Hiking the Swiss Alps
Inn to Inn on the Alpine Pass Route
Although less than fifteen percent of the Alps lie within Switzerland, this small country is arguably the very essence of the Alpine experience. The mention of its name brings to mind sweeping alpine meadows punctuated by gem-like tarns back-dropped by towering peaks. You’ll discover that Switzerland lives up to its sometimes mythical reputation. On this inn-to-inn adventure you’ll traverse a portion of the renowned Alpine Pass Route, one of the premier long-distance hiking routes in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. Encounter a fantasy of quintessential alpine landscapes on this trek across the Swiss Alps!
Overnight in Meiringen
Arrive in Switzerland and travel on your own by train to the town of Meiringen in the Berner Oberland. The Berner Oberland (the name given to the higher portions of Bern Canton) encompasses a scenic jumble ice-encrusted peaks and the finest high country landscapes in Switzerland! Nearly three hundred twenty square miles of the Berner Oberland has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as the Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage Site recognized as an “outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps, including the most glaciated part of the mountain range and the largest glacier in Eurasia.”
Overnight in Grindelwald
Your journey along the Alpine Pass Route begins in Meiringen with a bus shuttle to the Schwarzwaldalp. From here, begin your hike beneath the dramatic north face of the Wetterhorn whose rocky walls are bedecked with glacial ice. An ascending path through green meadows spangled with wildflowers leads you up to the Grosse Scheidegg, a broad meadow-cloaked mountain pass overlooking the Grindelwald basin. Continue along a high country trail to the cable car station at First and descend to Grindelwald where you’ll spend the next two nights.
Hiking to the Grosse Scheidegg on Stage 1 of the route.
Overnight in Grindelwald
Stunning views of the Wetterhorn and the well-known Eiger greet you as day breaks in Grindelwald. Ascend via the First cable car where you’ll begin a trek along the Faulhornweg, one of Switzerland’s classic day-hikes. The trail follows ridge lines and open meadows for the entire distance from First to Schynige Platte, and the views never quit. For those who love the high country, this is a “dream-walk.” Across the valley, the summits of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, and Eiger will be your constant companions! As you approach Schynige Platte, the views of the massive peaks of the Mönch and Jungfrau become more and more impressive. Just before reaching Schynige Platte you’ll enjoy a ridge walk that offers bird’s-eye views down to the waters of the Brienzer See and town of Interlaken, 4,700 feet below! At Schynige Platte, catch the cog railway to Wilderswil from where you can connect with a train back to Grindelwald.
The meadows at Schynige Platte.
Overnight in Lauterbrunnen
From Grindelwald town, ascend by cable car to the ridge crest at Maennlichen. Here, you’ll enjoy stupendous views over the Grindelwald basin and the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The icy bulk of the Jungfrau rises magnificently to the south. Follow the broad, well-graded path to the pass of Kleine Scheidegg from where the trail leads steadily down through the meadows of the Wengernalp to the village of Wengen. From there, hop aboard the cog railway and descend to Lauterbrunnen town where you’ll spend the evening.
Hikers pausing for a rest on the descent from the Kleine Scheidegg.
Overnight in Mürren
Travel from Lauterbrunnen by “post bus” via a spiraling road tunnel to the village of Isenfluh perched on a shelf of land 1,300 feet above the valley floor. Walk to the “lost” tarn of Sulsseeli and on to Lobhorn Hut just above the lake where a stunning mountain panorama unfolds. From the Lobhorn Hut, the path descends to the upper terminus of the Grutschalp funicular. The village of Mürren, your destination for the evening, is a short train ride away. Or you can continue on foot to Mürren enjoying magnificent vistas of the renowned trio of Berner Oberland peaks—the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Overnight in Griesalp in Kiental
The car-free village of Mürren is spectacularly situated at the top edge of an immense cliff that drops over 2,500 feet to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Today’s route departs Muerren and climbs to the Rotstock Hut in high alpine meadowlands surrounded by massive peaks. Continue ascending to the high mountain pass called the Sefinenfurke from where the trail descends to reach the remote village of Griesalp set in the scenic upper Kiental.
Overnight in Kandersteg
From Griesalp, begin your trek across the lofty mountain pass known as Hohtürli (“High Door”) which has been used for generations. The hike is challenging, but the scenic glories of the trip more than compensate for the effort! A mountain refuge just above the Hohtürli offers shelter, food and a place to take in the splendor of this high mountain setting. From the pass, the trail begins its long descent past impressive views of glaciers spilling from the peaks of the Blümlisalp. Eventually, the trail enters the green meadows above the lovely Öeschinensee, a turquoise mountain lake reminiscent of the Canadian Rockies, before making its final push to the town of Kandersteg.
The Blümlisalphütte at the Hohtürli.
Overnight in Leukerbad
From Kandersteg, ascend by cable car up to Sunnbüel from where you follow a trail leading to the Gemmi Pass, a trans-mountain route used for centuries to connect the Berner Oberland with the Rhone River Valley and the Valais region. From the upper station of the cable car, the path traverses meadows known for their profusion of wildflowers and skirts the limestone-ringed lake called Daubensee before reaching the Gemmi Pass. From the pass, weather permitting, the view south across the Rhone Valley is punctuated by the peaks of the Valaisian Alps including the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. A cable car descends from Gemmi Pass to the village of Leukerbad, or you can descend on foot via a switchbacking, step-filled path that was constructed in the early 18th century.
The meadows of Sunnbüel en route to the Gemmi Pass.
Can you see the Matterhorn today? Find out if you can see this elegant peak with this view from the Gornergrat above Zermatt..
Photos on this page are by John Osaki except as otherwise credited.