Deep below your steps lies the town of Interlaken, nestled in between turquoise-blue lakes. Snowy white peaks glisten invitingly in the distance, and, possibly, the most breathtaking Swiss ridgeline is outstretched in front of you. All this and more can be enjoyed on the hike from Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn. If this sounds like a dream and you’re up for a demanding full-day hike, look no further, as this is the ultimate hiking experience.
There is a high likelihood you have already seen photos of this ridgeline either on Instagram or Pinterest, and there is a reason for it. The Harder ridge trail is relatively easy (and cheap for Switzerland!) to access and it offers the most incredible views of the Swiss Alps, among which most notably, the legendary Bernese Oberland trio – Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Down below you’ll be spoilt with the views of the turquoise Lake Brienz (Brienzersee), and the pointy ridge trail itself might set your heart racing as you’ll be conquering the steep ascents and descents. And if your timing is right, you might even spot the members of the local wild ibex colony that inhabits the steep slopes trailing down both sides of the hiking path.
All of the above have made this trail very popular among tourists that are flocking to Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region, however, if you set out early, you have great chances of escaping the crowds for the most part of the trail as it’s quite long (almost 17 km in total) and not all will choose to do the whole trail. Once you reach the peaks of Suggiture and Augstmatthorn, you’ll most likely run into other people who are hiking up from Lombachalp (there will be a blog post about this trail too).
There are multiple variations of this hike, but in this blog post I’ll be focusing on Harder Kulm – Augstmatthorn – Harder Kulm option covering the same trail hiking out and back.
Approach to the Trail
You have two options how you can start this trail from Interlaken – you either hike up to Harder Kulm (depending on the trail you take, it’s roughly 4 km long with a 750 m ascent) and continue from there OR you take the funicular up to Harder Kulm and go from there. The first option will make this adventure a full-on challenging day but less timetable restricted and you can set off earlier in the day, while the latter will save you some energy and your legs (trust me on this one!).
If you opt for the funicular, keep in mind that the earliest train leaves the valley station at 9:10, and it runs every 30 minutes. It is located just a short walk away from the Interlaken Ost train station, the ride takes about 10 minutes and will cost you CHF 17-20 one way (depends on the season). Here you can find more information on the timetable and pricing.
Harder Kulm to the Foot of Suggiture
The trailhead is right next to the Harder Kulm restaurant building where you can enjoy your last WC stop and water point. From there just follow the yellow signs to Augstmatthorn and the red-and-white markings on the trail. As you’ll see, the time estimate for this trail one way is 3 h 30 min which is rather accurate, unless you’re running.
The hiking trail from Harder Kulm starts with a steady and steep ascent into a dense alpine forest towards the East. The path takes you along the southern slope of Harder ridge, and soon you’ll reach Wannichnubel and pass it on the south.
The first 5 to 6 kilometres will only give you occasional glimpses of the scenery around you through the dense treeline, and at this point, you might be wondering: “Where is the ridgeline? Where are the views?” Be patient! To some, this can seem a boring section of the trail, but enjoy the shady parts while they last and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views soon after.
When you finally emerge from the forest, on Horetalp, the narrow trail will quickly lead you to the top of the ridge and panoramic views will be abundant on both sides of the path. The most impressive sight is what lies ahead – the seemingly-thin ridgeline and the imposing peak of Suggiture. It’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed, so make sure you focus on the trail ahead of you.
The path leading up to the foot of Suggiture is quite scenic, and you might want to snap away as many photos as possible. A word of advice – go ahead and do it now, because on your way back you might want to preserve your energy, especially if you have a heavy DSLR in your backpack like I did. Or you can simply savour the moment and let the views take your breath away.
The hiking trail itself here might seem quite demanding as it is right on the top of the ridgeline, but it’s relatively flat and wide with only occasional drops to one side or the other.
As you ascend up Suggiture, the trail will get more technical – it’s steep and the sometimes very high steps (for a short girl like me) are often covered in loose rock, and there are some exposed drops to one side. Not to worry – the trickier parts have a rope to hold onto and it always helps to lean into the path if you get light-headed.
More than anything, this stretch of the trail is demanding on your lungs and heart as you are covering more vertical (around 150 hm) than horizontal distance. Keep at it, as the best views are ahead of you, and this is only a short part of the whole trail.
As you reach the top of Suggiture (2,085 m), you’ll be greeted by spectacular views of the Alps to your right, the extent of the ridgeline stretching out for miles to Brienzer Rothorn at the other end of Lake Brienz, and, most likely, other hikers resting at the peak. You can have your lunch break here or wait until you reach Augstmatthorn.
Suggiture to Augstmatthorn
This part of the trail will be a favourite for most hikers who have embarked on this adventure. The stretch between the two peaks begins with a steep and rocky descent (again, with some holds provided for the trickier bits) that quickly turns into a proper ridgeline. Although there are some narrow places, the path is quite wide and will not expose you to any sudden drops.
Once you’re past Suggiture, it’s time to look out for ibex and chamois along the steep slopes. Even though these trails are frequented by hikers, you have a good chance seeing these magnificent animals as they aren’t very shy. I would still advise you to keep a safe distance at all times and enjoy the elegance and lightness they possess when navigating the rocky terrain from afar.
The peak of Augstmatthorn (2,137 m) is less imposing than that of Suggiture, but you’ll be rewarded with more incredible and scenic views as you reach the farthest point of this hike. There you’ll have plenty of space to have a break, catch your breath and fuel up before the return leg.
I could not refrain from thinking what lies ahead on the ridgeline. We once attempted to conquer the full length of it between Brienzer Rothorn and Harder Kulm, but our unpreparedness and bad timings made us call it quits. But we will be back one day, and I cannot wait to share our feat once the whole of the ridgeline will be conquered.
Other Variations of the Hike
There are many trails linking up to the Augstmatthorn trail which gives you numerous options for your hike. Here I have listed some examples:
- Harder Kulm – Augstmatthorn – Lombachalp – Habkern
- Harder Kulm – Augstmatthorn – Blasenhubel – Oberried am Brienzersee
- Lombachalp – Augstmatthorn – Suggiture – Lombachalp
- Ringgenberg / Niederried – Suggiture – Augstmatthorn (and back down)
If you want to research the route options yourself and create the best one for your wishes and circumstances, I would advise using the FATMAP route creation function (free to use!) which will give you detailed information on the distance, ascent and descent and the time needed for your hike. Here you’ll also be able to discover already existing routes with valuable information from other hikers.
Preparation for the Hike
If you’re like me, you might find the preparatory stage of any hike just as exciting as the hike itself. If you follow my tips below, you should be all set and ready to conquer the Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn hike.
I believe that one of the most important aspects of this hike and preparation for it is assessing the weather conditions. I would strictly advise against heading out on bad weather days, especially if a summer thunderstorm is forecasted. Being out on this ridge in dire weather conditions is the last thing you’ll want as it offers no shelter, and I speak of my own experience. MeteoSwiss is my go-to app for all things weather-related in Switzerland, and I would always advise using local services, especially when you’re out in the mountains.
If you follow my first tip, you’ll most likely be heading out on a sunny day, therefore you’ll need loads of sunscreen! Apply it thoroughly and generously before heading out and reapply a couple of times along the way as it is a long hike and you’ll be sweating a lot!
The hike is quite strenuous with some steep ascents and descents and some narrow bits along the way. I would highly recommend using hiking poles, however, it is doable without a pair, especially if you’re not confident about your steady-footedness and might get a shaky leg on the exposed bits. Same goes for footwear – the sturdier are your shoes, the better off you’ll be, but the trail is manageable with trail runners.
If you follow my advice and head out on a good weather day, I would still advise packing waterproofs, especially a waterproof jacket. The weather in the mountains can change so quickly, and even the most accurate weather forecast might not predict that odd rain cloud.
Bring loads and loads of water! The only place you can top up is Harder Kulm, and after that, you’ll be on your own – there are no fountains or streams to quench your thirst along the way. My advice would be taking two litres of water as a minimum per person, as you do not want to run out of water with miles left on the trail.
You will definitely need to fuel your hike with food and snacks, as it will last the most part of your day. Load up on plenty of carbs ahead of the hike, pack some lunch for when you reach Augstmatthorn and a few snacks along the way. As with water, your first and last fueling station will be Harder Kulm.
One thing I would definitely consider taking with me on such a long hike is a small first aid kit. I have been lucky enough to never have needed one, but you never know, right? Even if you yourself avoid getting hurt, you might run into someone who has had worse luck than you, and it’s great to be prepared and able to help. There’s plenty of first aid kits available to buy, including ones specifically designed for hiking.
I would also advise taking a little bin bag for all the waste you’ll be creating (that includes banana peels!) and bringing it out with you. Leave no trace, right?
This, no doubt, is one of the most stunning hiking trails out there and it offers you so much! It is demanding indeed, but it will reward you with plenty of jaw-dropping views of the turquoise waters deep below and arguably the most iconic Swiss Alps mountain massif (Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau) in the distance. On top of that, you’ll be stepping on an actual mountain ridgeline with steep drops on either side. If the weather’s playing along, you’ll be in for a real treat.
If you only have a short stay planned in Interlaken and are on a lookout for the best views and hiking experience, this is your go-to hike in the Jungfrau Region and beyond.
Info & Stats
Hiking Trail: Harder Kulm – Augstmatthorn – Harder Kulm
Distance: 16.8 km total round hike
Duration: Official time (as signposted) required for the trail between Harder Kulm and Augstmatthorn is 3 h 30 min one way. Depending on the number of stops and photos taken, this can be shorter or longer. I would allow a minimum of 6 to 7 hours.
Elevation: + 1,083 hm / – 1,083 hm
Grade: Medium to difficult
When to go: June – September (weather depending)
I wanted to show you the various features and sections of the trail as best as possible, therefore pictures featured in this blog post are from several different hikes and different cameras, and due to the varying weather conditions affect how the surroundings look.