Heart of Switzerland: Alpine Hiking and Adventure

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The Wengneralp train runs from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg.
The Wengneralp train runs from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

The cheery green and yellow Wengernalp Railway climbs its steep alpine route, and our sense of adventure heightens as the cogwheels hug an increasingly vertical slope. It’s a blue-sky autumn day, perfect for our hiking adventure to the car-free village of Wengen in central Switzerland. Suddenly, coming into view from the window of the train, the glistening snow-capped peaks of the Jungfrau massif loom large.

We are in the shadow of the big three: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, and I’m already awestruck by the views I might capture during our week in the Alps.

For six family members who all love to hike, Switzerland had catapulted to the top of our list of appealing destinations for a special trip, and we chose a rental chalet in Wengen as a base for exploring the Jungfrau region of the Bernese Oberland.

Hiking in Switzerland, and identifying Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau peaks above Murren.
Identifying Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau peaks above Murren. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Hiking in Switzerland: A Hikers’ Paradise

Perched on a natural mountain terrace above the Lauterbrunnen Valley, not far from Interlaken, Wengen is one of several car-free villages that is both a winter resort and summertime hub for hiking.

Throughout the valley and surrounding mountain terrain, hiking trails range from easy walks to challenging climbs, with options for all ability levels. Trails are well marked with a color-coded system that informs the difficulty rating and average time required between points.

Hiking adventure in Switzerland. Watching daybreak from our terrace in Wengen
Watching daybreak from our terrace in Wengen. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

The guidebooks are right – while in Wengen, don’t miss Mannlichen and Kleine Scheidegg. You can take the tram or hike the steep, switchback trail to Mannlichen, where there is a restaurant with amazing vistas, then follow the level path to Kleine Scheidegg for a leisurely walk straight towards the stunning triple peaks.

From here, you can return to Wengen by train or head up the mountain to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station.

Across the valley, the craggy Schilthorn peak dominates the landscape, which is famous for inspiring the filming of James Bond’s sixth movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” From Lauterbrunnen or Murren, take the cable car (or hike up, as our daughters did) to the revolving Piz Gloria restaurant and the fascinating Bond World 007 exhibition.

Admiring sheep on the way to Schilthorn summit.
Admiring sheep on the way to Schilthorn summit. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

Several times, our family split up to do different hikes, with some choosing the steep climb while others took a tram ride or gentler path.

Each day on the trail brought novel experiences, from meeting curious goats and canine friends to finding ourselves in the midst of a failed cattle drive, which sent us scampering for the nearest boulder in the open field. We came upon welcoming alpine restaurants and even discovered a self-serve chalet offering cold drinks, cheeses and snacks with the honor system payment.

A visit with some friendly dogs in the Swiss Alps
Meeting canine friends along the trail. Photo by Ann Yungmeyer

After daylong outings, we often prepared evening meals at our chalet, and the cooks among us took the initiative of gathering provisions at the village market, cheese shop, bakery and chocolatier. Our host offered produce from the house vegetable garden, and fresh eggs and sausages were available from a neighboring farm.

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