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The Most Beautiful Valley in Switzerland
Bordered by high valley walls, Lauterbrunnen is named for the "loud brook" which it sits near, and was founded in 1304. The town's most cherished feature is its view of the Staubbach Falls, the largest of 72 waterfalls which line the Alpine valley. The town is a great place to stay, as the rest of the valley and the great alpine peaks that surround it can be accessed through cable cars and funiculars. The town exists mostly for tourism, and about 2000 people live there year round. The towns of Wengen, Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg, and Isenfluh, can be easily be reached by alpine train or walking trail (I would suggest taking the walking trails, as I will explain later). Lauterbrunnen is a great town, but after its amazing view, it is a gateway to the great wonders of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
The Most Awesome (awe-inspiring) Walking(ish) Loop in Europe
I've hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail, and Florida Trail, and none of these can even compare, at least in beauty of natural surroundings, to the walking trails around Lauterbrunnen Valley. I'm going to walk you through this walking trail, start to finish. Pictures of the trail on the right.
Cable Car to Grutschalp
The cable car lifts you from the train station in Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp, which is more of just a location than a town. The cable car rises over a thousand feet up the mountain and deposits you at the top of the valley walls. The cable car also hauls up all the supplies for Murren and Gimmelwald, which are not accessible by road.
Walking Trail to Murren
This beautiful walk, which can be bypassed though the use of the train, winds 3 miles along gently sloping meadows and alpine forests, crossing numerous streams, including the feeder stream to Staubbach Falls. Along the trail, one can see snow year round, a great view of both Lauterbrunnen and Wengen, the ski resort town across the valley. The walk provides picturesque views of the Jungfrau, Monch, and the Eiger. This is probably my favorite walking trail in the world, even though it is paved for much of the journey. Murren is a great place to rest and buy some kitsch things or eat a great lunch at the Hotel Eiger.
Walking Trail to Gimmelwald
This trail passes by quaint farms, fields full of sheep and goats, and great views of the valley to boot. This trail is completely downhill, so it is really a breeze. Gimmelwald is the closest thing you can get to something completely cut off to civilization, except for the free wifi, English speaking waiter, etc. Sadly, you will never be able to practice your German, because everybody speaks English in Europe and wants to practice on you, the tourist. Gimmelwald is my new favorite town. Period. The pictures say it all.
Cable Car to Stechelberg
A short ride down the mountain, the cable car goes pretty fast, so if you have vertigo, it might not be a great experience. But the alternative is an 8 mile long trail that is extremely steep, and closed in some seasons, so the car is really your only logical option. When i went on the car, BASE jumpers flew off the sides of the valley right as I descended, pulling their chutes and what appeared to be the last possible moment.
Walking Trail to Trummelbach Falls
After a 30 minute walk, you find yourself at Trummelbach Falls, which I consider to be a minor wonder of the world. These falls drain the glaciers on top of the Jungfrau and Monch, and at the falls have carved deep caverns into the mountain, accessible by long tunnels and a lift. There are ten chutes in all, and all of them embody pure power, and are actually quite frightening.
Walking Trail to Lauterbrunnen
I was unable to do this trail, as a sudden downpour forced me to take the bus, and if you are completely exhausted, you can do the same. But making the final jaunt isa great bookend to the day, and then you will have officially completed a great delving into the Lauterbrunnen Valley.