Switzerland’s Most Dangerous Hike (And Why You Should Avoid It)

View from Brienzer Rothorn

Imagine a trail that promises unparalleled beauty but demands a price that may not be worth paying!

High above Lake Brienz, the Hardergrat trail beckons visitors with breathtaking views and a shot of adrenaline to go with it.

Here is how stunning this hike is (one of the reasons people attempt it).

Full Hardergrat ridgeline (Interlaken in the distance) – Image via Brian on Flickr
Some of the peaks on Hardergrat – Image via Brian on Flickr
The easy part on Hardergrat – Image via Brian on Flickr

NOTE : YOU can see the stunning views by just catching the train up the Brienzer Rothorn

Yet, behind its stunning vistas lies a trail notorious for its dangers—a siren song tempting hikers into treacherous terrain. Before you lace up your boots and head out on this hike, consider this: the Hardergrat hike might just be more perilous than picturesque.

Here’s why.

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Fatalities Happen All The Time (Don’t Be One Of Them)

I don’t have the exact figures, as the Swiss authorities are not ones to trumpet such things, but people die on the Hardergrat trail every year.

For example, and man fell to his death in 2019 while attempting this crazy hike. And another women in 2020.

And there is a reason why…

It’s Insanely Difficult

Switzerland rates their hikes from T1 to T5 (most difficult). I have done over 200 hikes in the 23 years I have lived here, and have never done anything over a T3.

The Hardergrat hike is a T5. It is super difficult, risky and at times has no path at all.

If you do the complete Hardergrat hike, it is

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  • 11 hours long!
  • crosses 9 peaks
  • rises 1100 meter of altitude gain (while walking downhill if you can believe that)

Not an Officially Maintained Trail

The approximate path of Hardergrat from Brienzer Rothorn to Harder Kulm

Unlike Switzerland’s well-maintained network of trails, the Hardergrat lacks regular upkeep and safety checks.

Sure, some parts of it are regular hiking trails, but a good (dangerous) portion is not.

Starts Very Early

Beginning early is crucial on the Hardergrat to avoid being caught in darkness. Hikers must reach certain points by specific times to catch transport options, adding pressure to an already demanding trek.

Most people have to get the first train to Brienzer Rothorn and the last bus at the other end. And if you miss it, the hike is even longer!

Requires More Than Just Endurance

Looking back to Brienzer Rothorn along Hardergrat trail

Okay, an 11-hour hike is already extreme and just a wee bit intimidating! I have done a day-long hike such as this before (by accident), and my friends and I nearly cried at the end.

Beyond physical fitness, the Hardergrat demands technical mountaineering skills. Navigating its challenging terrain requires expertise in navigation and judgment, as even seasoned climbers head back where they came.

Weather-Dependent Trek

Because of its exposed nature, the Hardergrat is highly susceptible to weather conditions.

Clear skies are critical for a safe and successful hike, as rain or fog drastically increases the risks of slipping and navigation errors.

If you are still considering doing it – this post is an absolute must-read!

What To Do Instead

For the same views, you can catch the Brienzer Rothorn to the top and just go for a short stroll on the “easy” part of the hike.

You can also go to the other end and easily visit Harder Kulm for the stunning views over Interlaken.

Sure, you won’t have bragging rights on Instagram, but I would rather you live to see another view!

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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