Ringed by 72 waterfalls and luscious, rolling green hills, Lauterbrunnen is a spectacularly beautiful place – not only renowned in Switzerland (and understandably, becoming more popular amongst global tourists) – but in the entire world. If you love the outdoors and want to get a bird’s eye perspective on this beautiful valley, there is no better way to acquaint yourself with the area than setting off for a gorgeous hike. Here I aim to provide you with a near-perfect itinerary to get you started on your journey.
In order to plan my hike, I modified this helpful hiking guide. There are many ways you could choose to walk, including starting at the other end of the valley and doing the complete opposite itinerary from what I will lay out. Based on weather, timing and overall experience, I’ve narrowed it down to something doable and enjoyable.
As the link summarizes, this hike can last 2-8 hours, depending on variation. An important thing to also factor in is how long and often you plan on pausing to take photos, picnic, enjoy the views, etc. As with all of my hikes, I did quite a bit of all the above.
While you can complete nearly if not all of this specific route by mechanized means, I only used them a few times; primarily to save time for when the hiking would really count and not waste time walking across less scenic areas. If you plan on moving fast or want more exercise or don’t feel challenged enough, just know that in the following plan, anywhere that I have taken a cable car or bus can be done on foot. My itinerary takes one from Lauterbrunnen Station up to Grütschalp, over Allmendhubel and down to the village of Mürren (part of the hike where I spent the majority of time), then down again to Gimmelwald and back across the valley to Lauterbrunnen.
Prep & Info
Adventurer’s paradise – Jungfrau Region
My Lauterbrunnen Loop Hike Itinerary
1. Cable car from Lauterbrunnen Station to Grütschalp
You can purchase a cable car ticket at Lauterbrunnen Station and discounts are possible with a Swiss Rail GA Pass or 1/2 fare card. There are cars every 10-20 minutes, so you don’t have to plan too precisely. The ride up to Grütschalp only takes about 5 minutes and gives a gorgeous view over Lauterbrunnen valley (at least it would, if the world wasn’t completely socked in with fog like it was when I took this ride). Pro tip: get on very first or last to be near a window, the window facing out over Lauterbrunnen valley (on the left in direction of travel) is obviously best. Have your phone/camera ready for pictures and videos, some of these rides are even better than drone footage!
2. Hike from Grütschalp up and over Allmendhubel, down to Mürren
There is a short and straightforward path easily visible from the Grütschalp train station that leads to Mürren in 45 min – 1 hour, so obviously I chose not to take this path. Instead, once you walk down the path a very short way, there will be a steep gravel and dirt natural path heading clearly and obviously uphill rather than onwards – take this. There are yellow signs at various crossing points pointing towards villages like Mürren; often there are multiple, up to three or four, different paths that lead to the same place, depending simply on the duration and type of hike you are looking for. Follow signs always to Mürren but using up as your guide.
If you have Google Maps, you can also simply walk directly towards the sign for Allmendhubel, which is the (“large hill” if you are from mountains; “mountain” if you are Dutch) that you will crest before descending to Mürren. This hike took me somewhere around 4+hours because I stopped constantly to take photos and admire the views – once the fog cleared. This leg of the hike takes you past beautiful grassy hillside meadows with wildflowers (a few were still left in October!), unique rock formations, and along nearly the entire way, breathtaking views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountain peaks – I mean WOW. Perhaps about halfway up the fog had finally cleared to reveal these three impressive mountains, and so we stopped near a very rocky area – you’ll know the place when you see it – for a picnic and to enjoy the views. Another way to recognize this spot is by the many rock cairns that hikers have built all over; Norwegian Rock Stacking pros welcome!
3. Descend to Mürren
You will know you are nearly at the top of Allmendhubel when you start seeing lots of ski lifts and a little mini bridge, then a steep gravel hill. Turn left down towards Mürren. Now you will walk past smatterings of small country houses down in green valleys – passing a few of these, I always thought for a brief moment that any of these mountain villages could be Mürren, but be patient. You will see lots of happy cows and as you walk along the winding trail, enjoy the stunning alpine backdrop to the pleasant jingling of cowbells and the crisp mountain air. This section of the hike was probably my absolute favorite because by then, the fog had completely cleared, the sun was out, and clear blue sky illuminated the alps. The descent to Mürren should take about an hour max and again, towards the bottom when you begin to see Mürren (fantastic photo op), there are multiple paths you can choose from to extend this leg of your hike.
4. Break in Mürren
Walking down through Mürren from above, it seemed like the whole village was deserted and very ghost-town style, the only sound to be heard was still cowbells. Finally after passing ski lodges and quiet houses, we came into the main downtown area, where the street was bustling with (mostly tourists). Little restaurants are open for lunch and coffee and there are a few souvenir shops. We simply grabbed a beer at the COOP and sat on a section of sidewalk right in the sun, and observed passerby while enjoying the pleasant ambiance of the village.
5. Cable car down to Gimmelwald
Many people choose to continue their hike to Gimmelwald at least, but due to how much time we had spent up in the hills, it was nearing evening and we wanted to have enough time to experience everything still in daylight, so we chose mechanized means from here. From Mürren Station, cable cars run regularly to Gimmelwald and then onwards to Stechelberg, down on the valley floor. You can choose to buy a ticket just to Gimmelwald or all the way down.
6. Quick stop in Gimmelwald
If you aren’t able to hike down to Gimmelwald, it is nice at least to stop for a short break, even just between cable cars, to see the small village of Gimmelwald. Similar to Mürren but even a bit more quiet, Gimmelwald doesn’t have a lot to see, but is another lovely Swiss village tucked away in the hills.
7. Cable car down to Stechelberg
Pro tip: this is one of the most scenic cable car rides and you will get lovely views over Stechelberg and the valley – try again to get a spot near the window and have your camera ready! Stechelberg is your final village stop in this loop journey before returning to Lauterbrunnen; you can choose to move right through, stop for a drink and dinner, or visit some of the popular attractions nearby, namely several waterfalls like the famous Trummelbach Falls. When we arrived into Stechelberg, it was evening and getting dark, so we vetoed the waterfall exploration idea, as much as we wanted to see them. There was a small local market going on with booths selling meats, cheeses and trinkets, so it was fun just to stroll through this and check out how the locals live. The small green field right next to the station is also apparently a popular landing spot for paragliders, and so we were able to watch several land!
8. Walk or Bus to Lauterbrunnen
Because it was nearly dark and I was feeling lazy, we took the bus; it would take 45 – 1 hour to walk back and in warm summer weather, it would probably be a lovely walk, also passing by a few waterfalls. If there is time, highly recommended. This gets you back to Lauterbrunnen in time for cocktail hour, some warm dinner, and a good night’s sleep.
This itinerary heavily prioritizes time spent on the upper side of Grütschalp, Allmendhubel and on the descent to Mürren; on this itinerary, the majority of your time is spent admiring the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, which in my view is not a bad way to spend a weekend! You can easily choose to hike the parts in between where I took cable cars and buses, or even make the hiking day shorter by taking a proper train between Grütschalp and Mürren! For those traveling with disabilities, injuries or simply not looking for a strenuous and time consuming journey, Mürren and the other villages are quite accessible.
I hope you enjoy exploring and hiking Lauterbrunnen as much as I did!
Any chance you’ve recently drooled over pictures of Canada’s Banff National Park? For very good reason; the stunning turquoise of the glacial lakes, like Lake Louise, is enough to make me want to go right now. Well, I can interestingly say that I’ve found the lake’s European TWIN, in Switzerland! Let me convince you of the likeness with a couple (ok, a TON) of photos.
Gelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir held by a dam that was constructed in 1932. The “lake” can be reached by taking the Gelmerbahn, a ride of duration 8-10 minutes with a maximum inclination of 106%! According to a map posted at the lake’s entrance, it can also be reached by foot via a hiking trail (in red, below). One can also continue hiking further upwards to reach the Gelmerhütte, a lookout point above the lake.
Gelmersee is an excellent place for a quiet hike and to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the glacial water. There is a hiking trail around the entire lake, which takes about two full hours to complete with some stops. If you plan to take 3489283 photos like I did or want extra time to sit and enjoy the views every once and a while, maybe have a picnic halfway on one of the large flat rocks that are perfect for sitting and relaxing, it would be best to allow several hours up at the lake. It is important to plan your visit ahead because there is limited space on the Gelmerbahn and tickets sell out, especially in summer and during nice weather. Read more here about how to plan your trip and riding the Gelmerbahn.
Starting the hike around Gelmersee – The trail is quite rocky in places and narrow in others (at one point, there is a rope to hang on to for extra balance and security), so it is recommended to bring sturdy walking/hiking shoes with good soles and be relatively sure-footed if you plan to do the whole hike. It is relatively flat, so not very strenuous.
For me, this little piece of the world is a slice of heaven on earth, and I could honestly happily stay here for hours and hours and hours, hiking around the lake again and again, staring into the turquoise water and pondering my existence… alas, I had only booked 2.5 hours at the top before our return trip on the Gelmerbahn, so we had to really make every minute count – which we did!!
Needless to say, Gelmersee has earned a permanent spot on my life’s repeat bucket list, if that’s even a thing (you know, those absolute favorite places you simply must visit, perhaps at least once a year or every few months even?!) The dream is to visit this place in summer – even though I doubt anyone dares to swim in the ice cold glacial waters, I could totally get involved with sunbathing and reading on a rock all day, minus a few layers.
Tips for visiting Gelmersee:
A quick 15 minute drive from downtown Wellington, Zealandia Ecosanctuary is an oasis amongst the craziness of Wellington city, and a welcome reprieve from the weekly grind. The history and story behind Zealandia is intriguing; as the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, it has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. This all in line with their extraordinary mission to restore Wellington’s valley forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state.
The fence of Zealandia allows a remarkably rare blend of birds, reptiles, insects and more to thrive and flourish, living wild within a ruggedly gorgeous jungle valley stretching across one square mile. Keep your eyes peeled, and your camera at the ready, as you never know when you will confront a red-beaked Takahē sidling along down the path (I never did, sadly). Don’t get me started on the insects… let’s just say you most likely hope you do not have any run-ins with these knarly dudes (how do insects that big even exist?!)
After being plopped into one urban jungle after another (and loving it of course), I always jump at the chance to immerse myself in some real nature, even if just for a little while. Walking through this wonderland of green, sweet silence punctuated only by breezes and a wild symphony of bird calls and insect humming, watching the sunlight stream through feathery ferns – I could stay here for hours.. and hours. You may want to! Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher or a Wellington drop-by visitor, Zealandia has something for you – there are many different pathways and combinations thereof, so you can make your trek as long, short, challenging or relaxing as you like, and just revel in the pure loveliness of this very true sanctuary.
Find more info about the park at http://visitzealandia.com
STAY WILD xxx