Trail Running Guide
A Collection of the Best Trail Runs in the Jungfrau Region: Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, and Grindelwald
Switzerland's Berner Oberland includes the densest collection of mountain attractions in all of Switzerland. That's a big statement given that this is the home country of the Matterhorn. But the Berner Oberland is far more than one town sitting below some impressive real estate, it's an entire region that includes the legendary towns of Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, all positioned beneath the (in)famous Eiger Nordwand and all nestled into the landscape like a Sound of Music set.
Located in the center of Switzerland, the Berner Oberland is on the north side of the Alps. It's a bit greener and a lot more Swiss German than the other major mountain regions of Switzerland; the Valais and Graubünden. As such, it's well kept. Its name derives from the canton it's in, Bern, which is also the nearest city and the capital of Switzerland.
Bern is a huge canton and its higher mountains, stretching from just west of Kandersteg all the way to the Grimsel Pass to the east, are the Oberland.
The main attraction within the Berner Oberland is the Jungfrau Region where the iconic trio of mountains, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau tower above the towns of Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Lauterbrunnen. This is big mountain terrain above green hillsides laced with trails. It is certainly one of the Alps finest venues for trail running, not only for the running, but for the full mountain package.
Our goal with this guide is to share the very best trail running in the Berner Oberland, and especially the Jungfrau Region that includes the most iconic, difficult, test pieces, several moderate classics and a few quick hits right out the door, no matter which town you wake up in.
We’ll also detail options for where to base yourself, when to visit, and what not to miss.
JUNGFRAU REGION ROUTES
Get the Jungfrau Region Collection
This collection provides 13 GPX files for some of the very best runs in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland's Berner Oberland. These are our home mountains, we know them well, and we're willing to share our favorites.
Runs included: Lobhorner, Schwarzhorn, Grindelwald First, Chrinnenhorn, Rosenlaui Dossen, Gimmelwald, Strahleghorn, Schilthorn, Niederried Augstmatthorn Loop, Loucherhorn, Interlaken Ringgenberg, Lauterbrunnen Wengen, plus two bonus, easy-day runs in Interlaken that are only found in this collection package: Tour of the Bodeli and Rugen.
Note that Run the Alps Switzerland Book Runs are not included in this collection. (Hardergrat, Schynige Grindelwald, Obersteinberg, Lauterbrunnen Kandersteg, Lauterbrunnen Grindelwald, Sigriswilgrat)
Detailed GPX Tracks
Download the GPX Files and import the routes into your phone's mapping app and/or your watch for the full turn-by turn.
Your purchase supports the team at ALPSinsight to keep these runs coming.
JUNGFRAU REGION TRAIL RUNNING: WHAT TO EXPECT
Trail runners visiting during the summer high season will be greeted with an overwhelming number of trail options. Maps reveal an eye spinning amount of trails, vertical gain, peaks, huts, villages and umlauted words. This is a region famous for hiking. But hiking trails don’t always make for good running trails. Trail selection is more critical in this region to maximize running and minimize forced hiking because unlike the high concentration of silky singletrack in the Valais and Graubünden Regions, the Berner Oberland tends to be more rocky and rooty.
And then there are the crowds… Being one of the top tourism hotspots in Europe, the Jungfrau Region gets busy with visitors from all over the world. Thankfully, few will be found on the trails, fewer still running. Trail runners have one massive advantage over all the other tourists, their legs, which can transport them away from the masses and into the mountains most only get to see from a distance.
Trail running season is a little longer in the Jungfrau Region thanks to Interlaken’s lower elevation. Rising directly from Interlaken is the Hardergrat, a 25km long ridgeline that reaches up to 1600 meters above town’s elevation. Its south-facing hillsides are covered in trails that, depending on the winter snow quantities, open very early for trail running, or even remain passable for most of the year.
Typically, by mid-June, many of the higher trails are mostly snow free and finally, by July, the region is fully runnable.
August is, like many popular destinations in the Alps, packed with tourists.
The summer high season weather could be anything from roaring hot to freakishly cold. Afternoon thunderstorms are common and violent, be prepared to abort your mission and pay attention to the forecast.
September is probably the best month to visit as tourism has slowed, thunderstorms are fewer, and the weather often a bit more stable. October is better still thanks to rich fall colors, empty mountains and the feeling of having it all to yourself. But, only if you nail the right weather window.
ORIENTATION: BERNER OBERLAND'S JUNGFRAU REGION
The Jungfrau Region is a kind of triangle connecting three towns; Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The Jungfrau itself is the tallest (4158 meters) mountain of the three iconic peaks dominating the skyline; the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau. Meanwhile, the Berner Oberland is the alpine region of canton Bern where all the towns are located.
Arguably the most beautiful valley in the Alps, Lauterbrunnen is a bit like Yosemite, but with glaciers hanging above. The valley floor sits at 800 meters while the Jungfrau, directly above, is 4158 meters. A staggering 3358 meter (11,000 feet!) relief. The valley itself is long, narrow, and a dead end. Lauterbrunnen village, which is at the entrance of the valley, has several small hotels and is typically full of young, outdoor-loving travelers.
ADVANTAGES / DISADVANTAGES
Lauterbrunnen seems to be more for the true mountain lover, or travelers seeking a getaway. Check out Stechelberg, in the back of the valley, a bit of a secret hideaway and in many ways, perfection. The only disadvantage might be that if you are staying in one of the Lauterbrunnen Valley's rim villages, Mürren, Gimmelwald, or Wengen you are a bit isolated, and it takes time to change areas as a tram and/or train is required to leave.
LAUTERBRUNNEN CAR-FREE VILLAGES
On both rims of the Lauterbrunnen Valley sit three tiny villages with no auto access. Trains and/or trams must be taken to reach them. They are all true getaways, and place you directly in the Alps with countless trails right out your door.
Wengen is situated to provide huge views down into the chasm of Lauterbrunnen or up to the Jungfrau. It is the biggest of the three rim villages and famous as the finish line of the Lauberhorn Downhill World Cup Ski Race.
On the west side of Lauterbrunnen Valley, and with the full panorama of the Bernese Alps, sits Mürren. Everywhere you go in town the view serves as a reminder that you are in one of the Alps most dramatic landscapes. Reachable by either a tram then train ride, or tram direct, Mürren is a place to settle into if you want a peaceful holiday.
Just below Mürren sits a much smaller version, accessible only by tram. Gimmelwald is what you picture when you imagine the Alps, it is truly the perfect Swiss village. Although tiny, there are several smaller lodging options. Made famous by Rick Steves many years ago when he called it one of his favorite places, Gimmelwald is always full of Americans.
All three of these car free villages have abundant trail running right from town.
The appropriately named Interlaken truly sits between two huge alpine lakes, the Thunersee and Brienzersee (“see” is lake). Situated at the gateway of a valley leading straight into the Alps, Interlaken is less than 30 minutes from both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and has perfect views of the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. At 570 meters, Interlaken is lower in elevation than Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald, and it’s a larger town (pop. 6,000) with far more services and a little more life.
ADVANTAGES / DISADVANTAGES
The whole region is easily accessible from Interlaken, but you do have to drive or take the train to get deeper into the mountains. There is certainly fun to be had from Interlaken itself, but the vast majority of things to do are higher. The town is both bigger and more diverse as the lakes also offer a wider range of activities.
One of the true alpine towns of the European Alps, the village of Grindelwald is known primarily for one thing - the Eiger. Dominating the view from town, the Eiger’s famous Nordwand (North Wall) rises nearly 3000 meters straight up. While the dark, icy wall commands much of the view, the surrounding landscape is laced with friendly trails. Meanwhile, immediately south of town are several easily accessible alpine valleys with astounding alpine scenery. Grindelwald is a place every mountain lover must visit.
ADVANTAGES / DISADVANTAGES
Waking up to the Eiger out your window is something special. Here, you are in the mountains with countless things to do right out the door. Grindelwald’s big drawback is that it is a victim of it’s own fame and can be extremely crowded with a distinct amusement park like feel. It's in the mountains, but it certainly doesn't feel like a mountain town.
BEYOND THE JUNGFRAU REGION
There's plenty to do in the Berner Oberland beyond the Jungfrau Region. Both Kandersteg and the Grimsel Pass are places that should not be ignored. In fact, Kandersteg may well be as dramatic as any of the Jungfrau Region's iconic towns with several Way Up runs starting from or near town; the Wildi Frau, Balmhorn, Gasterespitze and Hockenhorn. Kandersteg sits on a main rail line and is easy to reach.
EXPERIENCE THE BERNER OBERLAND
Why go to the Berner Oberland for trail running? It doesn't have the smoother Valais trails, or the remoteness of Graubünden, but what makes running in the Berner Oberland, especially the Jungfrau Region, worth while are the massive vertical climbs and high traverses straight up from any of the towns. But choose your trails wisely, or better yet, use our tracks to stay on the best running trails in the region, if not some of the best in the Alps. And the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau aren't too shabby to look at either.
Finally, take advantage of a stay and tap into all there is to do beyond the trails.