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The Via Alpina 1, also known as the Swiss Alpine Pass Route, is the section of the Via Alpina that runs through the Swiss Alps. The Via Alpina is actually a network of five long-distance hiking routes through the alpine regions of Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, France and Monaco. The Swiss portion of the Via Alpina is 390 kilometers long and is divided into 20 stages. Looking for walking holidays in Switzerland? You can choose to hike the entire route or just part of it. The most popular part in Switzerland is the Bear Trek or in German the Bärentrek. In this blog we will tell you everything you need to know about the route of the Via Alpina in Switzerland, the stages, the best season, equipment for the Bärentrek, and much more!

Last updated November 2021

Despite being a very scenic trail and one of the most popular tours in Switzerland, the Via Alpina 1 requires a dose of respect. This is a tough trek that traverses a number of challenging passes in the Swiss Alps and is not recommended without experience. However, if you are looking for a challenging adventure in the Alps, the Via Alpina 1 is a great choice!

Looking for the ideal walking holiday in Switzerland on the most beautiful stages of the Via Alpina 1? Check out our stress-free packages for the Bear Trek here.

Best Season for the via Alpina 1, Switzerland

Like most hikes in the Alps, the season for these treks is rather short. Due to snowfall and harsh weather conditions, these treks can only be completed during the summer season, from mid-June to the end of September. August is considered the best month for hiking in the Swiss Alps. Then you usually have the best weather, it is relatively dry and warm and you can still find wildflowers. These are usually gone by September. The first weeks of September are also a good idea. Summer may be coming to an end, but the weather is still clear and there will be fewer hikers on the trails.

Via Alpina 1 Map and the Bear Trek

The Via Alpina 1 is a 390 kilometre route that crosses Switzerland from east to west, starting in Vaduz, in Liechtenstein, and ending in Montreaux, Switzerland. The Bear Trek is a section of the Via Alpina 1 that includes 6 stages, from Meiringen (stage 10) to Lenk (stage 15). Below is an interactive map of the Via Alpina 1.

Komoot is a very useful app when it comes to planning hiking adventures. Download our map for the entire Via Alpina 1 Trek here.

Via Alpina Stages - What Does the Route Look Like?

The Via Alpina is one of the most renowned treks in Switzerland and it's easy to see why: this 20-day trek runs through the Swiss Alps from east to west and encompasses some of the most breathtaking scenery in Switzerland. The 390-kilometre route traverses 14 Alpine passes and offers hikers a wide variety of culture, landscapes and nature! Below is a brief overview of all 20 stages.

Stage 1: Vaduz - Sargans
Stage 2: Sargans - Weisstannen
Stage 3: Weisstannen - Elm
Stage 4: Elm - Linthal
Stage 5: Linthal - Urner Boden
Stage 6: Urner Boden - Altdorf
Stage 7: Altdorf - Engelberg
Stage 8: Engelberg - Engstlenalp
Stage 9: Engstlenalp - Meiringen
Stage 10: Meiringen - Grindelwald
Stage 11: Grindelwald - Lauterbrunnen
Stage12: Lauterbrunnen - Griesalp
Stage 13: Griesalp - Kandersteg
Stage 14: Kandersteg - Adelboden
Stage 15: Adelboden - Lenk
Stage 16: Lenk - Gstaad
Stage 17: Gstaad - L'Etivaz
Stage 18: L'Etivaz - Rossinière
Stage 19: Rossinière - Rochers de Naye
Stage 20: Rochers de Naye - Montreux

The most popular part of the Via Alpina 1 is the Bear Trek / Bärentrek, that is, stage 10 to stage 15 between Meiringen and Lenk. Below is a detailed route description of this trek.

The Bear Trek can also be booked on Find all information via this link!

Bear Trek - Route and All Stages

The Bear Trek, also known as the Bärentrek in German, is the most popular section of the Via Alpina 1. The name comes from a time when only wild animals could use this route. No bears anymore, but it is certainly wild. This tour starts in Meiringen, stage 10 of the Via Alpina 1, and ends in Lenk, stage 15. This 6-stage tour takes you through some of the most beautiful and breathtaking parts of the Via Alpina 1. The Bear Trek includes mountain passes, lakes and rivers, small mountain villages, wide valleys and extraordinary views.

Stage 1: Meiringen - Grindelwald
Take the bus to Rosenlaui, where the first stage of the Bärentrek begins. Walk up to the “Grosse Scheidegg” from where you will have magnificent views of the mountains Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. From here you continue to Grindelwald.

Ascent: 700 m
Descent: 980 m
Distance: 14 km
Walking time: 4h 30 min
Difficulty: difficult
Highlight: with panoramic views

Stage 2: Grindelwald - Lauterbrunnen
Today, the trail leads up to the „Kleine Scheidegg“. The walk up involves gentle hills and meadows, with traditional wooden huts and stalls dotted along the way. Berghaus Alpiglen is the perfect place for taking a little break. Here you will find delicious local specialties in a tranquil atmosphere. With your batteries recharged, you will be ready to tackle the final section of this stage and climb the Kleine Scheidegg. If you feel energized, you can even continue walking to Jungfraujoch. There are several small paths you can follow to the Lauterbrunnen via the magnificent Trümmelbach waterfall or past Wengen if you’re in a more laid-back mood. There is also an option to take a train and finish today's stage.

Ascent: 1150 m
Descent: 1400 m
Distance: 20 km
Walking time: 7h
Difficulty: difficult
Highlight: with panoramic views

Stage 3: Lauterbrunnen - Griesalp
Today's stage begins with an 800 m ascent up to the sun terrace where Mürren lies. The ascent is long, but trees provide some nice shade. You can also take a cable car ride all the way up to Mürren.From Mürren, you then hike across lush meadows up to the Rotstockhütte, where you can recharge your batteries before tackling the steep ascent to the Sefinenfurgge Pass. This pass offers breathtaking views of the Sefinen and Kien valleys as well as the surrounding mountains, including a snow-covered Sefinenfurgge in the early summer months. You will then descend through a long set of steps, black rock, and scree until you reach the valley below.

Ascent: 2000 m
Descent: 1400 m
Distance: 22 km
Walking time: 9h
Difficulty: difficult
Highlight: with panoramic views, over a pass

Stage 4: Griesalp - Kandersteg
Today's stage is the most impressive of the whole trek. It is no coincidence that this is part of the "Swiss Alps" Unesco World Heritage. The first section leads over Bundalp to the top of Hohtürli Pass, where you will find glaciers along the northern flank of Blüemlisalp. The road to Blüemlisalp is long and steep. The second half runs down to Lake Oeschinen via impressive glacier moraines. At Lake Oeschinen you will find the cable railway to Kandersteg.

Ascent: 1450 m
Descent: 1700 m
Distance: 17 km
Walking time: 7h
Difficulty: difficult
Highlight: with panoramic views, over a pass and mountain peak

Stage 5: Kandersteg - Adelboden
Today your trek starts after taking the cable car up to “Allmenalp”, from where you hike up to Bonderchrinde Pass with its distinctive shape, resembling a cauldron. The view on the surrounding peaks is breathtaking. A narrow trail that runs parallel to the ridge will take you to your next destination. A head for heights is paramount in this section of the trail. The route will lead you down into the valley to Adelboden.

Ascent: 1400 m
Descent: 1250 m
Distance: 16 km
Walking time: 7h
Difficulty: difficult
Highlight: with panoramic views, over a pass

Stage 6: Adelboden - Lenk
From the famous village of Adelboden, you will walk towards the Hahnenmoos Pass. This section of the trail guides you through forests and moorlands. Wonderful views of the peak of mount Wildstrubel guide your way down to Lenk. Ascent: 700 m
Descent: 1000 m
Distance: 16 km
Walking time: 4h 30 min
Difficulty: difficult

Find all our trekking possibilities for the Bear Trek here!

How Do You Get To the Starting Point of the via Alpina 1 and the Bear Trek?

Your starting point depends on whether you do the whole Via Alpina 1 or just a section, such as the Bear Trek. Remember that since the stages start and end in towns, it is actually possible to start and end the trek wherever you find most convenient. Below are our recommendations for getting to the starting points of the Via Alpina 1 and the Bear Trek:

Via Alpina
The Via Alpina 1 starts in Vaduz, in Liechtenstein, next to the Swiss border. The nearest airport in Switzerland is in Zurich. The journey from Zurich to Vaduz is quite simple. First, you need to take the train to Sargans, which takes 1 hour and runs every 30 minutes. From Sargans, take the 7-minute train to Vaduz.

Vaduz can also be easily reached by bus from Buchs, a town on the Swiss side of the border with Lichtenstein. The bus ride takes only 15 minutes and there are services every 15 minutes from the train station in Buchs.

Bear Trek
The Bear Trek starts in Meiringen, which is easily reached by train from either Zurich or Bern. The train journey takes about 3 hours from either Zürich or Bern. If you travel by car, you can reach Meiringen via Bern or via Lucerne. From Innsbruck/Tyrol take the A3 motorway, from Munich/Bavaria take the A96 to Meiringen. In Meiringen there are fee-paying parking spaces, the car park at the mountain railway is free.

Accommodation on the Swiss Alpine Pass Route

The Via Alpina 1 and the Bear Trek go from valley to valley, which means that at the end of each stage you reach a town or village where you can find different accommodation options, depending on your budget and the comfort you are looking for. Most towns offer a wide variety of options, from hostels with shared dormitories to chic hotels. We recommend booking your accommodation in advance. During the summer months, the region can get quite busy, so it's a good idea to book your accommodation in advance.

Need help deciding on accommodation? Then choose one of our packages for the Via Alpina 1!

Eating on the Via Alpina 1

On each stage of the Via Alpina 1 you will always come across a mountain hut. During your hike, you will find various opportunities to stop for a break and a bite to eat. . All of them offer their visitors traditional local dishes such as Rösti, pasta and a large variety of cheeses and charcuterie.

Packing List for the Via Alpina 1

Packing the right equipment is the key to any hiking adventure. The Via Alpina has several stages and your luggage will depend on how many days you are on the trail. Here are our recommendations for the things that are always handy:

- Hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Hat
- Beanie
- Scarf
- Gloves
- Underwear
- Slippers or sandals for the huts
- Hardshell jacket
- Shorts
- Long pants
- Sunglasses
- Sweater (warm)
- Sweater (light)
- Swimwear
- Rain pants
- Sports shirts
- Hairband
- Personal hygiene items
- First aid kit

Is the Via Alpina 1 Safe?

The Via Alpina 1 is generally a safe trip. The mountain trails on the Via Alpina 1 are partly steep, narrow and exposed and require a certain amount of security. Make a realistic assessment of your current condition and take it into account when planning your trek. It is advisable not to undertake difficult routes alone.

The Via Alpina 1 is very well signposted with yellow signs at crossings and with white-red-white markings on trees and rocks. The path is clearly marked and easy to follow. However, if you need to ask for directions, there are several huts and restaurants along the way where you can stop, have a bite to eat and ask for help.

Walking Holidays in Switzerland With or Without Guide?

Er zijn tal van mogelijkheden om te gaan wandelen in de Alpen en Zwitserland biedt enkele van de mooiste routes zoals deTour du Mont Blancof deKesch Trek. Alle trektochten kunnen zelf gedaan worden of onder begeleiding van een gids. De meeste paden zijn echter ontworpen als routes die je zelfstandig kunt volgen. De Bären Trek is, net als de meeste andere routes in Zwitserland, duidelijk gemarkeerd en kan zonder gids worden gevolgd. There are numerous possibilities for hiking in the Alps, and Switzerland offers some of the most beautiful routes such as the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Kesch Trek. All treks can be done on your own or with a guide. However, most trails are designed as routes that you can follow on your own. The Bear Trek, like most other routes in Switzerland, is clearly marked and can be followed without a guide.

The holiday packages for the Via Alpina 1 on are aimed at independent hikers. Check out our options here!

Where Can I Book My Via Alpina 1 and Bear Trek?

The Via Alpina 1 offers the possibility of a completely independent adventure. The biggest challenge on the Via Alpina or Bärentrek is not so much following the route, but booking accommodation along the way. If you need help booking accommodation for the Via Alpina 1 or just a few stages, we can help. Our trekking specialists can book accommodation for you, so that you can prepare for your trekking adventure without stress.

Contact our trekking specialists today and start planning your hiking adventure in Switzerland!

Are you looking for an alternative hut-to-hut tour in Europe? Then take a look at one of our blog posts below:

-The GR20 in Corsica
-Tour Du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland
-The Salzburger Almenweg in Austria
-The Kesch Trek in Switzerland
-Alta Via 2 in Italy
-Alta Via 1 in Italy

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