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Location: Kandersteg, Canton Bern
Distance: 5km /3 miles round trip from chairlift summit
Duration: 1-2 hours
You'll no doubt feel right at home along the splendidly scenic shores of the Öeschinensee—perhaps because it's an iconic alpine scene that appears on calendars, posters, and postcards throughout Switzerland. But the real thing does not disappoint. The only challenge is getting there on a clear day before the crowds arrive.
The adventure begins in the east side of Kandersteg near the campground at the well marked Sesselbahn Öeschinensee chairlift, open from 7:30-18:30 throughout the summer season.
Once at the summit station, follow the familiar yellow signs to the Öeschinensee along a wide trail through meadow and woodland, all the while under the spell of the Blüemlisalp peaks. Finally a narrower trail leads down to the lakeshore. The lake is set at 1578 meters / 5177 feet and has a maximum depth of 56 meters / 184 feet.
The Öeschinensee is fed by a number of surrounding mountain streams, many of which are visible as you walk around the lake. But where does the water go? There's no visible outlet. The answer is really quite simple: The Öeschinensee drains underground. So while you don't see it leaving, you can see it as it as it resurfaces in the Oeschibach, which produces electricity and drinking water for Kandersteg.
Once at the lake, take your time to enjoy the setting. You'll want to walk to the restaurants and hotels at the west end of the Öeschinensee. While you can't make a full loop around the lake, because of the steep cliffs than plunge directly into the water, you can explore the lakeside pathways for as far as they will take you.
The Öeschinensee is a haven for hikers, and a great starting point for other hikes in the area. You can explore those routes and stay at the Fründen hut with its spectacular setting, and continue east into the Jungfrau region. You can also easily return to the chairlift station for your descent back to Kandersteg make the one hour descent on foot back to Kandersteg, either along the service road or by the various footpaths—either way, it's a steep descent. The Oeschinensee can be seen on Alpenwild's Bernese Oberland Traverse tour.