Via Alpina 1 Switzerland: Bärentrek

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Via Alpina 1 Switzerland: Bärentrek
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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!

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!

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.

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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. 

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.

Via Alpina Stages - What Does the Route Look Like?

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Via Alpina 1 for you? Check out all our options here.

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. 

Day
1

Meiringen - Grindelwald

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 14.8 km
Ascent: 630 m
Descent: 940 m
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.

Naturfreunde Hostel (Grindelwald)

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Naturfreunde Hostel (Grindelwald)
Day
2

Grindelwald - Lauterbrunnen

Duration: 06:55 h
Distance: 19.2 km
Ascent: 1120 m
Descent: 1340 m
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.

Valley Hostel (Lauterbrunnen)

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Valley Hostel (Lauterbrunnen)
Day
3

Lauterbrunnen - Griesalp

Duration: 09:45 h
Distance: 22.1 km
Ascent: 1830 m
Descent: 1220 m
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.

Naturfreunde Haus Gorneren (Griesalp)

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Naturfreunde Haus Gorneren (Griesalp)
Day
4

Griesalp - Kandersteg

Duration: 08:15 h
Distance: 16.5 km
Ascent: 1330 m
Descent: 1590 m
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.

Hotel Pension Spycher (Kandersteg)

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Hotel Pension Spycher (Kandersteg)
Day
5

Kandersteg - Adelboden

Duration: 07:35 h
Distance: 16.9 km
Ascent: 1290 m
Descent: 1130 m
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.

Revier Mountain Lodge (Adelboden)

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Revier Mountain Lodge (Adelboden)
Day
6

Adelboden - Lenk

Duration: 04:45 h
Distance: 13.4 km
Ascent: 650 m
Descent: 920 m
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.
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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.

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

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.

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Via Alpina 1, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

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.

Eating on the Via Alpina 1

Packing List for the Via Alpina 1

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

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.

Is the Via Alpina 1 Safe?

Walking Holidays in Switzerland With or Without Guide?

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.

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Via Alpina 1 with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Safe hiking tips for the Via Alpina 1

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the Via Alpina 1 is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the Via Alpina 1 and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the Via Alpina 1.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the Via Alpina 1. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    Via Alpina 1 has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the Via Alpina 1. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Via Alpina 1.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Via Alpina 1?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Via Alpina 1 and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Via Alpina 1 not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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