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
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.
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.
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.