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Bernese Oberland: Geraniums, Playgrounds, Swims, and Wiggles

Becki Penrose
Guided by Becki Penrose
Our group set out from the beautiful mountain chalet at Schwarzwaldalp where we’d spent a peaceful first night with the sounds of bells from cows lazily grazing in the pastures. We had the next week to explore the best trails around Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland region.

Our first day on the trails, we steadily climbed through woods and meadows abundant with flowers, alongside clear mountain streams, and under the towering cliffs of the Wetterhorn to arrive at the Grosse Scheidegg, the pass with our first views down into Grindelwald and toward the majestic Eiger. A flowing trail took us around to the top of the ski area at First to experience the airy cliff walk before descending with skips and whoops on the fun trail down to Bort where we took the tram to save our quads for the next big day.

Day two we set out early to experience the steep cog trail ride up to Schynige Platte where we began our run for the day. We climbed, traversed, and weaved our way on the trails between ridges with bird’s-eye views down onto Lake Thun and Brienz.

Reinvigorated by fruit tarts at a mountain hut, we gained the summit of the Faulhorn and quickly descended away from some turbulent midday weather and down to Bachsee, where despite lingering clouds and cool breezes, some of the group enjoyed a refreshing dip. For the day’s final leg, our team split, with some descending a “dream trail” all the way down to Grindelwald while others rode the tram and enjoyed a wild ride down by Trottibike (stand up scooter).

The next day we journeyed to the village of Wengen. Our group briefly separated to take either the high Eiger Trail directly under the Eiger’s famous North face or the lower and more gentle Romantikweg. We reunited at Kleine Scheidegg pass before a sociable run down to Wengen and the hotel pool.

Our next day took us on a stunning route to our final hotel in Mürren. Using train and bus to get to the waterfall-abundant Lauterbrunnen valley, our run climbed to the historic Obersteinberg mountain hotel, and higher to traverse the dramatic balcony path beneath the Tanzbödeli, a grassy plateau known as the “dance floor.” Dropping through the breathtaking Sefinental hanging valley, we then tackled the final climb up to the small traditional village of Gimmelwald.

The final day dawned with very unsettled weather and storms forecast for the whole day. Undeterred, we timed our run to skip between the storms, descending away from the thunder and down to the base of the Lauterbrunnen valley. We ran the valley trail under vertical cliffs, with a break at Trummelbach Falls to explore its dramatic series of ten glacier-fed waterfalls.


Highlight on the trail

We had more than a few highlights – the cool dip in Bachsee lake on day two was refreshing. Mürren coming into view across the valley as we descended under the Jungfrau’s glaciers and cliffs towards Wengen was memorable. And our “wiggle wiggle” song to accompany the endless zig zags down from Sefinental to Stechelberg among the rain-bathing Salamanders on our final run day.


Most memorable non-trail moment

We enjoyed celebrating Greg’s birthday in the middle of our week together. He was a good sport and wore his birthday cowbell so we couldn’t lose him on the trail. When we arrived in Grindelwald, everyone’s eyes bulged at the first sight of so many geraniums that adorn the balconies of Hotel Gletschergarten.


Funniest moment

Having just bought tram tickets to carry us the final uphill to Mürren, I walked out of the Gimmelwald cable car station and noticed a crowd gathering. The young children among the spectators were especially excited to watch the adults on the slide in the play area. Of course it was our group, who just hadn’t had quite enough fun for the day. With the last of our energy spent, we were then ready to head to the hotel for a good evening meal.


Low point

Following the breathtaking balcony path above Obersteinberg, our steep descent down to the Sefinental valley felt hard going. But, just as it was starting to feel a little prolonged, the sounds of the river came closer and soon we were able to cool our feet at the edges before our climb up to Gimmelwald for drinks and nachos.


Best meal of the tour

Everyone had their own favorites including the Rösti at Kleine Scheidegg, the substantial dinner and varied salad bar at the Alpine Hotel, Wengen, and the brilliant breakfast buffet at the Drei Berge in Mürren, with its tasty fresh breads, pastries, locally sourced meats, cheeses, preserves, and thick luxurious hot chocolate.

A birthday celebration, and the gift of a cowbell to keep from getting lost in Switzerland. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Running through the pastures above Stechelberg to start the day’s run. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Starting to gain some elevation. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Through forest and pastures on our way to Obersteinberg. (Photo: Kim Strom)

A beautiful morning out! (Photo: Kim Strom)

Aid station. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Some single track after the steep climb. (Photo: Kim Strom)

A favorite piece of trail. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Our mountain hotel – Obersteinberg. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Climbing still from Obersteinberg – a bit more up to do. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Headed for the high traverse. (Photo: Kim Strom)

The balcony trail surrounded by waterfalls. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Starting the tough descent to Sefinental. (Photo: Kim Strom)

One of the best parts of a beat-up downhill run, a foot soak in glacial water. (Photo: Kim Strom)