Oeschinensee (Oeschinin Lake) is one of the premier alpine lake destinations in Switzerland. The azure blue water is surrounded by towering ridges, which are covered in snow in the winter and melt into waterfalls into the summer. It’s truly a magical amphitheater, which was almost too beautiful to believe. In this blog post, I will share with you our hiking route, some tips on epic little viewpoints and all the details about how to get there, the best time of year to visit and all the good stuff you need to know before you visit Oeschininsee (Oeschinin Lake).
Hike Duration: 1 hour to Oeschinen Lake from Kandersteg (Additional for hiking around the lake)
Hike Distance: 4km
Hike Difficulty: Easy. Children on the trail. Short but steep. Hiking to the cabins is steeper but still safe.
Hike Incline: Starting point at Kandersteg: 1,174m – Oeschinensee height: 1,578m
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HOW TO GET TO OESCHINENSEE (OESCHININ ALPINE LAKE)
To reach Oeschinensee from Zurich it will take about 2.5 hours on the train or 2 hours by car. You will need to arrive in the town of Kandersteg, which is also the name of the train station. From Kandersteg, the path is very well signed and leads you across a small bridge to the ticket office/cable car ticketing station. Here there is a big map, which is a great visual to help you decide which route to take. We decided to go rogue and hike in (not that hard) rather than take the cable car, which as of 2019 was $30 USD return or $22 USD one way. The hike to the lake took us fifty minutes so it really isn’t value for money if you are physically capable as it isn’t a scenic cable car (by Swiss standards).
I backpacked around Switzerland by using trains and buses. They are very efficient, have good coverage and are also very damn expensive. What I did is bought the Swiss Half-Fare Card, which gives you half price off any ticket (except some cable cars) It basically pays itself off within five days so if you are there for a week you NEED it. If you are looking to move across the country quickly and doing some big train journeys they will be more than $100 USD sometimes. Many people get the Swiss Travel Pass, which is pretty expensive about $100 USD a day but gives you unlimited free travel and half price on many cable cars. I’d say get the Swiss Half-Fare Pass for sure but don’t rush into the full Swiss Travel Pass until you have mapped out your route. The other alternative if you are traveling all over Europe you should look into how to save money with the Eurail Pass, which could be an even better option than the Swiss-specific train passes.
As you can see on the map below there are several trails both to Oeschinen Lake and then when you arrive. We f0llowed the yellow line to the Lake, while the dotted orange line is the cable car or trail beneath the cable car. Then when we arrived at Oeschinensee we hiked up along the orange line that borders the lake to Oberbergli and the cliffs on the backside of the lake below Rothorn. There is a trail that completely loops the lake but it is very dangerous, technical and not well kept with ropes, chains, and the necessary aids.
OESCHINENSEE CABLE CAR OPTION
The cable car can take you from the ticketing office all the way up to the stop near Oeschinen Lake, which is where most people end their adventure. This means that you can reach the popular alpine lake with almost no walking. However, we continued to the back-side of the lake and hiked to the cabins so you might find it a good option to the cable car up and then hike around the lake while you are up there. It wouldn’t be a bad idea as the walk up isn’t too spectacular although we had fun.
Here you can use your Swiss Half-Fare Card so you only need to pay half of the 22 USD ticket. The cable car runs every 15 minutes from 7:30 am to 6 pm. To be sure of the current operating times you can check here.
KANDERSTEG TO OESCHINENSEE HIKE
As a group, we decided that hiking up the river trail would be the most fun. There is another route up to Oeschinensee that follows beneath the cable car but it looked a bit exposed in the sun and was seemingly just a set of relentless switchbacks up the hill. Your third and final option is the cable car to the lake, which I detailed above. My advice is to take the river hike.
You can basically connect to the river at any point and follow the trail on the left as you head up towards the Oeschinen Lake. We joined up with the river from the ticket office, once we had decided to head in that direction.
The hike up wound alongside the river and then dipped into the forest for some shade. At times it was quite steep and challenging and in other moments a leisurely stroll. Several waterfalls poured down the mountains on our right as we made our way up to the alpine lake. The entire trip from Kandersteg train station to Oeschinensee took about 45-60 minutes. We arrived sweatily but not too fatigued to Oeschinensee.
OESCHINENSEE (OESCHNINEN ALPINE LAKE) WHAT TO EXPECT
Because the cable car reaches the lake, it is quite crowded. There are multiple cafes, restaurants, toilets and picnic areas with families, tourists, and travelers flocking to this beautiful paradise up in the mountains. When we arrived to Oeschinensee, the first thing that struck us was how blue the lake was. It was definitely not just in the photos and the vibrancy was astounding.
We chilled amongst the tourists on the grass and dipped our pretzels into some honey, which had become our staple hiking snack in Switzerland. After a short rest here from the hike up, we gathered ourselves and headed out of the busy tourist area and headed around the corner. There is a trail on the left of the lake that leads all the way to the back-side. Here you can find a quieter spot on the edge of the lake to drop your stuff, head out for a swim and really take in the natural beauty of Oeschinensee.
The water was pretty cold but definitely refreshing for a swim. If you aren’t keen for a swim but want to explore the lake, you can rent a rowboat and paddle yourself around the lake. One of the best parts of renting a rowboat must surely be paddling up close and personal to the many waterfalls that pour into the lake. It’s truly incredible to look up and see glaciers melting into waterfalls and the pouring down into a bright blue lake. It’s poetry in motion.
These are some pictures I took as we enjoyed our walk, swim, and exploration on the left side of the Oeschinen Lake.
HIKING AT OESCHINENSEE (SEVERAL OPTIONS)
Once you arrive at Oescheninsee you have several options to continue hiking.
- Hiking up to Kliental cabin is a great option and you can see that on the map with the orange line. The trail to Kliental is quite steep but relatively safe and popular amongst all ages.
- Hiking up to the backside of the lake is also quite safe and offers a view of the entire lake while you sit on the grassy hills. This is where we spent the sunset and is my overall favorite spot.
- You can also venture out to the left of the lake and visit the Toboggan/downhill slide area, which we were keen on but never made it to as we were distracted for hours by the hikes and cliffs around the lake. It looks like tons of fun.
No matter what route you pick there will be some solid incline and a good level of adventure. The views will be worth it!
We hiked up to Unterbergli cabin and Oberbergli cabin and had a coffee and chill session. We then ventured around the back of the lake for a better view and a little exploration. We had originally planned to go up to Kliental Cabin but in the end, venturing around the backside on the hills was enough for us and had epic views. We stayed up here till sunset and then from here it only took us 1.5 hours to get all the way back to the train station in time for the last train at 10:30 pm.
These are my photos from our hikes and drone flights at Oeschinensee.
MY SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDES
I spent 100 days hiking in Switzerland and created a guide for different regions around the country. You can click on one of my Switzerland hiking guides below to help you plan your trip.
THE SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDE: 50 AWESOME HIKES IN IN SWITZERLAND: I spent 100 days in Switzerland making this huge guide with all of the hikes I personally explored.
4 AWESOME VIA FERRATA COURSES IN SWITZERLAND: Via Ferrata is a cliff-side climbing route where you are harnessed in. You have to try it at least once!
10 AWESOME HIKES NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN: Lauterbrunnen is the most picturesque valley in Switzerland and is situated perfectly amidst many famous hiking routes.
INTERLAKEN HIKING GUIDE: 15 AWESOME HIKES IN INTERLAKEN: Interlaken is my favorite town in Switzerland and is the number one hiking base.
12 AWESOME HIKES NEAR GRINDELWALD: A great location to base if you are a keen hiker with lots of hut-to-hut hikes and epic peaks.
7 AWESOME HIKES IN MURREN: Murren is one of the most beautiful towns in Switzerland and is surrounded by great hiking routes.
9 AWESOME HIKES NEAR APPENZELL: My favorite hikes around the Alpstein Region and other peaks near Appenzell.
7 AWESOME HIKES NEAR CHUR: Several beautiful lakes, and incredible gorge hike, and an epic Via Ferrata course.
MY PERSONALIZED SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS
SWITZERLAND BUDGET BACKPACKING GUIDE: In this blog, I talk about the cost of travel and how to travel around Switzerland on the cheap with some tips and hacks from my experience.
20 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: MY SWITZERLAND TRAVEL TIPS: You probably didn’t even think of half of these. I didn’t either and figured many of these tips out the hard way.
MOST IMPORTANT TRANSPORT TIP: SWISS HALF CARD
OPTION 1: Switzerland trains, buses, and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheaply was to buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card before I arrived. It gives you 50% off every regular train, bus, and even many cable cars. It only costs $150 USD but pays itself off in just a few days with many train tickets in Switzerland costing close to $100 alone. OPTION 2: The second option is to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited train, bus, and (many) cable car rides but it’s pretty expensive at around $100 USD per day so if you don’t travel each day it isn’t worth it. OPTION 3: The final option is to get the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy 8 days’ worth of transit but you can choose the night before if you want to activate the next day. That way you don’t need to travel every day to get your money’s worth, you can just activate the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass on the days where you are doing sizeable transits. My advice is to book the Swiss Half-Fare Card or the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass in advance before your trip so it’s ready to go when you arrive.