Bernese Oberland Traverse Terrain

Whether you’re booked on Alpenwild’s group guided or self-guided Bernese Oberland Traverse trek, it’s important you know exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into. We rate this trip as strenuous, which means you should anticipate hiking 8-10 miles with ascents and descents of 3000-4000 vertical feet each day.  

While hiking the Bernese Oberland Traverse, you will encounter a variety of terrain. Each day will offer a unique experience, whether that’s hiking across dirt trails, crossing water, or walking across paved roads. We encourage our guests to prepare well in advance for this trek in order to handle all the challenges this route presents. 

Bernese Oberland Terrain
Photo by Wen-Di Adair.

Paved Roads

Most days you can expect to walk straight from your hotel to the trail. You’ll most likely be walking along some paved roads to get to the trails or as you are coming into town, so don’t expect it very often but enjoy it while it lasts!

Bernese Oberland watercrossings
Photo by Wen-Di Adair.

Water Crossing – Streams – Bridges

You might wonder if there are any river and stream crossing on the Bernese Oberland Traverse trip, and the answer is yes. There’s a reason why this region is full of waterfalls and wildflowers and it’s due to rain. Rain is unavoidable in the Alps, you should always plan at minimum one day of rain on your trip. You can plan on water crossings having a bridge or rock crossings path. However, it never hurts to bring a pair of waterproof boots and an extra pair of socks, so come prepared! 

Hohturli Pass
The Hohturli Pass is a challenging set of stairs. Photo by Wen-Di Adair

Stair Climbing

I hope you all are familiar with your StairMaster, because as you ascend the Hohturli Pass on Day 5, you will be climbing up a few hundred very steep steps. It’s quite the calf workout. ?

Bernese Oberland rocky paths
Bernese Oberland rocky paths Photo by Wen-Di Adair.

Rocky Paths

Nothing can ruin a trip faster than a twisted ankle or heaven forbid a broken bone, so make sure you are prepared to hike over rocky paths! My number one recommendation is packing those high ankle boots. High ankle boots give you that extra support that can come in handy when you are walking over uneven ground. I also recommend bringing those hiking poles. If these haven’t become a necessity in your hiking routine, I would highly reconsider. Trekking poles are great for maintaining your balance and they help provide that extra support on your knees. There’s one day on this trip where you have a descent of 5,194 feet, so trust me – bring those poles, your knees will be thanking me. 

Side note—when you are hiking downhill with poles, be sure to remove the straps around your wrists. I can’t stress enough how unsafe this is. I’ve heard multiple stories of people whose wrists got caught in the straps as they were falling, and it ended with a broken wrist. Feel free to wear it on the ascent, but please, please, please…do not wear them on the descent.  

Scree on trail
Scree is a unique trail terrain that requires a good sense of balance. Photo by Wen-Di Adair


For those that have severe vertigo issues, this may not be the trip for you. There are a few areas where you will have to cross open scree. There is a path formed that you will follow, but it’s important to take your time slow and take smalls steps. It’s also a great time to take those poles out! 

dirt paths in alps
The rolling dirt paths are well marked in the Bernese Oberland. Photo by Wen-Di Adair

Dirt Paths

Most of the hiking trails are composed of well-groomed dirt paths. On an ideal weather day, these trails can still be tricky, which is why you should be prepared for some mud. When encountering mud, it’s easy to accidentally slip or trip over an unseen rock, so make sure you are watchful with your steps. You can even use your trekking poles to guide you through the mud and keep your balance. 

Snow crossing
Bernese Oberland snow crossings are a sight to behold! Photo by Wen-Di Adair

Snow Crossing

It’s uncommon to come across a glacier/snow crossing on this trip, but occasionally there might be a small snow patch the group will have to cross. There’s no need to pack MICROspikes or crampons but know that the guides are highly trained and will notify the group of the proper procedure. If you’re traveling as a self-guided hiker, be sure to walk with caution and use those trekking poles. 

I hope this post was helpful and I hope to see you on the trail!

Relevant Articles – 

Haute Route Terrain

Hiking Versus Trekking


Wen-Di Adair
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