Chilchbalm

Distance: 5.8 miles

Bernese Oberland, near Lauterbrunnen in Bernese Oberland

Chilchbalm Basin and cirque at the head of the Sefinental Valley

Chilchbalm Basin and cirque at the head of the Sefinental Valley

 

The trail to the Chilbalm, a pretty basin set at the base of a rugged cirque at the head of the Sefinental Valley, is the perfect for anyone looking for a peaceful, relatively easy day hike. The trip is accompanied by fine views of the high peaks rimming the south side of the valley, pretty streams, waterfalls and rugged cliffs.

  • Distance: 5.8 miles (RT)
  • Elevation: 4,470-ft. at Trailhead
    Maximum elevation - 5,040-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 570-ft.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Basecamp: Lauterbrunnen
  • Region: Bernese Oberland

 

Trail Description - Chilchbalm

This is a great trail for a cloudy/rainy day that precludes a trip to higher elevations. It is also a good option if you just want a relaxing day to an off-the-beaten path destination.

The trip can be extended by starting/ending the hike in Stechelberg or returning via Murren. The Murren option requires steep ascents that are paid back with great view of the high peaks towering above the Lauterbrunnen Valley and beyond. Information on these options is found at the end of the hike description.

Gimmelwald to the Chilchbalm

This trail starts by taking the bus from Lauterbrunnen to the Schilthornbahn and then riding the cable car to Gimmelwald (see directions to the trailhead below). Outside the cable car station in Gimmelwald find the trail signpost and start walking southwest through the village on a paved road toward the Kilchbalm (an alternative spelling of Chilchbalm). Ahead the Ellstabhorn, Tschingelspitz, Gspaltenhorn and nearby peaks tower above the south side of the Sefinental valley.

At 0.3 miles reach an intersection where the road splits. Bear left on the road, signed for the Kilchbalm, which drops down the hillside. Soon the road turns sharply to the left. Here we continue straight ahead on a dirt/gravel track, again signed for the Kilchbalm.

We now leave the last of the houses behind as the broad path descends on moderate grades accompanied by fine views of the high peaks rimming the Sefinental valley. As you descend the path travels by a pretty waterfall and passes through clusters of trees.

At 1.1 miles reach a junction at the foot of the Sefinental valley. The trail to the left drops down to Stechelberg, an alternative starting location for the hike. (See directions below for more information.) We continue straight ahead. The path now ascends through pastures on moderate grades, passing a small alp. The cirque, anchored by Butlasse and Gspaltenhorn, fills the skyline at the head of the valley.

Soon the pastures give way to trees and the valley constricts. The trail now ascends on moderately steep grades beside a rushing stream, passing avalanche chutes and cliffs. At 1.8 miles the path crosses a bridge over the Sefibach, a stream tumbling down the steep hillside above the trail.

Reach at junction at 2.0 miles. To the right is a trail heading toward Boganggenalp/Rotstockhutte and Sefinenfurgge, the pass between Lauterbrunnen and Griesalp. We bear left on the trail toward the Chichbalm.

Beyond the junction the valley briefly widens and the trail travels through meadows with views of the cirque. After a quarter mile the path reenters the trees and crosses a stream on a wood bridge. The valley again constricts as we ascent steeply through trees and intermittent meadows to a pretty Chilchbalm basin (5,040-ft.) beneath the soaring cirque at 2.6 miles.

The basin, clad in rocky meadows and sprinkled with stunted conifers, features fine views of the rugged slopes of the Butlasse massif and the Gspaltenhorn. Small waterfalls, fed by permanent snowfields and small glacier, spill down the steep cliffs at the head of the valley. Behind you are great views of the Jungfrau rising above the Lauterbrunnen valley.

As you wander up the basin the trail soon peters out and disappears at 2.9 miles. The basin is a great place to take a break and enjoy the scene.

There are several options for the return journey from the basin. The easiest is to simply turn around and walk back to Gimmelwald for a 5.8 miles round trip hike. Alternatively, you could hike all the way back to Stechelberg for a 6.6 mile hike. Hikers looking for a longer, more challenging hike with great views should consider ascending the steep trail to Murren.

Chilchbalm to Murren

  • Distance Gimmelwald to Chilchbalm to Murren: 8.9 miles
  • Elevation at Murren: 5, 370-ft.
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,937-ft. / -2,046-ft.
  • Difficulty: strenuous

To hike to Murren, retrace your steps to the junction with the trail to the Sefinenfurgge at 3.8 miles and turn left toward the Sefinenfurrge. The path now climbs long switchbacks up the very steep slopes along the north side of the Sefinental valley, traveling through clusters of trees and meadows. Steps facilitate the ascent.

As you ascend the meadows offer ever improving views of the cirque and the peaks lining the south side of the Sefinental valley. The Jungfrau and its neighboring peaks towers above the Lauterbrunnen valley to the east.

At 4.8 miles the grade abates a bit and views open to the Hundshore and Schilthorn rimming a huge bowl to the west. Rugged cliffs and a photogenic horn rise to the southwest.

The path soon resumes its steep climb and reaches a junction at 5.0 miles. The trail straight ahead leads to the Rotstockhutte and the Seginenfurgge. We turn right (east) toward Oberberg and Murren.

Past the junction the stiff climbs continues as the trail passes through Oberberg. Just beyond the small hamlet the grade abates and now ascends on moderate grades high above the north side of the Sefinental valley. Ahead are great views of the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and the peaks rimming the east side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Reach a junction with the Alpine Pass Route and the high point of the trail at 6.2 miles. To the left (west) the Alpine Pass route heads toward the Sefinenefurgge and Griesalp. We turn right toward Spielbodenalp and Murren.

At 6.3 miles ignore the trail to the left climbing to Bryndli and continue toward Murren. The trail now curves around the end of the ridge at the foot of the Sefinental Valley, emerging into the Lauterbrunnen valley. Here views stretch west to the Wetterhorn and the Eiger. Across the valley the high peaks from the Jungfrau to the Breithorn, at the head of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, dominate the view to the west/southwest.

At 6.5 mile the trail starts a steep decent down tight switchbacks. Take a break as you descend to enjoy the amazing views of the high peaks across the valley. The grade abates as the trail reaches Spielbodenalp and a junction at 7.0 miles. A restaurant at the alp enjoys fine views of the Bernese Oberland peaks.

At the Spielbodenalp junction continue along the Alpine Pass Route toward Murren. The path descends through pastures, crosses a bridge over the Schiltbach, a small stream, and then ascends to a junction at a gravel road. Turn right on the road toward Murren.

The road descends on moderate to moderately-steep grades through pastures and travels by small alps. Along the way enjoy more fine views of the peaks to the west. At all intersections continue in the direction of Murren.

At 8.3 miles the grade abates as the trail reaches the outskirts of Murren and passes the cable car station with service to Stechelberg. Continue through the town, following the signs for the railway station. Reach the railway station at 8.9 miles. Here a train runs to the cable car that descends to Lauterbrunnen.

For an easier option, reverse the hike and walk from Murren to the Chilchbalm to Gimmelwald.

Starting the Hike at Stechelberg

  • Distance Stechelberg to the Chilchbalm: 7.4 miles (round trip)
  • Starting Elevation at Stechelberg: 2,893-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,147-ft.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Hikers wishing to forgo the lift can start the hike at the Stechelberg bus stop. Head south through town and watch for a trail signpost marking the right turn toward the Chilchbalm. The trail travels through meadows and then begins a steep climb up the south side of the Sefinental valley. At 0.8 miles cross a bridge to the north side of the valley and continue the ascent on easier grades. The path soon reaches a junction with a broad track. Continue straight ahead on the track that ascends through trees along the north side of the creek, reaching the junction at Sefinental at 1.9 miles.

    From the Sefinental junction, follow the directions above to the Chichbalm. The hike up from Stechelberg adds 0.8 miles to the hike (one-way) and 1,250-ft. in elevation gain.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile for the hiking trail to the Chilchbalm

Driving Directions

From Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff to Gimmelwald via the Schilthorn Cable Car system: From the bus stop near the northern end of the Lauterbrunnen train station, take the #141 bus bound for Stechelberg and get off at the Schilthornbahn stop, the bottom station for the cable car system to the Schilthorn. The bus ride takes about 14 minutes. Note: There are many bus stops between the train station and the lift station. Check SBB website or the SBB app for the current schedule and to determine the stop nearest to your accommodation.

At the Cable Car station, purchase a ticket for Gimmelwald. Take the cable car to Gimmelwald and exit the cable car station. Note: This is a four stage cable car which goes from bottom station to Gimmelwald and then to Murren, Brig and the Schilthorn, a popular viewpoint.

Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff to Stechelberg Hotel (last stop): Walk to the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff bus stop, located at the north end of the station along the main road. Catch the #141 bus bound for Stechelberg (last stop). The ride should take about 20 minutes. There are a number of stops along the main road through Lauterbrunnen to catch the bus. Check the SBB website or the SBB app for the current schedule and nearest stop.

From Stechberg Hotel to the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff (last stop): Walk north past the Stechelberg Hotel to the large parking lot and bus stop. Catch the #141 bus bound for the Lauterbrunnen Bahnhoff. The ride should take about 20 minutes. The bus makes a number of stop along the main road through the village. Check the SBB website or the SBB app for the current schedule and the stop nearest to your destination.

From Murren to Lauterbrunnen: Walk to the Murren train station at the north end of the village. Take the train to the Murren Bergbahn, the cable car descending to Lauterbrunnen. The train ride takes 14 minutes and the cable car 4 minutes. The walk from the train to the cable car is short and you should have no problem making the connection.

 

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