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September Hiking - Apparel/Shoes/Trails?

Our first trip to Switzerland was short, as it was part of a European trip crossing several countries. Of course we absolutely loved it and couldn't wait to book another trip back to enjoy it to the fullest. That next trip was planned for September 2020. I don't have to tell you what happened...

So here we are, planning a trip back for September 2021 and looking forward to 2 full weeks of hiking and views. We land in Zurich around 5 pm on Saturday and plan to stay in Lucerne until Monday, when we'll check out and head to Interlaken area where we'll stay until Saturday. At this time, we have the next week completely open, as we're toying with the idea of possibly driving into Germany and Austria again (we did this last time so I'm aware of the requirements there with crossing borders and the vignette).

We've booked a rather expensive place in Speiz with incredible views so we do plan to relax some there, but also want to hike the best hikes! Last time we hiked up to Oeschinensee lake (the lift had stopped by the time we got there so we hiked up) but would like to do the loop hike around the lake this time. There also some hiking around Mt Pilatus and Wengen we're planning. We also are wanting to conquer the Hardergrat trail...though I'm nervous about that one. I'm not afraid of heights, just of dying lol

I want to make sure we have proper footwear for this type of hiking. Right now we usually hike around the Appalachian mountains with regular walking/running shoes with no issues, but trails like Hardergrat seem a bit more intense and I want to be prepared. What is the best type of hiking gear for this type of hike? (Obviously comfort, durability and traction are important) And is it possible to get this for less than $150?? Most I've seen suggested are $200+

Also, bonus if you can suggest any favorite trails!

Posted by
1229 posts

I have backpacked fro many years (35?). I know boots are supposed to be good for ankle support, but I find I can navigate uneven terrain (including rocks) with more agility and comfort with trail runners. You would want a trail-runner-type shoe with more insulation and water resistance than a trail runner someone would wear strictly for trail running, which would be too lightweight for hikes. But certainly REI or similar could direct you to a few shoes to try when you tell them what you're after. Buy them well before your trip and wear them on a few hikes. REI will take a return even after wear (!) if they dont work for some reason

Posted by
1401 posts

I haven’t hiked that area of Switzerland but have hiked in the Val d’Anniviers area of the Pennines. I wore low rise, waterproof Salomon hiking shoes. Since then I’ve switched to Oboz, specifically the sawtooth II waterproof low rise. Both cost just under $150. You’ll want a stiffer sole then what sneakers provide (sharp rocks) and a waterproof membrane in case you cross streams or run-off. Whether you need a mid or high rise shoe depends on your ankles and how much weight you’re carrying.

Posted by
8753 posts

Keen Voyager. Under $200. Think about $130.00
Lightweight and durable.

Posted by
1497 posts

It is hard to suggest a boot for another person. Not that we are not trying to be helpful, but shoe/boot fitting is a very personal thing. I agree that your best bet is to visit an outdoor sports shop (REI or any local ones) and try on different models. Make sure that you wear the socks that you plan to wear on the hiking trails. In addition, trying on boots at home on your smooth hardwood/carpeted floor does not mimic walking on steep/rugged trails.

Posted by
881 posts

Go to a reliable outfitter and try on as many as possible. Low-rise or runners would probably work best. And do it now and start breaking them in daily. This is not something you want to do out on the trail. Consider using sticks as well if you have fall concerns.

Posted by
16503 posts

I have been hiking and backing for 52 years, including the entire John Muir Trail and lots of hiking in the Swiss Alps, Dolomites, and other mountain regions. Three years ago, in the middle of hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc, my regular hiking boots started causing so much pain to my anklebone that I could not walk in them. Fortunately we were in a village that night and I was able to buy a pair of lowcut hiking shoes and completed the trip pain-free. I have never gone back to ankle-high boots since. The shoes are Solomon Alp-X (waterproof) and it turns out 2 of our 3 female guides wore the same shoe.

That model has been discontinued so I am not specifically recommending it, just suggesting that you try a low-cut in spite of the oft-given advice that one needs "ankle support". That may apply when one is carrying a heavy overnight backpack, but for dayhiking even in rough terrain I and just about everyone I know uses a low-cut hiking shoe.

Oeschinensee is one of our favorite places in Switzerland, and our trips almost always include 1-3 nights at the mountain inn right on the lakeshore. Our last visit in 2018 ( before starting the TMB) was a little disappointing because the lake level was so low it was not as scenic as usual. When we first started going there in 2002, the lift was a very old chairlift with double chairs that went sideways. Now that has been replaced with a gondola.

There isn't a hiking trail that goes all around the lake (the cliffs above the shore opposite the mountain inn are climbers' terrain), but there is a panoramic trail that makes a loop above the lake, on the left side of the lakeshore access trail as you walk toward the lake. Here is a description and map:

There are also trAils one can hike to huts on either side: the Blümlisalphütte on the left side and Freündenhütte to the right ( again, as you face toward the lake). The Blümlisalphütte sits on the pass known as Hohtürli, gateway to the Kiental on the Alpine Pass through route. You can hike over and end up in a village with bus access to a train back to Kandersteg. Or you can hike up and back down to Oeschinensee on the same trail. It is a scenic high spot but I do not care much for the trail---it switchbacks up a scree slope and that becomes kind of slippery on the way down.

My favorite hike there is the one up to Freündenhûtte near the base of a glacier. The "trail" for part of the way utilizes ledges, with a cable against the rock for security. I am normally a wimp when it comes to exposure ( just looking at a photo of that knife-edge ridge on Hardergrat makes me queasy). But this hike was pure fun---the ledges are level and wide enough to feel safe, especially with the cable to hold onto, and they do not slope toward the abyss.

Since younare staying at Spiez, younprobablybonlybhave one day to hike at Oeschinsee, but there is time to do both the Panoramaweg loop above the lake (5.4 miles) and the short hike up to Freündenhütte. My husband and son each did a quick jaunt upmthere and back before breakfast. ( I elected to stay with the grandchildren and take them to the Rodelbahn along with their mom).

Another favorite hike in the Berner Oberland is the Panoramaweg from Schynge Platte to the First gondola top station. It is around 14 miles one-way but not a lot of elevation gain. Just don't miss the last gondola down to Grindelwald or you will have a loooong descent on foot.

Posted by
497 posts

I use low cut Keen trail hikers. Waterproof. My husband has bad ankles which roll easily (stepping off curbs wrong, etc.) so he uses waterproof ankle high boots which work for him. I cannot recommend enough that you get poles. These are so helpful on Swiss trails. We got collapsible ones that fit into our checked bag—one issue you will find is you cannot carry on hiking poles on flights, so if that is an issue just buy some in Switzerland.

We have hiked all over the BO and are headed back in late August ourselves. We get the BO pass. You can go all over. Hard to recommend because always weather dependent. Last time for two days just pouring rain so one day we just hiked down the Lauterbrunnen Valley which is flat, safe and easy during rain. The other rainy day we took the boat to Brienz and walked back along the lake trail. The sunny days we have hiked all over. Get the map out. This time besides BO we will be spending a lot of time in Montreux and will do lots of vineyard walks which work rain or shine.

Good luck!

Posted by
11404 posts

We’ll be there is Sept also for the umpteenth time. I favor a low cut hiker from Columbia, water resistant, and I use orthotics. This is my go to hiking shoe year round and not expensive.

Editing to add consider hiking sticks, wool socks, layers. I start out in a short sleeve tee shirt plus technical layer plus a windbreaker if needed. I am usually down to a T-shirt by lunch. Also, gloves are nice on the mornings you find frost on the higher trails. Those sticks will save your life if there is residual ice! (Yes, in Sept.)

Posted by
336 posts

September 2019, we spent 3 days hiking the most popular trails around the BO. I had Nike Zoom running shoes which worked fine, my feet felt great after 3 full days of hiking. But they are designed for road running and I could see possible issues if we were to venture on to more challenging trails with mud and rocks. When I got home, Google/Facebook started sending me ads (because they are always listening) for Nike Pegasus Trail running shoes. I tried one pair and now I have 3. I like them alot. They are lightweight yet sturdy and have larger treads for better grip when trail running. They are extremely comfortable and they come in wild color combinations. They retail for around $150, but I've never paid more than $100 as I always wait for a sale or clearance. I am currently breaking in pair #3 for our September trip to Greek Isles and Peloponnese.

Posted by
1315 posts

If your driving to Oeschinensee you could continue on to the Lötschberg Tunnel (27-29 CHf oneway). Drive the car on the train and your in Valais, and not that far from Zermatt and Saas Fee (have to park the car and take a train/bus to these two). Käsefondue and Fendant. Just depends how far you want to go and how expensive and complicated you make it. I'm a LOWA fan and have four pair, low cut and boots for all seasons. Not cheap, but you might find some under $200. They tend to be a size too small for me.

Posted by
88 posts

Oh my goodness - thank you to everyone who replied!!! You were (almost) all so helpful!
I love the amount of time and advice some of you are willing to share! Thank you thank you!!!

Posted by
768 posts

Favorite trails: click on my name and you'll find a link to our dozen favorite trails around the Wengen area, along with maps and pics. As for shoes, I've worn tennis shoes on all of those trails, with no problem. You'll be able to see in the pics that most of the trails are just smooth gravel.

Posted by
271 posts

I hiked in the Berner Oberland region and around Zermatt in mid-Sept through early October and wore Saloman X Ultra waterproof shoes with Smartwool socks over thin polypro socks for wicking, which is what I wear on day hikes in Virginia and North Carolina mountains. I also found hiking poles helpful on the trails, especially coming down.

Depending on where I was and the weather, I wore either a short or long sleeve polypro undershirt with a long or short-sleeve shirt and quick dry hiking pants. I also wore a broad brim hat for sun protection.

I packed a light synthetic fill vest and a lightweight sweater, rain pants, a fleece stocking hat, wool gloves, and a Marmot Gore-Tex jacket with hood. There were days I needed most of those, especially higher up and early in the day on several cloudy days.

One hike I especially enjoyed near Interlaken was the Niederhorn to the Gemmenalphorn . It offers great views of the lakes and of Eiger, the Moench and the Jungfrau. You can take the cable car up from the Beatenberg Station or you can hike up. There are a number of hiking routes to choose from.

All the best,


Posted by
33004 posts

You were (almost) all so helpful!

It is sad you feel that way. I just went back and read each reply and they all looked helpful to me....

Posted by
88 posts

@shoe thank you!!! I will definitely check those out!

@fcraymond76 that's awesome information! Thank you! I actually ended up ordering some Salomon but they were just a little too big so I had to exchange them. I'm excited to try them out! Seems like a good hiking shoe for the cost.
Also, we frequent the VA/NC mountains (mostly VA). We just did the Mt Pleasant hike this past weekend for the first time. It wasn't bad - a good workout. I prefer scramblers like Old Rag and Dragon's Tooth. We are probably doing Devil's Marble Yard again this coming weekend. If you have any suggestions for that area as well I'd love to hear them!