Rising above the mountain town of Interlaken, the trek to Harder Kulm is a popular day hike for locals and visitors alike. The peak sits at 1,321 meters (4,334 feet) above the city and provides an unbeatable bird’s eye view of Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, Jungfrau, and everything in between. When you’re in Interlaken, taking a hike to the top of Harder Kulm is a must-do adventure. In the article below, we’ve detailed everything you need to known to prepare for the Harder Kulm hike.
Harder Kulm Hike: Article Contents
- Overview | How to get to Harder Kulm
- Details | Harder Kulm Hike
- Logistics | Planning your Harder Kulm hike
- Other useful resources
About Harder Kulm
Often referred to as “the top of Interlaken,” Harder Kulm is the tallest peak in the area surrounding Interlaken. The summit features the most stunning views of Interlaken’s two teal lakes: Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
You can reach the top of Harder Kulm with a relatively short but steep hike, with beautiful views of the city below that only get better the higher you go. If you aren’t in the mood to hike, there is also a funicular that shuttles people to the top and back down.
We very much enjoyed hiking up and taking the funicular back down, as our legs were pretty tired!
Harder Kulm Hike Overview
- Hiking distance | 2.8 miles (one-way), 5.6 miles roundtrip
- Elevation gain | 2,200 feet
- Total time | 2 – 3 hours (one-way), 3 – 4 hours roundtrip
- Epic-ness rating | 8
- Difficulty | hard (due to elevation gain over short hike)
Note that this is the less popular and harder-to-find hike option, compared to the loop trail from Interlaken Ost. That being said, we absolutely loved the hike from Unterseen to Interlaken, and would highly recommend it!
Harder Kulm hike | our experience
When we arrived in Interlaken, we were picked up at the train station by our Airbnb host, a gregarious character who clearly had a deep love for the Interlaken area. He asked our plans for the day and we told him we were going to hike up Harder Kulm. He recommended we take a little-known trail up the back way in lieu of the more well-known, heavily trafficked route that most people take.
We decided to trust the local and go for it. This article outlines how to reach the peak from the backside and will have you feeling like an Interlaken local.
Three ways to get to Harder Kulm
There are three ways you can get to Harder Kulm:
- Funicular from Interlaken Harderbahn
- Harder Kulm Loop Trail (from Interlaken Ost Station) | most popular way to hike to Harder Kulm
- Hike to Harder Kulm from Unterseen | alternative hiking route to Harder Kulm (the hike outlined in this article)
If you choose to hike, you have the option to take the cable car back down to save a little time (and your knees), hike back down the same way you came up or down the other trail.
In this article, we’ll cover in detail how to hike up to Harder Kulm from Unterseen and take the cable car back down to Interlaken, as that is what we did and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Harder Kulm hike details
In the following section, we’ll give you all the details on hiking to Harder Kulm from Unterseen.
Harder Kulm hike map
The hike from Unterseen up the backside of Harder Kulm is highlighted in yellow on the map below. The trail in red is the more heavily-trafficked Harder Kulm Loop Hike. We hiked up the yellow trail and took the funicular down to Harder Bahn.
Alternatively, you could extend the hike by continuing down the red route instead of taking the funicular back to Interlaken Ost station. Or you could go back down the same way you hiked up.
How to get to the Harder Kulm trailhead in Unterseen
Finding the trailhead in Unterseen is a bit tricky because the hike is not listed on AllTrails or other popular hiking websites.
The trailhead is located just west of Unterseen, about a 10 minute walk from the Interlaken West train station. If you are are staying in Interlaken, you can take a bus or quick train ride from the Interlaken Ost station to Interlaken West.
Walking Directions to Trailhead
To get to the trailhead starting from the Interlaken West train station, head southwest and take a left on Scheidgasse. Continue for about one kilometer until just after the intersection of Beatenbergstrasse and Scheidgasse.
Here you will see a little park with a playground to your left. Take a right down the path heading towards the mountain and look for the orange signs for Harder Kulm. From this point on, the trail is well marked and very easy to follow.
This address will get you to almost exactly this point.
Starting the Hike
When you reach the trailhead, be sure to follow the orange signs for Harder Kulm. The trail starts out through a heavily wooded forest, with intermittent windows looking out upon the towns of Interlaken and Unterseen and the beautiful snow-covered peak of Jungfrau as the backdrop.
There are a few benches along the way so take a moment to rest and enjoy the picturesque view.
The snow covered peak in the background is Jungfrau, the highest of three iconic mountains overlooking Interlaken, along with the Monch and the Eiger. If you’re looking for something else to do while in Interlake, you can take a train to the top of Jungfrau (it comes at a high price, so we opted not to), where you’ll arrive at Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe.
From Harder Kulm, you’ll have a great view of Jungfrau, but you can actually see it from the town of Interlaken and the entire hike up to Harder Kulm.
The hike to Harder Kulm is very peaceful, with the quiet broken only by the faint, distant sound of paragliders flying overhead. As the adventure capital of Switzerland, paragliding is very popular in Interlaken. If you are considering paragliding, it’s definitely something to check off your bucket list in Interlaken.
To learn more about paragliding in Interlaken, we’ve written about all the details you need to know to plan your own adventure here:
Nearing Harder Kulm
After about a mile and a half, you will come to an opening in the trees, giving way to a grassy field with colorful wildflowers and a view of Lake Thun. Here you’ll want to keep an eye out for the orange signs pointing to Harder Kulm.
Soon the trail will merge with the Harder Kulm Loop trail, and traffic will start to pick up.
Harder Kulm Summit
At the Harder Kulm summit, there is a viewing platform with panoramic views of the two lakes for which Interlaken gets its name: Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
Expect crowds at the top, particularly because the funicular makes Harder Kulm easily accessible. It can feel a little frustrating to arrive drenched in sweat, just to see people strolling out of the train station in their flip flops and dresses. But remember that the views are sweeter when you’ve had to work for them!
Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant
The Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant located at the top of Harder Kulm looks more like a castle than a restaurant and features a picture perfect view of the Monch, Eiger and Junfrau in the distance. If you are hungry after a long hike, stop in on the lovely patio for a snack.
Be aware that the menu here is quite expensive. We opted to stick to our sandwiches.
Logistics | Planning your Harder Kulm Hike
In the following sections, we’ll break down all the details on transportation to Harder Kulm.
How to get down from Harder Kulm
You have a couple options for getting back down form Harder Kulm:
- Retrace your steps and hike back down to Unterseen the way you came.
- Take the 2.5 mile hike down the Harder Kulm Loop trail. The trailhead starts on the opposite side of the train station and ends near the Interlaken Ost train station.
- Take the Harder Bahn funicular down to Interlaken. This is what we did to save time and reduce the impact to our knees.
Harder Kulm Funicular
Regular | 17 CHF (one way)
With Swiss Pass | 8.50 CHF
- You can purchase round trip funicular tickets online here.
In order to save time, we opted to take the funicular back to Harder Bahn in Interlaken, located just behind the Interlaken Ost train station. The funicular departs every 30 minutes during peak season (April-November) and the ride takes about 10 minutes. Note that the funicular does not run in the winter.
The funicular is steep, plunging down the mountain with a head first view of Lake Brienz below.
Harder Kulm Hike at Sunset
The funicular runs until 9:00 PM during the summer, making for the perfect opportunity to hike up for the sunset and avoid hiking down in the dark. We did not do this, so we can only imagine the spectacular sight of the sun setting over Junfrau.
Why should you hike Harder Kulm from the Unterseen trailhead?
When hiking to Harder Kulm, most people take the Harder Kulm Loop Trail. We can’t comment on this hike because we didn’t do it, but we’ve heard that it gets quite crowded. On the flip side, the hike up from Unterseen isn’t even on AllTrails. So why should you do it?
There are a few reasons we loved this hike:
- Minimal crowds. We had the trail to ourselves for a majority of the hike. This trail is off the beaten path, and most out-of-towners are not aware it exists. We would’ve had no idea if not for our host’s recommendation.
- Watching paragliders overhead. Since many paragliding routes start from west of Harder Kulm and fly east into Interlaken, there were often paragliders flying overhead while we hiked. Every so often, we’d hear faint voices coming from above, look up and see flash of colorful parachute gliding by. This is especially cool if you are planning to go paragliding – we were going the next morning, so we got an up-close glimpse into what we would experience.
- View of Jungfrau and Interlaken along the way. Along the trail, there were often openings in the trees that offered a perfect view of the famous Jungfrau in the distance and the town of Interlaken with its teal rivers below.
Where to stay before/after your hike
The hike to Harder Kulm starts either from Unterseen or Interlaken, two neighboring towns positioned between the two lakes (Lake Thun and Lake Bienz) that can be seen from Harder Kulm. Interlaken is a small, laid-back town that serves as a hub for outdoor adventure activities, from hiking and kayaking to paragliding and base jumping.
Although Unterseen is definitely less well known, it is actually quite similar to Interlaken. There are plenty of lodging options in both towns.
Harder Kulm hike packing list
Before you take off on your Harder Kulm hike, make sure you are well-prepared with the following hiking essentials:
- Hiking poles (Hers: Black Diamond Distance Z poles, His: Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles ) | We both hike with Black Diamond poles and can’t imagine hiking without them! They help take some of the weight off your knees and legs on a steep climb up to Harder Kulm.
- Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L) | These Camelback backpacks are lightweight and just big enough to hold the essentials without weighing you down. Plus they both come with a 2L bladder.
- Hiking boots (Hers: Danner Mountain 600s, His: Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX) | A pair of quality hiking boots with good traction can make all the difference on a long hike.
- Hiking pants (Hers: Athleta Headlands pants, His: PrAna Stretch Zion Pants) | These Athleta pants are Sarah’s absolute favorite! They’re comfortable and durable for hiking, and all the pockets make them more stylish, so they can double as normal pants.
- Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | These Smartwool quarter zips are so warm and comfortable – perfect to keep you comfortable on a chilly morning on the trail.
- Hiking socks (Darn Tough) | Darn Tough makes our favorite hiking socks – they’re thick, comfortable and durable. Everything you need in a good hiking sock.
- GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini) | We always carry our Garmin In-reach Mini in case of emergency in areas without cell service and it gives us (and our parents) peace of mind.
- Sunglasses (Goodr) | At only $25, Goodr sunglasses are cheap, durable and non-slip (perfect if you’re the type of person that tends to loose sunglasses, like me!)
Additional cold-weather gear
If hiking in the winter, early spring, or late fall, you’ll also want to pack the following items:
- Down Jacket (Hers: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Women’s Down Hoodie, His: Cotopaxi Fuego) | If you hate being cold (like me), the Arc’teryx Down Hoodie is the hiking jacket for you! With 850 fill down, it’s incredibly lightweight, high quality and totally worth the extra warmth. The Cotopaxi Fuego is also a great option – at 800 fill down, it’s not quite as warm but comes in at a lower price point.
- Microspikes | If you’re hiking to Harder Kulm in the spring, fall or even early summer, there is likely to be snow at the higher elevations. Since the trail gets pretty steep, we recommend packing microspikes to stay safe in possible snowy or icy conditions.
- Gloves and hats | If hiking in early spring/late fall, the start of the hike will likely be cold.
Other useful resources
Looking for more to do in Switzerland? We think you may find these articles helpful:
- Interlaken | How to Spend 2 Adventurous Days in Interlaken
- Interlaken | Schilthorn, Murren, Gimmelwald and Lauterbrunnen: the Ultimate Day Trip from Interlaken
- Interlaken | Why You Should Go Paragliding in Interlaken
- Zermatt | The Five Lakes Hike in Zermatt: Best Matterhorn Views
- Bern | E-Biking in Switzerland: Complete Guide to the Emmental Cheese Route
- Lucerne | The Ultimate Day Trip to Mount Pilatus from Lucerne
- Lucerne | 10 Things to do in Lucerne on a Budget
For all things Switzerland: Switzerland Travel Guide
If you are visiting Interlaken, you can’t miss the hike to Harder Kulm! Seeing the bright teal lakes from above gives the town a new beauty you just can’t appreciate from the ground.
Have you tackled the hike to Harder Kulm? Questions about hiking up from Unterseen? Let us know what you think in the comments below!