Great Hiking in Kandersteg!

We are having the best time in Kandersteg! It is a very different experience here, in the middle of summer, than when we were here last time at the end of the season (early October). The town is lively and full of people. Tables are set up outside all the restaurants and cafes, people are out and about all day and all evening. Tonight there was live music down the street (a local children’s band judging by the sound).

Yesterday we hiked up to Oeschinensee, an alpine lake in the mountains above town. The walk up was about 1.5 hours and was mostly a pony trail (easy). You can also ride a chairlift up most of the way, with a 25 minute downhill walk from the chairlift to the lake. We decided to walk up then ride the chairlift down.

On Tuesday, the day we moved from Gstaad to Kandersteg, it was overcast and drizzling. Wednesday was perfect – bright sunshine, clear skies, temperatures in the low 70s. The trail starts from town, from beside our vacation rental, and goes across the valley, then slowly uphill through woods on a wide dirt road. There is a nice “excercise” trail through the woods, where they have workout stations. You find these in most Swiss mountain towns. But our trail was mostly on a dirt road that must be used some times for cars, but we did not see any.

After about 45 minutes of easy uphill, you leave the road and switchback up a steep mountain side for about 30 minutes. Then a last easy 15 minutes on a path to the lake.

Kandersteg - Oeschinensee
Kandersteg – Oeschinensee, lake and restaurants

The lake area was filled with people. Many had hiked up like we did, others took the chairlift then walked down, others took the chairlift both ways. There were two restaurants overlooking the lake, a camping area, a picnic area and a place renting small boats. We sat outside on a terrace and had a good lunch. I had a salad (the salads are always great here) and macaroni-cheese dish; Steve had fish from the lake.

Then we walked along the lake (you can’t walk all the way around), then about 30 minutes uphill to the chairlift. There is another restaurant there.

It was great seeing all the people out at the lake. There seem to be several scout troops in town – we see them hiking.

The chairlift down is an open chairlift. I love these and we had not been on one yet. You float down just above the meadows and trees. Beautiful views of Kandersteg and the valley.

Last night we heard from the owner of the cottage in the Cotswolds, where we are supposed to be right now, that the water was cut off. We had been following the news and it seemed like this was going to happen. There are over 350,000 people without water now in that area. It was good news for us because it makes our decision easier. We are not going to that cottage. They think the water will be off for a week or two. I contacted Rural Retreats and told them that we would like another cottage, not in a flooded area, or a refund. Tonight they told me they are looking for another cottage, but I think it is too late. If we are to stay in Switzerland, I need to book something tomorrow for the next week and a half.

Today, Thursday, was another perfect day; maybe a bit hotter than yesterday. We drove to the end of the valley and parked, then walked up the Gasteretal valley to Seldon. We wanted to do this hike when we were here before, but did not get to it. You can take a small bus up the valley and then walk back (3 hours, including walking back to Kandersteg), but you have to reserve it ahead of time. We are never organized enough for this, so we drove to the start of the valley and hiked up and back from there (2hrs 30mins up, about 2hrs back). This is shorter because you don’t have the 45 minute walk from the valley entrance back to Kandersteg.

You can also drive up this valley. Cars can go up for a 20 minute period each hour and you have to pay. But the road is very narrow and I would rather walk than drive. Still, it is amazing how many remote places are accessible by car or mountain ride in Switzerland.

Kandersteg – the road up to Selden

We left at 10:45, got to Hotel Waldhaus at 11:30 and had a very bad coffee (instant!) and good croissants. I bet their coffee machine was broken. The first 30 minutes of the hike is steep uphill along the road. This road is carved out of the side of a rock face and overlooks a raging river. It has tunnels too. All makes for exciting walking, hoping no car is coming.

Once you are at Waldhaus, you have an easy hour on a flat wide open valley. Parts are through fields and meadows, parts are in forest and along a river. It is stunningly beautiful. You are surrounded by mountains and glaciers on all four sides. Waterfalls pour down some of the rock faces.

Kandersteg – Gasteretal Valley

At the end of the valley, you start uphill through a forest for another 30 minutes, then you come out into another open valley and the village of Selden. There are only a few farms here and two small hotels with restaurants. Some of the farmers were out cutting hay.

We sat on a terrace, looking at the mountains and had a lovely lunch. I had Rachlette (melted cheese served with boiled potatoes, pickled onions and pickles. Steve had an omelette and french fries. We went wild and shared a beer.

After a leisurely lunch, we hiked back down the valley. We had started at 10:45am and were back at the car at 5:30pm. About 4hrs 30mins of hiking at a good pace.

The best thing about starting this vacation with that nightmare two hour steep downhill hike from Leysin to Aigle (I still have a bruised toe from it), was that for the rest of the trip we have done uphill hikes whenever possible. I used to hate uphill because it was so much work, but now I love it because you don’t ruin your toes and knees.

Tomorrow is our last day here and I have to spend some time getting a place in Gstaad booked, plus changing out flights yet again (unless Rural Retreats finds a cottage for us). There seems to be lots of vacancy in Gstaad. If we do that, we will be there for a week and a half, then fly to England for two nights near Gatwick, then home.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

3 thoughts on “Great Hiking in Kandersteg!”

  1. …boring details to read…” – NOT! This is so fascinating for me to read. I’m inside, starting a weekend, reading my book club book and planning my own trip, two weeks in Italy and a couple of days in Dubai.
    Reading this is very exciting for me. It’s a world away from here and I love to hear about all the details.

  2. Pauline, I loved reading about these hikes! We stayed two nights in Kandersteg during our two-week Alpine Pass walk and really enjoyed it. On our “free day” Kelly and I went up to that mountain lake, but we took the chairlift up and down!

    Sorry your England plans have not worked out, but I’m glad you have more time in Switzerland.

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