The day had begun misty with low hanging clouds, concealing the mountains all around us. But by late afternoon the clouds had lifted, once again revealing the majestic Swiss Alps. It was time to hike!
Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. It was also my favorite hike that we did in Switzerland. It’s a hike we’ll all remember the rest of our lives.
A total of 72 waterfalls thunder down into the Lauterbrunnen Valley from towering steep walls of rock. The valley itself is only about one kilometer wide and sheer walls of rock rise up on either side. In the distance snow capped mountains rising from flowered alpine meadows frame the entire scene. It’s all so magical!
We drove to the tiny town of Lauterbrunnen and parked in a public parking lot. We didn’t have to go very far to see our first waterfall. In fact, we didn’t have to go anywhere. Staubbach Falls, all 974 feet of it, was right there. If you’ve ever seen any pictures of the town of Lauterbrunnen, this is the waterfall that you see. It’s basically in the town. Nothing like an immediate payoff to start our hike!
Much of the hike itself is on a little one lane road that cuts through the middle of the valley. Houses and farms dot the valley floor and much of the road is lined on either side by rock walls and low electric fences to keep cattle and sheep in and, I’m guessing, hikers out. We began the hike surrounded by a number of people, but the further we went, the less people continued on. Most just walked to the first couple of falls.
Every turn was a magical as the next. Sunlight now peaked through the clouds bathing the mountains in light. Everywhere we looked there was a waterfall. Some tumbling over the edge of the rock walls in a thunderous boom. Cool spray would hit our faces with a shift in the breeze. Other falls were more of a trickle; probably the result of snow melt on this early June day. But they all eventually reached the bottom of the valley floor which was covered in bright yellow and purple wildflowers.
But what was most amazing to me was that people lived here. There cannot be a more beautiful place to live! The meadows and the flowers and the mountains and a waterfall in your backyard. What a life!
We continued to walk down the little road. It was a slow walk filled with lots of stops. I found myself continuously spinning in circles just to take in the 360 degree view. Evening was approaching, but it being June in Switzerland, the sun was still high in the sky.
Many of our stops were to watch cows. True Swiss cows eating the sweet mountain grass with large bells tied around their necks by bright colored bands. You can hear them long before you see them. At one point we were watching a group of cows when they suddenly all perked up and seemed to get excited about something. We looked up the road and saw a woman running ahead of a herd of cows, bringing them home for the night. The entire herd ran right through us, clanging and mooing loudly. I think we surprised a few as they would pause for a second or two, not quite sure what to do when they saw us. See the video below.
Soon after the cows we reached a point where the road turned and crossed the river that flowed through the valley via a cute little bridge. Here we got off the road to continue straight on a trail. The glacial river tumbled over rocks and, now away from the farm fields, the forest grew dense and green around us.
The trail passed by an opening to the river. The spot was filled with rock cairns. We stopped to add a few rocks and enjoy the view. The ceaseless singing of the river along with the lush green of the forest and clouds clinging to the mountains in the distance created a fairytale spot where one could idle away many hours. But we had one last waterfall to see before we would turn back.
You could hear this waterfall, Murrenbachfall, before you saw it. The trail brought us right to the base of the falls. Mist blew in our face as we watched the water shoot over the rock ledge high above us and free fall for a few hundred feet before cascading down the cliff to a racing river fall below. It was mesmerizing.
The hike back to the car was beautiful. The setting sun bathed the valley in a golden glow and turned the mountain tops to fire. We were the only ones on the trail and stillness of the long June evening settled around us as we hiked back into town. The perfect ending to an amazing hike.
Our total hike was a little over 7 miles. But, as there are waterfalls to be seen from the moment you enter the town of Lauterbrunnen, you can make the hike any distance that you want. There are also hotels, a campground, and many restaurants in town. By the time we arrived back in town only a bar was still open, but it was packed, the food and drinks were good, and they welcomed the kids. The Staubbach Falls are lit up at night as well. This is a must see for any trip to Switzerland!