Mike In Europe: Exploring the Jungfrau region by bicycle
One of the original aspects of bike touring that drew my interest was the ability to explore areas on my own at a slower pace. Sometimes days of loaded down riding just for the sake of making distance can take some of the fun away. In order to get back to having fun I decided to remove the panniers and head out into the mountains to explore the Jungfrau Region by bicycle instead of taking the day off. I’m glad I did.
After slogging up to Interlaken from Lake Sursee on the far side of Luzern I found myself cussing my bike for not rolling easy enough, cussing the wind, and cussing the seemingly endless climbs up the glacial valleys. After riding 9 of 11 days my plan was to find a spot and camp for about a week and definitely not do anything the next day. After waking up to just at sunrise and riding into town looking for something that was open and relatively cheap I really noticed the mountains of the Jungfrau region for the first time. I felt pretty good and decided to take off the panniers, lighten the load, and go explore on my bike rather than twiddle my thumbs all day.
I headed south out of town loving the feel of my relatively unloaded bike. The climbs that had me cursing the day before weren’t so bad this morning. I reached Zweilutschinen and a split in the road. To the east the road lead to Grindelwald and to the south it would find Louterbrunnen and Stechelberg. All were places I planned to see but I chose Grindelwald simply because of the name.
After a brief tease with flatness the trail rose 1,000 ft in less than 2 kilometers. Even this wasn’t so bad without panniers. The bike lane crossed to the other side of the river and entered a flowing section that first crossed a meadow and then entered the forest for my favorite parts of the day. It seems that my Surly Cross Check was built for this exact terrain. Leaving the woods behind the trail led to the open area surrounding Grindelwald. A huge green valley surrounded by glacier topped peaks. I was stunned by the amount of snow at this time of year. I suppose that’s what glaciers are all about. On the way into the town center I passed a campground with a 360 degree view of peaks. After inquiring I told them I’d likely be back to move in for a few days the next morning.
The steep climb up to Grindelwald proved to be a quick white knuckled decent back to the split in the path from early. It was early enough and I had plenty left. How could I make a proper decision of where to move camp to without checking out Louterbrunnen? I turned south and after a shorter and mellow climb reached the smaller town with a completely distinct feel than Grindelwald. While Grindelwald received busloads of photo snapping tourists there to eat lunch, Louterbrunnen received buses of hikers and skydivers. After pushing further up the valley and finding campgrounds that became cheaper, quieter, and filled with more adventurous people my mind had been made up. I would pack up camp first thing in the morning to return for several days of hiking and the required tram trip up to Jungfraujoch, advertised as the Top of Europe.
From here it was 25 kilometers downhill ride back to Interlaken and the perfect end to a day I didn’t think would take me far from my campground back in town. I had planned to do very little but ended the day feeling much better after seeing 75 kilometers of new territory I otherwise wouldn’t have and exploring the Jungfrau Region by bicycle. Sitting here surrounded by screaming kids I’m glad I ventured out to find other options.