Gelmersee – The Swiss Hidden Gem
Gelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir located 1860 meters above sea level in the Berner Oberland, situated in a tiny village called Handegg. A glacier turquoise lake enveloped by breathtaking high-alpine surroundings, where you need to take the Gelmerbahn funicular to enjoy this fantastic and unworldly place. It is a hidden gem all nature lovers cannot miss.
Gelmerbahn is one the steepest open funicular in Europe, with an incline of 106%. While the ride is incredibly steep but isn’t a rollercoaster, it only goes 4.5 miles per hour. The funicular was initially built to transport construction materials for the Gelmer Dam, completed in 1932; Today, this industrial railway takes adventurers from the valley to 1,860 meters above sea level in no time. Adrenaline guaranteed!
The experience will meet your expectations! Nothing will prepare you for the bird-eye view over the valley and the alpine panorama.
Before reaching the Gelmabahn, “Handeckfallbrücke” – a 70 meters suspension bridge above the Handeck gorge is worth stopping by. The bridge connects the Hotel und Naturresort Handeck to the Gelmerbahn station.
Pre-book Tickets Before the Gelmerbahn
You need to Pre-Book the ticket with an exact time slot for both the up and down rides. The train takes only up to 24 people and departs every 24 minutes. The ride is approximately 10 minutes, and the last descent is at 4:48 pm. Plan your lake circulate hike well, including hiking, photo taking, and break time. Do not miss the funicular time slot on your way down. The Gelmerbahn funicular is so busy due to its sheer exciting ride up to the Gelmersee; it receives visitors from around the world every year.
How to get to Gelmerbahn Station
By public transport:
Take a train to Meiringen train station, then a bus 161 to Handegg, Gelmerbahn. Then a short walk from the Hotel und Naturresort Handeck to the suspension bridge will take you to the funicular station. This bus only runs four times a day from late June through mid-October.
The Gelmersee Circular Alpine Hike
Gelmersee is not commercialized. No restaurants, no crowd visitors. So peaceful that you can hear the waterfalls echo throughout the walk around the lake. The color of the landscape, the breeze, and the energy make it feel like living heaven. Nature is wild, and the flora is impressive.
Throughout the hike, you will see the “red & white stripes,” known as the “alpine trail. This sign indicates the trail will be a narrow dirt path with rocks and obstacles, but It doesn’t necessarily mean the path is difficult.
Gelmersee is generally considered a moderately challenging route. It takes an average of 2 – 4 hours to complete, depending on your walking speed, photos, and break time. Again, plan it well and do not miss the funicular time. Bring food, water, and hiking essentials.
Although several hikers rated this circular hike as a kids-friendly activity, I will not do it for younger children and not without a good pair of hiking shoes. The walk is often on edge with a steep, long drop down to the lake. It is not recommended for those with a fear of heights/vertigo.
Our choice was to start the hike anti-clockwise by crossing the dam wall first. There’s a public bathroom available just right before the starting point. After crossing the dam wall, the path will begin with the lake on your left side. Most time is a standard safe path. But some tricky areas require full attention!
Around half of the hike, you can take a break by the water. It’s an open space overlooking the Gelmesee—the perfect spot for lunch. Perhaps in a glacier lake, swimming is not a bad idea. The water is freezing!
On the other side of Gelmersee and towards the end has a broader view over the Valley, the crystal turquoise lake is sitting front and center. However, the second half of the hike is also riskier where caution is needed, and the path is narrow with a direct cliff drop into the lake.
There is a specific short section where you must hold on to a chain. It is manageable; walk slowly with full concentration. It was a bit nerve-racking. Be cautious!