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Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

new england
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Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Any advice on which direction is most recommended? We will definitely be stopping at the Faulhorn for a bite and beverage, so this looks like a definite all-day hike. When should we plan on leaving our hotel in Grindelwald to do this hike, in order to get back before the train to Wilderwil or lift to Grindelwald via First closes? Are there any sheer dropoffs on this hike in close proximity to the path? I have some height issues with sheer dropoffs and little room to walk, but overall pretty much OK (no issues at all as far as cable cars etc and most walks/hikes). Thanks for any help, greatly appreciated.

W. Palm Beach, FL
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1. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Which direction you do this hike is usually determined by whether you would prefer mostly uphill hiking or mostly downhill hiking. (Usually determined by the condition of your knees.)

The Faulhorn is the high point of the hike and it is closer to First than it is to Schynigge Platte. If you start on the First end you have around 2 hrs+ of mostly uphill hiking to the Faulhorn then 5-6 hrs of mostly downhill hiking to SP from the Faulhorn. The last train from SP down leaves at 17:53

Starting in SP you have the 5-6 hrs of mostly uphill hiking then the 2 hrs of downhill to First. The First gondola stops running around 17:00.

I usually give myself as much leeway as I can by starting as early as possible. The earlies train to SP leaves Wilderswil at 7:25 arriving at the top at 8:17.

The First gondola doesn't start operating until 8:30 so you wouldn't be starting out much before 9:00 from that end.

There arent any really steep drop off along the way and really there are only a few sections of steeper hiking both uphill or downhill.

The views are identical from either direction.

new england
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2. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Thanks Mountaintopper, I appreciate the advice. My knees are fine but my husband has some issues with one, he tore the ACL some years ago but it still flares up...he just ices it post-hike and it's usually fine. Uphill is usually easier on the knees then downhill from what I understand? I guess we'll get off asap in the morning and sounds like we'll be OK time wise. Thanks again....

San Jose, CA
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3. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

I've done this hike at least 20 times (I'm sure Mountaintopper has as well) and I strongly prefer the SP to First direction. Here's a riff on the hike from a document I've put together on the region (happy to send it to you if you send me your email address via TA's Private Message feature). It's written from perspective of using Wengen as base; if you are basing elsewhere it will be easy to adjust accordingly:

Schynige Platte to First. This is an all day event, but, in my opinion, is perhaps the most spectacular day hike in all of Switzerland. However, you want to do this on a reasonably clear day or you will not be able to take advantage of the views. Leave Wengen early, like at 8:00, and take the train down the hill to Wilderswil (via Lauterbrunnen) which is the last stop before Interlaken Ost. There you will catch the Schynige Platte Bahn which is a 100 year old cog train that takes you up about 5000 feet of vertical to Schynige Platte. The views of Interlaken and the lakes on the way up are breathtaking. The ride takes about an hour, the entire trip to SP from Wengen takes about two hours. There is a large restaurant and inn at SP and the views back toward the Eiger massif are different than any you will have seen and are fantastic. Be sure to walk around the west corner of the grounds for a wonderful view of the lakes. There is a cool video on You Tube of the views from the restaurant viewing platform at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vK94B9nsdic.

Follow the trail signs to First. The trail covers wonderfully varied terrain with frequent spectacular views of the lakes to your north and the mountains to your south. About 1/3 of the way into the walk there is a stunning large meadow full of grazing sheep and goats. You then enter a rocky terrain area (the footing is stable but requires attention; there is no exposure) with spectacular views of the hanging meadow retreating below you. There is a quaint Berghotel (mountain hotel), the Weberhütte, about 2/3 of the way through the trip which is a grand place to stop for snacks and a refill of liquids. And by all means, don’t miss the Faulhorn which is about 45 minutes further on atop a rise (you can’t miss it). Built in 1832, the Faulhorn is the oldest Berghotel and restaurant in Switzerland. This is a good lunch spot. It’s all downhill from there to First with gorgeous carpets of wildflowers, a spectacular view of the Wetterhorn peak reflected in small Alpine lakes, and occasional sightings of marmots. There is more information about this hike along with pictures at activityworkshop.net/hiking/…faulhorn.html. (In my opinion, the writer over-emphasizes the actual difficulty of the hike, perhaps he is writing for an audience with little hiking experience.)

All in, the hike has a total ascent of just under 3,000 feet (but it’s mostly gradual and rolling) over a span of about 8 miles or so. Allow about 5 hours just for the hike, excluding breaks and lunch.

At First you can take the ski gondolas down to Grindelwald. This is a stunning ride, but make sure you get there by 5:00 pm because that’s when the last gondola heads down the hill. Otherwise, you face a descent of 3,000 vertical feet on foot. The ride down takes about 30 minutes and, being a ski lift, runs continuously.

Once you reach Grindelwald turn left out of the gondola station then turn right on the main street. Walk through town (which is somewhat interesting, but too touristy and too many cars for my taste) to the train station on the opposite end of the village. Trains run back to Lauterbrunnen about every 20 minutes, you will need to switch at Zweilütschinen. (If you’ve arrived at the station just after a train has departed, there’s a restaurant with a patio one block before the station where you can get a drink and watch the world go by.) The total train trip from Grindelwald back to Lauterbrunnen then up to Wengen takes about 45 minutes. If you leave Wengen at 8:00 am you should be back around 6:00 pm, ready for wienerschnitzel and pomme frites! This sounds like a long day – which it is – but I’ve frequently seen locals in their 80s on this hike so it’s not as aggressive as it may sound.

Note: you can, of course, do this hike in reverse – starting at First and walking to Schynige Platte. In this direction, most of the ascent comes between First and the Faulhorn with the remainder of the hike (the most distance) being primarily downhill. Although this may sound attractive, it is a LOT of downhill and the trail surface requires constant attention, making the descent rather tedious. A bit hard on the knees

new england
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4. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

kimsanjose....wow! Thank You so very much for all the great information! Will plan on taking the SP to First route, aim for the day that has the best weather and take lots of pictures! I have read so much about this walk, and can't wait to experience it. If you have done this one 20+ times it must be just amazing. Do you have any other particular favorites? As of now planning on the Eiger trail and walk from Grosse Sheidegg as well ( and of course Mannlichen to KS in some context) Thanks again for all the great info I much enjoyed reading that! Margaret

Lucerne, Switzerland
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5. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Another interesting and straightforward walk starts from the top of the Pfingstegg cable car and goes up the side of the valley above the lower Grindelwald glacier (Untere Gletscher). In about 90 minutes you come to Bäregg where there is a restaurant with a superb terrace set right opposite the east face of the Eiger - this is a direction that you don't normally see the Eiger from. The path is easy and wide as far as Bäregg, no problems at all.

The path continues up-valley beyond Bäregg towards the Schreckhorn Hut, opening up really spectacular glacier views. This eventually becomes a difficult alpine route, but for an hour or so after Bäregg it's still a good, easy path. It does however require a reasonable head for heights as the path is narrow and the valley side is steep.

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6. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

neuch, sounds like a great walk even if it's just to Baregg. Have been to top of Pfinstegg lift and walked down to Grindelwald from there after having a fun ride on the summer tobbagan run...felt like I was a kid again lol. Sounds like the terrace at Baregg is a great spot to sit and have a lunch. Thanks for the tip! I'd love to continue on to the Shreckhorn but that may not be in the cards for me. I am getting better but sheer drop offs/narrow spots still cause issues. Darn it all. For instance I'd love to do the Hornli Hutte hike in Zermatt but I really don't think I could get by the narrow-walk-tacked-on-to-the-side-of-the-cliff part (from pictures and reading about it) and have to be realistic. I love to hike but not with my heart in my throat! At least there is plenty I AM capable of doing. Endurance/fitness no issue, just sadly the height thing gets in the way sometimes. Thanks again.

Lucerne, Switzerland
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7. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

You shouldn't worry about the Hörnlihütte path. The narrow bit that you mention - I assume you mean the section where you have to cross a metal walkway attached to the rock ? It's really fine, there's a solid metal handrail on the side where the land drops away AND a fixed chain on the mountain side, so you have something to hold on to with both hands if needed. It's really no different from walking along a landing or a narrow flight of stairs.

That bit is close to the start of the ascent and is very short; once you get above it the path is technically easy - a long flat section then a series of zigzags up to the hut. There are fixed chains in places but the path is wide - I think the chains have been put there mainly because at that altitude, you could get snow and ice at any time of year, in which case the chains would make things easier.

I did the hike in late July last year; the path was completely free of snow and ice and it was really not difficult. There were all sorts of people up there - families with young children, Japanese tourists in trainers, people of every age from 7 to 70 and beyond :-)

Edited: 14 August 2010, 14:42
new england
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8. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Hi neuch, yes the metal walkway is what I am referring too....if it's fairly early on in the hike I guess I could try it and, worst case scenario, turn around lol! I suppose if 7-70 are up there perhaps I just focus on the rock and scrabble up as quickly as possible :-) I really want to do this hike as does my husband, I am just worried about that particular part of it. I thought maybe I'd just hike around the Schwarzsee area a bit while he made the hike up and back but it would be certainly more fun to do it together.

On a side note, as you are obviously an experienced hiker in this area, what about the hike Eidelweiss-Trift-Hohbalmen? I have just walked up to the Eidelweiss and back, short and steep but sweet and had a great lunch at Eidelweiss!! Where we have a longer time in Zermatt to hike this year I'd love to do this route if it's really a terrrific hike and doable for me as far as the height issue goes. Also planning on the 5 lake hike Blauhard to Sunnega via Stellisee, etc. Thank You SO much for your tips and the encouraging words RE the Hornlihuute hike!

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9. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

I can't comment on the Blauherd lakes hike as I have not done that one myself.

Edelweiss-Trift-Hohbalmen is beautiful. I did it in late October two years ago, the autumn colours were at their best. The first bit up to the Hotel Edelweiss is the steepest; from there to Trift the gradient is much easier. The Hohbalmen section is mostly flat after an initial climb, BUT the path is narrower than the Hörnlihütte one and it crsses some pretty steep slopes, so you might not like it. It's a good path, there are no really dangerous bits, but there's a constant large drop (steep grass slopes, not vertical) to your left.

An easier hike in that same valley is the walk from Zermatt up to the Schönbielhütte via Zmutt. No vertigo problems at all on this one, and you end up at 2700 metres with the north face of the Matterhorn and the Stöckji glacier right in front of you. The views are similar to what you would get from Hohbalmen, except that you're a few hundred metres lower down.

Descriptions (in French) and photos of all of these hikes here:

Hohbalmen: http://www.hikr.org/tour/post9350.html

Schönbiel: http://www.hikr.org/tour/post9347.html

Hörnlihütte: http://www.hikr.org/tour/post15272.html

Stephen

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10. Re: Hike:Schynige Platte to First or First to Schynige Platte?

Another of my all time favorite hikes in the Bernese Oberland is Meiringen to Grosse Scheidegg (besides the obvious must-dos of Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg and Murren-Grutschalp). Another riff: again written from a transport-from-Wengen perspective but easily translatable to other bases:

Meiringen to Grosse Scheidegg. This is yet another stunning all day hike with varied terrain and majestic views of the Wetterhorn and other peaks. First, take the train from Wengen to Meiringen. You should plan to arrive at Meiringen no later than 10:00 am; ask the rail station staff at Wengen to print you a timetable so you can make convenient changes at Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken.

Walk through Meiringen to the lift up to Reichenbach Falls. (It’s fairly well marked but train station staff can also direct you.) Once you arrive at the lift, you can take it up to the Falls (which cuts about 900 feet of vertical out of the hike) but bear in mind that the lift staff breaks for lunch for 2 hours beginning sometime between 11:30 and 12:00 noon. Alternatively, take the trail just behind the café and walk up. It is a lovely, fairly steep walk largely through a forested area. The Falls are quite dramatic and achieved fame as the spot where Sherlock Holmes allegedly met his fate. See more at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichenbach_Falls

If you’ve taken the lift up, a series of steep (but very wide and stable) steps with no drop offs will take you up to a large Berghotel. You will also pass this way if you’ve walked up and it’s a good place to stop for a drink. Continue on, following the signs to Rosenlaui/Grosse Scheidegg. You’ll have a bit more climbing to do before you come upon a large hanging valley, the Reichenbachtal, with the gorgeous Aar river running through it. The path follows the river for over a mile and you’ll have spectacular views of the Wetterhorn and other peaks. The flat terrain on this section is also a welcome relief!

Don’t miss stopping for lunch at Rosenlaui, a beautiful old hotel with a lovely patio. (See a photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ogil/2688599684/.) The food here is truly exceptional and presented beautifully. Plan on at least an hour for lunch and try not to eat too much, although that’s a difficult thing to do here!

After lunch, press on toward Grosse Scheidegg. There is more up and down with about 500 feet of climbing required at the very end (when it is least welcome). However, the views continue to be marvelous and the scene from atop Grosse Scheidegg is well worth your effort. Stop at the inn here for a drink (if you’ve eaten lunch at Rosenlaui you won’t be hungry!), then take the Post Bus down to Grindelwald train station. Take the train back to Wengen via Zweilütschinen (where you will switch) and Lauterbrunnen.