First to Schynige Platte

Distance: 10.2 miles (one way)

near Grindelwald in Bernese Oberland

Introduction

Views of the Bernese Alps from the hike to Schynige Platte

There is no shortage of great hikes in the Grindelwald area with fabulous views. But of all the hikes the trail between First and Schynige Platte is my favorite, traveling through diverse landscape with stunning, panoramic views of the Bernese Alps from ever changing perspectives.

The stars of the show are the 4,000-meter peaks of towering above Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. Playing a supporting role in the evolving panorama are two scenic lakes, the Sagistalsee and the Bachsee, pretty meadows, glistening glaciers and incredible rock formation. Midway through the hike views of Lake Brienz, later joined by Lake Thun and Interlocken, vie for your attention.

The hike starts with a gondola ride to First, a high belvedere with fabulous views of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn and Eiger. A traverse of the slopes high above the north side of Grindelwald passes the Bachsee and then leads to a saddle where views shift to the Jungfrau, the Breithorn and the continuation of the Bernese Alps southwest to the Bluemlisalp massif. Soon the trail traverses a high ridge with dazzling views of the Bernese Alps to the south and Lake Brienz to the north.

At the midpoint of the hike the trail drops down the north side of the ridge, where views shift to the amazing rock formations along the south and north faces of the Sagissa ridge. The trail loops around the ridge and then descends to the Sagistal valley’s pretty pastures. Here views reopen to the Bernese Alps, now from a different angle, with the austere karst landscape of the Güw area in the foreground.

The final leg of the hike travels along the east and south facing flanks of the Loucherhorn before descending the pretty meadows above Oberbergh, with more sensational views of the Bernese Alps. A final short, steep climb leads to Schynige Platte, where a cog railway descends to Wilderswil with connecting trains to Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Interlocken.

Pick a day that promises good weather with clear skies and then get an early start. The trail is long and quite strenuous, with lots of ups and downs. Hikers should be in good condition and well acclimated. Do not attempt this hike during bad or threatening weather. Most of this hike is along high exposed slopes, not the place to be during a storm.

First to Bachsee

Peaks rising to the south of the Bachsee

Distance from Trailhead: 2.1 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 7,450-ft.

Elevation Gain: 340-ft.

Take the Firstbahn gondola from Grindelwald (3,392-ft/1,034-meters) to First (7,110-ft/2,167-meters), situated atop a minor summit on the north side of the valley. (See directions below.) First features a popular restaurant with a sun terrace and a “Cliff Walk”, a cantilevered metal walkway bolted to the sheer west face of the First summit that leads to a 150-ft. long viewing platform with panoramic views of the 4,000-meter peaks towering above the south side of the valley. The walkway ends on the restaurant’s sun terrace where signs help you identify the peaks.

Dominating the stunning views from First are the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and the Eiger. Glaciers spill down the flanks of the massifs to the deep incised gorges between the peaks. Views extend southwest to Kleine Scheidegg, the Jungfrau and, in the distance, the peaks rising above the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Behind the restaurant and lift station find the trail signboard. Head northwest toward Bachalpsee (50min), Faulhorn(2h 20min) and Schynige Platte (5h) on a wide gravel track ascending through meadows on moderate grades. This section of the trail enjoys non-stop views from evolving perspectives. To the southeast the Obere Grindelwald glacier tumbles in motionless waves down the slopes of the Wetterhorn, Barglistock and Schreckhorn. To the south the Finsteraarhorn soars beyond the glacial cirque formed by the Fiescherhorn, Monch and Eiger. To the west Reeti rises above the bowl cradling the Bachsee (aka Bachalpsee), a popular lake.

After walking about a mile the grade eases as the path continues toward the Bachsee. Reach a trail junction at 1.9 miles where a path branches right toward the Hagelsee and Wildgarst. Stay on the main track to the Bachalpsee. A short distance beyond pass a second junction with a trail heading left (south) toward Waldspitz, Bort and Grindelwald.

At 2.1 miles arrive at a trail junction at the southeastern end of the Bachsee 7,450-ft/2,271-meters). On a calm day the Schreckhorn is perfectly reflected in the mirror-like surface of the small, unnamed lake to the south. The lake basin is a popular picnic spot and a favorite destination for families looking for an easy hike from First.

Bachsee to the Viewpoint Beyond the Faulhorn Junction

The Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn, Firscherhorn massif, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau

Distance from Trailhead: 4.1 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 8,583-ft.

Elevation Gain: 1,473-ft.

After exploring the area around the Bachsee, return to the junction. Ignore the trail heads left (southwest) to Spitzen, Feld and Bussalp. Our trail branches to the right (northwest), skirting the right (eastern) shore of the Bachalpsee toward Faulhorn (1h 30min) and Schynige Platte (4h 15min).

At the northeastern end of the lake, at 2.4 miles, the trail curves to the left (west/northwest) and starts a steep ascending traverse through rocky meadows toward a saddle. Switchbacks facilitate the ascent. As you climb turn around for beautiful views of the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn forming the perfect backdrop for the Bachsee. To the east views open to the Schwarzhorn rising along the north side of the Lutschental, Grindelwald’s valley.

Reach the broad, grassy saddle at Gassenboden (8,376-ft/2,553-meters) at 3.4 miles. Here signs points to a path dropping southwest toward Bussalp. Our trail curves to the right (north) and climbs toward Faulhorn (25min), Manndlenen (1h 10min) and Schynige Platte (3h 10min). Panoramic views from the saddle encompass a sea of peaks to the southwest including the Jungfrau, the Breithorn and, in the distance, the Bluemlisalp massif. The Faulhorn rises to the north.

Beyond the saddle the trail continues the steep climb, arriving at the Faulhorn junction (8,596-ft/2,620-meters) at 3.7 miles. Here a trail heads north, switchbacking up steep grassy slopes to the Berghaus Faulhorn and the summit of the Faulhorn (8,793-ft/2,680-meters). If time and energy permit, a detour to the summit is rewarded with grand views of the Bernese Oberland peaks to the south and the Lake Brienz to the north.

To continue the hike, turn left (west) at the Faulhorn junction toward Manndlenen (1h) and Schynige Platte (3h) on a narrow trail dropping steeply across the southern flanks of the Faulhorn. The grade eases at 3.9 miles as the trail travels west along a ridge and then climbs a low grassy knoll. Near the top of the knoll watch for red/white blazed rocks marking a turn to the right at 4.1 miles. (There is no sign.) This is your trail. (A use-trail continues along the top of the knoll to excellent lunch spots with stunning views of the peaks towering above Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and beyond.)

Faulhorn Viewpoint to Schynige Platte

Great views of the Bernese Oberland peaks on the descent to Schynige Platte

Distance from Trailhead: 10.2 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 6,453-ft.

Elevation Gain: -2,130-ft.

(Note: There is a lot of elevation gains and losses along this section of the trail making it much more strenuous then indicated by the simple elevation loss between the beginning and end point of the trail segment.)

Turn right (northwest) and descend the blazed trail on a rocky path, following a jog in the ridgeline. Soon the trail and the ridge curve to the left (southwest). The path now descends near the top of the ridge crest to a junction at Pkt at 4.3 miles. Ignore the trail to the right (north), descending toward Faulegg, Battenalp and Iseltwald along the slopes to the south of Lake Brienz. Our trail curves to the southwest and follows an undulating course along the south side of the ridge crest with terrific views of the Bernese Oberland peaks. These will be your last views of the peaks until you near Schynige Platte.

At 4.8 miles the path crosses to the north side of the ridge where views open to Lake Brienz. Follow the rocky trail as it heads west on a descending traverse on moderate grades toward Manndlenen, the location of a small hut and restaurant. Along the way enjoy views of interesting rock formations along the flanks of the Indri-Sagassa, the highpoint on the ridge across the valley. Soon the grade steepens as it path drops down a rocky slope and then swings to the right (northeast), descending on a very steep trail to Manndlenen (7,690-ft/2,344-meters) at 5.5 miles.

Beyond the restaurant the trail heads northeast, dropping down limestone benches on moderate grades along the south face of the Sagissa ridge. Use care along this section of the trail, some of the rock is quite slick especially when wet.

At 5.9 miles the trail curves to the left (west/southwest) around the end of the ridge. Below the trail to the north is the Saglistalsee, a small lake, at the foot of the long, narrow Sagistal Valley, a hanging valley nestled between the Roteflue and the Indri-Sagassa.

The trail now descends along the north wall of the Indri-Sagassa, dropping down scree covered slopes and rocky meadows to pretty pastures to the western end of the Sagistal valley at 7.1 miles. At the end of the valley the trail drops steeply for a half mile, traveling through the austere karst landscape of the Güw area, and then climbs over a rock outcropping.

Along the way views reopen to the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and Breithorn towering above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the peaks lining the south side of the Sefinental valley. To the east are interesting rock formations along the ridges extending southeast from the Indri-Sagassa.

The trail now crosses an old rockslide and weaves its way through rock outcroppings along the eastern flanks of the Loucherhorn. Soon the trail climbs to and crosses the Loucherhorn’s southeastern ridge at 8.25 miles. From the ridge crest with more great views of the Bernese Oberland peaks to the south.

After crossing the ridge the trail turn north on a descending traverse along the west face of the Laucherhorn. Schynige Platte, our destination, is now in view. After a quarter mile the trail curves to the left (southwest) and drops to a junction at Laucheren (6,627-ft/2,020-meters) at 8.6 miles.

Our trail continues descending on moderately steep grades through pretty meadows toward Schynige Platte. Along the way narrow trails, branching to the right, climb near the ridge crest and offer great views of Lake Brienz, Interlocken and Lake Thun to the north and west. A short detour is recommended to take in the views. Hikers with the time and energy can follow the trails along the ridge crest, taking a longer, circuitous route to the train station at Schynige Platte.

Back on the main trail the grade soon eases as the path weaves its way through undulating pastures, passing above the alp buildings of Oberbergh. At 9.6 miles cross a dirt farm road and then climb a gravel track on steep grades to Schynige Platte (6,453-ft/1,967-meters) at 10.1 miles.

A cog railway, built in 1893, ferries visitors to this high belvedere with sensational views of the Bernese Alps including the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn, Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and the Breithorn. Facility includes a hotel, restaurant and network of nature trails wandering around a botanic garden with over 650 species of plants native to the Swiss Alps.

When you are done exploring the area take the 52 minute ride on the cog railway down to Wilderswil where connecting trains leave for Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Interlocken.

Pick a day that promises good weather with clear skies and then get an early start. The trail is long and quite strenuous, with lots of ups and downs. Hikers should be in good condition and well acclimated. Do not attempt this hike during bad or threatening weather. Most of this hike is along high, exposed slopes, not the place to be during a storm.

The trail can be hiked from either direction. My preference is to start at First, which is higher than Schynige Platte and closer to the Faulhorn, the high point on the hike. This way you get down from the high point earlier in the day, always a good idea when hiking in the mountains.

Hike Facts

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Porfile - First to Schynige Platte

 

 

Driving Directions

From the Grindelwald Bahnhoff (Train Station): Walk east along Dorfstrasse, the main street, in Grindelwald for 0.4 miles. Turn left on an unnamed street across from the vehicle entrance for the Sunstar Hotel. There should be signs for the Firstbahn lift at the turn. (If you pass the Gasthof Steinbock with a pizzeria on the ground floor you have gone too far.) Walk up the street to the First lift station, just past the Pension Gydisdorf.

Note: At the Firstbahn station you can purchase a round-trip ticket that includes the gondola ride to First, a one-way ticket on the cog railway from Schynige Platte to Wilderswil and the train ticket from Wilderswil to Grindelwald. The combined tickets are a better deal than purchasing all the tickets separately. It also saves you from standing in line at Schynige Platte and Wilderswil to purchase tickets.

From the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff (Train Station): From Lauterbrunnen, take the train bound for Interlaken Ost to Zwelutschinen. In Zwelutschinen board a train bound for Grindelwald. From the Grindelwald Bahnhoff (train station), walk east along Dorfstrasse, the main street, in Grindelwald for 0.4 miles. Turn left on an unnamed street across from the vehicle entrance for the Sunstar Hotel. There should be signs for the Firstbahn lift at the turn. (If you pass the Gasthof Steinbock with a pizzeria on the ground floor you have gone too far.) Walk up the street to the First lift station, just past the Pension Gydisdorf.

Note: At the Firstbahn station you can purchase a round-trip ticket that includes the gondola ride to First, a one-way ticket on the cog railway from Schynige Platte to Wilderswil and the train ticket from Wilderswil to Grindelwald. The combined tickets are a better deal than purchasing all the tickets separately. It also saves you from standing in line at Schynige Platte and Wilderswil to purchase tickets.

Returning from Schynige Platte to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen: Take the cog railway from Schynige Platte to the Wilderswil Bahnhoff, a 52 minute ride. At Wilderswil take the train to Grindelwald / Lauterbrunnen. Half the cars on the train will be labeled for Grindelwald and the other half for Lauterbrunnen. Make sure you get on a car labeled for your destination. At Zweilutschinen the train literally splits in half with half the train going to Grindelwald and the other half heading for Lauterbrunnen. The trip to Grindelwald takes 29 minutes.

There is wait time between when the cog railway arrives at Wilderswil and when the train leaves for Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. There is a Migros grocery store across from the train station in Wilderswil, which is a good place to get a cold drink or a snack while waiting for the connecting train.

 

Trail Resources