This is why people come to Switzerland. To soak in Switzerland’s widely known natural wonder, to admire one of the rare valleys arguably more beautiful than Yosemite, to fly, to jump, to hike.
We had arrived to Lauterbrunnen Valley regrettably too early in the season; late May still saw endless gray skies and there was no end to the rain in the forecast. Almost every hike in my itinerary was still closed due to snow and unfortunate weather. After thinking long and hard, we made a choice to leave one dreary morning and return to Switzerland during the high season, the end of July, in order to relish Lauterbrunnen Valley at its prime time.
It was absolutely the right decision.
Early in the morning after a night in Grindelwald, we drove through the valley to the southernmost tip of Stechelberg. Not wanting to deal with the valley’s strict rules against wild camping, we opted to spend one night at Camping Ruiti for 31 CHF/night.
We scarfed down breakfast and headed out for a wonderful stroll through the valley to the town of Lauterbrunnen. Waterfalls, glacier-carved walls, distant mountains, and specks of parachutes illustrated the scenery before us.
1 hour and 20 minutes after walking along the flat valley road, we made the turn up a steep road toward Grutschalp. There is an aerial cable car that runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp, and for good reason. The incredibly steep, hot hike took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and no one else dared hike that trail.
The view from Grutschalp, with Wengen in the distance:
To our relief, the next hour was a slight descent all the way down to Murren. This trail was incredibly popular; with aerial cable cars in Murren and Grutschalp, and even a train, people easily came up and down from the valley. The views were spectacular too.
In Murren, we befriended several BASE jumpers, but they left pretty quickly.
From Murren it was over a one-hour descent to Gimmelwald, and back to Stechelberg. We stopped often to observe gushing waterfalls.
But the best view? Definitely the valley from the top of Stechelberg:
The next morning we checked out of Camping Ruiti and parked in the large, outdoor parking lot in the south of Lauterbrunnen town. At 1 CHF/hour, parking in the lot for several hours instead of camping another night or parking at the Lauterbrunnen car park definitely saved us some money.
We walked to the train station, paid 6.80 CHF each to ride the train to Wengen, and then walked over to the aerial cable car for a ride to Mannlichen. Thanks to the discount card we received from the campground, we paid the reduced price of 16 CHF each for the cable car instead of 22 CHF each. Looks like the campground was totally worth it!
Immediately upon stepping off the aerial cable car, this view slapped us in the face:
Just a short stroll from the cable car is the most beautiful playground.
We walked the easy, gradual descent to Klein Scheidegg, perhaps the valley’s most popular walk due to the effort to scenery ratio. No where else have I hiked where the mountains felt within reach, and for hardly any effort! It was no wonder that this stunning walk was filled with families and people of all ages and abilities.
Klein Scheidegg, the “base” rail station to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station at 3,466 meters above sea level, was the final destination for many. Honestly, with the roundtrip price tag of over 100 CHF just to stand upon Europe’s highest rail way, we happily passed on that experience. We could think of more wonderful, exciting ways to spend 100 CHF. Plenty of tourists would probably disagree with us though. At least the train station was pretty.
After scarfing down a packed lunch at Klein Scheidegg, we continued our hike down.
We passed by Wengen:
And back to Lauterbrunnen.
Wow. What a magical place. I tell everyone that Switzerland is like a fairytale landscape we all dream of that happens to exist. And an expensive fairytale landscape it is.
Budget travelers can easily spend approximately 30 CHF per night for a dorm bed, 10-20 CHF per meal, and 20-80 CHF for bus, train, and chair lift rides. Fortunately with the motorhome and experience of road tripping through Europe, we were able to save hundreds of dollars by filling up on gas and stocking up on groceries in Austria before arriving to Switzerland. Being equipped with our own home and transportation and enough food for the week meant we hardly spent any money in Switzerland. YAY!
After four magical, consecutive hikes at Trift Bridge, Grindelwald, Butschalp to Murren, and Mannlichen to Klein Scheidigg in Lauterbrunnen Valley, we sadly wrapped up our Swiss adventure to move onward. At least our sadness was quickly replaced with excitement for the Black Forest in Germany!