The Brienzer Rothorn Hike – Switzerland
There are several different ways you can hike up to the Brienzer Rothorn, but whichever trail you choose, you are in for spectacular views and perhaps Ibex sightings!
The Brienzer Rothorn hike was close to the top of my “To Do Hikes” list when I moved to Switzerland. This is for two main reasons: first, the spectacular views over the lake and second, its accessibility. At 2,350 meters above sea level, it is not exactly a stroll to get up there, but compared to other trails deep in the Alps, this one is usually accessible earlier in the season. This makes it a great choice if you are itching for a hike after a long winter.
Bright sunny days offer great views of the lake and the surrounding alpine landscape
I hiked up there twice from different sides, but there are several other trails you can take from other starting points. Additionally, you can take cable cars or a cogwheel train to some intermediate stations and hike the remaining parts. Or you could, for instance, take the train/cable car up and hike your way down.
This post will show you the two trails I hiked and provide the resources to plan your hike. Whichever way you choose, I highly recommend doing the ridge walk I’ll describe later. Not if you are afraid of heights, though!
How to get to the Brienzer Rothorn & Outline of the Hike
Before getting into the details, my main focus here will be describing the hike from Brienz to the top of the Brienzer Rothorn. This is the “Option 1” hike below.
I will also provide the details on the Hike from the other side, the Sörenberg cable car station, but if you only have one day, I recommend starting in Brienz, as the views are better from that side.
- Getting there: you can easily reach Brienz by car or by train. The town of Brienz is relatively small, but there are several small parking lots where you can leave the car and walk to the trailhead. I parked my car here, the closest parking space to the trailhead I had found. If you are looking for car rental options, I’d recommend searching for & compare the best deals on Discover Cars. Here you can compare the prices of all the major car rental companies and find the very best deals.
- Start of The Hike: From Brienz, you will see several different trail signs and initially, you will either have to follow the ones for Planalp or the Muelibach waterfall.
- Photography & Scenery value: Scenic views, Wildlife, and a spectacular lake surrounded by an alpine landscape.
- Difficulty: Hard, easy if taking the train up. Medium from the Sörenberg cable car station, but still physically demanding.
- Tip: Late spring seems to be when the Ibex are most active.
The real owners of the mountain.
The Brienzer Rothorn Trail
Option 1 – From Brienz
This is a trail I plotted myself and is not one of the official direct hiking trails but a combination of different ones. I chose this route because I wanted to see as much as possible of the landscape, view the spectacular Muelibach waterfall and do the ridge hike to the west of the Brienzer Rothorn. It is mostly a combination of trails 3,4,5 on the Hiking trails map.
It is a strenuous hike at 22+ Km and 1700+ Mt elevation gain, and it’s doable only if you are a very fit hiker.
If you still want to do this but consider the hike too long, I would advise either taking the Cogwheel train to the Planalp station and starting the hike from there, or you could take the train to the top and hike your way down.
The Cogwheel train on its way up.
The first part of this trail is mainly on a narrow paved road which turns into gravel at times until you reach the Planalp station. From the Planalp station, keep following the dirt road up. This will lead you to the ridge hike and then to the top of the Brienzer Rothorn.
Part of the Ridge trail on the Brienzer Rothorn hike. This section is rather steep and on loose rock.
The ridge hike can also be done on your way down if you take the cogwheel train on the way up. The path is narrow, steep in places but never too exposed. This makes it a pretty fun hike from the mountain station.
Option 2 – From Sörenberg
This second option starts at the Sörenberg cable car station. From there, you will see trail signs pointing toward a narrow paved road and a small farm. Keep going until the road turns into a gravel road. The hike will continue on this road for most of the trail.
Once you reach the Cable Car mountain station, you will have to turn into a moderately steep path that reaches the top of the Brienzer Rothorn.
Photos and Photography Tips for the Brienzer Rothorn Hike
When I planned my second hike to the Brienzer Rothorn, I plotted the route that I thought would give me the most in terms of photos, and it sure delivered! Fantastic landscapes, Wildlife, and Ridge trails. Not to mention the cool cogwheel train.
The first stop on the way up is the Muelibach Waterfall – a spectacular 147 mt. tall waterfall.
The spectacular Muelibach waterfall
On the way up, before reaching the Planalp station, there also is a great vantage point over the lake and the landscape below:
Early morning light on the lake.
After the Planalp station, there are some great views of the Brienzer Rothorn and its green pastures.
The cogwheel train going up the Brienzer Rothorn.
Next, is the ridge hike. Although never too exposed, this part does require one to be careful, but the views are epic.
Part of the Ridge trail.
When you reach the top, the panoramic view will speak for itself.
Panoramic view from the top of the Brienzer Rothorn
In terms of lenses, bring everything you have. Ultra-wide will be useful on the ridge hike, as well as longer lenses. If you are into wildlife, you will most likely want to bring something longer than 200 mm too.
Ibex on the Brienzer Rothorn Hike
It was like an Ibex festival when I hiked up there in late spring. I had an unexpected encounter on the ridge trail, with ibex coming up from the opposite side, and they were just 2/3 metres away.
I also saw a fight between two Ibexes, loudly smashing their horns against each other. Saw a herd chilling on the crease and some other isolated Ibex roaming around.
Late spring seems to be one of the best periods to sport them up there.
A fight between Ibex – Standoff
More peaceful Ibex chilling on the crest.
Video of the Brienzer Rothorn Hike
Here is a video of this hike. More like a series of impressions along the trail, but hopefully, it can give you a good idea of what to expect:
Map of the Brienzer Rothorn Hike
Option 1 – From Brienz
This is the long and demanding hike I kept mentioning earlier. It offers the best photographic value if you are fit enough for it.
Option 2 – From Sörenberg
This is the hike from the other side and the first one I did.
Where to Stay
It is possible to spend the night on top, as there is a Hotel there. Alternatively, Brienz offers several different accommodation types. Alternatively, you can consider Interlaken as a base to explore the nearby area further.
Have questions, comments or feedback? Let me know in the comment section below.