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Hiking in the Berner Oberland - September 9-24, 2019

To celebrate my 70th birthday, I took a trip to Switzerland to do some hiking in the Swiss Alps. My friend GP and I left the U.S. and arrived in Zurich on Sept. 9. After renting a car, we drove to Grindelwald and settled in at the apartment in a Swiss chalet that we had rented through VRBO -- $140 per night for two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, sitting room, and a wonderful balcony with a view of the Eiger, glaciers and other mountains.

This was my third trip to the Berner Oberland. We had previously stayed in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and spent a fair amount of time in Gimmelwald, Murren, Wengen, Stechelberg and Interlaken. All of them are great but, for this trip, I chose Grindelwald for our base mainly due to the proximity to the hikes we wanted to take and the availability of restaurants. Perhaps most important, we found a good deal on what looked like a nice flat/apartment with a mountain view.

We were concerned about the weather. Before leaving the U.S., I had checked the RS Forum and someone had just posted that it had been raining for four days straight in Murren. Fortunately, it was sunny when we arrived. We hoped the good weather would last because we had many hikes planned. I'll describe how our trip evolved, with details on the hikes we actually took. (To be continued)

Posted by
49 posts

Quick background - On my two prior trips with my wife and another couple, I had spent over three weeks in the Berner Oberland and taken more than a dozen easy-to-intermediate level hikes in the BO. We also took three-day weekend trips to Lucerne, Lausanne and Zermatt -- and day trips to Bern, Thun, Meiringen, Interlaken, Murten and Kandersteg.

For this trip, I wanted to tackle some of the more difficult hikes that I had been researching for several years. I have my self-imposed limits, however. I'm very reluctant to take hikes over four hours long and that involve more than a total of 2,500 feet of elevation gains and losses.

I love the BO and believe it is one of, if not the best, hiking location in the world. My traveling partner and long-time friend GP is an avid hiker. Although I'm relatively fit and do a fair amount of hiking, he's in better shape and also 15 years younger than me. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to complete some of the more difficult hikes. But I wanted to give it a try -- I'm not getting any younger ....

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49 posts

LIST OF HIKES

I'd love to be able to do some of the more difficult hikes in the Berner Oberland like (1) Murren to Schilthorne, (2) Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen, or (3) First Station to Faulhorn Hotel to Schynige Platte. But I know they're all too difficult for me at 70 years of age. Also, I have a chronic knee problem with arthritis (the medical term is "chondromalacia patella femoral") from a long ago sports injury that flares up if I overindulge in any sports activity. But I'm fine if I pace myself and I'm careful about how much I undertake.

On prior trips to the Berner Oberland, I had taken more than a dozen easy-to-intermediate hikes like:
1. Männlichen Station to Kleine Scheidegg
2. Grutschalp to Murren (and return)
3. First Station to Bachsee (and return)
4. Gimmelwald to Murren (and return)
5. Allmendhubel (top) to Pension Suppenalp to Pension Sonnenberg to Murren
6. Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen (along the river)
7. Schynige Platte wanderweg (circle hike)
8. Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher Station (and return)
9. Kandersteg lift (top) to Oeschinensee (and return)
10. Wengen Station to edge of cliff (and return)
11. Stechelberg to Berghaus Trachsellauenen (and return)
12. Kleine Scheidegg to Wengenalp

All of these hikes have very modest elevation gains (or losses) and can be completed in less than three hours, with most hikes lasting about two to two and a half hours (and a few longer hikes and some hikes between one and two hours).

For better or worse, this time I wanted to test my limits by attempting a series of more difficult hikes that were described in detail in my hiking resource books:
Reynolds, Kev, The Bernese Alps: A Walker's Guide
Lipton, Chet, Walking Easy in the Swiss Alps: A Hiking Guide for Active Adults
Alspach, Philip, Swiss Bernese Oberland: A Travel Guide with Specific Trips to the Mountains

In any event, based on my research on hiking in the BO, here is the long list of potential hikes that I had compiled:

  1. The Eiger Trail
  2. North Face Trail (out of Murren)
  3. Schynige Platte to Weber Hut (and return)
  4. Grosse Scheidegg to First Station (and return)
  5. Kandersteg lift (top) to Oeschinensee to Unterbargli (and return)
  6. Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen summit (and return)
  7. Stechelberg to Berghotel Obersteinberg (and return)
  8. Gimmelwald to Rotstock Hut (and return)
  9. Gimmelwald Sefinen Valley (along river) to glacier field (and return)
  10. Gimmelwald to Sprutz waterfall to Bryndli (and return)
  11. Grosse Scheidegg to Grindelwald
  12. Grosse Scheidegg to Schwarzhorn (and return)
  13. Grindelwald to Pfingstegg (lift) to Stieregg Hotel to Milchbach to Hotel Wetterhorn
  14. Männlichen Station to Alpiglen to Grindelwald
  15. Murren to Suppenalp to Rotstock Hut to Murren
  16. Alpiglen to Eiger Trail to Kleine Scheidegg
  17. Grosse Scheidegg to Bachsee to Faulhorn to First Station
  18. Kandersteg lift (top) to Oeschinensee to Frunden Hut (and return)

All (or almost all) of the above hikes have less than 2,500 feet of total elevation gains and losses, and they can be completed in less than four hours (maintaining a steady moderate pace). From the description of these hikes, I believed that I could handle them (being my usual optimistic self). I recognized, however, that I might be pushed to my limits to complete some of the more difficult hikes (like the Eiger Trail). Fortunately, most of the hikes were "out and back," so I could stop at any time and return to the starting point if a hike proved to be too strenuous for me.

Also, I had my friend GP as my insurance policy. If the going got tough, I knew he'd encourage (goad) me into finishing the hike. If I broke my leg or twisted my ankle badly so I couldn't hike, I had faith that he would somehow get me back home. In a worst-case scenario, he'd be able to contact Swiss emergency rescue ....

(To be continued)

Posted by
59 posts

Hi Bill,

Thanks for this report! My husband and I love to hike, and plan to do more hiking in Switzerland one day. I'm looking forward to reading more about your hikes on this trip.

Posted by
49 posts

Hike #1 (The Eiger Trail) - Of all the hikes on my wish list, The Eiger Trail was my first and highest priority. This hike goes between the Eigergletscher Station (elevation 7500 feet) and Alpiglen Station (elevation 5200 feet). I seriously considered where to start the hike. In general, it's easier on my knees to go uphill, but I get tired a lot faster, so there are substantial trade-offs. I decided we should start at the Eigergletscher Station for two reasons: (1) to avoid a very steep incline leaving from the Alpiglen Station, and (2) although it also had some major ascents (and descents), the first half of the trail from the Eigergletscher Station went directly below the North Face of the Eiger -- which I really wanted to see and experience. If I could only do one more hike for the rest of my life, this was it.

The day started slowly, as we were both still getting adjusted to the time difference. After some cereal, yogurt and a couple of cups of coffee, we took the mountain train from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg. You have to change trains there to go to the Eigergletscher Station. Once there, we noticed (1) a drop in temperature from about 65 degrees (in Grindelwald) to less than 50 degrees, and (2) the much thinner air at 7500 feet. Still, it was a beautiful day -- sunny and crystal clear. We took a quick look at the Eiger glacier and then took off on the hike.

The first leg of the hike is downhill at a moderate decline (for a few hundred yards). The next three legs are a fairly serious ascent, followed by another descent and then a major ascent. This last stage involved going up many rough stone steps built into the trail, some over a foot high. To avoid weakening my bad (right) knee, I hoisted it up first and then used my left leg to push my body up to the next step. I had to stop to catch my breath maybe two or three times on the first three legs. Because of the steepness of the fourth leg (ascent), I needed to stop five or six times before reaching the top which happened to be a large plateau -- directly under the North Face of the Eiger.

I was tired, but the hike had been spectacular so far. Even my very high expectations had been exceeded. I was a very happy camper. We decided to rest for 15 minutes on the plateau -- drink some water and eat some trail mix. There were many large boulders where you could sit, observe the Eiger (and all the surrounding mountains), and soak in the sun.

I noticed a group of four hikers approaching the plateau from the opposite direction. They were about my age and stopped at a boulder close to where GP and I were sitting. We nodded and I went over to chat. It turned out they were from South Carolina. They confirmed that the ascent from Alpiglen Station had been extremely steep. While chatting it came out that this trip was in celebration of my 70th birthday. The fellow I was talking to said, "I'm 66 and my wife is 64. Our friends here are 63 and 62."

During the remainder of the hike, I didn't see anyone older than my new friends from South Carolina. From what I observed, I think I may have been the oldest person on the Eiger Trail on that particular day.

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49 posts

Hike #2 (North Face Trail - out of Murren) - This hike is described in detail in the RS Switzerland guidebook. It is a wonderful hike with stunning mountain views. Although about the same length and not at all that easy, it's significantly less strenuous than the Eiger Trail.

After about 30 minutes on the trail, we had just left Suppenboden and were climbing uphill toward Schiltalp when we encountered an elderly Swiss gentleman sitting on a wooden bench with a great view of the three major mountains in the BO -- Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. He had his lunch spread out on the bench, but he moved his food so I'd have a place to sit down. He commented on the beautiful day for hiking, and I asked him how often he hikes. He said. "I live outside of Zurich and take day hikes once or twice a week. From my home, I can reach most areas in Switzerland in less than two hours drive."

"What are your favorite hikes or hiking destinations?" I asked.

He thought for a minute of so. He shook his head. "I can't respond. There are too many to list. This trail is very nice, but I was on a much harder trail last week over by Rigi. Even though I'm 85 years old, I can still revisit all of my favorite hikes at least once a year."

What a brilliant example of the Swiss approach to hiking! I have no doubt that he could hike me into the ground without any problem.

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49 posts

Hike #3 (Schynige Platte) - To get to Schynige Platte, you need to take the cog train from Wilderswil which takes close to an hour but is a great ride up the mountain. Once on the high plateau at the top, there is a wanderweg trail that forms a circle hike with views of Interlaken and the two lakes in addition to views of the Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau trio.

One of the classic Alp hikes in the Berner Oberland starts at Schynige Platte and goes to the Faulhorn mountain hotel (with 360 degree views) and then on to the First Station for a return to Grindelwald. I knew that hike would take me over six hours with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gains and losses -- too difficult for me unfortunately. However, the trail to Faulhorn passes by the Weber Hut along the way. GP and I decided to take that route and see how far we'd get on the mountain trail. We didn't make it all the way to the Weber Hut, but covered a lot of ground in that direction.

We eventually decided to turn around and return to Schynige Platte for a late lunch at the restaurant with the fabulous views of the mountains. So, we had a third excellent hike -- this one took about three and a half hours. You can spend the night at the hotel at Schynige Platte -- and see an incredible sunset and sunrise. Also, there is an alpine flower garden close to the station at Schynige Platte. As there are many options for short and long hikes, a trip to Schynige Platte is highly recommended.

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Hike #4 (Oescheninsee) - Kandersteg is about a 35-40 minute drive from Grindelwald, and Kandersteg is also accessible by train. There are many trails and hiking opportunities around the village of Kandersteg. Our destination for today's hike was Oescheninsee which has been described as one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Switzerland. I had been there one time before and can confirm that description.

We took the lift to the Oescheninsee Station. There's a wide gravel trail that goes from the top of the lift directly to the south end of the lake where there are two restaurants and you can rent rowboats. It only takes 30-40 minutes to get to the lake on this relatively flat and easy trail.

Alternatively, there's a smaller trail that goes to the north end of lake. This trail continues on to Unterbargli which is an ascent of 571 feet from the lake and a little over one mile, with dramatic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. We took this trail. When we reached the north end of the lake, we followed the lakeside trail down to the restaurants where we ate lunch.

Then we returned to the north end and started on the trail to Unterbargli. We stopped before reaching Unterbargli and returned to the lift to descend back to Kandersteg. Seeing Oescheninsee is a high priority for me on every trip to the Berner Oberland.

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Hike #5 (Grosse Scheidegg) - In my prior trips to the BO, I had never gone to Grosse Scheidegg. There are many trails and hiking opportunities out of Grosse Scheidegg, and I definitely wanted to explore this area on this trip. You cannot drive to Grosse Scheidegg, and no trains go there. You must take a regular Grindelwald bus to go up the narrow, winding road that goes to Grosse Scheidegg. We passed many cows along the way and had to stop twice to wait for one or more cows to cross the road. From the cows' nonchalant reaction, this is obviously a common occurrence.

There is a mountain hotel at Grosse Scheidegg that serves meals and has both inside and outside seating on a patio with gorgeous views of the mountains. There are two parallel trails that go from Grosse Scheidegg to the First Station. The lower trail is a wanderweg that is a wide, paved trail. The upper trail is a mountain trail that is identified as Hohenweg 2400, and it is a fairly narrow but well-maintained trail with more inclines and declines than the wanderweg. Although more difficult, I personally much prefer the mountain trail.

The mountain views from both trails are spectacular and competitive with any of the other trails I've taken in the BO. GP and I hiked from Grosse Scheidegg to the First Station and back again. Hiking time (round trip) was about three hours on the wanderweg (and somewhat longer on the mountain trail), with modest elevation gains and losses. The steepest incline is for the final switchbacks on the approach to the First Station.

Posted by
904 posts

Bill, I am enjoying the report and I was in Murren this past May myself. What time do you start your hikes in the morning?

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49 posts

Hike #6 (Männlichen Summit) - Fortunately, we had experienced excellent weather on the trip so far. On prior trips, I had encountered one or two rainy days every week which appeared to be typical for the middle of September. The weather in the mountains changes quickly, and you need to be careful when planning hikes. You don't want to be caught in a heavy rainstorm on a long and difficult hike. We carried ponchos, and I had a small umbrella in my backpack, along with a compass, whistle, some food, and a large water bottle. I dressed in layers with a sweater and windbreaker.

Today, I wanted to show my friend GP the Mannlichen summit and take the wonderful trail from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. We drove to Grindelwald Grund and discovered that the lift to Mannlichen was closed for a major repair. There was a bus to the top, but we opted to take the mountain train to Kleine Scheidegg.

Today's hike was revised to "Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen Station to Mannlichen Summit and return to Kleine Scheidegg." It took about three and a half hours to complete, including a 15-minute stop to view the mountains and take some pictures at the summit (which is a steep climb up from Mannlichen Station, but offers magnificent 360 degree views of the Eiger, Month, Jungfrau and other mountains).

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49 posts

Hi Brushtim - We didn't try to start hikes early because it was cold overnight and seemed to warm-up quickly by 9:30 or so. We woke up about 7:30, had breakfast, and it was usually around 10:00 (or a little later) when we arrived at the hike's starting point. We snacked during the hike, and then had our main meal of the day after we finished the hike. We could usually find a good restaurant close to the endpoint of each hike (Grindelwaldblick, Grosse Scheidegg hotel, Edelweiss Hotel in Murren, Stechelberg Hotel/Restaurant, Oescheninsee Hotel/Restaurant, etc.).

Posted by
162 posts

Hi Bill, Bravo to you for hiking so many awesome trails in Switzerland. Thanks for sharing the story of meeting the 85 year old man from Zurich on The North Face trail. We hiked that trail a couple of years ago while on the RS tour...and we are older than you, but not as old as the man you met sitting on the bench. I can picture that bench and the view. It is one of my "happy places." John Muir's words, "The mountains are calling, and I must go," is my mantra.
Here's hoping for many more adventures and trails for you....and Happy Belated Birthday!

Posted by
49 posts

Carol - Thanks so much for your kind words. I have such respect for the regular Swiss folks that I've met and their love of hiking and nature. "The mountains are calling, and I must go." I've never heard that before, but it's now my new mantra. Thanks again, Bill

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49 posts

Hike #7 (Sefinen Valley to Kilchbalm) - This hike is described in the RS Switzerland guidebook. It starts from the firehouse in Gimmelwald, and there is a signpost to the Sefinen Valley. There is a moderate descent for a few hundred yards, followed by a steady ascent along the river to the glacier fields at Kilchbalm (and return to Gimmelwald on the same trail). This is a great all-weather hike. Keep this hike in mind if it's overcast or raining on a day when you want to hike. It's mostly shaded by trees, and you're walking through a forest next to a strong river, with some glimpses of mountain peaks along the way.

There are a couple of rather steep spots on the trail, but nothing of concern for intermediate-level hikers -- just take your time and watch for loose rocks. As with all of the hikes discussed so far, hiking sticks are recommended (but not required if you're reasonably fit and agile). However, I wouldn't try these hikes without good hiking shoes or boots. I completed the hike in three and a half hours, including a stop to rest and eat a snack at the glacier fields at Kilchbalm.

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Hike #8 (First Station to Chrinnenboden to Grosse Scheidegg) - I wanted to continue my exploration of the region around Grosse Scheidegg which offers many hikes and different types of hiking opportunities. My initial target was the Schwarzhorn mountain which lies substantially above the trails between Grosse Scheidegg and the First Station. However, from my topographic map, it appeared that the trail to Schwarzhorn was outside of my capability due to the amount of elevation gain. An alternative was to explore the Chrinnenboden saddle along the trail to the Schwarzhorn.

Directions - After taking the lift from Grindelwald to the First Station, look for the signpost to Grosse Scheidegg. There is a series of paved switchbacks that descend from First to the two trails that go to Grosse Scheidegg (the wanderweg and the mountain trail, Hohenweg 2400). The mountain trail cuts off to the left (check the signposts) before you hit the wanderweg. On the mountain trail, in less than 100 yards, there is another trail on the left that is signed for Chrinnenboden. This trail is called "The Marmot's Trail" by locals (I actually saw a marmot ambling along on the left side of the trail).

There is a steep portion of the trail (with rough stone steps) as you approach the saddle. Upon reaching the saddle, there are a couple of benches where you can sit and enjoy the views of the mountains. From the saddle, there is a trail to the Schwarzhorn that leads uphill and gets steep very quickly. The main trail continues downward on the other side of the saddle, and it meets up with the mountain trail that takes you on to Grosse Scheidegg. This portion of the trail is not as steep as the portion leading up to the Chrinnenboden saddle.

It took me about two and a half hours to complete the trail from First to Chrinnenboden to Grosse Scheidegg, including a rest stop at the saddle. A longer alternative would be to take the bus and start at Grosse Scheidegg, then hike to the First Station along the mountain trail, and then return to Grosse Scheidegg via the Chrinnenboden extension (described above). This alternative hike would probably take about four hours.

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In summary, it turned out to be a great trip. My thanks to GP who was a fantastic traveling companion. I have this vision of him dragging me up some of the steeper trails. We had a lot of laughs (and a few beers after the hikes).

We were lucky. No injuries, turned ankles or health issues. No transportation problems. Also, the weather was incredibly good for the middle of September. There was only one day of rain and another day of fog and low clouds. The day it rained, I took a side trip to Interlaken (where it was sunny) and spent a couple of hours hiking around that village. The other day with fog and low clouds, I traveled to Gimmelwald and took the hike to the Sefinen Valley and Kilchbalm.

Besides the hikes described above, I repeated some of the intermediate-level hikes that I had taken on my prior trips to the Berner Oberland. All of the 8 hikes (described above) were significantly more difficult, but they took less than four hours to complete (at a steady moderate pace). The most difficult hike for me was The Eiger Trail, but it was also the most enjoyable and satisfying hike.

I continue to believe that the Berner Oberland is the premier hiking destination in the world for hikers of all levels. The mountains are stunning. I find each of the villages in the BO to be unique and quite interesting: Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Kandersteg, Stechelberg, Interlaken, etc. On this trip, I discovered a new region around Grosse Scheidegg that I had never hiked before. Now it's one of my favorites, and I hope to return many times.

I have three suggestions for anyone visiting the Berner Oberland. First, try to take a couple of the easier (but great) hikes like (1) Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, (2) Grutschalp to Murren (or the reverse), or (3) the hike to Oescheninsee (from the top of the Kandersteg lift to the lake and return). These hikes can be completed in less than an hour and a half -- and they can be done in tennis shoes without hiking poles. Second, do your homework and be prepared for rain or bad weather -- and take plenty of water and some snacks. Third, start off with the easier hikes and then try one or more of the more challenging hikes (like the Schynige Platte circle hike (on the wanderweg), or the hike from First to Bachsee, or Grosse Scheidegg to First).

I have a list of the 12 easy-to-intermediate hikes that I had taken on my prior trips to the Berner Oberland, and a list of the 17 more difficult hikes that constituted my wish list for this trip in September 2019. If anyone is interested, I would be glad to share the two lists.

The mountains are calling, and I must go.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Bill I really enjoyed reading about your hikes and would love to see your list of other hikes you've taken. My husband and I went in September 2017 and agree the Swiss alps are the most beautiful we've ever encountered. Unfortunately we had rain for more than half of our 3 week trip! I guess we are going to have to try again for better weather and take some of the hikes you describe. Thanks again for posting.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Nell - I've also received some PMs requesting the list of 12 easy-to-intermediate hikes, so here it is:

  1. Mannlichen Station to Kleine Scheidegg [described in RS Switzerland guidebook, take lifts from either Wengen or Grindelwald Grund to Mannlichen Station, hike to Kleine Scheidegg, and then take the train back to either Wengen or Grindelwald Grund (or Lauterbrunnen].
  2. Grutschalp to Murren (or the reverse) [described in RS Switzerland guidebook, take lift from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp, a train runs between Grutschalp and Murren, so you can take the train one way, if desired].
  3. Kandersteg (top of lift) to Oescheninsee (and return) - the easiest path is the paved trail that goes directly to the lake.
  4. First Station to Bachsee (and return) [take the lift from Grindelwald to First Station, then to Bachsee and return].
  5. Allmendhubel (top of lift) to Pension Suppenalp to Pension Sonnenberg to Murren [in Murren, take the Allmendhubel lift to the top and then take the trail to the left -- this hike is an easier part of the North Face Trail].
  6. Murren to Gimmelwald (or the reverse) [although it is paved, this trail is somewhat steep in parts going downhill from Murren to Gimmelwald].
  7. Schynige Platte wanderweg [circle hike starting and ending at the train station].
  8. Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher Station (and return) [there is a wide trail that eliminates the need to take the train from Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher Station].
  9. Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen (or the reverse) [take the city bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg, then walk back to Lauterbrunnen along the river].
  10. Wengen Station through town on trail that goes to the edge of the cliff (and return) [this a relatively flat trail that goes through Wengen to the overlook of the Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau].
  11. Stechelberg to Berghaus Trachsellauenen (and return) [this trail starts at the end of the valley in Stechelberg and goes to the mountain hotel, and return].
  12. Kleine Scheidegg to Wengenalp [a paved trail that goes downhill from Kleine Scheidegg to Wengenalp, the trail continues on the Wengen (and to Lauterbrunnen), but it becomes fairly steep and is hard on the knees -- you can take the train down from Wengenalp to Wengen or Lauterbrunnen].

Note that the first three hikes are the easiest and can be completed in less than 90 minutes at a steady moderate pace. The other hikes are longer and somewhat more difficult (but not nearly as difficult as the eight hikes described above).

Posted by
49 posts

Nell - Please check your private messages for the list of other hikes. I tried to post them here, but it didn't work. Bill

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you Bill for sharing such a detailed trip report. How wonderful that you were able to do such a trip! It is a dream of mine to go back to Switzerland and do more hiking as you did. I may have some questions for you at some point so I will be glad to have this posting as a reference point. Overall would you say that you found Grindelwald a good choice for your base? Or would your suggest some place else?
Camy

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Camy - Thank you for your kind words. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. I've made three trips to the Berner Oberland and spent a total of about 28-30 days there -- hiking, taking day trips, and exploring the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald valleys and surrounding areas. It's my favorite place in the whole world. I consider it to be Mother Nature's cathedral. I'm making plans right now to go back next September.

Regarding where to stay, each location in the Berner Oberland has its own unique character and advantages: Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Stechelberg, and Grindelwald. But there are substantial differences between them. That being said, I'd prefer any of them over Interlaken, primarily because you're a lot closer to hiking trails and getting up into the mountains.

Personally, I think Wengen is the most upscale. Next come Murren and Grindelwald, close behind Wengen. Then Lauterbrunnen. Gimmelwald and Stecheberg are more rustic -- but very nice and many RS fans love Gimmelwald in particular. Murren, Wengen and Gimmelwald are car-free and at higher elevations in the mountains with great views. However, you need to take either a gondola or mountain train to get to them.

Although Grindelwald is sometimes criticized as being "crowded and touristy," I like Grindelwald and it has more restaurants than the other locations. It's also very easy to get to many hiking trails. I've never been bothered by the tourists in Grindelwald. Most of them don't go on the hiking trails I prefer -- and navigating in town has never been a problem for me.

Bottom line, everyone has their own opinion. I read many guidebooks before I went to the Berner Oberland, and I didn't get a true feeling for each place until I had spent a lot of time there.

There are many very nice hotels throughout the Berner Oberland. However, I prefer to rent a flat or apartment through VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, or one of the local rental companies. The costs are about the same (for hotel room vs. an apartment) -- and you get a kitchen, sitting room and sometimes a wonderful balcony with views of the mountains with an apartment. My wife and I have rented apartments in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, and they all have been wonderful -- spacious and with pretty spectacular views (you can tell I'm a sucker for the views).

Happy New Year!

Posted by
4 posts

We've read your posts so many times we feel like we know you and appreciate all of your advice. Like you we are hikers. We are taking a Rick Steves' tour of Switzerland starting Aug. 17. We plan to stay a few days in Luzern before the tour starts (Pilatus) and then 3 or 4 days in Berner Oberland after the tour to do as many hikes as possible. We are thinking of staying in Grindelwald also per your recommendation, in a vacation rental with a kitchen. We will not have a car. Our concern is access to transportation. Every hike seems to require a different set of trains or cable lines . Is Grindelwald near the main train station our best bet? Are we fooling ourselves to think this is doable without a car? Would it be better to be closer to the Grund terminal than the main train station?
This is further complicated by the fact that we are having trouble finding a rental close to the station that isn't prohibitively expensive. Was the place you stayed within walking distance of one of the two train stations?
Any guidance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi stufry2 - Thanks for your kind words. I sent you a PM with some details. Let me know if you have any more questions. Bill

Posted by
49 posts

Note to Peggy regarding PM. Let me know if you have any other questions about hikes or accommodations. Bill