Reichenbach Falls

Meiringen / Bernese Oberland, Bern Canton, Switzerland

Rating: 4     Difficulty: 3.5
Reichenbach Falls or Reichenbachfälle
Reichenbach Falls (also Reichenbachfall or Reichenbachfälle in German; pronounced "RHYE-shen-bahkh-fell-uh") is perhaps best known for its association with the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Since I haven't really followed any of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels, I didn't quite get amount of enthusiasm devoted to the fictional events and how this falls related to the death of the famous sleuth. In any case, the passion was apparent as we event noticed a Sherlock Holmes museum in the town of Meiringen as well as a plaque (in German) near one of the waterfall overlooks in his honor!

As for the waterfall itself, it was impressively tall and powerful during our visit. It was apparently some 250m tall over multiple tiers. It wasn't easy to see all the tiers in one go given much of the overall drop was concealed due to the twisting nature of its stream. And I swore that the waterfall seemed taller than its stated height for reasons I'll divulge later in this page.

Sherlock Holmes statue in Meiringen Another thing that was quite interesting about this waterfall was that part of the waterfall seemed to have punched a hole (i.e. a natural arch) in its neighboring cliff creating a segmented effect. It was as if the falls was shaped like a bent two-pronged pitchfork. I didn't recall seeing in the literature a waterfall passing through a natural arch with that much water rushing directly through it, and I wonder how much longer before more of the cliff would erode and ultimately collapse that natural arch.

In theory, this waterfall was supposed to be pretty easy to visit. However, instead of giving this waterfall a 1 for difficulty, I gave it a 3.5, because the funicular ride that would've tremendously cut down the physical exertion required to visit the falls was closed. Unfortunately, the day that Julie and I showed up, there were very gusty easterly winds that posed too much of a risk to operate that funicular as well as other cable cars in the area. That funicular, by the way, was first opened in 1899, which would make this a pretty historical apparatus. However, the one at Giessbach Falls was said to be actually older.

Anyways, in order to visit the falls on the day we showed up, we had no choice but to engage in what turned out to be a pretty tiring hour-long ascent to the other end of the funicular ride. This involved climbing to the top of the falls, then descending towards the top end of the funicular station.

Rainbow and the falls from the viewpoint with the Sherlock Holmes plaque During the long ascent, I passed by one stretch of trail that skirted the dropoff besides the falls. Given the swirling gusty winds of the day, it made that stretch very wet and misty, and thus very muddy and potentially treacherous.

Further up this hike to the top, there was a short spur along the cliffs to an overlook of the falls. Embedded in the cliff facing the overlook, there was a plaque talking about how Sherlock Holmes vanquished his nemesis. I'm sure most people would have missed this spot since the funicular wouldn't have gone by here, and only hikers willing to partake in the physical exertion would have the opportunity to come near.

Beyond this spur, the path continued to climb up a forested path before rejoining a road that passed between some accommodation and cafe. And with all this uphill walking, I started to wonder whether this waterfall might be a bit taller than 250m.

Looking down over the top of the falls from the bridge Eventually at the upper entrance, the path then descended towards a couple of overlooks before crossing a bridge right above the main two-tiered drop and just below one of the smaller uppermost tiers. A scary sign here indicated where the water level was when the stream was in flood.

Past the bridge, the path continued to descend while offering up more overlooks of the falls as well as birdseye views of Meiringen and the Alps backing the scene.

Finally, the path descended another long series of stairs before reaching the platform at the top end of the funicular. It was at this platform where I got the best views of Reichenbach Falls as it was directly in front of the main two-tiered drop. It was also from here that I gained a better appreciation of the hole the falls punched its way through.

Since the funicular was closed, it was eerily quiet except for the howling winds. Nonetheless, it wasn't crowded (I was the only one) so I guess working for this waterfall did have its benefits.

The bummer was that there was no direct way back down to the cafes and car park at the bottom of the funicular other than the funicular ride itself. So that meant that I had to go back up all those steps to the top of the falls, and then descend steeply back down the bottom of the funicular along the hiking path zig-zagging through farms and tiny hamlets.

All told, the whole excursion ended up being about 2 hours (with running so I wouldn't keep my pregnant wife waiting too long). I'm sure it would take at least 3 hours on a more relaxed visit without the funicular. But with the funicular, I'm sure it would've been possible to experience the whole thing in about an hour or less. There could've even been the option of taking the funicular to the top and then back down or vice versa. That would at least cut off a good hour or so of arduous hiking.

Directions: From Interlaken Ost, we took the train east passing through Brienz and ultimately arriving at the Meiringen Station. This train journey takes about 45 minutes or so with all the stops.

From the Meiringen Station, you have to walk a short distance from the train station towards a bus stop with a lot of yellow signs. Unfortunately, the bus that goes from Meiringen to Reichenbach Falls only comes either once an hour or once every half-hour (depending on what time of day). In any case, Julie and I just walked the 20- or 30 minutes through Meiringen to the car park for Reichenbach Falls. There are plenty of signs pointing the way to the falls (though we had to admit that we mistakenly thought the waterfalls near the cable car to the north (left) was the falls; thereby sidetracking us). Along the way, we saw the Sherlock Holmes museum and statue as well as distant (yet attractive views) of part of Reichenbach Falls plunging before a pointy snowy mountain.

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Reichenbach Falls backed by an impressive mountain
Looking towards attractive mountains just east of Meiringen from one of the overlooks at Reichenbach Falls
Walking towards Reichenbach FallsWalking towards Reichenbach Falls

Approaching the car parkApproaching the car park

The steeply ascending path that was the only alternative to visiting Reichenbach Falls without the funicular rideThe steeply ascending path that was the only alternative to visiting the falls without the funicular ride

The hike up to the fallsThe hike up to the falls

Some parts of the trail doubled as a road it seemedSome parts of the trail doubled as a road it seemed

A section of the trail drenched by swirling mistA section of the trail drenched by swirling mist

The Sherlock Holmes plaque I noticed on the way upThe Sherlock Holmes plaque I noticed on the way up

The trail rejoined the road near these housesThe trail rejoined the road near these houses

Looking upstream from the bridge at the top of Reichenbach FallsLooking upstream from the bridge at the top of the falls

Top down view of Meiringen and surroundingsTop down view of Meiringen and surroundings

Final descent to the top end of the funicularFinal descent to the top end of the funicular. Notice where the falls splits as part of it gushes through a hole in the cliff?

As I got closer to the funicular station, I could better see the effects of the arch on Reichenbach FallsAs I got closer to the funicular station, I could better see the effects of the arch on the falls

The platform at the top of the funicular and before Reichenbach FallsThe platform at the top of the funicular and before Reichenbach Falls

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Top down sweep of the falls from the signposted Sherlock Holmes spot

Another top down look at the falls from an overlook with a view directly of the upper tier and an angled view of the twisting lower tier

Bottom up sweep from the platform at the top end of the funicular showing the main tier of Reichenbach Falls

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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