I live here and may be a bit biased, but I am going to come out and simply state that Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is without a doubt one of the best all around trail running destinations I have ever experienced.
For 20+ years, trail running has been a huge part of my life. What started as something to do in the mountains for training, became just what I do. For me, it’s all about the feeling of the body being tuned to move fluidly through the landscape. Preferably, a beautiful, inspiring landscape. As professional mountain sport photographers, I see our images reflecting the very thing I love about trail running, graceful movement through a big environment.
In all my years of trail running, and being a photographer, I have been fortunate enough to run in mountains all around the world; California’s Sierra Nevada, Patagonia, Iceland, the Himalaya, the Rockies, the Andes, and of course all throughout the Alps. We were doing multi-day running tours in both the Alps and Dolomites as early as 2001, back when running was something you did in the park. I vividly remember the curious, suspicious even, glances that my water hose received.
Today of course, things are very different. Trail running is immensely popular. Thanks to the success of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Chamonix, arguably the trail running capitol, is full of colorful kits, hydration packs, carbon poles and compression zipping about. You’ll be convinced an ultra race is about to start, but no, it’s just the start of another day.
In the US and Europe, ultra races fill up about as quickly as they are opened for registration, there are more people wanting to do these events than there is event space. In the Alps, a day on trails just about guarantees you’ll see people running them, people of all ages, shapes and sizes seeking a big day out to cover a lot of ground. Trail running feels good and is far more enjoyable than running on asphalt, people have gotten it. Thanks to great gear, being somewhat in style, and more sexy than hiking… the numbers are soaring, and the numbers include all ages.
Throughout the last four years I have been running and exploring our home mountains around Interlaken, Switzerland. Known as the Jungfrau Region, the area is one of the most famous in the Alps, if not the world, for hiking and climbing. Thanks to its already established fame, it comes as no surprise that trail runners are now discovering the potential. Events also help, both the Jungfrau Mountain Marathon and Eiger Ultra Trail bring a lot of attention to the area as a running destination.
What makes the Jungfrau Region so good for hikers and climbers, also makes it ideal for trail running; huge views of some of the Alps most iconic mountains, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, dramatic glaciers, idyllic villages (in fact, quintessential Switzerland), accessible terrain for all abilities, a hut system, unique features (check out the Hardergrat), an unparalleled train, tram and gondola system, and of course perfect trails flowing through it all. Perhaps most appealing of all, it’s just as easy to find empty trails as it is a good coffee and tort. For the visiting trail runner, life in Interlaken, Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen (the Jungfrau Region) is very, very good.
Finally, the “something for everyone factor” is a big one. Great hiking trails don’t always make for great running trails. Conversely, great running trails might not be the best hiking trails. Hikers seek views, runners seek flow and a “feel”, views are a bonus. The Jungfrau Region has something for everyone, and in great abundance.
If you’re Googling where to run in the Alps, and landed here – you just hit pay dirt.
Jungfrau Region Trail Running Hit List
Interlaken – Grindelwald High Route
Lauterbrunnen – Obersteinberg Loop
Lauterbrunnen – Kandersteg
These are just a few of the very best. For more information about the Jungfrau Region, or the Alps in general, feel free to leave a comment, we’re happy to help.
From Lauterbrunnen Valley, numerous trails head into the high country. On the west end of the valley is Stechelberg, from which the Obersteinberg trails leaves with some of the best singletrack running in the region.
Just about wherever you find yourself running in the Jungfrau Region, you are going to be a small person in a very large, and dramatic, landscape.
One of the great pleasures of running in Europe is the hut system. It is very popular to combine a run into the alpine world with a stop at a mountain hut. In addition to being able to overnight, the huts provide great food and drinks, allowing you to travel light and go far. This is above Grindelwald, headed for the Chrinnenhorn, a small summit just above the Gleckstein Hut.
There is no denying that the Alps are a busy mountain range, but most everyone does the classics. Studying maps reveals some gems, maybe a bit long and hard to access for hiking, less so for running. Trail running opens up minds and options.
The famous Hardergrat… one ridge, one trail, right on the crest for 25km.
The Hardergrat at a peak wild flower moment.
Critters you’ll likely see in the Alps. Ibex beneath the west face of the Jungfrau.
Late fall usually means stable weather, beautiful tones, and few people. Best of all, popular summer trails become silent paths around Kleine Scheidegg.
A classic summer day in the Alps on a classic trail. This trail is part of the Jungfrau Marathon heading to Kleine Scheidegg from Lauterbrunnen Valley with the north face of the Mönch towering above.
I can’t stress it enough… if you visit, don’t just stick to the classic tick list, explore. There is so much mountain terrain where few bother to go, the same terrain where some of the best running is to be found. Swiss maps hold all the secrets.
Running in this area looks amazing – thanks for the info and inspiration. I am hoping to make a trip this year – can you advise on when is the earliest in the year that it’s possible to run in this area? I am guessing winter isn’t possible – are April / May feasible? Thanks tons!
Thanks for the good words! Most trails you see here don’t open until early June, May at the earliest. But it depends on the winter and how warm spring is. The Alps typically hold snow late making trail running high tough.
I love your site, really inspirational stuff. I’ve been to the Jungfrau region once in the past, and after seeing some of your suggestions I feel like I wasted half of my time there!
Thus, I just booked a trip for three nights in late September, and am wondering if you can give me some good suggestions of routes and huts? My friend and I are looking to do three overnights. Any advice you can offer will be absolutely amazing! Cannot wait to get back out there.
Hi Chris, The options are huge, I suggest going through our site and seeing what you find. Some good ones are Lauterbrunnen to Kandersteg, Dossen Hut, Obersteinberg. But, not knowing you it is hard to say what is the right fit, you’ll have to d some studying.
Is there a 25K or 30K trail races in your area
The Eiger Trail race in July out of Grindelwald.
Hi, I will be spending 3 weeks in Laurebrunnen end of July/august, and would like to spend some time exploring on the trails, are the any run groups in the area or organised runs I can jump in on, would be nice to explore the area with like minded people who know the way! Thank you Hannah
3 weeks in Lauterbrunnen is going to be a good time! I don’t know of any clubs here, but there are some Swiss Strava clubs. The Berner Oberland Trail Running group may be one for you. Stay tuned on our social media as we’ll be launching our new trail running site in the coming weeks. More running tours!
Oh my gosh, I am in love! Thank you for this post!!! My group of 5 will have 2 nights in this area, so really only 1 full day to explore and trail run (by the looks of it, I will want to stay forever!!!)… but 3 of us are running UTMB-CCC the following weekend. Can you recommend a trail for us, ~20K, that would be the lovely flowy kind you describe, but also give the amazing views we long to soak up? Or maybe the #1 hiking trail that would leave us enchanted and longing to return? (Though, I’m sure we cant go wrong here…)
Ok, I promise you’ll leave our home region! Well….. if I had to say one trail to experience, it would be the Obersteinberg loop from that collection. It’s my favorite. But really, all of them are great. If you feel up to it, the Hardergrat is one of the best trails of the Alps… Enjoy!
Hello – loved this post! I am staying at the Eigernordwand camp site next week and I am looking for a trail loop that starts and finishes near here if you have any suggestions that would be great!! Maybe 15km or so?! Many thanks in advance, scott
Hi Scott, what’s the Eigernordwand Camp? I assume it’s at the base of the Eiger, but I’ve never heard anything called that. If you are Kleine Scheidegg, be sure to drop to Wengeneralp, then come back up on the Eigergletscher/Jungfrau Marathon moraine trail – it’s the classic.
For the author or anyone on here, does anyone have a recommended 2 day loop around Wengen / Grindelwald? I haven’t tried it before, but the opportunity to run for 25 – 45k, pull into a hit (shower, relax, dinner), then wake up the next morning and continue the loop for another 25 – 45k on day 2? It would be great to tie into Spinx Observatory, but not sure if any trails head that way.
There are tons of options, but that’s a big loop that you’ll have to piece together. You can possibly connect some of our runs at elevation.alpsinsight.com. I suggest trying to stay at the Lobhorn Hut… it’s a beauty. Running up to the Sphinx (Jungfraujoch) is not possible unless you do some serious alpine climbing to get there.
Thank you for the inspiration; I was searching for trail running vacation ideas when I found your site and specifically booked in Lauterbrunnen based on your wonderful description of the area.
A couple of specific questions:
Shoes and terrain: I’m from Colorado and when I moved here ten years ago from a life of pavement, I used clunky trail shoes until I got used to 100% trail running and really don’t run in intense trail shoes unless it’s muddy and need traction. Are the trail surfaces of the trails originating from Lauterbrunnen primarily uneven and rocky resulting in a sometimes speed hike dodging un-runnable rock sections? Or are they “flowy” delights where you can actually run most sections. I’m building for a NYC marathon looking for some memorable scenery while burning some miles.
Local running shops: any running stores you would recommend for that forgotten item or maybe for a trail recommendation? Again, I’m staying in Lauterbrunnen.
Favorite post run spot: any favorite treats, foods, restaurants, or simply fun locations for post-run to give a flavor of the local life or atmosphere?
Thanks again for the excellent site that resulted in my planned trip. And thanks in advance for any feedback on the trail surfaces.
Great to hear you are coming to our region! You’ll be in paradise!
For trails, it is everything from silky smooth to super technical rocks and roots. There are some routes, like Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald, that are smoother, but overall, be prepared for everything.
The best running shops are Backdoor in Grindelwald, Vertical and Interlaken, and for some items, Imboden in Lauterbrunnen (but it’s more of a bike shop). Best cafes are Airtime in Lauterbrunnen, C&M in Grindelwald and Velo Cafe in Interlaken. The best huts to hit are Lobhorn, Bäregg and Gleckstein. But really, when you are out running, it’s all good.
Have a great time!
Hi, thanks for the great information. I’m from Greece and I’m going to visit Interlaken in November and wonder if I can pay someone to escort me as a guide for a trail running tour around the mountains with some hut stays along the way. Would you have any suggestions?
Thanks a lot in advance,
Thanks for the message. November is typically not a good time to visit Interlaken as almost everything is closed. There are no huts open and even many hotels are closed. If it hasn’t snowed much you can still run on dry trails, and it can be really beautiful, but options are limited, especially up high. I am not there at the moment so don’t know how it is. I have heard it has been very dry, but this can change any time.
I hope you find some good weather and dry trails!
Very useful the information you gave me, I was totally unaware of this. Thank you so much for your swift response.
Sorry to bring the bad news! But better than showing up and having to run low. When you decide to go, check in and I’ll help you out with ideas.