If you’re heading to the Jungfrau region in Switzerland, then an Augstmatthorn hike is an epic thing to do. It’s a challenging yet highly rewarding trip, with some of the best views over Interlaken, Lake Brienz and beyond. It’s a great mix of woodland paths, incredible ridgelines and rugged surfaces, making the walk diverse and at times, quite literally keeping you on your toes.
In this guide, I’ll cover all the key details you need to know about hiking to the Augstmatthorn summit, including the best time to hike, how to get to the trailhead, a route map and much more. I’ll go into great detail about the Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm since this is the route we took. However, I will also include some alternative routes which may be better suited to you.
What is Augstmatthorn?
Augstmatthorn is a mountain that’s situated in the Emmental Alps in Switzerland. It sits at over 2000 meters above sea level and forms part of the Hardergrat ridge that towers above Lake Brienz.
Where is Augstmatthorn in Switzerland?
Augstmatthorn is part of the Bernese Region. The most well-known town nearby is Interlaken, which is just a stone’s throw away from the starting point of this hike.
Best time to hike to Augstmatthorn summit
The best time to hike to the Augstmatthorn summit is between the end of May and the beginning of October. This is when the weather conditions will allow you to do this hike safely, however, it’s always best to check the weather before you head out.
We did this hike at the end of July and it was 33 degrees and very humid. Just a few days later, I am sitting here writing this post whilst there is a storm going on outside. Needless to say, Switzerland has some unpredictable weather at times and by the looks of this storm, you definitely wouldn’t want to get caught up on the Hardergrat ridge that’s for sure.
I’d recommend that you use an app called Accuweather to check the forecast before heading out. Here you’ll be able to see an hourly view, however, what I love most is the radar section. This shows the most accurate view of what’s going on right above your head imminently.
Additionally, it’s worth checking the webcam which shows the latest view of what it looks like up on the ridgeline.
Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm
As I mentioned in the introduction to this hike, I’ll cover the most detail about the route which leaves and returns to Harder Kulm. In my opinion, this is one of the best routes in terms of the logistics and descent, since others tend to mean having to get a bus back to the start point and follow a very sharp descent which is extremely hard on your knees.
Whilst below details are about the Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm and back, you’ll find details of some alternative routes later on in this guide.
Key details of the Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm
The total distance of this walk is 17.6 kilometres. It’s an out-and-back route, that covers a fair distance and will leave you feeling a little worn out at the end.
The total elevation of this hike is 981 meters. This is mostly covered in the first 5 kilometres and 7th and 8th kilometres of the walk. The first section definitely gets your blood pumping and personally, I was grateful for the fact this part was mostly covered by trees. The 7th and 8th kilometre are a killer for sure but at this point, you’ll be enjoying some epic views and feel compelled to make it to the highest point, no matter how hard you’re finding it.
This walk took us 3 hours out and 2.5 hours back, making it a total of 5.5 hours to complete. However, we did really push on in this walk since we had to get back for other arrangements. The only time we really stopped was a few times in the last kilometre to catch our breath and then for about 10 minutes at the summit to admire the views. If you’re looking to take this hike at a more leisurely pace then I’d recommend budgeting about 7 hours so that you can really soak up the views and perhaps stop for something to eat.
This is definitely one of the more challenging hikes in the area, however, you’ll spot a wide variety of people on the trail trying to tackle it. We seemed to be having a pretty good day and could push on pretty hard, but by the end, I was certainly feeling the effects. You’ll see some older, more experienced, hikers, on the trail. It’s unlikely you’ll see many children, which is perhaps due to the ridge. Personally, the ridge did not seem as dangerous as perhaps the pictures make out and at no point did I get sweaty palms.
Augstmatthorn hike logistics
Getting to the trailhead
The start of this walk is at the top of the Harder Kulm. To get to the top of Harder Kulm you have two options: Take the funicular railway or walk up.
If you choose to take the funicular railway (which we did) then it takes just 8 minutes from the bottom of the mountain to the top. It will cost you 40 Swiss Francs for a return ticket. However, if you have one of the many travel package discount cards then it should work out cheaper. Something like the Swiss Travel Pass or the Jungfrau Travel Pass will save you a ton of money in the long run if you’re exploring Switzerland.
If you choose to walk to the top of the Harder Kulm, then this will be an additional 4 kilometres onto your journey and you’ll cover an extra 751 meters of elevation. Similarly, if you don’t want to get the funicular railway back down from Harder Kulm, you’ll need to descend this way, meaning you’re adding 8 kilometres to the original trail.
If you’re travelling around the area by public transport, then you’ll need to get the train or bus to Interlaken Ost. The funicular railway is just across the river from here, as well as the trail that leads up to Harder Kulm if you’re looking to add this onto the walk. The signpost for the trail is to the right on the entrance to Harder Kulm Bahn.
Where to park
If you’ve got a car, then the best place to park is Interlaken Ost station car park, known as Parkplatz in Switzerland. It’s a pretty big car park with plenty of free space, even on the weekends. The cost is super cheap – or at least it is compared to the parking prices in the UK – at approximately 1 swiss franc an hour. You can pay this by cash or card upon your return and you’ll need to do this on the station platform by the toilets.
What to expect on the day of your Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm
Once you’ve arrived at Harder Kulm, you’ll already be in for a treat, since Harder Kulm has a great viewing platform. It’s considered one of the best spots to see the two lakes in which Interlaken is sandwiched between. It almost feels like you’ve cheated a little bit since you normally have to work pretty hard to get views like these. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely you’ll be complaining about that once you’re stood on the viewing platform.
Once you’ve finished admiring the views, you’ll join the dirt track which leads above the restaurant and into the trees. You’ll lose all sight of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and begin to sweat as the route quickly finds an incline.
You’ll be climbing for at least a couple of kilometres before the route finally gives in and begins to undulate. Every now and then you’ll catch a glimpse of Lake Brienz peaking through the trees on the right-hand side. On the left-hand side, you’ll nothing for a long time, and then all of sudden a huge gap in the trees exposes some spectacular views of the Swiss countryside with the occasional rugged mountain edge.
Whilst the route has flattened out slightly, the trail doesn’t necessarily become any less difficult as you’ll need to navigate your way around fallen trees and across the incredibly tree-root-heavy trail. At times, this gets frustrating, but it will all be worth it.
At kilometre 5, you’ll be set free from the trees as you pass through a gate and re-join the path that leads across an open field. It’s here that you’ll get your first glimpse of the Augstmatthorn summit which you’ll shortly be ascending. You’ll be on this section of the trail for a while before eventually reaching some more, slightly less view-restricting, trees. This is a short stint of the walk and even more root-heavy than before.
All of a sudden, the trail finds some heavy forest for no more than a few minutes before spitting you out on the tail-end of the Hardergrat ridgeline. All of the hard work over the last 7 kilometres will be worth it for this view. Lake Brienz will be glistening below and the rugged escarpment will be an impressive sight.
After you’ve taken in the epic views, the realisation will set in that you’ll now need to cover some serious elevation in what looks like a very short distance to reach the top of Augstmatthorn. This is, without a doubt, the hardest section of the walk.
Initially, the trail leads along a ridge which is fairly flat. However, this doesn’t last long. Within a few moments, you’ll be ascending rapidly. The route then takes it up a notch and begins to take short and sharp zig-zag-like turns with an even tougher ascent. The surface here is flint, which adds to the challenge. Just as you’re about to run out of breath, you’ll have made it to the top of the second ridge where you’ll no doubt take a minute to absorb the views and catch your breath.
The next section of the walk is the final push to the very near summit of Augstmatthorn. You’ll follow the ridgeline which has all of a sudden become a little more narrow for approximately 1 kilometre. You’ll then find yourself at the bottom of the final ascent, which is a short but intense couple of minutes. Once you arrive at Augstmatthorn summit, you’ll no doubt want to spend some time relaxing at the top, looking back along the ridgeline and gazing at the views either side of where you’re stood.
It’s then time to head back to Harder Kulm. You’ll retrace your steps all the way back and enjoy what is mostly a downhill walk. After doing a fair bit of climbing on your way out, coming down feels pretty tough on the legs. However, this route back down much easier than the alternatives out there, which you’ll be thankful for.
Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn route map
Once you’ve reached Harder Kulm and found the first signpost pointing to Augstmatthorn, the route is very easy to follow. There are plenty of signposts all along this trail which have helpful estimated times to the destination.
However, I always use AllTrails when following a route. Well-trodden trails like this one can usually be found following a quick search and it’s helpful to see what the profile of the walk looks like so that you know what to expect. Usually, I’d download the map ahead of time so that even if I lose my phone signal, I’ve still got a trail to follow. Thankfully with this walk, it’s not too much of a big deal if this happens since it’s so well sign-posted.
Route map: Augstmatthorn hike from Harder Kulm and back
Alternative routes to Augstmatthorn summit
Below are some alternative routes which you may want to consider. These are all point-to-point routes which will require you to make your own way back to the start of the trail.
Harder Kulm to Oberried
Harder Kulm to Oberried route is a 17.7 kilometre route that begins in Interlaken. This means that instead of taking the funicular railway, you’ll start the hike with some pretty serious incline.
Once you’ve made it to the top, you’ll join the same trail that we’ve covered in detail, however, instead of descending the same way, you’ll descend to Oberried.
The difference here is that the elevation you’ve climbed over 11.5 kilometres will be found over over 6 kilometres back to the base. And, don’t forget, you’ve already added quite a bit more elevation by not taking the funicular railway with this route. Of course, though, you could always tweak this route slightly and take the funicular railway at the start whilst still descending into Oberried.
From Oberried, you’ll need to catch the train back to Interlaken Ost (the closest station to the start of this walk).
Route map: Harder Kulm to Oberried
Harder Kulm to Habkern
The walk to Habkern begins at the top of Harder Kulm, just like the route we did. It’s a 16.4-kilometre hike and the only real difference between this route and the one which we took is that once you reach the summit of Augstmatthorn, you’ll descend into Habkern rather than back to Harder Kulm. The descent into Habkern is a fairly steep one over 7 kilometres and you’ll need to find your own way back. The best way to return back to Interlaken is by bus from Habkern Post Office to Interlaken Ost. It’s usually bus number 106 and takes approximately 30 minutes.
Route map: Harder Kulm to Habkern
Interlaken to Brienz Rothorn
Interlaken to Brienz Rothorn is also known as the Harergrat Ridge trail and is one of the most treacherous trails out there. Only super experienced hikers should go for this option and even then, really consider whether this is a trail that’s worth it.
You’ll enjoy unbelievable scenery from the knife-edge ridge for most of the time, however, you’ll need to be extremely focused on where you’re placing your feet in between looking around at the view.
Checking the weather ahead of time for this trail couldn’t be more important, as there is nowhere to hide once you’re up on this ridge. To highlight the point further, thousands of people are rescued from this ridge each year and a couple of hundred die.
Personally, this wasn’t a trail that was worth it for us, but if you still want to go ahead after this knowledge then the things that you need to know are:
It’s a 23.3-kilometre point-to-point hike. It leaves from Interlaken, however, to make this a couple of kilometres shorter and to reduce the elevation you could take the funicular railway up to Harder Kulm. The route follows exactly the same outbound journey as the Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn trail, yet continues on all the way to Brienz Rothorn rather than returning back to Harder Kulm. From Brienz Rothorn, you’ll need to take the train back down to Brienz town and hop on the train or bus back to Interlaken, which takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
Route map: Interlaken to Brienz Rothorn
Tips for hiking to Augstmatthorn
Consider the best day to do this hike
When we set off on this trail, we were expecting to see a couple of people here and there. Yet, this trail was busy once we arrived at the ridgeline and the return journey seemed to be a popular one. We were hiking this on a Sunday between 9:30 and 3, so on second thoughts, I guess we could have picked better.
But, let our mistake be your lesson, as we ended up getting held up by slower hikers and had to join a very long line to get the Harder Kulm Bahn back down to Interlaken. We didn’t get onto the first train and even when we did, it was super hot and packed full of people – the last thing you want after a long and sweaty hike.
If you’re able to, then I’d recommend doing this hike on a weekday. Hopefully, this is when there will be fewer people on the trail and it will almost certainly mean that the Harder Kulm Bahn won’t be as busy since this in itself is a popular attraction.
Check your timings
Whether you’re heading out on the same trail as us or an alternative one that requires you to get some mode of transport, you’ll need to check your timings to ensure they align with at least the last bus/train home.
Pack as much water and snacks as you can carry
This might seem like an obvious one, but even we as regular hikers managed to fall flat on this one. A lot of the time in Switzerland you’ll find freshwater taps or restaurants/cafes or 2 to re-fill your bottle. But, not on this trail.
Just one bottle of water on a hot day will not be enough to see you through this hike. The elevation is not one to be sniffed at and you’ll be sweating buckets from the off. Pack as much water as you can, as the likelihood is that you’ll only be carrying it for the first half of this trail due to it mostly being downhill on the way back. In addition, snacks are also important.
Wear the correct footwear
Whilst you may see a few naive ‘hikers’ on the trail in a pair of trainers, this is absolutely not the trail for that.
As you head up to Augstmatthorn summit, the surface is very loose and uneven. On the return leg, you’ll be trying to balance the steep downhill sections with where to put your feet as it’s heavily obstructed by tree roots in parts. There were definitely one or two times where I put a foot wrong since we were rushing back and were grateful for my solid pair of hiking boots.
If you’ve got a pair of poles, these would also come in handy.
Explore Switzerland further
If you’re thinking of heading to Switzerland for an extended period of time then we’ve got heaps of guides coming up that may be handy for your trip. We’ve spent plenty of weeks in Switzerland over the years and our last trip was spent exploring the country for an entire month and most of that time we were hiking in Interlaken and the surrounding areas.
Below are just some of our guides, but if you’re looking for an extensive list then you can navigate through our site using the search bar.
Explore the Jungfrau Region
- Schynige Platte / one of the most spectacular areas in the Jungfrau Region with more than just hiking trails to explore
- Lauterbrunnen hike / an easy walk to the waterfalls in one of the most idyllic villages in Switzerland
- Harder Kulm hike / an epic hike up and down the mountain to the most popular viewpoint near Interlaken
- Things to do in Interlaken / a full list of some of the best things to do in the area
- Oeschinensee Hike / a stunning panoramic hike around Lake Oeschinen
Explore the unbelievable Appenzell Region
- Seealpsee hike / a waterfall trail to one of the most accessible lakes in the area
- Schäfler ridge hike / an impressive snake-like trail around the rugged mountains in Appenzell
Stay Wild Travels.
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