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Hiking in Kandersteg

Pauline Kenny

Kandersteg is a charming mountain town (pop. 1000) in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland. It is at the end of the Kander River valley that goes from the Thuner See, west of Interlaken, south to the mountains. The train goes to Kandersteg and then through a tunnel to the Valais region. If you are driving, you take a car-train through this tunnel.

Kandersteg offers a wide range of hiking options including level hikes on the valley floor and mountain hikes from four different areas, 550 km of walking paths in all.There are mountain rides up to the hiking areas and mountain restaurants. The last date for summer hiking is October 15 or the end of October at the latest. It is better to be there before the end of September. In October, many restaurants and mountain rides close. When we were there in early October 2000, there was snow on Gemmi Pass. We spent 10 days in Kandersteg and enjoyed the town and the hiking.

The main hiking areas in Kandersteg are described below. The guest card that you receive when you stay at any accommodations in Kandersteg gives you a discount on the mountain rides. Prices for rides listed below are in Swiss Francs (CHF) and are from October 2000.

Hikes from Gemmi Pass

Gondola: Kandersteg - Sunnbuel (Sun Bowl)
Price with guest card: return CHF 20.80

From the end of the Kandersteg valley, a cable car takes you up to 1900 meters (good views). You can drive, walk (30 minutes) or take a bus from the town to the Sunnbuel cable car. From the top of the cable car, it is an easy 1 hour hike (last half is uphill 200 meters) to a hotel/restaurant (Berghotel Schwarenbach). Another 1 hour 10 minutes to Gemmi Pass where you look down to the town of Leukerbad and out to the Valais Alps. Then either walk back (making it a 4 hour hike in total) or take the gondola to Leukerbad and take the bus/train back to Kandersteg.

Hiking sign at the top of Gemmi Pass

Hikes from Oeschinensee

Chairlift: Kandersteg - Oeschinensee
Price with guestcard: return - CHF 16.20, one way - CHF 11.70

Great chairlift ride up the side of the hills. From the top you walk 20 minutes downhill to Oeschinensee (a mountain lake). You can walk up from town (about 1 hours, all uphill, but not too difficult) and ride down. Or the reverse. Or ride up and then do a higher level hike along the edge of the lake. There is a restaurant on the lake.

We did the hike uphill from town, then to the lake, had lunch, and rode the gondola down.

View down to Kandersteg from Oeschinensee gondola

View down to Kandersteg from Oeschinensee gondola

Hikes from Allmenalp

Gondola: Kandersteg - Allmenalp
Price with guestcard: return - CHF 12.00, one way - CHF 8.00

This is a very scary ride on a small gondola. The ride is steep and goes up a rock face, but there is a good view at the top and it is an easy 2 hour walk back to Kandersteg. This ride does not always run in the off season.

The photo below shows other hikes you can do from this area. You could do a 5 hour, 20 minute hike to Adelboden, in the next valley, then take a bus from there to Frutigen, and get the train to Kandersteg.

Hiking sign at the top of the Allmenalp gondola

Hiking sign at the top of the Allmenalp gondola

Hikes from Selden

Bus: Kandersteg - Selden
Price: return - CHF 17.00, one way - CHF 10.00

A mini-bus goes up the narrow mountain road at the end of the valley. You can drive this, but you must pay at the tourist office for a pass and you can only go in each direction at certain times each hour (it is narrow and cannot accommodate two lanes of traffic). To walk from the end of the valley to Selden is 2 hours. Or take the bus up and walk back. You must reserve the bus. It stops running at the end of September.

You have several opportunities for meals on this hike. There are restaurants in Selden, or you can walk further on for 20 minutes to Heimritz where there is a restaurant. Hotel Waldhaus, with a restaurant, is halfway between Selden and the start of the road.

The weather turned bad during our time in Kandersteg and we did not get to do this hike. The bus had stopped running, so we were going to drive. Instead we drove to the end of the valley, parked and walked for about an hour through Kander Gorge (magnificent) and up towards Selden. We stopped at Hotel Waldhaus for lunch, then walked back.

Hotel Waldhaus is a small, old wooden building on a farm. They have a few hotel rooms and a small restaurant. We got there in the afternoon (around 2pm) and there was only one other table full. The Swiss can sometimes be rigid about meal times, but the family running the restaurant were happy to give us lunch. We had one of our favorite meals in Switzerland: rosti (fried potatoes) with two fried eggs on top. The room was all wood: wood floors, low beamed ceilings, wood walls, wood furniture. They had a fire burning. It was cozy and cheerful. Just what we needed on a cold day of hiking.

Hikes from the Kandersteg Valley (south)

Bus: Kandersteg - Sunnbuel

A bus runs from Kandersteg to the Sunnbuel gondola station. It runs every hour. Walking time is about 40 minutes. You could walk to Sunnbuel and then take the bus back.

Hikes from the Kandersteg Valley (north)

Bus: Kandersteg - Blausee - Frutigen - Reichenbach

A bus runs up and down the valley about every hour. Get the schedule at the tourist office. You can walk down the valley from Kandersteg to Blausee (1 hours) or further to Frutigen, then take this bus back. The train also runs up the valley.

We did the easy walk down to Blausee, had lunch there and took the bus back.

Sledding and Skiing in Winter

In winter, 3.5 km long toboggan run from Oeschinensee to Kandersteg is open, illuminated from 8:00 to 10:00 at night. The area maintains 57 km of cross country tracks. Downhill skiing on mostly wide, gentle slopes is well suited to beginners and families (some more difficult slopes are available).

Resources

www.kandersteg.ch: Kandersteg tourist office. Webcam, lists of hotels and vacation rentals for the area.

www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=555: Photos of Kandersteg town and hikes, October 2000

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