When Ric and I talk about hiking in Europe, we immediately engage in a mental tug-of-war between the Val Gardena of Italy and the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. It is a very tough choice. Italy has the edge on cuisine and affordability, but the trains of Switzerland, the lifts and cogwheel trains in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and the dramatic peaks are simply delightful. In the next few posts, I will share with you some of our favorite hikes in the area.
Tucked in a valley between mountains that compete for your time and attention, Lauterbrunnen is a perfect base camp for us. The peaks of the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger stand guard to the east while the Schilthorn is just out of sight to the west. Each side of the valley is laced with appealing trails and vistas with trains, lifts, and buses synchronized to serve the traveler. One can easily spend a week here doing different hikes daily — all “easy” hikes at that!
We first visited the area in winter, searching for some winter wandern or snow hiking. Our first hike that trip was from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren. Now it is our traditional first-day hike in any season. The trail is easy, it only takes about 90 minutes, and the little town of Mürren offers great opportunities for sustenance be it lunch or simply a snack. Plus there are optional additional hikes and touring to do by foot or by lift out of Mürren.
Starting in Lauterbrunnen, take the gondola to Grütschalp where most of your fellow travelers will board the little vintage train for a quick ride to Mürren. This is clearly the thing to do if you are, by any chance, sleeping in Mürren and thus burdened with luggage. If you are simply out for a day hike, take some time to enjoy the view of the three peaks before seeking the trail the enters the woods just beyond the train station.
This well-groomed path (even in winter!) meanders through the woods with gentle ups-and-downs, frequently in sight of the train tracks and the little train chugging along with its baggage cart. Soon you arrive at Winteregg, roughly the halfway point and the terminus of a ski run in winter with an intermediate stop for the train and a restaurant. Continue on with intermittent views of the mountains, now mostly flat and following the tracks still largely forested, a final 40 minutes-or-so to Mürren. Wander through the town. Perhaps a stop at the bakery for cappuccino and a pastry, or move on to the beautiful deck at Hotel Alpenruh for lunch with a view.
Satiated and refreshed, you are faced with several options. Nice weather might call you to venture to Piz Gloria on the Schilthornbahn. You can take the funicular from Mürren to Almendhubel to enjoy further hiking if you still have the energy.
An easy-hiker option is to walk down to cute little Gimmelwald (20 minutes), past perfectly-maintained Swiss houses with neat gardens and fat rabbits. Gimmelwald is a Rick Steves favorite and worth a walk-through to see what a tiny mountain village is like. There are limited options for dining and sleeping but it is quaint and reminiscent of a simpler time. At Gimmelwald, one can take a dramatic gondola to the valley floor where the yellow Swiss Post Bus arrives promptly for a short ride back to Lauterbrunnen. Or you can take a peaceful walk through the valley, about 90 minutes, stopping if you are so motivated at Trümmelbach Falls and pausing to watch base jumpers hurl themselves from the cliffs with their colorful parachutes.
Click through the slideshow for more great trail views.
No special equipment is required for this hike. Sturdy shoes, yes, with hiking boots and trekking poles optional (we always take ours). As always, prepare for the changeable weather in the mountains. Carry a jacket even if the day starts out warm, water and snacks should be in your daypack.