HIKING TO FAULHORN SUMMIT VIA FIRST & BACHALPSEE
The Faulhorn hike from Grindelwald via First and Bachalpsee is truly a great adventure for a day-hike that will traverse you through some mindblowing scenery of epic mountainscapes, alpine lakes, fields of wildflowers and some local Swiss Marmots hiding in the bushes.
Hike Distance: After the cable car from Grindelwald to First the hike up to Faulhorn and down to Bussalp was 10km
Hike Duration: 5 hours of moving time. With breaks and photos, total time was 7 hours.
Hike Difficulty: Steep in parts. The trail from First to Bachalpsee is child’s play on a flat dirt path with just 188m of incline. Bachalpsee to Faulhorn was quite steep throughout but still on a good path with no drop-offs although it was about 400m of incline. Down from Faulhorn to Bussalp was off-the-beaten-path with a signed dirt trail that often required minimal bouldering and rock-hopping. Overall there was nothing dangerous about these trails and anyone who can manage that distance and incline are set to go.
Hike Incline: Total elevation throughout the hike 550m (Descent 800m)
HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD (FIRST STATION) FOR THE FAULHORN HIKE
The best way to reach First to begin the hike is to take the cable car from Grindelwald to First and then to trek for one hour along the easy path to the Bachalpsee before continuing up to Faulhorn summit. You can hike all the way from Grindelwald to First Station if you want, although you would be directly under the cable cars, which purely becomes a need for exercise rather than achieving anything else.
As you can see on the map below you need to go to the Firstbahn Station in Grindelwald, purchase your ticket and ride all the way up to First then hike to Bachalpsee Lake then continue on to Faulhorn before descending down to Bussalp. You can then walk back to Grindelwald (as we did because we missed the last bus) or take the bus from Bussalp to Grindelwald.
GRINDELWALD TO FIRST
The first thing you need to do to begin the Faulhorn hike is to arrive at the Firstbahn in Grindelwald. The ticket was 30 CHF (27 USD) one-way to First. Here you can use your Swiss Half-Fare Card so you only need to pay half of the ticket price, which is exactly what we did. If you prefer to book your ticket in advance online to avoid lines you can do so here. The cable car runs about every 30 minutes. To be sure of the current operating times you can check here.
The cable car offered incredible views of Eiger and all of the peaks that look over Grindelwald. It was about a 25-minute ride to First and we enjoyed it all the way!
ARRIVING AT FIRST STATION
When you arrive at First Station, it will probably be busy with tourists. Anywhere in Switzerland that is accessible by cable car brings with it the hoards of summer tourists that don’t like hiking but want the views. First is no exception and actually encourages these types of tourists with attractions at their station such as a traditional Swiss-style restaurant where you can grab lunch before heading out on the short hike to Bachalpsee.
There is also a pretty epic viewing point called the First Cliff Walk. This cliff-walk (albeit touristy) is actually pretty wild, and for me to admit that given how touristy it seems is tough. The railed, walkway winds along the edge of the cliff, as you walk seemingly on a suspended path until you reach the big ‘cliff walk’. Here you venture out onto a platform, almost walking the plank pirate-style. You can see through the floor and of course enjoy the incredible views all around you if you can’t bear to look at the giant drop below you.
There is also a zipline and other activities at the top of First including the option to Go-Kart or Scooter back down the hill instead of taking the cable car.
THE HIKE FROM FIRST TO BACHALPSEE
This part of the Faulhorn hike takes you from First to Bachalpsee with a moderate incline of only 188m over the 3km journey. It is a popular route, as to how often can you enjoy an alpine lake above 2000m incline in the Swiss Alps after having only walked for an hour. Lots of tourists accept the challenge and make the short hike out to the lake. Having said that, I went in the peak of summer and even then it wasn’t too crowded and was a good family-fun vibe on the trail and at the lake. There’s plenty of room and plenty of lake for everyone.
Although it is a simple section of the Faulhorn Hike, you are surrounded by the epic mountainscape for the entire journey. There are many moments too beautiful to pass by and the 1-hour journey took us 2-hours as we stopped all too often to take it in. I advise you to do the same. Enjoy your surroundings because this is truly one of the most beautiful regions on the planet.
After an hour journey from First, we finally turned the corner to reveal the Bachalpsee Lake. Wildflowers almost breached the path and probably would have if not for the steady stream of tourists enjoying the lake. With a backdrop of glacial mountains and perfectly still water, this was a truly idyllic location.
There are no cafes, restaurants or buildings to ruin the view, just a beautiful lake in the Swiss Alps. The Lake is actually two lakes although often it may be joined. In the winter this entire region is definitely joined as it is covered in a thick layer of snow.
Boys being boys, we decided it would be a great idea to jump into the lake without testing the temperature. Bad idea! It was damn freezing and I was out of that water quicker than I was in it! It took me the whole afternoon to warm up.
After chilling by the lake for a little while I sent the drone up to observe Bachalpsee from an aerial perspective, which was incredible and the views from above were just out of this world.
HIKING FROM BACHALPSEE TO FAULHORN SUMMIT
The trail now gets a bit more serious with some real incline. Over the next 1.5 hours, you will be on a continual incline, trudging up the repetitive switchbacks as you edge your way closer and closer to a coffee at the famous BergHotel that sits atop the Faulhorn Summit.
Along the route, there were still a few glaciers melting, with wildflowers fast replacing the areas where snow was just a few months ago. Amidst all the changes, the cute Swiss marmot, curiously dashes between the rocks and down its millions of burrows it has created throughout the region.
After the final steep switchback, we finally made it up to the BergHotel on the Faulhorn Summit. What a journey! A hot coffee was in order and wasn’t it brilliant. There is a full-service restaurant here as well as dorm/hotel rooms. You can expect to pay $25-30 for a meal and our coffee was $5. That isn’t too bad for Swiss prices, especially considering how far up the mountain it is! Here is the view from the BergHotel.
This is a beautiful place to hang out for a few hours but don’t stay too long if you have a cable car to catch. Trust me! We missed our last bus in Bussalp and had to walk all the way back to Grindelwald, adding an extra 8kms onto our hike.
Out the back of the BergHotel is an unbelievable view you can’t miss if you visit the hotel. Seriously, take the time to walk out the back.
FAULHORN TO BUSSALP
You’ve reached the summit and enjoyed the summit but now it’s time to depart. From Faulhorn there are many routes, but a popular one if you are returning to Grindelwald is to head on down to the very small village of Bussalp. Here there is a bus service that will shuttle you to Grindelwald. You can find the timetable here. If you miss the last bus like us, you will have to walk through Bussalp and then the final 8km to Grindelwald also, which is a bit of a grind after the long journey.
The route down from Faulhorn to Bussalp takes about 2.5 hours and follows the red and white flags painted on the rocks throughout the journey.
The path is a little less steady on this descent but a little bit of bouldering made the descent pretty fun. The landscape we were heading down into was just incredible as the late afternoon sun poured in through the side. After a while down the hill, we joined back to the road, although it wasn’t long before we were stopped in our tracks by some cows who needed to be herded to greener pastures by the local farmers.
Just before we made it to Bussalp, I turned around and took in the magnificent hill we were descending. Cowbells were ringing and the golden hour was upon us. The cattle farmers were tucked away in their cabins, which were dwarfed by the mountains.
We finally reached Bussalp, but instead of celebrating with a bus journey back to Grindelwald, we were several hours too late. We were that tired we even considered ‘borrowing’ a few of the scooters for rent outside the bus station but decided that we were indeed good people and would walk the 2-hour journey back to Grindelwald despite our tired legs.
BUSSALP TO GRINDELWALD
We put our heads down and hustled along the road. None of the cars stopped to give us a ride even though many had no passengers. Come on Switzerland help these Aussie boys out!
In the end though it turned out to be a great bit of luck that we were walking instead of sitting inside the bus as we took a forest route back to Grindelwald and halfway through stopped to watch the sunset on Eiger and the other mountains. It turned out to be some epic lighting and we got to see the tip of Eiger reveal itself right during the last moments where the sun was shining on it. Despite the darkness bringing an end to the day very quickly, we hung out at this viewing spot and took photos for quite some time. It ended up meaning it was completely dark by the time we arrived back to Grindelwald at 10 pm.
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.