Gemmipass Hike – Leukerbad to Kandersteg

This historic, classic Swiss hike over the beautiful Gemmi pass is a great option for families thanks to cable cars and a well maintained trail. This path has been used as far back as Roman times, connecting communities from the Valais and Bern region. The scenery is breathtaking and varied, starting with a barren rocky landscape with glaciers at the top, passing along a gorgeous lake speckled with wildflowers, cutting through craggy mountain peaks, and finishing in a wide green valley with forests, rivers, and waterfalls. It’s one of the best hikes we’ve done in Switzerland.

For a shorter, easier visit to the Gemmipass, you simply ride up the Gemmibahn from Leukerbad and do a short walk to Daubensee lake, the best part of this hike. You can also do a 6km loop around the lake, so you return to your starting point in Leukerbad instead of ending the hike in Sunnbüel. More details about the lake loop hike here.

Location: Valais Switzerland
Address: Start: Leukerbad Gemmibahn
GPS: 46°23’01.3″N 7°37’29.9″E
Car: Best by public transportation.
Leukerbad is about a 3hr15 drive from Zürich
Train: To start: 3hr15 from Zurich to Leukerbad, Gemmibahn
From end:
2hr40 from Sunnbüel, Kandersteg to Zürich HB
Adult half fare round trip about CHF 97
Trail: 8.5km one way
Condition: wide gravel path
Skill: moderate
Open: June through October
Price: Adult half-fare combi hiking ticket CHF 44 (includes both cable cars)
More info: www.wanderland.ch

Overview

This is a 8.5 km one way hike over the Gemmi mountain pass, from the top of Gemmibahn in Leukerbad, across the pass, ending at the top of the Sünnbuel cable car in Kandersteg. The trail is wide gravel path, mostly smooth with no tricky footing, a few steep parts, but mostly easy walking. You could probably use an all-terrain stroller if you really wanted to.

There is restaurant at the top of both cable cars and in the middle, Hotel Schwarenbach, which has a restaurant, kiosk with ice cream and snacks, water fountain and toilets. No fire pits along the path that we could see. I wouldn’t particularly recommend swimming in the lake, but it was very hot the day we were there in early August and a few people jumped in briefly.

Getting There

This is a one way hike ending on the other side of a big mountain. So it’s best access it using public transportation, since it would be a long way back to your car. We took the train/bus from Zurich to Leukerbad, did the hike to Sünnbuel, then returned by train from Kandersteg to Zurich.

You can do this hike in either direction, but we prefer to start in Leukerbad because then the hike is mostly downhill toward Sünnbuel.

To reach Leukerbad Gemmibahn: Take a train to Leuk, then bus 471 to Leukerbad. Then a 750m walk up to the Gemmibahn cable car. The trail starts at the top of the cable car.

Tickets & Opening Times

You will need a one way ticket up the Gemmibahn and one way ticket down the Sunnbüel cable car. You can buy this combi ticket from either ticket office. In 2017, this combi ticket cost CHF 22 for an adult with SBB Half-fare. SBB Junior cards are also accepted.

Both the Gemmibahn cable car and Sunnbüel cable car run June through October from 8:30 to 17:00, and 8:00 to 18:00 during summer holidays. It runs every 30 minutes, more often when busy. Each car fits about 30 people, so on very busy days, there can be a wait. See websites for current schedules and prices.

Trail Details

When you arrive in Leukerbad, enjoy the view of the mountains above while you walk up the main road to the Gemmibahn. While you ride up, you can see the beautiful Leukerbad valley below.

Arriving at the top, a bit desolate compared to the green valley below.

There is a restaurant next to the cable car station with a panorama terrace.

The path starts below the cable car station and heads to the lake. We took the wide path that goes a bit above the lake or walk all the way down to the water and walk along the lakeshore.

We chose the wide path.

Looking back to the start of the hike.

The path gradually makes it way down to the lake shore.

Lots of nice places to picnic on the lake shore. We dipped our feet in. A few people got in the water.

Leaving the lake and entering the next valley.

We were all happy to see Hotel Schwarenbach in the distance, the halfway point.

We all got ice cream.

Path continues on a dirt road leaving the hotel.

Heading down toward Sunnbüel. You can stay on the dirt road or take the more lumpy path below.

The pretty valley, leading to Sunnbüel. You’ll pass a rock showing the border between Canton Valais and Canton Bern.

Looking back up the trail.

 

Back on the road for awhile.

Last bit of the trail before reaching Sunnbüel.

Restaurant at the top of the Sunnbüel cable car. There is also a swing set for the kids, sun chairs, and a picnic area with tables. The cable car runs about every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour. However, the bus in the valley only runs only once an hour at :53, so check the schedule before you go down.

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