A wonderful hike in the Gasterntal valley near Kandersteg takes you to wild landscapes, impressive waterfalls, and nice restaurants.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
A dream – the Gasterntal Valley above Kandersteg
Are you looking for a unique excursion tip near Kandersteg? Then you will love the Gasterntal valley! Because it doesn’t always have to be Lake Oeschinensee or Lake Blausee.
To be honest, I didn’t expect it. As if by chance, I came across this beautiful valley. It was when we took the cable car up an adjacent mountain. These seemingly endless forests, the wildly meandering river and the beautiful glaciers grabbed my attention so much that I said to my companion: “I guess we’ll have to do two hikes today”.
What I didn’t know until then was that the valley is called Gasterntal. It is also above Kandersteg.
And it was worth it! We were enchanted by this breathtaking landscape. A wild nature that is unfortunately a rarity in Switzerland today and must be preserved at all costs.
Please note that the Gasterntal valley is closed from mid-November to mid-May due to avalanche danger and may not be entered. Check the main page first. That page is in German only.
The Kander – a wild river in the Gastern Valley
“The Kander, a wild river in the Gastern Valley” is the title of this section. But we have to be a little more precise. Because this is especially true in the Gastern Valley.
Because from Kandersteg, the Kander, like almost all large rivers in Switzerland, is channeled into man-made artificial canals.
Did you know that the Kander used to flow directly into the Aare? It has been flowing into Lake Thun since 1711. However, this has meant that Thun has been repeatedly hit by floods due to the new influx of water.
But the wild alluvial landscapes, the mixed deciduous forests and the impressive waterfalls make the Gasterntal a true paradise for those seeking peace and quiet. And for nature lovers of course. It is a great excursion tip from Kandersteg.
Here you can still see and enjoy how nature once looked like throughout Switzerland and in the Swiss Alps. Before man straightened rivers and drained bogs due to industrialization and the acquisition of more land.
Gasterntal Hike from Kandersteg
From the cable car station Sunnbüehl in Kandersteg you hike up through a wild gorge to the Hotel-Restaurant Waldhaus. After about 50 minutes you have reached the entrance to the Gasterntal. It’s around 300 meters in altitude difference through the gorge. Through the Gasterntal valley is everything flat after that. However, for 12 francs you can also drive up on a private road (ascent: 45-05; descent: 15-35), but this way you really miss a lot. The permit can be bought at the barrier from the ticket machine. However, the rides are only possible from around mid-May to mid-October, as soon as the roads are free of snow.
By the way, bus trips from Kandersteg to Gasterntal are also possible in summer. One journey costs 8CHF, return 14CHF (as of summer 2021). Click here for the exact timetable. Seat reservation is mandatory.
When we arrive in Gasterntal, we have the option of stopping at the Waldhaus restaurant. But we are tempted by nature. Now the waterfalls are calling. Especially the huge waterfall below the Balmhorn glacier, which plunges into the valley at a total height of 800 meters, particularly catches our eyes.
The walk from Kandersteg through the gorge takes about an hour. If you want to continue to the impressive waterfall, you have to calculate with another 40 minutes. But the hike back is quicker, as about half of the route is downhill (approx. 1h 15 minutes). This means that the hike takes a total of about 3 hours.
This is our (second) destination for the day. For hikers who want more, there are many options in the Gastern valley. Three of them here: Balmhornhütte (SAC), Gfelalp (and over the Lötschberg Pass) or a hike to the glacier called Kanderfirn.
Valuable floodplain landscapes in the Gastern Valley
As already mentioned, the valuable floodplain landscapes in Switzerland have declined considerably. It is great to have such well kept nature in the Gastern Valley (nature reserve). An area that is home to many species. Floodplain landscapes are THE biodiversity hotspots.
This is because a floodplain contains many different habitats in a very small area. On the one hand the river, then the gravel bank, further out sand, shrubs and finally forest.
Due to the resulting diversity, floodplain landscapes provide unique habitats for many plants and animals. Floodplain landscapes are “hotspots” of biodiversity in Switzerland; 40% of all plant and animal species occur on 0.3% of the country’s surface.
However, the reclamation of agricultural and settlement areas, river engineering, nutrient inputs, flood protection measures and hydroelectric use have massively impaired the water habitat over the last two centuries.
The valley has various restaurants that are well worth a visit. Ideally located at the entrance to the Gasterntal is the Berghotel Waldhaus. If you love nostalgia and tradition, you’ve come to the right place. Because not only traditional menus such as raclette, fondue or rösti are served. And the best is that petrol lamps are still in use. Here you can not only dine in the restaurant, but also book a hotel stay.
Another restaurant and hotel is the Berghotel Gasterntal-Selden. You will find it about 10 kilometers from Kandersteg in Gasterntal. The restaurant also offers hikers great dishes. Especially cakes and tarts are popular.
And the third hotel and restaurant we recommend in Gasterntal is the Berghotel Steinbock. Also secluded and beautifully situated, the hotel fulfills every wish of nature. For example, the restaurant serves traditional menus such as Älplermaccaroni, cheese slices, raclette, etc.
You can find more hotels and restaurants in the Gasterntal here .
Conclusion about Gasterntal above Kandersteg
The Gastern Valley proves that the region around Kandersteg has much more to offer than just Lake Blausee or Lake Oeschinen. For the wild alluvial landscapes, glaciers and imposing mountains are a dream for all nature lovers. Furthermore, restaurants satisfy visitors’ hunger.
Discover the Gasterntal valley with a hike from Kandersteg and immerse yourself in the incredible landscape.