Trail Running the Hardergrat
An exposed journey along a ridge from Interlaken to the Brünig Pass
This Run is featured in Run the Alps Switzerland: 30 Must-Do Trail Runs
Θ Point to Point
The Hardergrat trail run has become a classic, and for good reason. There are few geographic features this defined with a trail so long. Of its 35km, about 18km are spent on a sharply defined ridge, with significant, even airy, drops on both sides, in fact... 1500 meters of drop.
It’s not just a trail, it’s a journey. The whole time on the ridge is spent with stunning views of the Jungfrau Region’s highest peaks; the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn. You'll be as challenged mentally as you are physically. When you reach the first highpoint at the Suggiture, what you see stretching away into the distance doesn't seem possible given what you already have in your legs. A convenient bailout exists at the same point that'll have you at a bus stop in an hour. Or, proceed and commit to finishing it. There are more bailouts, but after the Suggiture/Augstmatthorn area, bailing out gets more complicated and much bigger.
The Hardergrat trail run is not for those afraid of exposure, and should absolutely never be attempted when wet. The route is not an official trail, but a trail does stay on the ridge the entire length, with cables in place at the more exposed sections. However, the steepest section is unprotected and is a down climb if going west to east.
We suggest the entire ridge, from Interlaken's Harderkulm trailhead, all the way to the Brünig Pass. But, there are two options for doing the full length of the ridge:
- Harderkulm Trailhead (Interlaken) to the Brünig Pass : 35km with about 3300 meters of gain. At the Brünig Pass, you'll have to either catch a bus or train back to where you need to be.
- Harderkulm Trailhead (Interlaken) to the Brienzer Rothorn : 27km with about 3100 meters of gain. At the Brienzer Rothorn, if you make it in time, you can take a train down to Brienz where you can catch a bust, train or even ferry boat back to Interlaken. Check in with the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn's site for the train's timetable and know that if you miss it, you're in for a 1700 meter descent to Brienz, an overnight at the mountain hotel or the extra distance to the Brünig Pass.
This is a mandatory stable, good weather summer route and the trail should be free of snow on the north side. An early start is required from Interlaken to avoid being on the ridge in the heat of the day. There is zero water to be found until the Brienzer Rothorn Station. The trail is slow going and parties take up to 10 hours to finish it. Do not underestimate this route! We call it a trail run because for skilled, strong runners, it is possible to run the bulk of the route. But, for most, this is going to be a hike. We encourage you to keep moving and have an early start! The stats are big, but there is an endpoint.
There is more info about this trail on our ALPSinsight's Hardergrat Trip and Story. If you want to warm up on an easier version of the Hardergrat, consider the nearby Löbhorner Loop, which has what we call a "Startergrat" on it. It includes a similar ridge trail but with much less exposure and less steep sides.
Detailed GPX Track
Download the GPX File and import the route into your phone's mapping app and/or your watch for the full turn-by turn.
The tracks for the Run the Alps Switzerland runs are free for download with book purchase. We hope you’ll support what we do and buy our guidebook prior to downloading these tracks.
Start: 46.69091, 7.86527
Study the route at SwissTopo and have a map available for the run. Many underestimate the route and bail-out from the Augstmatthorn down to Lombachalp from which a bus may be taken back to Interlaken (summer only).
Do not attempt this route when wet or if rain is forecast. Descents are done on grass which becomes deadly slippery when wet.
Take enough water for a full day of exertion in the open sun.
- Trekking poles are highly recommended.
- Our Run the Alps Switzerland guide book has lots more info!
Leave Interlaken early and time your arrival at the Suggiture for sunrise. An early start eliminates time spent on the ridge in summer heat.
The first big view of what lies ahead comes at the Augstmatthorn. You'll either be very inspired, or intimidated. Probably, both.
This is the kind of terrain you'll find yourself in for much of the day.
Steeper sections with the exposure you'll encounter. We weren't kidding about the knife edge ridge.
Nearing the end of the ridge before the Brienzer Rothorn will have you on and off the proper ridge line.
Brody Leven on the final kilometers of downhill to the Brünig Pass. Nearly the entire ridge can be seen in the distance.
Our all new trail running guide to California's Eastern Sierra Nevada is coming in 2022. Learn more at SierraTrailRuns.com
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Did the Hardergrat trail this weekend along with 2 other guys, must say I’m super impressed on how tough it was! (Thanks Dan for keeping me updated when I checked in on the weather conditions!)
Departed from Belgium friday around noon to arrive @ TCS Campsite Interlaken around 8 PM. Unfortunately for us the Greenfield open-air festival was planned this weekend so we didn’t get much sleep because of the noise. Friday evening a bunch of rain fell so I was not exactly sure whether the conditions would be good enough to do the entire trail… Woke up at well before 4 AM so we could leave the campsite around 4 AM. and started our way from the camp site towards the Harder Kulm, this is already a pretty good climb to get your heart rate up and running as a preparation for the rest of the day. After climbing to the Suggiture and Augstmatthorn you can already get a nice feeling of how the rest of the trail will continue… While these sections are not as exposed as the rest of the trail (Tannhorn) I still had to put in a lot of effort to descend from the Augstmatthorn! The warning that was given of not doing this trail when wet or slippery is 100% accurate so unless you have a death wish I would suggest to only do this trail under good conditions. Don’t be fooled by the “only 24km” of this trail as the vertical meters (~2700 according to my watch) weight through big time! Be sure to keep an eye on the mountain tops you have reached and how many are left. The 23rd km before reaching the Brienzer Rothorn station still has a killer ascend of 130+ meters so if you are already high on fatigue this will destroy you if you are physically/mentally not willing to go the extra mile 😉 In total we did around 12h30 in hiking time without actually stopping for a period longer than 20minutes! 2L of water is a bit too short, be sure to bring more, even when the temperature is not that high as you will not come across any water during the trail… Experience of a lifetime!
Happy to be able to cross this off my bucketlist!
If anyone would like to get more info about this trip, feel free to connect with me through my Instagram account, @kennydeckers.
I attempted this in July 2017 with a colleague who bailed out on me not long after the Augsmatthorn. From that moment on, I vowed to come back a year later and do it on my own. So on the 16 June 2018., I kept my promise to myself and completed this trail. It was much longer and harder than I ever imagined but I just kept going and going and loved every minute of it. Thankfully I had 5 litres to drink with me – because I needed it all until the Rothorn and the first opportunity to refill.
While the scenery is breathtaking, I would urge caution to anyone considering this and say, don’t attempt this unless you are fit enough to run a marathon (there are many other runs on this site that are less strenuous and less dangerous). Every corner and every hill cried out to have its picture taken and I often did, but I never stopped for longer than 15 mins – although I walked many of the steeper sections.
I left Interlaken-Ost train station car park just after 7 am and almost 12 hrs later I stepped unto the train at the Brünig Pass (travelling back to Interlaken). My iPhone logged 38.31 km (Strava link below)
This was by far the most beautiful and physically exhausting trail run/hike of my life. Thank you to Dan and the team for the website and fantastic book that made me aware of this amazing trail and gave me the confidence to give it a go.
This is GREAT! Thank you for sharing your experience and very well done doing the whole thing. Boom!
me and my girlfriend came to Interlaken today and are planning to pursue the Hardergrat Trail with start early (4AM) tomorrow morning.
We are experienced runners/hikers however we are a bit concerned about tomorrow’s weather forecast which shows light rain from 1PM.
Are there any sections on the trail that are impossible to complete when wet?
Hi Erik, I wouldn’t say anything is impossible, for sure not – just a bit dangerous. The grass gets really slick and a fall could be bad in some places. There are bailout options to the Brienzersee, study those on the map and consider them as good options if need be. You’ll have to make the call about if you go or not… I hope you get to do it, and be sure to leave a comment with how it went, I’d also like to see the news. Enjoy!
We decided to give it a try despite the weather forecast, however with your words in mind we were aware of the risks in case of a quick weather change.
We started 04:30AM from Interlaken and the first descent to harder kulm took us about 2hours. When we reached the August Matthorn the weather looked really promising and we decided to continue.
The other half (from August Matthorn to Brienzer Rothorn Station) was by far the most amazing hike I’ve ever experienced!!
The combination of the views, the varied terrain and the exposure can’t be described and simply must be experienced!
I must admit that there were moments when I wasn’t to cocky and said to myself ”focus on putting your feet right now, or else..” and as other people has mentioned this is nothing to try if you’re afraid of heights..
In total we spent 8hours from Interlaken to Brienzer Rothorn Station and despite the absurd(!) price for the train ticket down to Brienz it was worth it to spare the knees for the upcoming days 🙂
Thanks a lot Dan, and keep up the good work with this page, it’s awesome!
Correction on above:
Of course it should be ”the first ascent” and no ”descent”
Excuse my french 🙂
I did the trail from station to station (starting at Harder Kulm and finishing at Brienzer Rothorn), which gave me a logged distance of 20.2km and 2km of ascent. Conditions were perfect – cloudless skies (read: unrelenting sunshine) and a gentle breeze.
The trail is surely the most beautiful I’ve ever ‘run’ along, but it was also the hardest. And it was a full body running experience, with my arms being called upon to help scramble up/down some of the steepest parts and as balancing aids on the narrowest sections of the ridge.
The trail is a lot more technical than I have run before and so I was very slow – in fact I did not find it especially runnable – and so I’d urge anyone planning to tackle the Hardergrat to be honest with themselves and assume a full day on the trail and to pack accordingly. Total time on my feet was far longer than I expected and so my decision to pack light on water and food was a massive error of judgement (I’d have benefited from an additional two litres of water/sports drink).
This trail is billed as ‘difficult’ for good reason. It is achievable but it’s testing. But above all it is enormously rewarding!
Reflecting on my life-changing run on the Hardergrat back in August: BE PREPARED this trail is intense and should not be treated lightly. Being my last week in Switzerland, I woke up that August morning and decided to try running this trail ( have background in XC and run 30-40 miles a week). Learned very quick that trail running this route is nothing close to XC. A quick story of my dumb mistakes hopefully will help future runners:
I figured I could test this venture alone and with only 2L of water. Needless to say I ended up 13km in at Augstmatthorn with no water left and cramps building fast: not a good situation to be in while alone and with no water stations nearby. The cramps worsened into unbearable pain in my quads that prevented me from standing at all and I actually ended up sitting on the side of the trail unable to move. After waiting a good hour, I realized there was no way I would be able to stand without water (and for sure not make it to Brienz for the last car down the mountain). So I waited and a miracle emerged over the next ridge as Alex and his running group headed towards me. Supplying me generously with a salt pill, ample water, and food, these guys saved my life potentially and I will always remember their generosity. Lesson for anyone reading: Do not underestimate the trail like I did. Bring more than enough water and travel with someone else. I felt quite panicked when dehydration kicked in at Augstmatthorn and I was stuck on top of the trail until another group happened to pass by. With no phone, I would have spent the night there given my situation.
Regarding getting back to my home (which was Zurich at the time): after regaining my strength from the generous gifts, it was now close to 5pm. With no hope of reaching Brienz for the last car, I felt quite lost without a cellphone map. So I took a route to the left off the Hardergrat down into a valley (opposite side of Interlaken lake) with some beautiful Swiss farmland, hoping to reach a road and maybe a bus stop.
While it was quite peaceful, I was certainly lost at this point and only had the grazing cows to keep me company. I spent close to 2 hours wondering in farmland and then on roads before reaching a large guest house for help, which was to the amusement of the locals sitting on the front porch who probably thought I looked ridiculous covered in dirt/sweat/ and telling them I came from hiking 20 km away in Interlaken. They kindly instructed me to a bus stop at Kemmeriboden, which was another hour walk.
For the final stretch of this journey, I found myself looking back up to the Augstmatthorn point on the Hardergrat trail (now 8km away) and realizing how beautiful this country truly is. Passing stunning waterfalls and quaint wooden sculptures along the trail I hiked towards the bus stop, I was thoroughly exhausted and hoping to make the 830 bus. Luckily made it in time and couldn’t believe how far I was from the start at Harder Kulm.
In summary: this trail is gorgeous and worth seeing, but if you are not an expert trail runner I would not recommend trying your luck runming without extreme care and prep. This trail offers some very sketchy climbing points and virtually no water refill stations. Thus, having enough resources and proper gear is a must. Overall, I loved the journey nonetheless and greatly appreciated the Swiss trail running community and local people living near Interlaken. I hope to return someday to show my family this trail and the secret waterfalls of the Emme creek.
This trail indeed is fantastic. It’s also known as Brienzergrat for it’s highest peak, the Brienzer Rothorn at 2350m, dominating the ridgeline at its western terminus. I attempted the trail this summer, going west to east. In order to add some more elevation gain, I started on the Brünigpass and finished in Interlaken Ost, in a little over 9 hours, covering roughly 40km.
The description and comments here are accurate: Take this trail seriously. It’s long, exposed and technical. I had a hard time running some parts. While a few clouds were providing cooling, the wet ground from a brief thunderstorm the evening before hadn’t comletely dried off yet and muddy sections were no delight. However, funny enough, the hardest part was actually a totally different and rather unexpected aspect: While running it on a Saturday, crowds of tourists were on the trail, mainly between the Augstmatthorn and the Harderkulm (I assume it’s not much different around the Brienzer Rothorn, since folks can get there by funicular and even cable car too). Passing each other and waiting for people on the narrow trail can be a bit of a pain. My motto: Stay patient, smile & greet – and take pictures for the Asian tourists on their smartphones (apparently they were oblivious to my running gear).
All in all: be prepared and you’ll have a blast – the length and elevation gain have to be earned though. Happy trails!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful route! The articles and comments are very helpful.
We will be staying in Berghaus Rothorn in a couple of weeks. Would you by any chance advise against doing the train in reverse?
Excellent, thank you! Many people do it east to west, it’s actually a bit easier this way and doesn’t change the route – it’s equally as good. We prefer west to east so you have the ridge laid out before you with the most dramatic view, but it’s basically the same… Have a great trip!
“Trekking poles are highly recommended.”….Not a single person using them in any of the photos.