Interlaken Hike: Harder Kulm to Niederried via Augstmatthorn
|Total distance: 12.5km one way
|Elevation gain: ~650m
|Total time: 4-5hs one way
|Elevation loss: ~1330m
This is a moderate hike that takes you above Lake Brienz , offering views of the spectacular Swiss Alps and the lakes surrounding Interlaken.
The beginning of the hike is at Harder Kulm which can be reached by a funicular that runs after 9am or by a steep hike. The hike ends at Niederried, a small town by Lake Brienz with a train station connecting it to all the other locations around Interlaken.
We took the first train from Zurich HB to Interlaken Ost and from there we caught the second Harder Kulm funicular of the day which left at 9.40am. It is only a 10-minute ride up to the start of the trail. You will also find a lookout, a kiosk and a restaurant. This is the last opportunity for a coffee and restroom break before the 12.5km hike. Also, we would recommend taking plenty of water especially on a hot summer day as the hike gets very exposed after the halfway point. The only water source we came upon was not until the descent, which we will point out later.
In the first 30-40 minutes of the hike the trail gains 200m and it gradually continues on for most of the hike until Augstmatthorn.
For 1.5hs the trail runs through a forest, providing protection from all the natural elements while still having some viewpoints to admire Interlaken Ost and Lake Brienz from above.
Then the trail switches terrain to an exposed saddle with clear views of undulating farmlands and their houses on the left. If you go off the trail and climb up a few meters to the right you will get amazing views of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
2hs and 45 mins from the start point we reached a junction where yellow signs indicated 3 trail-choices to consider. One of them was pointing at the Augstmatthorn that was towering in just front of us but still takes 1 hour to climb. Another option from here is to go down to Jägerstübli Lombachalp restaurant, continue to Habkern, then get a bus back to Interlaken Ost. The final option is to go directly down to Niederried, Lake Brienz. This was our choice as the beautiful turquoise water of Lake Brienz was calling us for a swim on a hot 31 degree Celsius day.
This route may seem too steep at first but it was quite pleasant and knowing the lake is at the bottom makes it all worth it. Also, in about 30 minutes we reached a mountain hut and there was a highly appreciated drinking tap where we could fill up our bottles. This 1200m descent through a forest took us 2 hours.
From Niederried you can hop on a train to go back to Interlaken or to go to Brienz.
Overall this hike was absolutely beautiful and we would say it is a must-do hike in Interlaken!