The Gastern Valley near Kandersteg is a worthwhile destination for everyone who simply wants to ventilate their heads on a beautiful late summer or autumn weekend. The hiking options are diverse, not designed for vertical meters per se and, above all, in this natural high valley, the path is effectively the goal for once. At least with our tour suggestion, which we picked out in mid-August with a view to the uncertain weather forecast. The proximity to the Valais benefited us – to our surprise, perfect hiking weather awaited us in the Gastern Valley.
Starting point in Selden
The high valley southeast of Kandersteg stretches for around ten kilometers from the narrow Chluse Gorge to the Kanderfirn, where the Kander rises. Before in the 18th century the Gemmipass as a simpler connection between the Bernese Oberland and Wallis was created, the Gastern Valley was an important part of the route to the Lötschental. Today stages 2 and 3 of the Lötschberg panorama trail over these old mule tracks to the Lauchernalp. The stage stop between the second and third stage – Selden – is also an ideal starting point for almost unlimited circular hikes through the rear third of the Gastern Valley.
Anyone who tackles the route over the Lötschenpass in Selden crosses the Kander and follows the Leitibach steeply uphill. Instead, we stay on the right side of the river and follow the signposted hiking trail through the wooded slope edge for around 60 meters uphill to the Heimritz mountain inn. The Kander is a constant acoustic companion. Here and there the riverbed of the wild mountain stream squints through the thicket.
Along the Kander towards Kanderfirn
As soon as the mountain inn has passed, the Gastern valley widens towards the end of the valley. Surrounded by a magnificent alpine landscape, we follow the hiking trail over alpine meadows full of flowers and navigate through former rockfall areas. Nature up here is fragile and subject to constant change. Accordingly, the route of the hiking trail is regularly adapted to the current conditions. So also the suspension bridge, which leads us safely (but unsteadily) over the roaring Kander after a walking time of around 30 minutes from the alpine inn.
Impressive valley end with two options
At the height of the suspension bridge, on the orographic right-hand side of the river, there is a beautifully placed bench with a magnificent view of the valley head. The actual circular hike ends here. But it is worth hiking the path a little further into the valley to the steeply rising rock faces, criss-crossed by waterfalls, below the Kanderfirn. The technically demanding part and the really tough vertical meters only begin directly below the Alpetli glacier (terminal moraine). Those who hike into the valley for just under thirty minutes from the suspension bridge will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the Gastern Valley. And the further autumn has progressed, the more colorful the landscape will be.
Up to this point, the tour is easy to manage with children or older people. Depending on your mood and condition, you can of course continue to follow the hiking trail upwards. At the latest at 2,412 m above sea level. M. ends the white-red-white marked mountain path «uf de Schafgrinde». From here, the high-altitude tour continues over the Kanderfirn to the Mutthornhütte.
Those who, like us, opt for the leisurely tour option will instead hike the same way back to the suspension bridge. Here we stay on the left side of the river and follow the path through the Tangel- and Schärmewald to the opposite side of the valley Berggasthaus Heimritz shows up.
Delicious stop at the end
The mountain inn, which has been run by the Rauber family for five generations, is a popular stop in the Gastern Valley. And we don’t miss out on the well-deserved sweet refreshment on the sun terrace. The perfect end to a cozy, enjoyable and surprisingly sunny half-day excursion into the wonderful wild Gastern Valley.
ps. Those who prefer to travel by bike can also cycle from Kandersteg to the Heimritz mountain inn.
Practical tips for your hike through the Gastern Valley
The following map shows our route of the easy circular hike from Selden towards Kanderfirn and back. The route measures 7.9 kilometers and includes a moderate gradient of 370 meters in altitude. From the suspension bridge over the Kander there is only a one-sided path, which is an easy mountain path (difficulty T2) first over the plateau to the end of the valley at around 1,800 m above sea level. M. leads. From there, the path zig-zags uphill for another 600 meters to “uf de Schafgrinde”. If you like it a little more adventurous, are not averse to one or the other “scramble” and see the tour as altitude training, this is the right place. Everyone else can look for a nice spot on the flower-rich meadow at the end of our tour (see map) and enjoy the view over the natural, idyllic valley landscape.
You can reach the starting point of the hike from Kandersteg train station with the bis early October Hourly bus line 240 1 (seasonal bus service). The bus connection is reservationspflichtig. You can find the corresponding telephone number in the SBB timetable. Note that you have to call in advance to be guaranteed a seat. Alternatively, the Gastern Valley can also be reached by motorized private transport via a toll road (which seems quite adventurous) until mid-November. Note that there is a regular schedule for the first section (rock gallery) and that it is not possible to cross the cars. Further information on access times and costs can be found here: Gasterntal access road
Key data of the circular hike through the Gastern Valley
|starting point||Bus stop Selden, Hotel Gasterntal (1,550 m above sea level)|
|reachability||Accessible by public transport (until the beginning of October)|
|Altitude difference||↗ 371 m ↘ 371 m|
|Destination||Bus stop Selden, Hotel Gasterntal (1’550 m M.. M.)|
|Catering||Berggasthaus Heimritz as well as Hotel Steinbock and Hotel Gasterntal in Selden|
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Hiking in the Gastern Valley: easy circular hike Selden – Kanderfirn