There are many fabulous trails around Wengen or easily reachable via train/lift. Many of these are quite popular although I wouldn't characterize any as touristy or crowded (okay, maybe Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg on sunny days in August, but this is a must do anyway). Trails that have cafes or restaurants accessible are, by definition, going to be more popular than those that don't have such amenities.
My husband and I have been on hiking holidays in Switzerland 15 times in the past 13 years, with visits ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months. Last year we hiked the entire Alpine Pass Route (Via Alpina) from Sargans to Montreux. Once again, we came out of that adventure convinced that Wengen is THE spot to base for a hiking holiday. So, you have made a good choice!
Following are some of my favorite 6 hour day hikes using Wengen as a base. The Schynige Platte to First hike is pretty popular but is well worth doing. The other two are more off the beaten path from a hiking standpoint but still have good accessiblility to food on the trail. Let me know if you would like something longer/more difficult/more wild and rustic. But most of those type of trails are difficult to do in day hikes from Wengen, you really need to be doing multi-day point-to-points. 1. Schynige Platte to First
. This is an all day event, but, in my opinion, is perhaps the most spectacular day hike in all of Switzerland. However, you want to do this on a reasonably clear day or you will not be able to take advantage of the views. Leave Wengen early, like at 8:00, and take the train down the hill to Wilderswil (via Lauterbrunnen) which is the last stop prior to Interlaken Ost. There you will catch the Schynige Platte Bahn which is a 100 year old cog train that takes you up about 5000 feet of vertical to Schynige Platte. The views of Interlaken and the lakes on the way up are breathtaking. The ride takes a little over an hour, the entire trip to SP from Wengen takes about two hours. There is a large restaurant and inn at SP and the views back toward the Eiger massif are fantastic. Be sure to walk around the west corner of the grounds for a wonderful view of the lakes.
Follow the trail signs to First (pronounced “Feerst”). The trail covers wonderfully varied terrain with frequent spectacular views of the lakes to your north and the mountains to your south. About 1/3 of the way into the walk there is a stunning large meadow full of grazing sheep and goats. You then enter a rocky terrain area (the footing is stable but requires attention; there is no exposure) with spectacular views of the hanging meadow retreating below you. There is a quaint Berghotel (mountain hotel) about 2/3 of the way through the trip which is a grand place to stop for snacks and a refill of liquids. And by all means, don’t miss the Faulhorn which is about 45 minutes further on atop a rise (you can’t miss it). Built in 1832, the Faulhorn is the oldest Berghotel and restaurant in Switzerland. This is a good lunch spot. It’s all downhill from there to First with gorgeous carpets of wildflowers, a spectacular view of the Wetterhorn peak reflected in small Alpine lakes, and occasional sightings of marmots.
All in, the hike has a total ascent of just under 3,000 feet (but it’s mostly gradual and rolling) over a span of about 8 miles or so. Allow about 5 hours just for the hike, excluding breaks and lunch.
At First you can take the ski gondolas down to Grindelwald. This is a stunning ride, but make sure you get there by 5:00 pm
because that’s when the last gondola heads down the hill. Otherwise, you face a descent of 3,000 vertical feet on foot. The ride down takes about 30 minutes and, being a ski lift, runs continuously.
Once you reach Grindelwald turn left out of the gondola station then turn right on the main street. Walk through town (which is somewhat interesting, but too touristy and too many cars for my taste) to the train station on the opposite end of the village. Trains run back to Lauterbrunnen about every 20 minutes, you will need to switch at Zweilütschinen. (If you’ve arrived at the station just after a train has departed, there’s a restaurant with a patio one block before the station where you can get a drink and watch the world go by.) The total train trip from Grindelwald back to Lauterbrunnen then up to Wengen takes about 45 minutes. If you leave Wengen at 8:00 am you should be back around 6:00 pm, ready for wienerschnitzel and pomme frites! This sounds like a long day – which it is – but I’ve frequently seen locals in their 80s on this hike so it’s not as aggressive as it may sound.Note: you can, of course, do this hike in reverse – starting at First and walking to Schynige Platte. In this direction, most of the ascent comes between First and the Faulhorn with the remainder of the hike (the most distance) being primarily downhill. Although this may sound attractive, it’s lots of downhill and the trail surface requires constant attention. Everyone I’ve encountered (myself included) that has hiked this direction strongly prefers the opposite (Schynige Platte to First).
2. Lauterbrunnen to Lobhornhütte, return via Grutschalp
. This is another stunning hike that is pretty much an all day deal. Take the train down to Lauterbrunnen, then walk up to Isenfluh (pronounced EESen-flu). The trail will be marked very near the station or just ask. This is about 1000 feet of vertical and 3 or so miles via an unused road that got wiped out in a rockfall. There are a couple of nice waterfalls and the remains of the rockfall are quite impressive. There’s one nice restaurant/inn in Isenfluh where you can stop for lunch if you wish (it’s obvious). From Isenfluh, walk up to Sulwald for some stunning views. This is fairly steep, about 1500 feet of vertical over a couple of miles. If you want to opt out of this section, there’s a small lift that runs up from Isenfluh (it’s pretty obvious, but ask at the restaurant if you miss it). There is a charming café, the Sulwald Stübbli, at the top of the trail/lift serving wurst, sandwiches, and such at outdoor tables. I recommend this be your lunch (or at least a drink) stop as the views are simply breathtaking. The proprietor spent several years working at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, California so speaks English. She makes a marvelous and unusual hazelnut cake (“Haselnusskuchen”) – don’t miss this if she has it available. After lunch, head up the trail to the Lobhornhütte, which is about another 1200 feet and maybe 4 or 5 miles. The hut is primitive, but the soups are good and it’s a view spot well worth seeing.
After a rest at the Lobhornhütte, head down the hill to Grütschalp. Again, great scenery, but different views. This section is nearly all down hill and takes about 2 – 3 hours as the terrain is quite steep in places and the trail surface requires constant attention (rocks, roots, and such) at least half of the way. There is no exposure so nothing to be concerned about, it’s just a bit tedious. (However, I don’t recommend this route the day after a heavy rain as it will be very muddy – if you end up going to Lobhornhütte on such a day, simply retrace your steps to return to Wengen.) You’ll end up at the train station in Grütschalp, where you can catch the gondola down to Lauterbrunnen then return to Wengen on the WAB. Or, if you’re still ready for more walking, take the stunningly gorgeous 1 mile (flat) walk from Grütschalp to Mürrren and take the gondola down from there. Take the bus back to Lauterbrunnen (or walk) and train back up the hill to Wengen.3. Meiringen to Grosse Scheidegg.
Another one of my all time favorites, this is yet another stunning all day hike with varied terrain and majestic views of the Wetterhorn and other peaks. First, take the train from Wengen to Meiringen. You should plan to arrive at Meiringen no later than 10:00 am; ask the rail station staff at Wengen to print you a timetable so you can make convenient changes at Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken (this is important).
Walk through Meiringen to the lift up to Reichenbach Falls. It’s fairly well marked but train station staff can also direct you.
Once you arrive at the lift, you can take it up to the Falls (which cuts about 900 feet of vertical out of the hike) but bear in mind that the
lift staff breaks for lunch for 2 hours beginning sometime between 11:30 and 12:00 noon. Alternatively you can take the trail just behind the café and walk up. This would be my recommendation. It is a lovely, fairly steep walk largely through a forested area. The Falls are quite dramatic and achieved fame as the spot where Sherlock Holmes allegedly met his fate. See more at wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichenbach_Falls
If you’ve taken the lift up, a series of steep (but very wide and stable) steps will take you up to a large Berghotel. You will also pass this way if you’ve walked up and it’s a good place to stop for a drink. Continue on, following the signs to Rosenlaui/Grosse Scheidegg. You’ll have a bit more climbing to do before you come upon a large hanging valley, the Reichenbachtal,
with the gorgeous Aar river running through it. The path follows the river for over a mile and you’ll have spectacular views of the Wetterhorn and other peaks. The flat terrain on this section is also a welcome relief!
Don’t miss stopping for lunch at Rosenlaui, a beautiful old hotel with a lovely patio. (See a photo at www.flickr.com/photos/ogil/2688599684/
.) The food here is truly exceptional and presented beautifully. Plan on at least an hour for lunch and try not to eat too much, although that’s a difficult thing to do here!
After lunch, press on toward Grosse Scheidegg. There is more up and down with about 500 feet of climbing required at the very end (when it is least welcome). However, the views continue to be marvelous and the scene from atop Grosse Scheidegg is well worth your effort. Stop at the inn here for a drink (if you’ve eaten lunch at Rosenlaui you won’t be hungry!), then take the Post Bus down to Grindelwald train station. Take the train back to Wengen via Zweilütschinen (where you will switch) and Lauterbrunnen.
This is a fairly aggressive hike covering about 4400 feet of vertical (or 3500 feet if you’ve taken the lift up the Falls) and ten miles. A quick pace will yield walking time of 5 – 6 hours, excluding travel, meals, and breaks. All the travel makes it sound like a big hassle, but the connections are really quite easy and the hike is definitely worth it.
This is also a great hike if you have a group of people with varying levels of hiking ability. After you reach the first Berghotel atop the Falls, the trail intersects a road serviced by Post Bus at four different spots. Less aggressive hikers can take the lift to the top of the Falls, take the steps up, catch the bus at the first Berghotel, get off at the next stop, then walk to Rosenlaui (this is the flattest section of the trip to Rosenlaui). After lunch, walk from Rosenlaui to Schwarzwaldalp (another relatively flat section), then catch the Post Bus from Schwarzwaldalp to Grosse Scheidegg.