Hiking the Alps: Kandersteg – Ober Bärgli mountain hut – Oeschinensee

by Gigi Griffis

Our last weekend in the Swiss Alps this summer meant yet another incredibly beautiful hike. 

This time, our trio boarded a train for Kandersteg and then hiked up from there to the famously pretty lake Oeschinensee. The good news is the hike took a lot less time than the internet led me to believe (about 3.5 hours). The better news is that it’s stunning.

In fact, it’s Chad’s favorite hike we’ve taken anywhere in Switzerland. Which is really saying something.

The only potential downside to this hike is that it is very popular in summer. If you’re looking for a way to get away from the crowds, this isn’t it. (Instead, may I suggest this challenging hike that starts in the next valley over?) 

Now, then, if you’d like to follow our footsteps, onto the hike!

The hike we did started in Kandersteg and ended when we took the cable car back down the mountain from Oeschinensee. You could do the hike altogether for a nice long climb or you can take the cable car up (and/or down) and do the panoramic trail (the second portion of our hike).

For us, since we love the uphill and wanted a longer hiking day, we started our walk in Kandersteg and took the trail up from beside the cable car station.

Maybe 15 minutes into the walk, we came to a split. Straight ahead along the river (where all the other hikers were going) was the marked trail. But a sign to the left pointed toward the mountain slide and a winding, hilly bergweg (mountain path) leads up this way toward the lake.

We took the left fork to the bergweg and were glad we did. This was the quieter and less trafficked of the two trails. Supposedly it’s also a little longer. But ultimately it only took us about an hour. 

An hour later, the bergweg emerged at the top of a hill near the cable car station. Another fork in the road lay ahead. To the left, a trail ran up toward the start of the panoramic hike we’d come for. To the right, another path took people directly to the lake (15 minutes away). 

We went left and then left again at the signs for Ober Bargli. From here, the trail narrowed and followed a ridge over and around the lake for stunning views before descending to a mountain hut (Ober Bargli) that serves snacks. This second leg of our journey took 1.5 hours, not including our stop for lunch. 

After a picnic just past the mountain hut, we followed the route alongside cliffs and past waterfalls down to the lake itself.

The final leg of our journey, including the lake-to-cable-car-station jaunt took about an hour. 

(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)

Want to experience the hike for yourself? Here are some relevant details: 

Hiking times and local transportation

From Kandersteg to the berg station (the top of the cable car line) took us one hour. The round-trip on the panoramic route above the lake took 2.5 hours, not including our lunch break. We decided to take the cable car down, but you could also hike back down in probably 45 minutes or less. 

Kandersteg is easy to get to by train and the trail was an easy walking distance from the train station.

Trail markers

The panoramic route is well marked and easy to follow. Watch for yellow signs that tell you which trail leads to which ridge/hut/lake. (For details on which markers we followed, so above.)

From Kandersteg to the cable car station at the top of the hill, we took a bergweg. Mostly it was well marked, but the turnoff is not. Watch for signs for the alpine slide and follow those onto the trail. 

Dogs on trails

Dogs are welcome on Swiss trails. Make sure you clean up after yours and keep in mind that this is a popular trail, a narrow trail, and you’ll encounter lots of other dogs. (So if yours is dog-aggressive, a leash and perhaps a muzzle are a good plan.)

It’s also worth noting that cows can be aggressive toward dogs, especially if the dog is barking at them or otherwise bothering them. If you come across grazing cows, keep your dog leashed and controlled. If you have a small dog, it might be wise to carry them through.

What to bring

Wear good hiking or trail running shoes (I like Salomon women’s speedcross) and bring a jacket no matter what (once you get high enough, there’s always a chance of cool weather) and poncho if there’s any chance of rain. The weather here can change on a dime.

I did not see any water fill-up stations along the way, so make sure to carry all the water you need. And if you decide to fill up in the streams (I do, but that’s an out-your-own-risk choice), make sure NOT to fill up anywhere below the ober bargli hut. There’s an outhouse there that doesn’t seem well contained. 

Since I’m hiking with a middle-aged small dog and occasionally she’s had some knee issues, I also hike with a dog backpack. Here’s the one I’ve been trying out (and really love – I think it’s my new go-to). 

Happy hiking!

All photos taken with my Sony a6000.

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