GASTLOSEN HIKING TRAIL: THE DOLOMITES OF SWITZERLAND
A Sunday morning on the Gastlosen hiking trail was a quintessential Swiss experience. There was epic, panoramic mountain views, friendly hikers of all ages on the trail, ‘bonjour’ being thrown around every few steps, coffee and cake back at the cabin restaurant and it was all topped off by the owner playing the Fribourg anthem on the Alpine Horn. It was a morning not to be forgotten.
I must address the Dolomites reference in the title. While Gastlosen hike isn’t quite the Dolomites, we couldn’t help but draw parallels as the resemblance of the jagged, narrow, cliff face had us likening the scenery to the famous, ‘Dolomiti’, one of Italy’s biggest attractions.
The regular way to hike at Gastlosen is to do the circular, panoramic route. However, we did the much more entertaining and challenging summit of Wandflue.
Hike Distance: From the parking lot to the summit and return the hike is almost 10 kilometers exactly.
Hike Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours of moving time.
Hike Difficulty: Trail begins on a wide, steep path. Then progresses to dirt and rocky path, which is still steep. Progresses again to rock, grass, gravel where some hands may be required but it is not extremely technical. 700m of the incline in 5km so it is quite steep.
Hike Incline: Total elevation throughout the hike 800m total incline on the out and back loop.
HOW TO GET TO GASTLOSEN HIKING TRAIL
The Gastlosen Hike starts at the parking lot in Musersbergli. Here you will park and begin the first 2-kilometers of the trek until you reach the Chalet du Soldat, where you can stop for a coffee before heading up to the Wandflue Summit. I’ve attached my GPX map below, which you can download here for use on your Garmin, smartwatch or another app.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING IN GASTLOSEN TO THE WANDFLUE SUMMIT
Packed in the car, we drove from Fribourg at dawn as we watched the pinks and purples paint the sky throughout the drive. By the time we arrived at the parking lot at Musersbergli, the pastels had finished and the first light of the day was starting to find a way through the cracks and gaps in the cliffs above. One cow (must be my spirit animal, was already searching for that morning sunshine to warm up)
The trail to Wandflue is 5km out and 5km back. With 700m of the incline in the first 5km, it is genuinely a steep encounter from the first moments until the summit. The wide, winding path is sure underfoot until you reach the chalet with views up the Gastlosen mountain range on your right throughout the early moments of this trail.
A group of rock-climbers headed up to the bottom of one of the walls to begin a day of challenging vertical climbs on one of the most unique climbing destinations in Switzerland. We were attempting something far less impressive. Our aim was to reach the Wandflue summit, which looks back down along the ridge. Most hikers do a panoramic lap around Gastlosen, which is still quite a hike but to the summit of Wandflue is a bit more of a scramble.
We reached the Chalet after about 40-minutes although it may take some slightly longer with the steep incline. Allow for an hour maximum for this segment of the trail. At the chalet you can enjoy a coffee, beers, cakes and more but we opted to continue on our way and stop by the chalet when we returned.
As you stand beside the chalet there are a big set of signs. We headed up following ‘Grat’ but there is never any Wandflue sign, you just kind of head up there at the right moment. I’ll show you when later on. This part of the trail is steep again but now you are walking along a dirt track in amongst shrubs with lots of rocks to navigate. Good trail shoes become key on this terrain.
Once you reach the plateau you can now either follow around the corner to the left and do a lap of Gastlosen or you can continue up the hill to Wandflue. Be warned, there is really no trail to Wandflue other than the footsteps of those before you. There are no markings or signs and there are multiple routes up. It isn’t something crazy but definitely a level up from the early parts of the trail. Be ready to use your hands. Also, be ready to look back frequently as Gastlosen ridgeline gets more and more beautiful as you rise higher and higher.
With caution, we made our way up the gravel and rocks towards the Wandflue summit. The views got better every ten steps as more and more of the panoramic surround became visible. From the mid-section plateau, it takes only 15-20 minutes of steep climbing to reach the cross at the summit of the Wandflue.
The journey down from the summit was probably my favorite part. This is because you had a great view in front of you for the entire journey and really had a great opportunity to admire the Gastlosen Ridge. Don’t admire it too much though as you will need your full concentration on your feet as you practice some fancy footwork on the decline with slippery rocks, gravel and slick grass challenging your agility and balance.
We made it back to the Chalet after four hours of adventuring with a 50-minute break at the Wandflue summit. It was time for a citron tart, coffee and a chance to look out over the valley and enjoy this beautiful region. Truly recommend this trail and region in general with its unique rock formations and beautiful panorama views.
BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND WITH TRANSPORT IN SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, the most popular form of transport is the train (and sometimes bus). It always arrives on time, is comfortable, efficient and covers almost all parts of the country. It’s damn good and one of the best public transport systems in the world. But it’s not cheap. A one-way ticket for a 1.5-hour journey can quickly rise to 70 USD. The best option is to buy a 3-day, 8-day or 15-day pass with the Swiss Travel System Pass, which gives you unlimited train rides during that period. It will pay itself off very quickly and makes the train (and bus) travel very convenient without requiring you to buy a ticket each time. I used this myself and used the trains and buses for almost my whole time in Switzerland. To head to the page where you can book your Swiss Travel Pass online you can click HERE and select how many days you would like to purchase the pass for.
The other option (Which I also purchased) was the Swiss Half-Fare Card, which gives you half-price tickets on all transport including buses and trains. This ticket lasts for a month and is much cheaper than the full pass obviously but will pay itself off in a matter of a few days as we quickly found out! To visit the page where you can book your Swiss Half-Fare Card you can click HERE and select the date you want it to start.
The other option is renting a car. After our first few expensive train tickets, we started to think this might be the better option and to our surprise, the train can often be far more expensive than renting a car in Switzerland. For example one day we went from Zurich to hike Mount Pilatus and back to Zurich and our total train tickets for four people was $300 USD. The car rental per day was $90 USD. If you are in a group of two (definitely three) or more, I highly suggest renting a car if you are covering a lot of ground as it will give you scheduling freedom and likely be cheaper as we found.