After we stocked up on meringues in Meiringen and got on Post Bus 161 at the Meiringen bus/train station, we followed the Aare River southeast past Innertkirchen, dropped some folks off to hike to Trift Bridge, then went on to Handegg. We walked across the road & about 5 minutes uphill to the Gelmerbahn.
We had made reservations for the Gelmerbahn at www.grimselwelt.ch/en/ transport-lift/gelmer
for a specific time. The website says you need to be there 15 minutes prior to your allotted time slot. We were there even earlier; and there were openings on the funicular, so they let us go up early.
We also made reservations for the trip back down from the top, not knowing how crowded it would be. We gaged about 3 hours to hike, take pictures, and eat our pack lunches.
You face down the mountain as you go up in the funicular at a 106 degree angle...like a roller coaster ride. The whole valley opens up before you and within a few seconds your heart rate returns to normal as you move slowly up a few thousand feet. The mountains drop away and you can no longer see the bottom of the funicular track.
At the top you have about a 50 to 100m walk to the lake. There are restrooms, but no food available (at least when we were there). I would not take a child under 10 on this hike due to sharp drop-offs of a 100' or so. Though, I have read articles where younger children hiked. We had hiking poles which were helpful. You can go either direction around the lake, and it was not crowded AT ALL. We probably saw 15 people in the 3 hours we were walking on July 9th. The hike from the funicular to the dam was flat.
How to describe it...you hike over at least 2 large water falls, around a lake that is brilliantly blue green, flowers everywhere in vivid colors, cliffs hundreds of feet high where the path is cut in about 1.5 feet wide with nothing to hang on to, other places where they do provide a horizontal rope to guide you across a 1.5 foot ledge sticking out over the water, views of snow covered mountains that reflect like glass in the lake, views down into the lake where you can see the shadowy bottom, places to sit on a rock and put your feet in (and right back out due to the glacial water...). We saw one fisherman, one set of tent campers, and a couple folks wading (who rescued my pole when I dropped it off that 1.5 foot ledge). Intense quiet and views that leave you in awe.
There are rocks to climb over, most of it is not a flat smooth path. But it is very do-able - our average age is 60. We started over the dam, saving the narrow cliff walk for the last. We did not want to leave so we just sat down and soaked up the majesty. Finally, we took the funicular back down, then walked across the swinging bridge over the Aare River to the Handegg hotel. Behind the hotel there is a small shop where they make and sell a number of different homemade cheeses along with drinks. Fun to explore while you wait for the bus back to Meiringen.
As we evaluated our whole trip, this day...the funicular up and down with the hike around the lake, with all the incredible places we had the opportunity to visit, this was the highlight for both of us.
We returned by bus to Meiringen, ate our other "second required dinner" of Raclette, went back to the church we had visited the evening before. Going inside the building we found they had a grand piano which my husband had never played but always longed to...so he did.
We traveled the Sustenpass by bus the next day to Wassen, trains/buses to Fluelen and a beautiful trip on the Vierwaldsstattersee to Weggis where we spent the night (Hotel Seehof du Lac) after visiting Mt. Rigi. Took a boat our final day to Lucerne to visit the farmer's market, the bridges, the Lion Monument, and eat our packed lunch along the lake before taking the last trains back to the Zurich Airport. We did not want to leave...
Thank you so much for your help. We could not have done this trip without you. What an amazing forum.