Mountain Biking the Lauterbrunnen Valley
View of the Lauterbrunnen valley on the way to Stechelberg
For CHF 35, you can rent mountain bikes from Balmer’s hostel, which is a decent deal for a full day of biking. (Hint: we were later informed by other travelers that you can go around the corner to rent bikes for just CHF 20.) Armed with a map of the Jungfrau region, the activities guide at Balmer’s suggested biking to Wildersil, through Zweilutschinen to Lauterbrunnen, where we could stop for lunch. From Lauterbrunnen, you can bike to Stechelberg, take the gondola up to Murren, then bike down the mountain back to Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken. The route is mostly gravel, with some short sections of dirt and pavement.
The trek from Interlaken (567 m) to Wildersil is flat and fast, about 15 minutes or so of biking. Once you pass Wildersil though, everything goes rapidly uphill. The toughest ascent of the route is a bit outside of Wildersil. Remember, there is no shame in getting off your bike to walk up the hill, unless your other friend is leaving you in the dust.
Switzerland’s train system traverses the mountainous terrain to reach even the smallest villages; the Weisse Lütschine river flows through the Lauterbrunnen valley
After you pass the forested edges of Schynige Platte, the trail follows the river and railroad tracks fairly closely. The path here is a gradual climb, but you won’t notice the incline after the previous ascent. Continue following the signs towards Zweilutschinen, crossing the railroad tracks when you reach the town.
Somewhere around here, Britton’s bike began to make some ugly popping noises and her rear derailleur got stuck in the highest gear. This made biking up hills a tad more complicated. We tried our best to move the derailleur, and got ourselves covered in bike grease in the process, but in the end there was nothing we could do other than look for a bike shop in the next town. Fortunately, when we arrived in Lauterbrunnen (796 m), a local was able to point us to a bike shop down the street, where the mechanic was kind enough to adjust her derailleur for free.
Lauterbrunnen’s Staubbach Falls, one of the highest, single unbroken waterfalls in Europe; view of the Lauterbrunnen valley from the gondola to Murren
Exhausted and hungry from the morning trek, we headed to the end of Lauterbrunnen’s main street and ate a picnic lunch next to the Staubbach Falls. This waterfall drops about 300 m and is one of over 40 that pour into the Lauterbrunnen valley.
From Lauterbrunnen, continue biking south near the river toward Stechelberg (910 m). The route here is flat, and you will reach the gondola station in about half an hour. Take the gondola to Murren; you need to transfer gondolas at Gimmelwald. The houses in the valley will quickly disappear to pinpoint size. One-way tickets are about CHF 11, and bringing your bike onboard is an additional CHF 5 surcharge.
Once you arrive in Murren (1645 m), turn left as you leave the gondola station and stroll through town. Judging from the window displays, Murren was recently “discovered” in the 2010 edition of Rick Steves’ guidebook, but for now it is still a quaint, charming Swiss mountain town. Exit through the other side of town, and take the gravel trail back down to Lauterbrunnen.
This is where the fun part really begins. You need to descend 850 m on a winding, rocky path, filled with hairpin turns, blind spots and occasional unsuspecting hikers. When we asked the clerk at the Murren train station for directions, he smirked at the newbie American girls who had no clue that they were about to go careening down a mountain at breakneck speed. According to him, it takes about 15 minutes to bike downhill to Lauterbrunnnen. It took us a little bit more than that, but the ride is a thrilling, edge of your seat adrenalin rush. Don’t forget to bring a helmet. On some of the steepest sections, they do pave the trail, which mostly just encourages me to not use my brakes.
Once you are back in Lauterbrunnen, the trip back to Interlaken is almost entirely coasting downhill, practically a yawner. Total cycling time (round trip): 5.5 hours.