Kandersteg to Gasterntal Valley
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Wooden chalet in the Kander valleyPhoto: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
On this linear route follow the river Kander from the heart of Kandersteg to the upper slopes of the Gasterntal valley. Beyond the Sunnbuel cable car station follow the steeply ascending path into the deep-cut gorge that leads to the alpine meadows and forests of the Gasterntal nature reserve. The valley was incised by a, now retreated, glacier leaving high exposed rock faces on either side of the valley, if you look closely you can see the folds in the bedrock from when the mountains were uplifted. Pass the Hotel Waldhaus and follow the river up the valley, through forest to the upper slopes of Selden village. If you’re feeling energetic you can continue up to Heimritz for a refreshing drink before retracing your steps to Selden (there two good restaurants here where you can have lunch) and then back down the valley.
The walk can be shortened in a few ways:
- Walk to Hotel Waldhaus then return the way you came to Kandersteg - 9.5 km
- Walk up the valley to Selden and stop here before retracing your steps to Kandersteg - 22 km
If you decide to walk to either Heimritz (12 km) or Selden (11 km) you can catch a minibus (the Gemmi Bus) back down to the Sunnbuel cable car station near Kandersteg. Prior reservation essential – call 033 671 11 72.
- If you wak all the way to Heimritz and back you can skip the 30 minute walk from Sunnbuel into the centre of Kandersteg by taking the public bus - 20.5 km
Take care on any sections of the route that you might share with vehicles, the roads in Kandersteg and some sections of track in the Gasterntal valley where the occasional car or farm vehicle may pass. This is a farming area so please take care of livestock, mainly dairy cows, on or near the trails.
The narrow path in the gorg, which follows the river above the Sunnbuel cable car station should not be attempted after heavy rain because the path has a steep drop to the left and wet weather could have caused path erosion making the route unpassable. If this is the case please use the track (as seen on the map) or ask at the Sunnbuel cable car station if they know whether the route is safe and make your own decision regarding the path.
Most of the route is on well-marked, and well-trod trails, but there are some steeper sections as you near Selden, and latterly nearing Heimritz so you may find walking poles useful here.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Much of the Gasterntal valley is part of the far-reaching Jungfrau UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are two small nature reserves in this valley alone – the Gastereholz and the Kanderfirn. The valley is a refuge for wildlife and a good example of a natural alpine floodplain landscape because the river Kander is allowed to flow largely untamed through it. Many Swiss rivers are dammed as a popular solution to help prevent flooding from the seasonal melt in the spring.
Situated in the charming settlement of Selden you’ll find two restaurants where you can pause for rest and refreshment.
Hotel Steinbock: http://www.steinbock-gasterntal.ch/en/home.html
Hotel Gasterntal: https://hotel-gasterntal.ch/
The mountain restaurant at Heimritz is situated near the top of the Gasterntal valley. Here you can find much needed refreshment before descending to Kandersteg. The buildings here are relatively new - the original chalets were destroyed by an avalanche in 1969, before being rebuilt as you see them today in 1970. Enjoy the view!
You can check whether Heimritz is open here: https://www.heimritz.ch/tagebuch/start/
The Gemmi Bus
The bus runs daily from in Jun-Sep, but please note it does not run in bad weather. If you plan on taking the bus you must reserve your place in advance by calling the number below (it’s a minibus so space is limited).
Reservation phone number: 033 671 11 72
Food & Drink
There are a couple of convenience stores/small supermarkets in Kandersteg – Volg and the Co-Op – where you can pick up provisions for a packed lunch. Alternatively, you can find refreshment at the Hotel Waldhaus (serves food), the Gasthaus Steinbock and Hotel Gasterntal in Selden (both serve food), and the little mountain restaurant at Heimritz (serves basic drinks and snacks). We recommend bringing plenty of water and snacks/food for your walk regardless of where you might wish to stop in case the restaurant is closed an unforeseen reason.
0.00 km – At the T-junction in the centre of Kandersteg (near Hotel Victoria) with the white church behind you continue STRAIGHT ON to cross the river and walk towards the train station, passing the Co-Op on your left-hand side.
0.20 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON to cross the pedestrian crossing outside the train station, then TURN LEFT to follow the signpost to Gastern (don’t go under the railway). Follow this quiet road for 500 m with the railway on your right.
0.70 km – At the T-junction TURN RIGHT to pass beneath the railway following the signpost for Gastern-Selden, then BEAR LEFT to stay on the road following it between some houses.
0.95 km – At the junction continue STRAIGHT ON following the signpost for Gastern-Selden.
1.30 km – After crossing a bridge continue STRAIGHT ON to the gravel track following the signpost for Gastern-Selden. Follow this track, keeping the river on your left-hand side for ~700 m.
2.00 km – With the International Scout Centre buildings on your right continue STRAIGHT ON following the signpost for Gastere.
2.20 km – Leaving the International Scout Centre (on your right) cross bridge and TURN RIGHT to follow the signpost for Gastern-Selden. Walk along the pavement on the left-hand side of the road.
2.80 km – With the Sunnbuel cable car station ahead continue STRAIGHT ON to follow the signpost for Gastern-Selden and pass the station on the left-hand side ascending slightly. In 100 m follow the road as it curves left.
3.10 km – Follow the Wanderweg signpost to TURN RIGHT and cross the bridge, then immediately TURN LEFT onto the narrow gravel path following the Wanderweg signposts. Take care on this path – there is a steep drop to the river below on your left, and the path has protruding tree roots and is rocky in places.
3.30 km – At a T-junction with another path TURN LEFT to follow the Wanderweg signposts and continue ascending. In 100m keep right and ascend the steps (ignore the eroded path to the left).
3.50 km – Ascend some steps to a T-junction with a track at the base of a high rockface. TURN LEFT onto the track following the Wanderweg signpost, then BEAR LEFT down the steps (don’t go through the tunnel) to cross the river using the footbridge.
3.60 km – Once across the bridge TURN RIGHT to follow the rocky path as it ascends.
3.80 km – With the stone arch bridge on your right and the Hotel Waldhaus (15 mins) painted on the boulder ahead continue STRAIGHT ON to follow the track signposted for Gastern-Selden. Take care here – vehicles share this track. In 100m BEAR RIGHT off the track to cross the river onto a path then follow the path and Wanderweg signposts to keep the river on your left.
4.30 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON the woodland path passing the green nature reserve signpost on your right.
4.40 km – TURN LEFT to cross the river on a wooden bridge following the Wanderweg signposts. In 100 m with another bridge on your right continue STRAIGHT ON following the Wanderweg signposts – keep the steam on your right.
4.80 km – Stay on the path and BEAR LEFT away from the river. You’ll soon pass Hotel Waldhaus on your left-hand side.
Please note the valley is normally grazed by alpine cows – these are generally docile creatures but both bulls and cows can be aggressive if spooked, or if you come between a mother and calf.
4.90 km – At the T-junction with the track outside Hotel Waldhaus TURN RIGHT at the signpost (1358m) to follow the arrow for Gastern-Selden. At the next signpost in 100m continue STRAIGHT ON.
6.00 km – At the signpost continue STRAIGHT ON for Gastern-Selden. Far ahead you can see the long free-falling waterfalls on the cliffs on the right-hand side of the valley.
6.30 km – TURN LEFT off the track to follow the Wanderweg signpost. Follow the path up the river through the trees.
6.70 km – BEAR LEFT to cross the bridge then TURN RIGHT to follow the path with the river on your right-had side.
7.40 km – At the T-junction with a track TURN RIGHT to cross the bridge following the signpost for Selden. Once across follow the path upstream with the river on your left. Follow the path for 1.8km.
9.20 km – Cross the bridge then TURN RIGHT to follow the Wanderweg signpost and ascend on a narrow path through the trees. Take care of protruding tree roots and rocks.
9.30 km – TURN RIGHT to follow the yellow arrow painted on the tree and continue ascending on the zig-zag path in the trees. In 100m take care where a stream crosses the path, and then again in another ~50m. If the water is too high to cross safely, back track to the yellow arrow and join the track, which continues up the valley (with a bridge to cross the larger stream).
9.60 km – Where the track crosses the path continue STRAIGHT ON the path following the yellow painted symbols on the tree ahead.
9.80 km – At the T-junction with the track TURN RIGHT onto the track and follow the signpost for Gastern-Selden.
10.60 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON the track following the Wandersweg signposts as you pass some charming wooden chalets.
10.90 km – You have now reached Selden, on your left you’ll pass the Gasthaus Steinbock, and then the Hotel Gasterntal – both serve food and drinks. From the Hotel Gasterntal you can get on the Gemmi bus if you have pre-booked to return. If you intend to continue to Heimritz then continue STRAIGHT ON the track through Selden as signposted for Heimritz (25 min).
11.30 km – At the signpost with the bridge on your right you can either continue STRAIGHT ON for Heimritz to follow a narrow path on the left side of the river (as the route notes do), or you can turn right to cross the bridge and turn left to ascend on a track to Heimritz (the route notes descend this way). If you continued STRAIGHT ON at the bridge continue onto a narrow path ascending towards Heimritz. Take care the path is rocky and there are some protruding tree roots.
11.40 km – TURN LEFT to follow the Wanderweg signpost on the zig-zag path ignoring the barred track ahead.
11.70 km – Ignore the barred track ahead and TURN LEFT to follow the Wanderweg signpost.
12.10 km – Emerge from the trees into the car park for Heimritz. The Berggasthaus Heimritz is up on your left – you can stop for refreshments before returning to this point and crossing the bridge. Once across the river TURN RIGHT and follow the signpost for Selden as you descend on the track with the river on your right.
13.00 km – TURN RIGHT to cross the bridge then TURN LEFT to follow the signpost for Gastern-Selden as you retrace your steps to Selden.
13.40 km – You are now in Selden once more. From here you can take the pre-booked bus back down the valley on continue walking back to the Sunnbuel cable car station/Kandersteg. Continue STRAIGHT ON to following the signpost for Kandersteg (2hr 50 min).
The route notes follow the track on the right-hand side of the river for some variation, but you may wish to retrace your steps to Kandersteg exactly as you came by following the woodland path.
14.20 km – With a chalet on your left BEAR RIGHT to continue descending on the track, follow the signpost for Kandersteg (2hr 35 min). In 100m continue STRAIGHT ON the track following the Wanderweg signpost.
14.40 km – To descend to Hotel Waldhaus on the woodland path the way you came bear left here. Alternatively, you can BEAR RIGHT to follow the route notes and descend the valley on the track. The track is shared with vehicles so please take care and give way.
15.10 km – Continue STRAIGHT ON here to keep following the track down the valley for ~4km (otherwise bear left and follow the Wanderweg signposts to cross the river and follow the path down the valley).
19.20 km – With the bridge near Hotel Waldhaus on your left TURN LEFT to cross the bridge then TURN RIGHT and walk through the car park to another bridge ahead. Cross this next bridge then TURN RIGHT to follow the Wanderweg signpost with the stream on your right, which soon joins the main river.
19.90 km – Cross the footbridge then at the T-junction with the track TURN LEFT to follow the Wanderweg signpost then continue STRAIGHT ON following the signpost for Kandersteg onto a descending rocky path with the river on your left.
20.10 km – TURN LEFT to cross the bridge then follow the Wanderweg signposts to ascend the steps to rejoin the track.
20.20 km – TURN RIGHT onto the track, then TURN RIGHT off the track again onto the steeply descending path as signposted for Wandereg. Take care on this path, it’s rocky in places with protruding tree roots and a steep drop down to the river on your right.
20.40 km – At the path junction TURN RIGHT to follow the Wanderweg signpost and continue descending on the steep path.
20.50 km – At the T-junction with the road TURN RIGHT to cross the bridge then TURN LEFT to follow the Wanderweg signpost.
20.60 km – Follow the road as it curves right and pass on the right-hand side of the Sunnbuel cable car station then continue STRAIGHT ON.
20.70 km – From the car park of the Sunnbuel cable car station we recommend you catch the bus into Kandersteg centre, otherwise you can walk back into Kandersteg (30 mins) the way you can or along the pavement beside the road ahead as below.
23.50 km - You have reached the centre of Kandersteg again. Make your way to your hotel and enjoy a well-earned Alpine dinner!
The route is well-walked but please make sure that you’re suitably equipped (see your information pack for a complete recommended kit list). Waterproofs, warm layers, gloves, hat, sunhat and sunscreen are all recommended in a ~25 litre or less backpack. Make sure to bring plenty of water (around 2 litres per person) and food for the day.
If you prefer to wear sturdy walking shoes rather than walking boots feel free to wear those (as the terrain can be rocky you’ll find that gym trainers won’t have enough support). Walking poles are a useful aid for helping to take pressure off your knees.
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