Ready to hike to Obersteinberg? You’ll start from the floor of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The Jungfrau region in the Bernese Oberland is already my favorite area in the Alps – a fairy tale combination of mountains, waterfalls, flowers and cows. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is a gem within a gem. This deeply carved gorge served as the inspiration for JRR Tolkein’s Rivendell, based on a hiking tour he took here as a young man.
From the town of Lauterbrunnen, you can walk along the valley floor or save some time and take the bus to Stechelberg, a tiny settlement at the end of the road. Here you leave the cars behind and start your hike uphill, following the tumbling Lutschine river. Even from Stechelberg, the scenery is incredibly impressive, with vertical cliffs soaring 3000 ft above you. The Jungfrau is the queen of the region, but it’s not alone; a ring of glacier clad peaks circles the valley. As you hike, you’ll soon pass a handsome inn called Trachsellauenen, a great place to stop for a snack or drink. The flowers along the way are fantastic. Continuing past Trachsellauenen, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Schmadribach falls, a powerful 1000 foot waterfall perfectly framed at the back of the valley. It’s a stunning scene, and will be popping in and out of view for the rest of your hike.
Continue back into the valley, passing the dilapidated remains of an old smelting furnace and passing through a deep spruce forest. The trail gets even steeper for a bit and comes to a fork, where both directions are signposted for Obersteinberg. The right path is steep and direct, going first to Tschingelhorn inn before leading to Obersteinberg, while the left side stays along the bottom of the valley for a while longer. We like to send people left, following the attractive path along the valley floor and past many wild blueberry bushes, alpenrose and horsetails.
You’ll reach a clearing at an old barn called Schürboden where you can refill water from a natural spring in front of the barn, and sit and relax and enjoy the scenery, although watch for stinging nettles which are common around barns. This entire ridge is impressive, extending from the Jungfrau behind your left shoulder, past the Rottal glacier valley topped by the Gletscherhorn, the pristinely white Äbeni Flue, Mittaghorn, Grosshorn, the beautiful haystack symmetry of the Breithorn (one of my favorites), and finally the steep cliffs of the Tschingelhorn. Schmadrifalls cascades right above you to the south.
There are actually many alternate trails here, and wonderful side trips that can be taken to Holdri falls and even above the Schmadribach falls to a tiny hut at the base of the Breithorn. If you ever really want an adventure, a night at the tiny self-service Schmadri hut is hard to beat, with only the Breithorn, the Ibex and your thoughts for company. The continuing trail passes a beautiful little lakelet (Oberhornsee) to reach Obersteinberg a more roundabout way.
But for today, just go direct. It’s enough. Turning right at Schurboden you continue uphill, following the signposted trail to Obersteinberg. The trail winds up through the woods, flowers and waterfalls and clearings along the way, finally clearing the trees for good and depositing you directly at the hotel at Obersteinberg. Huzzah!