The Göschenertal is not all that well known, even within Switzerland. But it’s a fabulous valley in a very central location, just outside Andermatt, nestled amid the Oberalp, Furka and Gotthard passes. It’s very close to a lot of interesting rail journeys – the Glacier Express stops in Andermatt, and this would be a great journey to combine with either half of that trip. The Gotthard rail tunnel starts in the Göschenen, putting this right on the Gotthard Panoramic Express line as well. And there is some history here… the Teufelsbrücke (“Devil’s bridge”) over the nearby Schöllenen gorge was a major engineering accomplishment in the 1200’s that completed this important trade route over the Alps.
The Göschenertal valley extends west from here, surrounded by glacier-clad mountains, with hiking trails, wildlife, mountain huts, lakes and much to see and do.
Getting there is half the fun, right? Being in such a central location, the Göschenertal can be approached from just about any direction. Andermatt is 4 hours from Zermatt or 4½ hours from St Moritz with the Glacier Express train. If you’re not taking the Glacier Express (which requires advance reservations for limited space), regular trains run the same routes hourly. It’s about 2 hours from Zürich or Lucerne, and less than 2 hours from Lugano. The Gotthard Panoramic Express is another possibility, combining a steam boat ride across Lake Lucerne with a panoramic train ride through the region that stops in Göschenen. Wherever you start from, there’s a convenient and scenic train ride to this region!
Once you’re in Göschenen, you’ll need to change to a bus that runs once every two hours. Swiss Post buses run everywhere. Unlike most bus routes in Switzerland though, this one won’t run if nobody has reserved, so it’s best to make a reservation, at least 2 hours in advance. You can do this at any train station, or call +41 79 343 0109. You don’t want to miss out, so get your spot reserved on the bus! The bus takes 30 minutes to wind its way up to Göscheneralp, Dammagletscher – a beautiful trip up a quiet, pretty valley. This brings you to the turquoise blue waters of Göschenen reservoir.
The valley is walled off by the 3600 meter Dammastock mountain, and has 5 alpine club huts scattered throughout. It has a number of beautiful granite boulders strewn around and a lot of water. The reservoir itself is very scenic, the Berggasthaus Dammaglescher greets you at the final bus stop at the edge of the reservoir. They serve a lot of typical Swiss dishes in a typical Swiss setting (that’s a good thing), which you can enjoy either inside or out on their scenic terrace. They have a reputation for good food and friendly service to match their beautiful location.
The reservoir is part of a larger project where water is collected here, and then diverted 7 km through an underground tunnel to a hydro turbine where they have a good 700 meter drop.
For hikes, you have quite a few options. Begin your hike on the north side of the lake. Ascend through a small carved out section of rock and start to climb quickly. Moors or peat bogs are common in this area, and if the water has pooled just right, you get a reflection of the Dammagletscher in the far end of the valley.
Hungry? If you’re up for something short but steep, head to Bergseehütte. It’s a stiff climb, but well rewarded with a cozy hut, high alpine lake, and sweeping views.
Up for more adventure? You might take the valley route into the Chelenalp hut. Continue down along the ridge to the far western side of the lake. This narrow glacier-carved valley is as beautiful as it is quiet, with a good steep ascent to the Chelenalp Hut at the end. Make sure to have some cherry and chocolate cake before returning.
If you have the time, think about extending your stay with an overnight at the Chelenalp hut, a very typical Alpine club hut run by a young couple, Remo and Petra Gisler. They have dorm space for 56, and are open mid-June through October. This is really what hiking in the Alps should be like… quiet trails, beautiful mountains, and a hot meal at a cozy hut at the end of the day!
The water, the rocks, the glaciers, the huts, the wildlife! The Göschenertal doesn’t have any famous peaks, but it has it all. This is the essence of Switzerland here. You won’t find it in any guidebooks, but if you find yourself in the Göschenertal, you’ll be glad you did!