it happens to be foggy like it was when I rode it, you can probably hear the river but not see it.
At about mile four, you'll come to a small artificial lake. Continue climbing! You reach the tree line at about 5.6 miles near the Restaurant Stafelalp. At this point, the climb becomes significantly steeper with 800 ft in the next mile. Finally, at this point, there is short reprieve in the climbing, and you have only to contend with the reduced oxygen at high altitude.
Just before the climbing starts again at about 7.5 mi, there should be an overlook down into Zermatt. (It was foggy at this point when I rode this). So enjoy (or pretend you enjoyed as the case may be) the view and then continue climbing. At about 8.5 miles, you start to get the first glimpses of the Matterhorn, and as a bonus you've only got 300 ft of climbing left to the top. If it's not foggy, stop here to take the obligatory photo.
So I may have mentioned that it was a little foggy when I did this ride. I woke up at 5:30 AM to ride up the mountain to take pictures of the sunrise and the *@&% mountain decided to be foggy. I stopped at the top of the still closed Matterhorn Express lift to sulk and/or at least enjoy the solitude. The Schwarzeee Restaurant at the lift was still closed, so I couldn't even enjoy a beverage. But thirty minutes later the fog broke and there was this beautiful view of the Matterhorn in front of me. Off to the left is the Gornergrat Glacier and the Monte Rosa to the Italians. Behind you lays Zermatt, which on this day was revealed under a curtain of fog.
Once you've finished admiring yourself for finishing the climb, stopping infrequently (and then of course only to take pictures :) ), reward yourself with the downhill which starts on the gravel road that passes between the lift and the restaurant. Before you get too far down, stop to take a look at Zermatt in the valley below where you should be in as few as 30 minutes.
The downhill is a little steeper than the climb, dropping about 2000 ft in the next three miles and there is loose gravel, so be prepared to deal with it. Along the way, you'll pass by the valley station for the Furggsattelexpress lift and parallel the Furggbach Creek for a short distance. This gravel road will take you back to the middle station for the Matterhorn Express lift where you can take the Moosstrasse back to Zermatt.