The view of Lauterbrunnen from Wengen

Hiking in Switzerland: Lauterbrunnen to Wengen

While in Switzerland this spring, the number one item on my to-do list was hiking in the Swiss Alps. After all, everybody wants their Julie Andrews moment. And when you see these photos, you’ll be singing “the hills are alive…” too.

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Here’s the background – Lauterbrunnen is a small Alpine village located very near the tourist town of Interlaken, Switzerland. The village itself is quite small, and is known for its waterfalls – 21 of them, to be exact. The town is in the valley, so as you walk down Lauterbrunnen’s only “main” street, you’re surrounded on all sides by rocks, cliffs and mountains.

Just a few thousand feet above sits another small village called Wengen. You can reach it on foot, by train, or by cable car – but there are no vehicles allowed, so you can’t drive yourself up.

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Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen is stunning, with its picturesque homes and lodges, but it’s the view it offers that sold me. So, up the mountain I went – on foot, obviously.

To tell you the truth, I never did find a planned path to get from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, which is VERY unlike me. But, Rick Steves did it, and he told me that the signage on Switzerland’s hiking trails was incredibly easy to follow. So, first thing in the morning, I headed off in search of a trailhead.

I didn’t find one. And German is not a language you can just “wing it” with. After wandering the town aimlessly for 30 minutes trying to figure out how to cross the train tracks, I found a bridge that took me to the other side of the creek and just started climbing.

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Waterfalls everywhere

Truth time: I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I’ve always been an athlete. If I had to peg myself on the hiking skill scale, I’d be a solid “intermediate.” This hike had me doubled over, hands on knees, huffing and puffing for air.

My husband? He was doubled over, too. Except he was laughing at me. Thanks, guy.

The thing is, this hike isn’t all that long. It is extremely well-marked once you get across the creek. It’s just a constant uphill climb. First, you leave the main road, where vehicles can still be used. Then, you climb through some farms and fields of wildflowers. After that, it’s a series of (neverending) switchbacks, all the way up the mountain.

But it was SO worth it. Every time I reached a bend in the path, I saw this:

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Or this. Look at that view! It just went on and on with more of the same.

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Stop it, Switzerland, you’re spoiling me.

Okay, so that was incredible. Could have ended my day right there and been happy. Or so I thought. After stopping into a few tourist shops, I asked an English-speaking store owner (she moved there from the States to retire because SWISS ALPS) where the best view was. See, we thought we found it when we were over here:

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Happy faces in Wengen after walking uphill for 90 minutes straight

We were wrong. She pointed us in the direction of an old church, where we saw this:

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Wait, wait – there’s more. My husband, he just knew we could do even better if we hiked a little further around the valley. He was right:

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Panoramics, people. Sincerely, everywhere I looked I was stunned by the beauty. But we were in search of the perfect picnic spot. After a little back and forth, we settled on a hillside a few yards back from the train tracks. Tell me this isn’t the definition of picturesque:

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Add in fresh bread, meats, cheeses and a lovely bottle of rosé, and we had the most beautiful spot for the most beautiful hour. It was the perfect time to take a deep breath, and take it all in. An hour spent like this is the whole reason I travel, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day, a better view, or a better travel partner.

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Hiking the Rocky Mountains for Beginners

Hiking the Rockies for Beginners

If you’re like me, you can’t just stare at the mountains – you have to go into them to explore. Denver makes a terrific home base for exploring the Rockies, and it’s in proximity to tons of hikes suitable for beginner and intermediate hikers. Here are just a few of the trails I recommend:

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park – 2.2 miles, easy

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is perhaps the most popular hiking area for visiting travelers because it’s so well-known. What makes it even better is the easy access to hiking trails. When you drive into the park (it’s about an hour from downtown Denver) you pay the toll and head straight in. To reach the trailhead that leads you to Dream Lake, you’ll drive along Bear Lake Road and look for signs for a Park and Ride lot. Especially during peak season (May through September), the parking lots fill before 10 am. The Park and Ride lot is equipped with really nice restrooms, water fountains, and a line for the free shuttle bus. Quick tip – the line for the shuttle bus can be quite long, but it moves fairly quickly. Getting an earlier start makes wait times lower and trail traffic less intense. However, this is a well-loved, and highly-traveled trail – so you shouldn’t expect to find yourself alone in the wilderness. There’s plenty of beauty, peace and quiet for all, though.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The shuttle bus will take you further up into the park, and drop you off at the Bear Lake Trailhead. From Bear Lake, the trail splits – take it to the left toward Dream Lake. The trail climbs steadily up toward Nymph Lake, which makes a terrific spot to rest and take in the views. Continue around the lake and head up the steep climb that will offer you incredible views on your way up. Your next landmark is the trailhead for Lake Haiyaha. Turn right here to continue to Dream Lake, and enjoy the beautiful scene laid out before you. When I visited (in late September at the peak of fall colors) I sat on the boulders in front of the lake and had a picnic lunch, before heading back to the Lake Haiyaha trailhead and looping around to find it. I had more time and energy, and it was a convenient add-on.

Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater – 1.4 miles, easy

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Red Rocks is known for its amphitheater and the incredible concerts it hosts, but there are also some beautiful hiking trails connected to the park. Trading Post Trail showcases the incredible rock formations, valleys, meadows, and more. The terrain is a little rough, so even though it’s just over one mile long, I recommend hiking shoes. While you’re there, take the time to walk the amphitheater steps and take in the views from the top. It’s truly stunning.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness – 4 miles, intermediate

Lake Isabelle Trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

The trail to Lake Isabelle was a favorite for me, because it was more wild than the other trails. Terrain ranged from lush forest to boulders and stones littering creekbeds that flowed down the mountain. Plus, I saw a moose IRL (from a distance). Located in the Lake Brainard area just outside of Boulder, the hike to Lake Isabelle is stunning. After a quick stroll around Long Lake, simply follow the signs across valleys and streams for two miles to reach Lake Isabelle. This hike only gains 400 feet in elevation, but it had my heart pumping. When you arrive at the top, expect wildflowers, spectacular views, and even a bit of snow – it’s generally found here year-round.

Lake Isabelle Trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Lake Isabelle

You can tack on an additional two miles and 1,500 feet in elevation from Lake Isabelle to reach the Isabelle Glacier if you have the time and energy – I opted to head back, and backtracked the two miles to my car.

If you decide to make Denver your home base, be sure to check out the local food and beer scene – after a few hours hiking in the mountains, I thoroughly enjoyed replenishing those spent calories at The Populist, Hops and Pie, Great Divide Brewing Company, River North Brewing Company, and Our Mutual Friend, to name a few.