Gelmer Funicular and Lake Gelmersee – A day full of adventure and relaxation

Last year, the Gelmerbahn (Gelmer Funicular) was super popular on all kinds of social media and considering it’s only open in the summer/autumn months, I decided to take it this year. What I can assure you of is that the ride is absolutely thrilling, and close to the summit station, there’s a gem for you to discover – the enchanting turquoise Gelmersee (Gelmer Lake).

1. Gelmerbahn


Ticket prices

Important information

2. Gelmersee

2.1 Practical information

2.2 Highlights on the way

1. Gelmerbahn

Gelmer Funicular seen from the summit station with the Steinlauihorn at the background
The funicular train reaching the steepest part of the rail

If you are looking for an adventure, this is exactly where you should be. With an inclination of up to 106%, this funicular is the steepest open funicular of Europe. Originally built to transport the heavy construction materials for the Gelmer Dam, it is nowadays open for adventure-seeking hikers. In about 12 mins, the funicular makes its way to the Gelmer Valley 1,860 meters above sea level. Once at the top, you’ll soon be shocked again by the Gelmer Lake with its incredible color, but this time in a relaxing way.

Timetable (as of 2020):

The funicular is in operation from 6th June to 25th October and the train departs every 24 mins (normally).

June, September, October 9:00 – 16:00
July, August 9:00 – 17:00

Ticket prices (as of 2020):

round trip single trip
Adults CHF 32.- CHF 16.-
Children (6 – 16) CHF 12.- CHF 6.-

Important information:

  • The ticket can be purchased online, at the Grimseltor Tourist Centre in Innertkirchen or at the bottom station of the Gelmer Funicular. Considering the train has a capacity of 24 people, I strongly recommend you to book your ticket in advance online. Otherwise, on a sunny day, you plan could be totally destroyed because there are no more tickets available.
  • The purchased ticket-voucher has to be exchanged at the ticket office of the funicular no later than 15 minutes prior to departure. In exchange for your voucher, you will be given a time card for the ride (ticket with specified time of departure). If you do not show up in time, your ticket will be made available for sale.
  • If you want to take public transport to reach the lower station of the funicular, you should get off at the bus stop Handegg, Gelmerbahn.
  • Sitting on the first row is a dream for many adventure-seekers. However, you can not reserve a seat on the first row and if you want that “privilege”, you have to be one of the first four visitors waiting in line.
  • Located 3 mins away by foot from the bottom station of the Gelmer Funicular is the Handeck suspension bridge, which is 70 meters above the Handeck Gorge and offers a fantastic view of the Handeck Waterfall. It connects the Hotel Handeck to the Gelmer Funicular and is certainly worth visiting.
  • Dogs with more than 30 cm shoulder height need a children’s ticket.
  • Here’s a small tip from me: if you are afraid of height, I recommend you to sit at the back of the train. It’s still quite thrilling but much better than sitting in the front. By the way, for me personally, going up was “scarier” than going down. I guess that’s because when the train was going up, it was pulled up by the cable and felt a bit like a roller coaster.

2. Gelmersee

2.1 Practical information

One thing I like a lot about the Gelmersee is that no matter if you are an experienced hiker or not, you can admire the charming turquoise color of the lake and its surroundings without much hassle. Although the Gelmersee circular trail is categorised as a medium mountain trail, its southwestern section is actually almost flat and suitable for hikers with zero hiking experience. Its northeastern section, however, is rather spine-chilling, in particular the part directly to the northeast of the funicular summit station. After reading my following tips, you can decide if you want to or are ready or not to take the full circular trail.

Part of the southwestern section of the route (close to the Gelmer Dam)
Still part of the southwestern section which looks rather exposed but not really dangerous (at least in my opinion)
After some ascent, you will enter the northeastern section of the circular trail, which is more difficult than the southwestern section.
Part of the circular trail which is directly to the northeast of the funicular summit station

(Distance: 4.5 km, ascent: 76 m, descent: 69 m, duration: 2 h)

Please note, this route is rated by the SAC (Swiss Alpine Club) as T3 (demanding mountain hike), which means

  • the path is not necessarily visible everywhere in the terrain;
  • the exposed sections might be fitted with ropes or chains;
  • the use of the hands is required for balance;
  • the route is marked as white-red-white;
  • there are some exposed sections with fall hazard, scree and pathless jagged rocks.

As I mentioned above, I would rank the southwestern section as T1 (hiking trail) which means flat terrain or low steepness, no risks of fall, while the northeastern section certainly deserves a T3 rating.

If you want to finish the whole trail, here are some tips for you:

  • This is a summer trail and is only open from mid-June to mid-October.
  • You must have a head for heights and good surefootedness. Good mountain hiking shoes and walking sticks are strongly recommended.
  • I recommend you to pack some lunch and have a picnic by the lake. The scenery is absolutely dreamlike. Remember to add the picnic time to your total hiking time when booking the funicular tickets.
  • Take enough water (I didn’t see any water fountain on the way) and snacks.
  • There are no restaurants (not even at the lower or upper funicular station) but there’s a toilet close to the Gelmer Dam.
  • I hiked on a sunny day in July and was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Sun screen, hat and sunglasses are a must because there’s not much shadow on the way.
  • Because this is a circular trail, you can start the hike by turning right or left when you reach the lake from the summit funicular station. I recommend you to start from the right because that’s the easier section. I prefer starting with something easy and then the challenge gradually builds up. However, it’s totally up to you which way to start.
  • If you are an enthusiastic mountain hiker, you can add the hike to the Gelmer Hut (duration (round trip): 3 h) to the Gelmer Lake circular trail. For more information about this trail, please click here.
  • Close to the dam, there are some info boards introducing the Gelmer Dam, the Gelmer Lake and its surroundings.
  • Unfortunately, I don’t think the whole trail is suitable for small kids.

2.2 Highlights on the way

On the funicular train, you can already see the Alplistock (2878 m), the Ärlenhoren (2453 m) and the Hintertelltihorn (2986 m).
The Gelmer Dam is a gravity dam which uses its own weight to hold back the stored water.

About the Gelmer Dam:

  • Construction: 1925 – 1929
  • Height: 35 m
  • Width: 22 m
  • Length of crown: 370 m
  • Storage volume: 13 million m³
  • Concrete volume: 81,000 m³ = 10,800 trucks with each 7.5 m³ concrete
  • Weight: 142,000 t = 800 jumbo jets (Boeing 747)
From the dam, you can see the beautiful turquoise Gelmer Lake and in the background mountains of the Uri Alps mountain range.
Some sections on the way are very interesting. For example, here you need to walk through a rock opening.
On the way, if you look north, you’ll almost always see the numerous mountain streams gushing down like silk. That’s actually the area to hike if you want to reach the Gelmer Hut.
If you keep walking, you’ll pass an area full of alpine flowers. The path here is still very well-paved and the flora here is just lovely.
Nature is the greatest visual artist on earth.
After some ascent, the more difficult section of the circular trail starts. If you are not ready for a T3 route, I recommend you to take the same way back.
If you decide to take the challenge, the path ahead of you is also very beautiful (full of flora), although certain sections are a bit exposed and slippery due to mountain streams.
Soon, you’ll see some beautiful waterfalls.
After some descent, you will be very close to the lake. This area is an ideal location for a picnic or a swim. However, I have to warn you that the water of the Gelmersee is very cold, even on a hot summer day.
For most people, this is the scariest part of the circular trail. However, I felt quite safe passing on the ledge. The most important thing here is to wait for oncoming traffic to pass before starting out.
As I mentioned above, always look for and follow the white-red-white sign because sometimes the trail is not very obvious and you could deviate from it.
Soon you’ll pass the junction where you can choose to finish the circular trail and hike back to the summit funicular station or hike even higher and further to the Gelmer Hut, which takes 1.5 h one way.
After passing the junction, the road is still rocky but rather well-paved. Soon you’ll enter the last section of the circular trail, which is at least in my opinion the most “frightening”.
As you can see in the picture, if you want to walk on this section of the path, you have to have a head for heights and a good sense of balance. I found good mountain hiking shoes and walking sticks very helpful. If I remember correctly, you need to walk on the path like this for about 20 mins before a rather steep descent to the starting point of the hike.
If you ask me whether it is worth it or not passing the precipitous and steep parts of the trail, I believe from there, you can enjoy the view of the turquoise blue lake even more. By the way, the spot shown in the picture is also a great starting point for going for a swim.
Gelmer Funicular and Lake Gelmersee – A day full of adventure and relaxation was last modified: April 24th, 2024 by Dong

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.