Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the most beautiful regions in Switzerland. No matter how many times we visit, it never gets less breathtaking. After first exploring last spring, we vowed to come back later in the year to hike and camp once the weather was better. What we discovered quite by accident is the most picturesque place for Lauterbrunnen camping in the entire valley – and it only cost $21 for the night!
If you don’t already know, Switzerland is expensive: both to live, and also to travel. Even for camping, which is usually the cheapest option for lodging in Switzerland, $22 per night is a steal. We’ll tell you all about why Camping Rütti is the best place to stay in Lauterbrunnen for budget lodging, especially if you love tent camping surrounded by raw natural beauty. Plus we’ll share an insider travel tip for saving money on your Lauterbrunnen camping trip.
Language Tip: The name of the campground in this German-speaking region is Camping Rütti. Letters with an umlaut (vowel with the double dots) can be replaced with the same letter followed by an e as an alternate spelling. So you’ll see Camping Rütti also written as Camping Ruetti.
Where is Camping Ruetti located?
The campground – and the greater Lauterbrunnen Valley – are located in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, the high mountain region in the canton of Bern.
By car, Camping Ruetti is
1 hour southeast of Bern,
2 1/2 hours northeast of Geneva, and
2 hours southwest of Zurich.
Click in the upper left to enlarge map.
When a few days of clear blue skies opened for us in May, we loaded up the car with camping gear, food, and Touille – the hardiest little rat terrier in Switzerland – and headed southeast from our house near Fribourg.
Stechelberg: population 255.
Stechelberg is a village at the southern end of Lauterbrunnen Valley. It’s the last bit of civilization on the main road that runs north/south through the valley before disappearing into the Alps.
The tiny hamlet is the gateway to hiking in the Jungfrau UNESCO World Heritage region.
When you reach Stechelberg, you’ve driven as far as you can on public roads. From here on out, the narrow road is only open to locals.
It’s here that you’ll find Camping Ruetti, just on the edge of Stechelberg.
You’ll likely be driving if you’re camping, but if you happen to be traveling on foot or bicycle, you can catch a bus from the town of Lauterbrunnen at the northern entrance of the valley.
There’s also a gorgeous trail that runs through the grassy fields down the entire valley. It’s flat and well maintained. You’ll definitely lose track of how many waterfalls you pass along the trail.
If you do make it to Stechelberg, kudos!
You’ve already done what few tourists do. Most visit the town of Lauterbrunnen at the entrance of the valley, snap a few photos of Staubbach WaterFall, one of Europe’s most well known cataracts, and never explore further.
It’s a shame because the valley offers so much more for those willing to venture just a bit further off the beaten track.
Camping in Lauterbrunnen Valley
When we arrived in the valley, we weren’t sure where we’d end up camping for the night. Our typical MO is not to plan ahead much, and we rarely make reservations anywhere. We prefer flexibility. When we’re done adventuring for the day, then we start looking for a place for the night.
Should you make a reservation?
While this worked well for us in Lauterbrunnen Valley in May, the off-season, we do not recommend it during the summer. The valley is insanely popular and all lodging can fill up, leaving you with no options.
Even non-luxury hotels easily run into the hundreds per night and are often booked solid. Backpacker hostels are available and start at about 40 CHF per night, but that’s per person. For a couple, you’re looking at almost $90, which isn’t cheap.
We definitely recommend sending a booking request to Camping Ruetti if you plan to stay during the summer (June – August), especially if you’re traveling with an RV. That way you’ll make sure you have a guaranteed spot.
You can call or just send your request online.
If you’re traveling in May or September, we don’t recommend making a reservation. You obviously still can, but if you prefer flexibility, it’s unlikely you won’t get a spot. It’s been our experience too that even when campgrounds are “full,” they often have spillover areas or will find space for you if you’re just a couple with a small tent.
Lauterbrunnen Valley has a total of four campgrounds. You’ll find them from north to south in the following order.
Camping Schützenbach is actually a hostel, but they offer a small camping area for tents. As a youth hostel, it caters to travelers 18-35. Those who want to party, socialize, and be right in the middle of tourist happenings in Lauterbrunnen might prefer this option.
Camping Jungfrau is just across the highway from the Schuetzenbach hostel in Lauterbrunnen when you enter the valley. It’s the largest of the four campgrounds and offers the most amenities with a full restaurant and camp store. They have tent camping (prices starting at 28 CHF per night), but you can also book a Swiss cottage, cabin, RV, or one of their mobile homes with full kitchens. It’s less about camping in nature and more about glamping with luxuries. It’s a good option if you prefer lots of amenities when you’re traveling, plus it’s near Staubbach Falls, restaurants, and shopping.
Camping Breithorn is in the middle of the valley between Camping Jungfrau and Camping Ruetti. It’s literally across the road from the entrance toTrümmelbach Falls, our favorite waterfall in the valley. Tent camping for two adults starts at about 28 CHF per night, they have a small camp store for groceries, and they’re open through the winter so ski enthusiasts can book one of their studio apartments or caravans.
Camping Ruetti is the last campground in the valley. Offering the fewest amenities, it was obviously our first choice. Those looking for peace and solitude in nature are most likely to find it here. If you’re not into such rustic sleeping arrangements, they also welcome RVs and offer glamping safari tents. One final bonus is its location, location, location. The trailhead to the most gorgeous UNESCO hike in Lauterbrunnen Valley is right next to the campground.
Travel Tip: In general, the campgrounds only accept cash, so make sure you have Swiss francs (CHF). Switzerland doesn’t use euros.
Can you just wild camp in Lauterbrunnen Valley?
If you’re like us, that’s your first thought too. We typically prefer to avoid campgrounds altogether, especially if they’re crowded, noisy, or have excessive amenities. Wild camping in Switzerland is a bit tricky though. It’s much more restricted than in the United States.
Some folks have said it’s ok to camp anywhere you like in Switzerland, even on private property, as long as you’re quiet and non-destructive. Others have said it’s never ok except in a campground. My conclusion from what I’ve pieced together online is that wild camping is only allowed above the tree line, and even then there are lots of exceptions.
The uncertainty during this trip to Lauterbrunnen Valley led us to opt for a campground, at least for our first Swiss camping experience. The valley is definitely a populated area below the tree line, so you can be sure wild camping is not allowed in Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Camping Ruetti: Hours, Facilities & Prices
When we arrived at Camping Ruetti, the registration office was closed so we picked out a nice spot with the perfect view of Mürrenbach Falls flanked by the smaller Ägertenbach Falls. Pitching our tent in record time, we hastily threw in our sleeping pads and bags.
And just like that, we were home for the night.
Home is where you stake it, right?
When is the campground open?
The reception office at the campground is open daily from 8 am – 11 am and 3 pm – 6 pm. You can check in from 2 pm – 7 pm and check out anytime before 11 am.
If you show up after hours like we did, just pay the following day when you check out.
The campground isn’t gated, so you’re free to come and go as you please, which we love. We’ve stayed at campgrounds before that were fenced and gated, and we were literally locked in at night. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re camping.
We were the only tent campers that night, and we only had one neighbor: a quiet couple in an RV. They’d staked out a space at the far end of the long, narrow strip of grassy tent spots surrounded by fields of yellow and white flowers.
Cows grazed peacefully in the fields, the tinkling of their bells gently echoing off the canyon walls.
We saw more cows – and alpacas – during our weekend in the valley than humans.
We actually ended up being grateful for our RV neighbors since our ancient VW wouldn’t start the next morning and they were kind enough to help us push start it.
Travel Tip: Camping Ruetti is generally open from May 1st through September 30th. They’re closed during the winter.
How much does Camping Ruetti cost?
Before we share how much we paid and how we saved money on our stay, it’s worth mentioning that camping prices are usually itemized in Switzerland, as is common elsewhere in Europe.
Typically a campground will charge a fee per person, including children, plus the pitch (tent/grass space), plus the tent itself (usually based on size), plus extras like a dog, a car, and electricity if you need it. It’s also common to have to pay a tourist tax of 1-3 francs per person per night.
Keep all of this in mind when you’re calculating the price because the actual total will probably be a bit higher than your estimate.
In general, this is the price list for Camping Ruetti in Swiss francs, current as of October 2021.
6.50 + 2.50 in taxes
3.20 + 0.80 in taxes
Small tent w/o car
Small tent w/car
Save money with the ACSI Camping Card.
And now to the insider budget tip: how can you save money at Camping Ruetti?
The campground is one that accepts something called the ACSI Camping Card. The card is a discount camping card that costs about $20 for the annual membership fee. It can be used at almost 3000 campgrounds across Europe. The company has been around for at least 50 years and is very reputable.
The annual membership can be off-putting at first, and you can only use the card during the off-season, which is typically July and August.
My main concern with the card was that the campgrounds associated with it would be too nice for us since our style is more rustic. Many of the campgrounds that accept the card are like small cities, geared for families and those looking for all the luxuries of home away from home: restaurant on site, swimming pool, playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, bike trails, etc.
Still, with discounts of up to 50% and campgrounds that can easily hover around $50 a night in Europe, we thought we’d give it a try. It was super easy to apply for, and we knew if we used it even twice in a year, we’d at least earn back our $20 for the membership fee.
Our brand new card arrived in the mail right before our trip to Lauterbrunnen Valley!
How much money did our ACSI Camping Card save us at Camping Ruetti?
The full price for one night for two adults in a tent spot with a car and a dog would have been 28 CHF. With our card, we paid 21 CHF.
At the time of our stay, hot showers were available on site but cost extra. With our ACSI card, showers were free. Now they’re included in the campground prices, but our card saved us another couple of francs.
All told, we saved 9 CHF for our one night of camping.
What are the campground facilities like?
The entire campground is set in a large grassy field with small trees sprinkled throughout. The raging white waters of the Weisse Lütschine river run along the edge of the western edge of the campground. An oblong loop road through the campground allows for easy turn-around for RVs.
The tent pitches themselves are all in a flat, grassy field. The dirt is soft, so it’s easy to sink your tent stakes.
Obviously since we were the sole tenters there, the campground felt spacious. In mid-summer when it’s fully booked though, I’m sure that’s a different story. The pitches do provide enough space for you to park your car and pitch a tent and still have a bit of room to lounge.
The sanitary facilities looked brand new during our visit and were immaculate – like the entire campsite. Hot showers while camping are always a bonus.
We prefer to stay at eco-friendly places, so we were happy to see a row of recycling bins adjacent to the sinks. You can recycle paper, glass bottles, aluminum cans, all your typical stuff. It’s all labeled. Plus there are open-air sinks for washing dishes.
Recycling is pretty standard in Switzerland, even at campgrounds, but a new addition we haven’t seen at other campgrounds was a bucket to recycle day-old bread. The owners feed it to their animals! We’re big fans of that.
If you’re a breadie, like I am, you’ll be stoked that you can order fresh bread from their little bakery in the mornings. Just head to reception.
Internet is not widely provided, so make sure you have a local plan or mobile data. You can use the first 30 minutes of theirs for free at reception. It’s a great opportunity to unplug and soak in the views!
Huge bonus? Dogs are welcome as long as they’re on a leash.
Sefine Waterfall Hike
It was early evening by the time we’d pitched our tent, but we were rarin’ to hike. Dog in tow, we set off in search of a short hike to enjoy the last few hours of daylight. The trail we ended up taking was to Sefine Waterfall.
From Stechelberg, the trail follows the Sefine Luetschine, a small but powerful creek that flows down a side canyon into the Weisse Luetschine in Lauterbrunnen Valley.
It’s only about 1.6 km to Wasserbrigg, where we turned around, but you can also continue for another 1.5 km up to Gimmelwald, a small town on the top of the western cliffs. Most people take the cable car from the valley floor to visit the town, but the hike is more rewarding.
If you’re staying at Camping Ruetti and you’re looking for a short, not-too-difficult hike, we definitely recommend this one.
Camping Ruetti to Wasserbrigg
Wasserbrigg to Gimmelwald
↑295 m ↓26 m
↑247 m ↓0
Of course it’s mandatory to pass adorable cows in order to reach any trailhead in Switzerland.
To get to the trail, head south from the campground on the main road into Stechelberg for 160 meters.
Turn right on Im Stechelberg, cross the bridge over the Weisse Lütschine (White Luetschine river), and immediately turn right again. In 180 meters, you’ll come to a second bridge. If you cross the bridge, your only option is to turn right. This trail is the one that runs north/south through the valley. Do not take this trail!
Well, you can. It’s also a beautiful trail. But it’s not the trail to Sefine Falls or Gimmelwald.
Instead, when you get to the bridge, take the path left without crossing the bridge. This is the Sefine Luetschine river just upstream from where it flows into the Weisse Luetschine.
From here on out, signs will keep you pointed toward Gimmelwald.
If you’re hiking in the heat of summer, this trail is superb.
Even during our visit in May, we found it incredibly inviting, cool in the shade of the trees after a warm day.
The breeze from the stream refreshed us as we trudged uphill, and the hike into the canyon offers peek-a-boo glimpses of several waterfalls, the creek below, and the little town of Gimmelwald above.
Depending on the time of year and water level, you’ll hike past several large waterfalls flowing down the slope above the trail. It’s definitely a reason to visit in the spring, when the water level is high!
Bridges cross these falls, so you don’t have to worry about fording them.
Do keep in mind though to remain alert, again especially if you’re hiking in spring. The glacial meltwater carries a lot of debris down these small creeks.
Signs are clearly posted in several languages along the trail warning about the dangers of falling rocks and trees. One sign tells people not to stop on the trail.
By the time we reached Sefine Falls, it was just a tall, thin ribbon of white in the dark canyon. It didn’t make for any good photos, but it was a beautiful site, totally worth the hike.
Finally driven to turn back by hunger and the growing darkness, we returned down the trail, resting briefly on a bench overlooking the valley spread out below.
Though not as spectacular as the UNESCO hike we would do the following day, the hike to Sefine Falls is a lovely introduction to hiking in the valley.
Back at our campsite, we fell into bed before midnight.
Final thoughts on camping in Lauterbrunnen Valley…
By the time we took this camping trip to Lauterbrunnen Valley, we’d been living in Switzerland for 10 months and still hadn’t gone camping. We’ve spent that time exploring various areas of the country, but we’re often so close to home after a day of exploring that we don’t want to pay to stay overnight somewhere. It’s hard to “justify” even camping when we’re less than an hour from home. Plus an overnight trip takes more planning, something we prefer not to do.
For this trip in particular, though, we were set on camping – and we’re so glad we did! It was a lesson learned for us, and one we want to encourage others to embrace. Even if you live in Switzerland, like we do, tent camping in Lauterbrunnen Valley is a truly intimate and memorable way to experience one of the world’s most beautiful regions.