Aare Gorge Canyon Walk in Meiringen

Aare Gorge

The Aare Gorge canyon walk is another one of Switzerland’s fabulous nature excursions. It’s an easy, family-friendly experience that takes at most, a half day. Access is straight-forward from the town of Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland. (To get your bearings, Interlaken is just 25 minutes west by car.)

The glacier fed Aare River – Switzerland’s longest river – cuts through a narrow limestone gorge thousands of years in the making called the Aare Gorge. It can be viewed via a 1.6 km long walkway. While you can access the walkway at either end of the gorge, the western access is wheelchair and stroller friendly. The eastern access point is not.

Aare Gorge is well worth a visit to experience nature and a limestone gorge.

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Aare Gorge Canyon Walk summary

Distance: The trail is 1.6 km one way.

Time needed: An hour for an out and back walk.

Cost: The Aare Gorge is free for kids under 6. Adults pay 10 CHF and kids 6 – 15 years old pay 6.50 CHF.

Opening times: The west entrance to Aare Gorge opens first. In 2023 it will be open from April 1 – November 1. The east entrance to Aare Gorge will be open from May 18 – November 1, 2023.

It's a short walk to the gorge from Meiringen
It’s a short walk to the Aare Gorge from Meiringen

Aare Gorge – opened in the 1800’s

The Aare Gorge has been open to visitors since 1888. Since that time there have been ongoing construction projects and improvements with night lighting set up as early as 1912. Restaurants have been in place since 1928 though as recently as 2008 the Aare Restaurant was added.

By 1947, the Aare Gorge recorded attendance numbers of 180,000.

Looking down the Aare River
Looking down the Aare River as it heads for Brienz Lake

Aare Gorge Canyon walk description

A walk through the Aare Gorge is one of those take your breath away experiences, especially if you start at the western end of the gorge. Immediately you’ll see and feel the power of the Aare River. Peer over the railings to watch the glacially cold water move at speeds ranging from 4 km/h to 13 km/h. In just 12 minutes the water can shoot through the entire length of the gorge.

As you meander down the gorge you’ll go through tunnels but mostly you walk along a catwalk that is either beside the river or cantilevered over it. Photo opportunities – especially with “mood” lighting abound. When we visited, someone was playing an alphorn – so you knew you were in Switzerland.

At the eastern end of the gorge the catwalk narrows and in places only one person can pass at a time (and hence the reason strollers and wheelchairs don’t work in this section). But the gorge flattens out here and the drama disappears. Note that you can cross the river at the eastern end via a rope suspension bridge.

As you head for the eastern entrance the gorge becomes less narrow
As you head for the eastern entrance the gorge becomes less narrow

Kleing Enge – the narrow part of the gorge

During the gorge walk there is one place – the Kleine Enge – where the canyon walls narrow so they are only a metre apart. The water pounds through here. At Kleine Enge also check out the impressive glacier mills.

Other points of interest along the walk include a waterfall spilling out of the gorge wall near the eastern end and caves that were used during World War II. Be sure to look up too. In places the gorge walls are up to 200 metres high!

The Aare River forces its way through a narrow section
The Aare River forces its way through a narrow section
At the the narrowest point the gorge is a metre wide
At the the narrowest point the gorge is a metre wide
Some of the walk takes you through caves
Some of the walk takes you through caves
Man playing an alphorn
Playing an alphorn beside the Aare Gorge
Walking an elevated catwalk through the gorge
Walking an elevated catwalk through the gorge
Almost at the eastern entrance ofaare gorge admission gorge
Almost at the eastern entrance of Aare Gorge
The walkway narrows near the eastern section - no place for kid's strollers
The walkway narrows near the eastern section – no place for kid’s strollers

Useful information for visiting the Aare Gorge

The Aare Gorge is located between Meiringen and Innertkirchen. The western entrance with more extensive facilities (playground, gift shop and the Gastwerk GmbH Restaurant) is the easiest access point from Meiringen.

If you’re coming from Innertkirchen, use the eastern entrance unless you’ve got a stroller or wheelchair. The walkway is only accessible for approximately half its length with strollers/wheelchairs.

Interestingly the gorge is also dog friendly.

The western entrance opens in early April, the eastern entrance in mid-May. Both close in early November. Hours are 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM in summer though it’s open till 10 PM for part of the week. 

John admiring the view down the gorge
John admiring the view down Aare Gorge

Location map of the Aare Gorge Canyon walk

                                                       

Getting to the Aare gorge from the train station in Meiringen

It’s easy to get to Meiringen by train from Interlaken – or indeed anywhere in Switzerland. It only took us three hours with a couple of stops from the Zurich Airport. If you get a Swiss Travel Pass you can hop on and off with ease. From the train station in Meiringen, allow about 30 minutes to get to the gorge on foot.

By public transport: 

Take a train to Meiringen, then change to the regional train to either Aareschlucht West or Aareschlucht Ost. Get off and walk a few minutes to the park entrance. 

If you’re driving:

Head towards Meiringen. Follow signs to the Aareschlucht, east of Meiringen on the south side of the river. This is the address for Parkplatz Aareschlucht West on Google maps. There is parking outside the entrance to the gorge. 

There is limited parking at the east entrance to Aare Gorge.

Where to stay in Meiringen

My favourite hotel over our 10 day trip in Switzerland was the fabulous Hotel Victoria Meiringen – situated across from the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Rooms are clean, modern and very comfortable. Both breakfasts and dinners here are outstanding.

Hotel Alpbach is only 300 m from the train station in central Meirengen – and is rated very good.

If you’re looking for B&B sort of accommodation, check out Dunkel Blaue Maus, rated exceptional. It offers a private terrace with direct access to the garden. And you can enjoy panoramic views of the Reichenbach Falls. It is located 250 m from the cable car station to Hasliberg.

More reading about Switzerland

A big thank you to Switzerland Tourism for hosting my stay. 

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The stunning Aare Canyon Gorge walk in Meiringen, Switzerland

 

 

 

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