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Hiking in Grindelwald
Grindelwald has the best hiking in Switzerland (for our level of easy hiking). The town is a bit touristed - it is a tour bus destination - but it is worth it for the trails. The number of tourists make it a more lively and fun town. You will see many Japanese tourist here and most menus have Japanese translations. There are many hotels and restaurants and some nice shops.
There is hiking everywhere in this area. Grindelwald is the best base because there is lots of hiking right from here, but you can easily take the train to Wengen, Lauterbrunnen or Murren for other trails. Or down to Interlaken for hikes there. Grindelwald is in a wide open valley at the base of the Eiger. Both sides of the valley are gentle slopes giving good mid-level hikes on either side. There is also good high level hiking on both sides.
On the south side of the valley, there are gondolas from Grindelwald to Mannlichen (with a stop at Holenstein, the middle station). From Mannlichen you can take a cablecar down to Wengen in the next valley. Trains also serve the towns on this side of the valley.
On the north side of the valley, there are gondolas from Grindelwald to First (with a stop at Bort). Buses from Grosse Scheidegg, Waldspitz and Busalp also serve this side of the valley.
At the end of the valley, there is a gondola to Pfingstegg. You hike from there down to the road where you catch the bus from Grosse Scheidegg.
You can take the train to Wengen, Lauterbrunnen or Murren for some hiking from those towns.
In Grindelwald there are no open chairlift rides; they are all small gondolas (Mannlichen, First) or large cablecars (Mannlichen-Wengen, Pfingstegg) or cog trains or buses. I liked the open chairlift rides in Engelberg - just the two of us suspended in the air above the meadows. It was absolutely quiet except for the cow bells from below.
We paid 165CHF each for a 5 consecutive day pass for all mountain rides from Grindelwald (includes First gondola, Mannlichen gondola and down to Wengen, trains to Interlaken or to Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen, rides to Murren, mountain buses). It is a good pass for hiking - gives you access to all the mountain rides you would use. It is expensive - twice the price of the Engelberg pass with one less day.
From Grindelwald, you take a long gondola ride up to First. From First you can do an easy hike to Grosse Scheidegg (1:15 hr) or an easy walk to Bachalpsee (1:40 hr) or several longer walks. You can get back down to Grindelwald by bus from Grosse Scheidegg, Waldspitz or Busalp. Some of the buses run only once an hour.
Our Hike from First to Faulhorn and back to First
This is an easy walk to Bachalpsee on a wide good trail, followed by a good uphill climb to Faulhorn.
> Pauline, Monday, September 2, 2002: The First gondola is one gondola ride for about 40 minutes to the top of the mountain. From there you can do long or short hikes. We decided to hike to Bachalpsee and then to Faulhorn. This was just 2 1/2 hours uphill there and 2 hours back. The first part of the walk to Bachalpsee (about 1 hour) is pretty level on a good wide road-like trail. There were lots of people on this hike.
From Bachalpsee you go uphill for 1 1/2 hours to Faulhorn, a hotel and restaurant on a mountain peak. The restaurant at Faulhorn was not as good as the other ones we have been to on this trip, but it is the oldest mountain hotel in Europe and all supplies are brought in by helicopter. Unbelievable views down to Grindelwald and across to Mannlichen and Kleine Scheidegg. There were lots of people on this trail too - and it was quite steep, especially the last 20 minutes up to the restaurant.
The walk back was quick and easy (all downhill) and by 4:30 we were riding the gondola back to town. This was a lovely hike. It was good to have the uphill exercise and it was really a do-able uphill, plus the views were extraordinary.
The Mannlichen gondola from Grindelwald leads to two good hiking area: from the middle level station at Holenstein and from the high level station at Mannlichen.
Mannlichen mid-level: Our Hike from Holenstein to Brandegg
This is a nice easy hike, with a good restaurant in Brandegg for lunch or snack.
> Pauline, Tuesday, September 3, 2002: Woke up in the night to heavy rain, which continued into the morning. By afternoon, the drizzle was light and the fog was only half down the mountain, so we figured we could do a mid-level hike. Drove into town and parked at the Mannlichen gondolas. We hopped on the gondola and watched the fog - it was clear until just below the middle station (Holenstein), so we figured we could do the mid-level hike.
It was raining lightly, so we wore our rain jackets. We hiked the first 10 minutes on muddy trails in fog, but then we got below the fog and the rest of the hike was great. The rain stopped after the first 30 minutes. We only passed two other hikers on the whole trail - everyone was off the trails because of the weather. The gondola station was deserted as well.
The hike took 1 1/2 hours from Holenstein, across the mountain, to Brandegg, a drop of 500 meters. The trail was a gentle downhill, with some uphill as wells as you made your way through woods and farmers fields and across a river. The trail is called the "Apfelkuchleinweg" - because the restaurant in Brandegg makes a dessert called "Apfelkuchlein". We got to Brandegg and sat outside - and had the Apfelkuchlein. Steve had coffee, I had my second hot chocolate of the trip (excellent) and we both had "Kleine Portioin Apfelkuchlein mit Vanillesauce" for a total of 20.40CHF. The Apfelkuchlein was like a donut with cooked apple inside - the best dessert of the trip so far.
This was a very nice hike - short and easy. At Brandegg, we took a mountain train back to Grindelwald Grund, just a short walk from where the car was parked.
Mannlichen high-level: Our Hike from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg
This is a very easy hike, with a restaurant at Kleine Scheidegg for lunch or snack (or take the train to Wengen).
> Pauline, Wednesday, September 4, 2002: The weather was good in the morning, so we drove into town, parked at the Mannlichen gondola station same as yesterday, and took the gondola to the top. This is a 30 minute ride - the longest cablecar way in Europe. They are small gondolas, so it was just the two of us in it - a nice long ride with beautiful views out towards Grindelwald and across to the area around First and Faulhorn where we hiked on Monday. We even saw the Hotel Faulhorn that we hiked to - on the very peak of a mountain.
From the top of Mannlichen, you look down one side to see Grindelwald spread out in the valley below. On the other side you look straight down to Wengen, then below that Lauterbrunnen and across the valley, perched on the edge of a cliff, Murren. Looking north you see a bit of Interlaken and Lake Thuner. South you see a row of giant mountains: Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau - all with snow and glaciers. The views from Mannlichen are spectacular.
I was feeling a bit worn out today, so we did an easy hike. "A pony trail" as Steve called it. We took the Panoramaweg to Kleine Scheidegg. This is a 1 1/2 hour easy walk with a slight downhill on a wide trail. We started out using our walking sticks, but put them away after 5 minutes - you don't need them on this trail. The trail was full of people - most strolling along. The views along the trail were again spectacular and we ended up at Kleine Scheidegg, right under the Eiger. From here you take the train to the Jungfraujoch.
We got to Kleine Scheidegg around 12:15. This area is usually a zoo because it is the place where the trains from Grindelwald end and the trains from Lauterbrunnen and Wengen end and everyone gets on the train to the Jungfraujoch. It wasn't too crowded today - but we have been here on days when there are crowds. You cannot drive here - you only get here by train (or walking). We hopped on the train to Wengen.
Lunch in Wengen. By now it was 3pm and starting to cloud over. We took the cablecar from Wengen to Mannlichen, then the gondola back down to Grindelwald.
We did other hikes on this trip and I will complete this page with more information.
www.grindelwald.ch: Grindelwald Tourist Office. Information about the area and accommodations booking.
www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=540: Photos from our week in Grindelwald, September 2002
www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=552: Photos of the town of Grindelwald.
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