STOCKHORN & OBERSTOCKENSEE HIKE IN SWITZERLAND
Stockhorn is a beautiful peak that overlooks two stunning alpine lakes, Oberstockensee and Hinterstockensee. At 2,190m the panorama viewpoint and restaurant atop the Stockhorn provides 360-degree views of the Erlenbach region and beyond.
Hike Distance: Depends on the route taken as there are many on offer. We clocked 11.2kms from the top down including our stop at Oberstockensee.
Hike Duration: 5 hours (Again this depends on whether you hike up, down or both. It can range from 3-10 hours depending on what you choose.
Hike Difficulty: Steep but safe and not technical. Some walking through the forest on a dirt trail and steep descent through farm fields.
Hike Incline: Starting point at Erlenbach: 700m – Stockhorn: 2,190
HOW TO GET TO STOCKHORN
Stockhorn hike is just a 45-minute drive from Bern and a couple of hours from Zurich. When we visited we were based in Fribourg and it took us about 1.5 hours to reach the parking spot for Stockhorn. The pin on the map below will take you directly to the parking lot, where you will drop the car and either begin the hike or jump into the cable car to take the easy, scenic route to the top. We took the cable car up and hiked down to the lakes and then back down to the foot of the mountain. I’ll add the GPX tracking map below of the route we took from the top down so you can replicate that route if you want.
Stockhorn to Oberstockensee GPX Map: Download Here
STOCKHORN BAHN (THE CABLE CAR)
The cable car station is located near the parking lot and you can buy a one-way or return ticket. Here you can use your Swiss Half-Fare Card so you only need to pay half of the ticket price. We caught the last cable car, which was at about 5:30 pm. To be sure of the current operating times you can check here. The ticket prices were $36 for a one-way ticket and $58 for a return trip to Stockhorn. You can, however, take the cable car just to Chrindi. This is the halfway point and is a bit cheaper.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING STOCKHORN AND VISITING OBERSTOCKENSEE
Not sure what to expect after seeing some moderately interesting photos online, Josh and I lined up for our tickets at 4:30 pm. The lady nervously told us it was the last cable car up. We asked her how long it would take to hike down and she said 4.5 hours. In reality, at our quick pace, it was under two. This meant we could stay up at the summit and lakes for sunset and quickly hurry down to make it back without too much hiking in the dark.
Our ticket cost $18 with the Swiss Half-Fare Card, but regularly it would have cost $36 for the one-way ticket up. The cable car itself was quite nice and Josh and I are still intrigued by the raw power these things generate to pull the cable car up the mountain on such a steep incline.
The cable car stopped at Chrindi, where we had to get off and switch the next cable car. You could just catch the cable to Chrindi, which is right next to Hinterstockensee (one of the two alpine lakes). You would then have to make quite a trek up the hill to reach the Stockhorn summit though! We decided to take the cable car all the way to Stockhorn summit and then trek our way down through the lakes from there.
When we reached Stockhorn after about 25 minutes of cable car action, we took an overpriced coffee at the Stockhorn Restaurant before heading up to the viewing platform above. It was still quite bright but the lighting was amazing with all of the ridges in the background creating a depth of layers. Josh and I stepped slightly over the railing, although in fairness we were still on a worn path and it looked as if it was frequented regularly. Now we had epic views back over the Oberstockensee lake, which we would explore later on the way down at golden hour.
The shape of the ridges below Stockhorn is truly unique and the more we ventured down the clearer the shapes became. Oberstockensee seems to be surrounded by an amphitheater, almost like the Stockhorn Arena.
Having enjoyed ourselves for an hour up the top of the Stockhorn summit viewpoint, we began to head down the hill towards Oberstockensee Lake. Our plan was to skip Hinterstockensee as we had seen it from above and at the station. We decided it would be best to enjoy Oberstockensee during golden hour then quickly hurry down the hill to the parking lot before it got too late.
The walk down to Oberstockensee from Stockhorn is listed at 35-minutes, which we found to be pretty accurate despite the fact that we ran down the hill instead of taking the path the whole way. Not advised but very fun.
At the entrance to Oberstockensee is a big cabin where groups were having a bbq dinner and seemed to be settled in to stay the night. They seemed a little perplexed to see us in t-shirts and shorts at 8 pm as they were huddled around a fire with warm jackets on. We were hot after running down the giant hill and just enjoying life!
We walked through the cabin area and followed the signs to Oberstockensee, which led us through a beautiful little forest area. Because of the golden hour, it was a magical walk down to the lake with light flowing in through the trees.
We had been up on top of Stockhorn just 45-minutes earlier, but now we found ourselves lakeside at Oberstockensee. It was very calm and peaceful with just a few campers set up o the edge of the lake. Cowbells rang and birds chirped in what was a truly idyllic scene.
We watched an old swiss man fly fishing out the front of his tent where he would spend the night. It seemed to be a great place to take it all in.
The reflections on the lake were already great at this time despite it being another hour till sunset. The forest reflected clearly on the still lake as the golden lighting couldn’t have made it any more perfect.
As sunset approached the colors in the sky began to trend into a pastel pink, which only made the arena even more spectacular. After consulting with this friendly cow, I decided it was time to capture some aerial shots of the Oberstockensee and Stockhorn in the background.
THE JOURNEY DOWN
We definitely had lucked out with the weather conditions but because of our eagerness to enjoy the sunset at Oberstockensee, we were well and truly the last ones up near Stockhorn. Everyone had gone down hours ago on the last cable car. The sign said we had a 3-hour hike down from Oberstockensee but we knew it would be quicker. We snapped a few last photos of the trail down with an epic sunset in the background before we turned up the speed.
The trail actually cuts through the forest and across farms regularly as you follow the red and white ‘wanderweg’ flags throughout the trail down. We ended up using our headlamps as we hiked the last hour in the dark but it wasn’t too dangerous with no drop-offs or anything. It was an uneven dirt path and often through uneven fields so the light was useful but don’t be afraid to come down in the dark on this one as it is well signed and relatively safe.
I can’t recommend this hike enough, especially if you are looking for an easier hike given that you can still get in a big adventure but it is all more or less downhill once you catch the cable car up.
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.