THE EIGER TRAIL HIKE: EIGERGLETSCHER TO ALPIGLEN
The Eiger Trail hike is one of the most popular routes in Switzerland because the path leads hikers directly under the world-famous Eiger North Face Wall, which is renowned as one of the toughest climbs in the world.
Hike Distance: The distance from Eigergletscher Train Station to Alpiglen along the Eiger Trail is 6.5km.
Hike Duration: 2.5 hours although if you went straight through without taking photos or stopping it would be well under two hours. It could be run in well under an hour.
Hike Difficulty: The path is gravel and involves no technical aspects. This is a family-friendly, dog-friendly trail.
Hike Incline: Starting point at Eigergletscher: 2,322m – Alpiglen: 1,616
HOW TO GET TO THE EIGER TRAIL
The Eiger Trail begins at the Eigergletscher Train Station and finishes at Alpiglen Train Station (although you can hike down from Alpiglen Train Station back to Grindelwald Grund Station if you prefer). To get to Eigergletscher Train Station is actually a little bit of a mission.
- First, you need to arrive to Grund Train Station and purchase your ticket. You can purchase a ticket all the way through to Eigergletscher Station from Grund although there are two separate trains you will need. At Kleine Scheidegg, you will have to get off and head to the brown sign and line up for the train to Eigergletscher. This station is crazily busy as it is the train to Jungfraujoch ‘Top of Europe’ viewpoint. It was genuinely tourist mayhem with hundreds of people barging around. Don’t worry they won’t be on the Eiger Trail. Once you arrive at Eigergletscher Station, you will see the trail on the left-hand side of the tracks as you face the mountains and from that point, it is well signed with the classic yellow signs. The train journey from Grund to Eigergletscher took us about 50-minutes in total including the wait time at Kleine Scheidegg and costs 32.50 CHF, which is about $30 USD.
EIGER TRAIL HIKE
I’ll be honest… getting to the Eigergletscher station in the summer peak season was a bit of a mess by Swiss standards. There were hoards of tourists barging through everywhere, people yelling to get out of the way and then everyone was lined up in chutes like cattle just to get on the train. It was mildly orderly as you would expect in Switzerland but very full on and we didn’t feel like we were on a mountain adventure.
Luckily, those packs of wild tourists were heading up to Jungfraujoch viewpoint. All of the hikers got out at Eigergletscher (which was less than 1% of the passengers on the train). From that point on it was back to the normal peace and quiet in the Swiss Alps. From Eigergletscher, we crossed the tracks and got started on the famous Eiger Trail.
The trail is quite short compared to many of the long mountain hikes in Switzerland. With just 6.5kms before us and our eventual finishing point in Alpiglen, I was in no rush to cruise through the trail. We slowly meandered along and still finished within 2.5 hours including a drone flight, sun baking session and long stops throughout the trail for photos.
The trail starts off with 200m of incline, although it is spread over a couple of kilometers and is nothing too strenuous. At this point, you cannot see Eiger, but the views across the valley and the towering glacial mountains are incredible and there is something to gawk at in every direction.
The trail at this point is a gravel path with a lush green valley on one side and a huge wall of mountain on the other. It’s quite a unique trail in this regard, where the aim is more to observe the mountain rather than to climb it.
It isn’t long before you will reach the Eiger viewing area. It’s about 2km into the trail and there will likely be a little gathering of people and possibly some local cows. Here you will look up towards Eiger Mountain and if you read the signs, you can even identify the path the climbers use to scale the North Face wall of Eiger.
The interesting part about this viewpoint is only a portion of the mountain is visible. This is because you are so close to the wall you can only see partway up despite it seeming like the entire mountain. I found this out as I fly the drone backward away from the wall and the rest of Eiger became visible.
After the viewing point of Eiger, the trail is pretty much all downhill. You will drop about 600m now over the next 4kms as you continue to take in the epic mountains on your right and the small villages in the valley on your left.
Shortly after the Eiger viewing point is a wonderful bench viewpoint. The Swiss really know how to place a good bench or maybe it’s just there aren’t many bad spots to put a bench in Switzerland. Either way, this is a great spot to relax in solitude and take in the whole region for a few minutes before getting stuck into the second half of the hike.
The rest of the trail continues on the gravel track for a couple of kilometers until you reach a point where you will turn left. Shortly after you turn left there was a waterfall plummeting into a pool, which turned into a wild river running through a slot canyon. I’m sure this will look mightily different depending on the time of year you visit but for us it was spectacular!
The trail now winds through a series of steep switchbacks dropping several hundred meters of the course of a kilometer before turning you towards Alpiglen Station. You will need to walk through a strategically placed restaurant to reach the station! If you prefer to walk all the way back down to the station, the sign stated it would take 90 minutes to reach Grindelwald from Alpiglen Station. We took the train, which cost us $6 to reach Grund where we completed our loop!
EIGER TRAIL MAP
The map below shows the trails, trains and cable cars in the Jungrafu region. You can see Eigergletscher, Alpiglen and the Kleine Scheidegg Station.
THE EIGER ULTRA TRAIL MARATHON
Each year athletes from all over the world come to Eiger to compete in the Eiger Ultra Marathon. The event began in 2013 and takes runners through some of the most breath-taking viewpoints in the region. Runners pass-through popular spots such as Faulhorn, Kleine Scheidegg and First before the trail runs beneath the Eiger itself. The race is 101km in length and there is 6700mm height difference throughout the race. That’s all sounding a little tougher than the 6.5km downward trek of the regular Eiger Trail Hike.
CLIMBING THE NORTH FACE OF EIGER MOUNTAIN
The Eiger first began attracting mountaineers from all over Europe to attempt the North Face, which at the time was known as the ‘last problem of the Alps’. In 1938, Anderl Heckmair, Fritz Kasparek, Ludwig Vörg and Heinrich Harrer finally conquered the climb after spending years tackling the ascent route.
Since then it has been climbed by many, but only experienced climbers. The summit is 3,970 meters. The ascent is only suitable for people with previous rock climbing and mountaineering experience. You will need crampons and an ice axe. Climbers need to be capable of seconding steep rock pitches in mountain boots while wearing a rucksack. The summit day is very long and can take 10-12 hours, which means you need great fitness and concentration.
If you are an experienced climber and interested in climbing ‘The Eiger’, there are a number of tours available ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 USD depending on the length of preparations necessary.
BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND WITH TRANSPORT IN SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, the most popular form of transport is the train (and sometimes bus). It always arrives on time, is comfortable, efficient and covers almost all parts of the country. It’s damn good and one of the best public transport systems in the world. But it’s not cheap. A one-way ticket for a 1.5-hour journey can quickly rise to 70 USD. The best option is to buy a 3-day, 8-day or 15-day pass with the Swiss Travel System Pass, which gives you unlimited train rides during that period. It will pay itself off very quickly and makes the train (and bus) travel very convenient without requiring you to buy a ticket each time. I used this myself and used the trains and buses for almost my whole time in Switzerland. To head to the page where you can book your Swiss Travel Pass online you can click HERE and select how many days you would like to purchase the pass for.
The other option (Which I also purchased) was the Swiss Half-Fare Card, which gives you half-price tickets on all transport including buses and trains. This ticket lasts for a month and is much cheaper than the full pass obviously but will pay itself off in a matter of a few days as we quickly found out! To visit the page where you can book your Swiss Half-Fare Card you can click HERE and select the date you want it to start.
The other option is renting a car. After our first few expensive train tickets, we started to think this might be the better option and to our surprise, the train can often be far more expensive than renting a car in Switzerland. For example one day we went from Zurich to hike Mount Pilatus and back to Zurich and our total train tickets for four people was $300 USD. The car rental per day was $90 USD. If you are in a group of two (definitely three) or more, I highly suggest renting a car if you are covering a lot of ground as it will give you scheduling freedom and likely be cheaper as we found.