Adventure on the Gelmerbahn – the “Alpine Rollercoaster” in Grimselwelt
And a Hike Around Gelmersee
We recently stayed in Meiringen in the Haslital Valley and one of the highlights was going for a ride on the Glemerbahn. The funicular runs every day from 9am till 4pm ( in July and August until 5pm), from 21st May till 24th October. Tickets have to be purchased or booked online in advance – so do make sure to book your slots in good time as it can get very popular and there are only 24 seats available on each ride.
The Gelmerbahn is a short drive from Meiringen (you can also get there by public transport – see details below). Just as you leave the road there is a large (free) car park with a further overflow car park over the bridge on your right.
A short walk with some beautiful mountain views takes you to the the ticket office and the start of the Gelmerbahn ride.
We were first in the queue on the way up and decided to sit in the lowest carriage of the train so that we could get a great view of the valley below, as well as the beautiful snow capped mountains ahead.
As the Gelmerbahn made its way slowly up (the ride is just over 8 minutes in total) I suddenly realised just how steep this ride was! And there was only a small metal bar protecting me from the steep drop below! All visions I had had of making a wonderfully slick video went out of the window as I shut my eyes and my phone lurched around in my hands!!!
Gelmerbahn Was the Steepest Funicular in Europe Until 2017
It is in fact a 106 percent incline at its maximum and until the Stoos Funicular overtook it in 2017, it was the steepest funicular railway in the whole of Europe.
All I can say is that it was an adventure – but if you don’t have a head for heights then maybe give this one a miss (or certainly don’t sit it the bottom seats for the ascent like I did or in the front ones on the decline!) The carriage is open at the front which makes you feel more exposed but there is a roof over the rear seats, which gives you a greater feeling of security.
Alpine Lake of Gelmersee
However, it would be very sad if you didn’t take the funicular as at the top it’s just a short walk to the beautiful Alpine Lake of Gelmersee. You can hike all round the lake – but it is quite tricky in some places. Therefore the full circular hike is most probably unsuitable for children under 12. There were plenty of families enjoying a very nice walk around the easy parts of the hike whilst we there, and then turning back when it got narrow and steep.
When we visited it in late September there had been a snowfall a couple of days earlier and it really looked quite magical with the glistening snow surrounding the turquoise waters.
Allow At Least 2 Hours For Hiking Around the Gelmersee
Since you need to book your descent in advance do make sure you allow sufficient time (at least 2 hours) if you fancy hiking all the way around the lake.
We had been advised to wear sturdy, waterproof hiking boots but we didn’t really allow ourselves enough time to complete the full circular hike safely, given the conditions. Also, because we wanted to allow time to take lots of photos we decided to hike around around about the half way mark and double back.
A Circular Hike Around The Glemersee
You start and finish this circular hike very close to the top of the funicular. As you proceed along the path at the beginning of the hike you will notice a building housing some public toilets.
It’s a good opportunity to use them as there aren’t any others until you get to the restaurant (if you do the full hike), which is quite a distance away. If you’re not planning to go as far the restaurant then it’s a good idea to bring along a packed lunch as there is nowhere else to buy food.
We saw that several people had taken picnics in their back packs and were enjoying them whilst sitting on the rocks close to the dam. Do wrap up well with plenty of layers as when we visited the weather changed very quickly and as it clouded over the colour of the water changed from bright turquoise to a greyish blue.
First Part Of The Hike
The hike starts out quite straightforwardly across the dam and along the path along the edge of the lake.
The pathway along the edge of the dam
The other side of the dam
The views over the lake and mountains are just stunning as you walk around the lake.
The path way on the opposite side of the lake – which was covered in snow in late September
Second Part Of The Hike
The path way on the opposite side of the lake from where we had started was filled with snow but was easy to navigate. However, further on, after you are about half way round, you will come to some places where it really is quite steep and rocky. In fact the trail becomes very tight with with a narrow ledge (which has a cable hand rail attached to hold on to) but a steep vertical drop to the lake below.
Since we were short on time we decided to turn back instead of continuing the path when it got a little tricky. Our friends who had done the circular hike took at least 2 hours to complete it and we certainly didn’t want to miss our funicular down! The funicular only has a capacity of 24 seats – and it’s a long way to the bottom on foot! Do note though that the person operating the funicular is happy enough to change your time slot provided there is sufficient space on the funicular. You also need to wear a mask on the funicular.
The Gelmerbahn Descent
The descent back to the ticket office on the Gelmerbahn sure is steep!
This Instagram video reel was taken by Nik Aregger who was 11 years old at the time:
If you would like to see more photos and videos we would love you to follow NewOnZurich on Instagram here.
After successfully surviving it we visited the Handeck hanging bridge which is just in front of it across the gorge. The bridge was swaying a little as it was quite windy, but in comparison to the Gelmerbahn it was a piece of cake! 🙂 Oh and do check out the local produced ice cream they sell at the Glemerbahn ticket office before you cross the bridge – it is delicious!
Handeck Hanging Bridge
After crossing the bridge there are a number of paths you can walk along including one which takes you to a place where you can buy local Alpine Cheese. The Gelmerbahn, the Gelmersee and the Handeck Hanging Bridge make for a great day out for all the family and afterwards you can get something to eat and drink at the nearby Hotel Handeck Restaurant.
NB: If you’re interested in going this year please note that the Gelmerbahn’s is operational from 21st May – 24th October 2021.
The Gelmerbahn and the Gelmersee
By Car: Car Park available on site
Public Transport: Train from Interlaken Ost or Lucerne to Meiringen, Postbus to Handegg (Postbus connection also from Oberwald above the Grimsel Pass)
Refreshment: You can hike to the Hotel Handeck Restaurant (do check its opening hours and open season first). You can also buy snacks, drinks and delicious local ice cream at the Gelmerbahn Ticket Office.
Glemerbahn Season: 21st May – 24th October 2021
Good To Know:
- You need to get to the ticket office 15 minutes before you are due to get on the Funicular as you need to exchange the vouchers you buy online for a timed ticket card.
- Dogs are allowed on Gelmer funicular. Lapdogs are free but dogs with more than 30 cm shoulder height need to have a child’s ticket.
- Tickets cost CHF 32 return for Adults and children between 6 and 15 are CHF 12 return. Prices correct at time of writing but do check the website for the latest information.
- The Ticket Office at the bottom of the Glemerbahn sells snacks and drinks as well as tubs of the most delicious locally made ice cream.
- Wrap up well with layers and wear good footwear for the hike.
Other Things To Do In The Area:
Whilst you’re in the area here are some other activities you might enjoy:
Where To Stay In The Area
There are plenty of hotels in the area but we stayed at the Hotel Victoria in Meiringen. It is a very comfortable 4 star hotel with a wonderful restaurant serving fresh, locally sourced and delicious food. The restaurant has14 Gault Millau points and the hotel is located very centrally at Bahnhofplatz 9, 3860 Meiringen. You can visit the Hotel Victoria website here.
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