Schilthorn Hike to Gimmelwald

This amazing hike is all about the views, admiring the famous Bernese Alps as you wind your way around the mountain, then down into the Sefinen river valley that leads back to Gimmelwald. This was a long one for our kids, but they managed fine and even enjoyed themselves. We didn’t set out to do this hike, but once we rode up the cable car, we quickly changed our plans and decided to walk down. So happy we did.

Location: Berner Oberland
Address: Stechelberg, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
GPS: 46°33’20.3″N 7°54’04.4″E
Car: 2hr from Zurich
Train: 2hr45 from Zurich
Trail: 10.7 km, about 4-5 hours
Condition: narrow dirt alpine trail
Skill: moderate, some steep switchbacks
Open: mid June through October
More info: www.schilthorn.ch

Overview

This hike starts at Birg (2683m), one stop before the top of Schilthorn. The hike descends 1300m over almost 11km to Gimmelwald, where you can catch the cable car back down to the valley.

The hike is not technically difficult but it is long with lots of downhill and steep switchbacks. I recommend taking hiking sticks for balance. No strollers. We did this hike with my 9 and 12 year old and they did fine, but it was definitely a workout.

Here is an overview hiking map of the area.

There is one hut/restaurant in the middle of the trail at Rotstockhütte, but otherwise, no services or water along the trail. There is only one picnic area with a fire pit near the end of the trail, next to the river. So bring a picnic instead, not something to grill.

Before starting your hike, ride to the top of Schilthorn, enjoy the view and James Bond attractions. Then ride back down to Birg, where you can do the short “Thrill Walk” along the cliff. See my Schilthorn Observation Deck post for more details about both these areas.

There are many hiking options in this area, but I saw the other trails leading from Birg and this one definitely looked the best. You can optionally start this hike at Schilthorn and hike down to Birg, adding a few km to your hike.

Getting There

By car: Drive to Lauterbrunnen and continue driving up the valley to Stechelberg. Park in the metered lot. We paid 8 CHF for about 8 hours.

By transit: Take the train to Lauterbrunnen, then a bus to Stechelberg, Schilthornbahn. The bus drops right at the cable car station.

Tickets

Buy return tickets to Schilthorn, which includes stops at Gimmelwald, Mürren and Birg. In 2016, the Schilthorn is part of the UBS Mountain Offer, so it costs only 10 CHF to go all the way to the top. Otherwise, this is quite expensive. So take advantage now before this offer runs out at the end of October.

In 2016, an adult return fare from Stechelberg to Schilthorn cost 102 CHF. They accept SBB Half Fare and Junior cards. As far as I can tell, Schilthorn is run separately from the main Jungfrau Region and therefore is not covered by the Jungfrau Travel Pass.

See current prices and timetable on the Schilthorn website.

Opening Times

The gondola runs from Stechelberg to the Schilthorn about every 30 mins from 7:25 to 16:25, last descent 18:03. The cable cars from Murren and Gimmelwald to Stechberg run much later, so you have plenty of time to complete your hike.

The hiking season is about mid-June through October, but check the website and webcams to make sure the trails are clear of snow before heading out.

The Schilthorn complex and viewing area is open year round, except for brief maintenance periods in April, late November and early December.

Schilthorn Observation Deck

At the top of the Schilthorn, you’ll find an outdoor observation deck, a restaurant, gift shop, James Bond “Walk of Fame”, etc. For more pics and details, see my Schilthorn Observation Deck post.

Birg “Thrill Walk”

Ride back down to Birg. Before heading on the hike, follow signs to the Thrill Walk. The Skyline Walk is the observation deck above. The Thrill Walk descends metal stairs below the restaurant onto a walkway built into the side of the cliff. It’s totally awesome! One part of the walkway has a glass floor. Another part has a suspension wire to walk across, with a safety net. Another part has a cage you can crawl through. See my Schilthorn post for details.

Birg – Gimmelwald Trail

Ready to hike? Follow trail signs to Rotstockhütte, the trail starting on a dirt road below the restaurant. Make sure to head to your left and not down the valley on your right.

As you turn left, you’ll see the lake below. Head down on the dirt path.

Looking back up to the Birg station.

Skipping rocks at the lake. If you only wanted a short walk, this would be a nice place for a picnic, then head back up to Birg and ride down.

Walk past the lake and continue down the trail.

Now for lots of steep switchbacks. I was happy to have my hiking sticks on this part.

This was probably my favorite part of the trail, easy going and big views. I’m sure it’s even better in summer when it’s all green instead of yellow.

One tricky part of the trail where we had to climb over rocks.

Looking back up the trail.

Heading up to the ridge.

Taking a break on some benches on the ridge. One trail follows the ridge, then down to Murren. We headed down the hill to the right.

Still following signs to Rotstockhütte.

Heading down these grassy fields.

When the trail hits a “T”, turn right and head up these valley.

That’s Rotstockhütte in the distance.

Hello Rotstockhütte. I felt like sleeping over and finishing the hike the next day but we didn’t have any of our sleepover stuff.

Now it’s time to follow signs to Sefinental and Gimmelwald. Follow the trail on the left/north of the hut, following the river down into the valley.

Now right along the river. It was very muddy and slippery when we were there.

Once we entered the forest, it got steep again, lots of switchbacks, a long way down into the valley.

Almost down the mountain.

Pretty. pretty, pretty.

More forest.

The cows had been brought down the mountain earlier that day and were all huddled up by the river.

We had to pass some cows that were standing on the trail. But we did so safely.

More easy going on this path by the bigger river in the Sefinental. We had hoped to build a fire on the river, but there wasn’t easy access to the river until the picnic area much later.

Forest sections.

Near the end of the trail, the path was blocked because people were using the gun shooting range, which shot over the trail. Very unsafe. There is a detour that goes very steeply up the mountain for a bit and around the shooting range. We just waited until they were done shooting. In Gimmelwald, the shooting schedule was posted near the trailhead. But since we were hiking the opposite direction, we didn’t see the warning and schedule. Those numbers below are the targets.

We stopped to grill at this official Schweizer Familie Feuerstelle, which had wood, benches, tables and even tables under cover in the little hut.

We chose to build our fire next to the river.

A fun place to explore while you wait for the food to cook.

Some waterfalls we passed.

Leaving the Sefinental valley behind as we enter Gimmelwald.

The trail sign at the entrance to the Sefinental valley, on the outskirts of Gimmelwald.

A cute “honesty” shop in Gimmelwald.

A nice playground next to the Gimmelwald cable car station.

Hope you enjoy the hike!

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4 comments

    1. Hi Missy, it took us about 4 hours, walking pretty slow. It’s a lot of downhill, so bring sticks and take it easy on your knees. Good luck!

  1. Wow that looks amazing! Thank you for your detailed post! I have a few further questions for you. When did you do this hike (what time of year)? And are there many steep drop offs on either side of the trail? I’m trying to see if there is a path where if my clutzy butt trips, I am not in going to fall off a mountain. Thanks so much!

    1. I don’t recall any steep drop offs on the trail. There are a couple sections with steep switchbacks that have some tricky footing. Best to bring hiking sticks for stability but you certainly won’t fall off a cliff. Good luck!

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