HIKE TO LAKE OESCHINEN – TRAVEL GUIDE
Switzerland has many stunning lakes – and one of them is Lake Oeschinen or Oeschinensee. It is an incredible mountain lake that reminds me a bit of the Canadian lakes – just smaller.
The color and the hiking options make it one of the best places to visit and is a perfect day trip from many places in Switzerland. I have visited Lake Oeschinen twice. Once, there was bad hail, and I just did the easy hike to the lake. The second time, I visited on a sunny day and did the more difficult hike. Or, as the Swiss call it, the “moderate“ hike (that comes with stunning views).
So, I am happy to share both experiences with you. Here is what you need to know about visiting Oeschinenee.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR LAKE OESCHINENSEE
You’ll find useful information on how to get there, different hiking options (from very easy to challenging), and much more here.
LOCATION OF OESCHINENSEE
Lake Oeschinen is located in Kandersteg, Bernese Oberland – one of my favorite cantons (states) in Switzerland. Kandersteg is home to Oeschinensee and Blausee (another beautiful lake with a unique color), and it is quite close to places like Thun, Interlaken, and Lauterbrunnen.
- Lake Oeschinen lies at the foot of the Blüemlisalp
- Altitude: 1,578 meters above sea level
- Surface area: 1.1147 square kilometers
- Maximum depth: 56 meters (184 ft)
- Fed by: The glacial brooks of the three-thousand-meter peaks of Blüemlisalp
- Camping, tenting, or biwaking is forbidden by law
- Dogs are allowed (at the lake as well as in the gondola)
- Bring sunscreen on sunny days
- Bring a water bottle and just refill it with fresh glacier water
- Wear good shoes (especially if you hike)
- Bring poles – for the first time, I used them (borrowed from a friend I just made), and they were lifesavers (who would have thought?) because uphill hiking is much easier.
- Keep your toenails short (yes, those downhill hikes can be painful with longish toenails)
- Highest Point: 1,980 m
Lowest Point: 1,420 m
BEST TIME TO VISIT LAKE OESCHINENSEE
I have bad news for you: I have visited Switzerland many, many times and always wanted to visit Lake Oeschinensee. But even in the summer months, the weather forecast predicted rain. So, eventually, I went on a day with strong hail. That is the problem with Kandersteg – the weather is not your friend here. But either way, the best time to visit is between late May and October, to be sure that the gondola is also open. Lake Oeschinen presents itself best on sunny days (if you are flexible, keep an eye on the weather forecast).
HOW TO GET TO LAKE OESCHINEN
There are several options to get to Kandersteg.
CAR: Getting to Lake Oeschinen by car is probably the most convenient way.
- From Interlaken to Kandersteg: about 80 minutes
- From Thun to Kandersteg: about 40 minutes
- From Bern to Kandersteg: about 80 minutes
There are parking slots in Kandersteg near Oeschinensee. One is about a 10-minute walk from the cable car station. One just at the cable car station (which is a bit more expensive and might be full if you arrive late on a sunny day).
TIP: Have cash for parking ready.
BUS/TRAIN: There is a train station in Kandersteg.
- From Interlaken Ost to Kandersteg: about 70 minutes
- From Bern to Kandersteg: about 1 hour
From the train station, walk towards the cable car station. It is an easy 10-minute walk (alternatively, you can take a bus there).
HOW TO GET TO LAKE OESCHINEN
There are several ways to get to Lake Oeschinen. You could just hike to the lake and skip the cable car altogether – I did not do that. To hike to the lake and then hike around the lake is really for the very fit people (or average Swiss people). I recommend taking the cable car (at least to get up) and then saving your energy for hiking later. Do not worry, you will have enough hiking time once you get out of the cable car.
CABLE CAR TO LAKE OESCHINEN
You can buy tickets for the cable car online. You can use the QR code by mobile phone (or printed out) directly at the turnstile to the gondola or get your ticket at the station’s self-service ticket machines. With the tickets from the machines, you can go directly to the gondola. But you can also buy your ticket from an actual person at the cash desk at the valley station.
I took the cable car both times. However, now I know that I would only get a ticket for getting up, and I would not buy a ticket for going down.
- Return/Round trip: about $33
- One-way ticket: about $24
- 50% discount with a Swiss Travel Pass
The summer season starts in mid-May, and the earliest cable car leaves at 8:30 am (please check for the exact day as it does change each year). If you arrive late, keep in mind that cable cars only run until about 5 pm.
Once at the top of the mountain station, you have several options for seeing Oeschinensee.
EASIEST WAY TO GET TO LAKE OESCHINENSEE
OPTION 1: The easiest way to see Lake Oeschinen is quite popular (not only amongst the older ones). Get up by cable car. Once you are out of the cable car, just hop on the electro shuttle that drives you to the lake. It includes minimal walking, and you still get to see the amazing lake. Good for those who really do not like exercise.Prices are about CHF 8 Francs ($9) one-way. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes (or whenever the shuttle is full), but only from mid-June to September.
I used the shuttle on my way back the day it hailed so badly, and I was really thankful for it. Otherwise, I suggest doing at least the easy hike (it actually is a downhill walk).
This way, you will see Lake Oeschinen, not from the top – it still looks pretty, but the best views are from above.
EASY WAY TO SEE LAKE OESCHINENSEE
OPTION 2: An easy way to see Lake Oeschinen includes little physical exercise. Once you get out of the cable car, walk about 20-25 minutes to the lake. Once you pass the restaurant, you are at the lake.
- It starts at the mountain station at 1684 meters above sea level
- Lake Oeschinen is 1593 meters above sea level
- Back to Mountain station at 1684 meters above sea level
It is a beautiful and easy downhill walk that you do not really need good shoes for (closed shoes, however, would not be bad).
Even without the tedious hike, you’ll have a good idea about this lake and can enjoy some of the activities at Lake Oeschinen.
MODERATE TO DIFFICULT HIKE – LAKE OESCHINEN TO HEUBERG
Swiss people are not “normal“ when it comes to hiking. Some Swiss might hate hiking (very few, though), but you will be surprised by how fit many Swiss people are. They easily overtake you – and I do not mean young Swiss. I mean older, and actually old, people.
So, I would not really rely on Swiss people’s opinions regarding hiking (unless you are also such a super hiker). This info comes from a semi-fit person who enjoys hiking but keeps cursing while hiking because it really kind of sucks (aka me). I mean, I really hate hiking. But I also really love it. But I also really hate it. It is a weird relationship I have with hiking. So, long story short: my tips are for everyone but if you are very fit – or very unfit – take my words with a grain of salt.
This hike is considered moderate – and it is kind of moderate, but also a bit difficult for me.
OPTION 3: There are many different hiking options, and this is not the only “moderate“ hike – but a popular one that offers fantastic views of the lake. It is known as Hike Route no.8 (Oeschinensee to Heuberg) and is a scenic circular hike. Heuberg is a perfect vantage point for Lake Oeschinensee.
It will take between 3-6 hours.
- It starts at the mountain station at 1684 meters above sea level
- Heuberg vantage point is at 1948 meters above sea level
- Restaurant Oberbergli at 1978 meters above sea level
- Lake Oeschinen at 1593 meters above sea level
- Ends at Mountain station at 1684 meters above sea level
I did it this way, but you could also do it the other way around, or you can continue your hike.
TIP: In the beginning, there aren’t waterfalls, but later on, you will find some. I refilled my water bottle there. Is that a good idea? I do not know, but it tasted good, and I did not feel sick (it is fresh snow water, so it should be fine, but go with your own gut).
If you get out of the cable car, follow Hiking Trail 5 for about 15-30 minutes. Then turn left and follow Hiking Path 8 (towards Heuberg)You will not see anything from the lake and have to hike for around 20-60 minutes before you get to see a glimpse of the lake. But that is a pretty damn good first glimpse. Keep hiking and plan in enough time for all the spots. The further you hike, the better the views get, and there are enough options to sit down and just enjoy the views. Some paths are very narrow, and it is quite steep. There are a lot of uphill and then downhill hikes. There are waterfalls along the way, cows, flowers…and of course, all the views.
After about 2-3 hours of hiking, you will reach Oberbärgli. It is a restaurant that has outdoor seating and where you can buy snacks and drinks. Take a long(ish) break here before continuing your hike. It is a hike straight towards the lake – the gravel path is not particularly challenging, but it is quite steep, and it wasn’t so much fun at certain parts. But most of the part you have great views of Lake Oeschinen.Then it will take another 30-50 minutes to reach the lake and the “beach section.“ Once you are here, most of your hiking is done. If you are like me, you will be exhausted but happy.
How to Get Back to Kandersteg From Oeschinensee
TIP: So, I bought my return ticket beforehand. And I am sure that there is a reason why a single ticket is almost as expensive as a return ticket.
Why? Well, from the restaurants, you either walk back to the car park, which is about a 45-minute downhill hike (but apparently steep), or you do an uphill hike to the cable car station, which takes about 25 minutes, and then take the cable car to get back to Kandersteg.
So, if I had known that the hike from the restaurant to the car park/valley station is only 45 minutes (and not 45 minutes from the mountain station), I would have only gotten a one-way ticket and hiked down, too.
The hike took me about 5-6 hours, but that includes all the breaks. If you take fewer breaks, it will probably take 4 hours.
THINGS TO DO AT OESCHINENSEE
Here are some quick tips for what to do at Lake Oeschinen.
Hiking is the best activity – whether you choose one of the options I mentioned here or pick another route, you will love that lake.
After a long hike, there is nothing better than jumping into a lake with fresh water. Well, it sounds kind of fun, but keep in mind that Lake Oeschinen is a glacier lake with cold water. However, swimming is allowed in Lake Oeschinen should you choose.
Either you bring your own paddle, an inflatable boat, or rent a boat and row on Lake Oeschinen. It is definitely a popular thing to do.
After such a hike, resting and chilling at the lake is my favorite activity for the hikers amongst us! Bring a towel and rest at the lake or sit down on the grass, or pick one of the many restaurants and stalls to relax.
Alpine slides are very popular in Switzerland, and at the mountain station, you can also get tickets and slide down (for 750 meters).
You can buy tickets online and use the QR code (on your phone or printed out) to slide down. The slide is only open from June 8 to October 25 and is closed in the winter months.
Ticket prices for adults: 1 ride is about $6,5, 5 rides are about $30 Prices are slightly cheaper if you use the slide before 11:30 am.
IS HIKING OESCHINENSEE WORTH IT?
Without question, Oeschinensee is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Especially on a sunny day, it looks incredible (from experience, I can say it looks good on a rainy day, too, but hiking is not an option).
Of course, it looks pretty if you stand in front of it, too. However, the best views are from above – then Lake Oeschinen really looks spectacular. I believe it is worth doing the hiking. It is exhausting, especially if you are not an experienced hiker, but it is worth it. Whether you choose to do the easy hike or do a full-day hike tour around Lake Oeschinen – add it to your Interlaken bucket list!
STAY SAFE AND ENJOY! ARZO