Hiking the Swiss Alps | The Amateur’s Survival Guide

Hiking in the Swiss Alps

Okay let’s keep it real, though I am obsessed with keeping fit and adore the outdoors (say that three times fast), I am not a professional hiker in anyway shape or form. Nevertheless that is no reason to be deterred from hiking through Switzerland’s 62,000 km network of walking trails. With 23,000km of these trails found in mountainous areas the Swiss Alps have plenty on offer so even the most amateur hikers can take in the magnificence that is Mother Nature. For the purposes of this article keep in mind this is solely geared towards amateurs and those only wanting to spend the day hiking through the mountains. If you’re looking for something a little more intense I highly recommend reading and being inspired by Kathy and Craig’s adventures on www.hikingcamping.com. For amateur hikers, like myself, who one day want to take it to the next level be sure to bookmark their site too!

Gelato

Until that time amateurs let’s get this blog started.

Hiking the Swiss Alps

Three countries take out the number one spot for my favourite destinations thus far: Iceland, Scotland and Switzerland. The reason being is their raw, natural and incomparable beauty. Though Switzerland is a must for snow enthusiasts, its innate splendour truly comes alive in summer and you will be doing yourself a disservice by not including this country in your travel bucket list.

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How did you get there?

Switzerland’s geographical centrality makes it a perfect country in which to start your European explorations and Zurich’s proximity to the Swiss Alps makes it the airport you will want to utilise. At my time of travel I was residing in Ireland and ventured to Switzerland to meet my brothers who were visiting from Australia.  I elected to fly with Ireland’s national airline, Aer Lingus and my brothers flew Emirates. Zurich Hauptbahnhoff was our meeting point and as soon as my tears of joy upon being reunited had cleared we were on the train to the picturesque village of Lauterbrunnen. Nothing can prepare tourists for the scenery that waits not only upon your destination but throughout your journey.  This is not the time to have a nap.

Hiking the Swiss Alps

Lauterbrunnen literally translates to “many fountains” and given the valley is surrounded by magnanimous mountains and further littered with 72 waterfalls it is easy to understand how this small village received its name.  Located in the Canton of Bern, Lauterbrunnen was a natural choice as we wanted the option to ascend Jungfrau if we so desired and stand before the Eiger and Mönch. The small towns of Mürren and Gimmelwald were also high on the agenda and serve as a fantastic starting point for hiking enthusiasts. Just be sure to book your stay in advance as these villages are small and accommodation therefore is limited.

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What else is there to see and do in the area?

Should budget not be an issue include a journey to the Jungfraujoch commonly referred to the “Top of Europe.” This is not Europe or Switzerland’s highest mountain but at 3454 metres boasts Europe’s highest altitude railway station offering panoramic views over the Alps and the Vosges Mountains which extends into France and Germany. For my brothers and I the expense was a little out of our budget, the Australian exchange rate rarely works in our favour and with limited time we wanted to spend our days hiking. However, if you want to ascend the heights of Jungfraujoch please do check the weather conditions before purchasing your pass otherwise your views will be hindered and money wasted.

Staubbach Falls

Mürren has several activities on offer to tourists including mountain biking, paragliding, base jumping and swimming. However, if you are after something a little more relaxing after your hiking adventures visit the Alpine Sports Centre for a peaceful massage drawing upon Swedish and Thai techniques or simply relax in one of the many saunas available. With prices starting at AUD $85.00 for a half hour massage access to the saunas is more economical with prices starting at AUD $46.00 which increases should you be keen on including a swim in your admission price. Massage reservations can be booked online if scheduled 24 hours in advance and remember no matter the season don’t leave it to the last minute to treat yourself.

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Where to start?

Eager hikers and nature enthusiasts will want to head to Mürren the highest village of the Bernese Oberland. Situated in the plateau above Lauterbrunnen, the journey to reach Mürren, 1670m above sealevel, is incredibly scenic. Hikers will need to first take the cable car which sits right next to the train station to Grütschalp where a train will take you the rest of the way. The cable car operates every 15 minutes and as lines can get long start your day early to beat the crowds.

Hiking the Swiss Alps

What are the easy and medium walking trails from Mürren?

The summer months in Switzerland can be very warm, however due to the high altitude you will find Mürren quite icy upon disembarking your train. You will want to pack accordingly to be prepared for these conditions and also wear clothes which you can layer as I assure you that once you start walking you will be working up a sweat in no time. The area is quite mountainous so if you are hiking with young children, have an injury or a low level of fitness I advise selecting trails that are relatively flat or follow a downhill direction.

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No matter what trails you select the views will be incredible and no adjectives or photographs can truly capture how magical this place is, so if you are new to the hiking scene take it easy so you can take the time to enjoy yourself.  Be very careful with where you step and the shoes you elect to wear as my oldest brother, having hiked through the area over a decade ago severely, injured his knee which then promptly ended his European journey.  The information below has been pulled from the official Mürren website therefore should you be more experienced be sure to to visit their website as trails for experienced hikers are also listed. Visitors will also be able to download the hiking map and find suitable accommodation in the area.

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Easy walking trails, 1 to 2 hrs.

  • Mürren-Grütschalp
  • Mürren-Blumental-Allmendhubel (uphill)
  • Mürren-Mittelberg-Kännelegg
  • Mürren-Gimmeln-Spielbodenalp
  • Mürren-Gimmelwald (downhill)
  • Mountain View Trail / panoramic hike Grütschalp-Mürren

Hiking the Swiss Alps

Medium Hiking trails 2 to 4 hrs, hiking equipment required

  • North Face Trail 2,5 hrs. round trip
  • Mürren-Gimmelwald-Chilchbalm: 2,5 hrs one way
  • Mürren-Wasenegg-Rotstockhütte: 2,5 hrs one way
  • Mürren-Birg-Schilthorn: 3 hrs one way
  • Mürren-Marchegg-Soustal-Grütschalp: round trip
  • Mürren-Gimmelwald-Trachsellauenen-Stechelberg: 4 hrs round trip

Hiking the Swiss Alps

What basic items do you need to carry in your backpack?

Once again this equipment list is for hikers who are undertaking one of the aforementioned easy trails:

  • Water. Though some paths are littered with fresh streams of water you need to carry plenty of fluid on your person as the paths are relatively untouched so finding a place to sit down and relax is a rarity.
  • Healthy snacks. Don’t underestimate how demanding even the most easy hikes will be on your body, fuel your body to keep your energy levels up.
  • Band aids
  • Support bandages
  • Sunscreen
  • Phone with emergency contacts
  • Map
  • Insect repellent
  • Painkillers
  • Small pair of scissors
  • In addition to sunscreen don’t forget to slip on hat
  • Lightweight jacket or warm jumper that can easily be packed away

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My time in Switzerland was by far one of my most sacred memories not only because of the natural beauty on offer that is simply a visual feast but because I got to spend quality time with my brothers.  There is something about being in the mountains that grounds you and if you allow yourself to hike through the landscape you will walk from the experience spiritually lifted and inspired to undertake more hikes throughout this wonderful world of ours.

Happy Travels

Xo

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