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The bus from Lauterbrunnen to the Trümmelbach falls continues on to STECHELBERG, a peaceful hamlet at the end of the road. It has a minuscule tourist office (033/855 10 32, www.stechelberg.ch), open limited hours. Stechelberg is famous for being the starting point for the cable-car ride up to Gimmelwald and Mürren, and on to the Schilthorn; the huge base station complex is 1km before the hamlet. This is where Interlaken’s thrill merchants do their bungee-jumping – a quality spectator sport in itself. Buses terminate at the end of the road in front of the Hotel Stechelberg (033/855 29 21, fax 855 44 38; a), a fine old hikers’ inn with creaky rooms upstairs. Round the corner are dorm beds in the Naturfreundehaus (033/855 12 02; Fr.26; bring your own sleeping bag), also with some spartan rooms (a).

Beyond Stechelberg, trails continue into the undeveloped and unpopulated upper part of the valley, which forms part of the hiking circuit described in the box on p.273. Only the hardiest outdoorsy types venture here, but the trails aren’t difficult and can offer some of the most rewarding hikes in the region, both for the spectacular views and for the isolation. There are no roads, and a short distance beyond Stechelberg begins a large area of land protected as a nature reserve. Three comfortable old inns along the main trail, all open May to October only and all requiring advance reservation, might persuade you to stay a night or two. An hour beyond Stechelberg is the Berghaus Trachsellauenen (033/855 12 35, fax 855 23 65; a), a pretty half-timbered house set in the woods; an hour and a half further is the atmospheric and characterful Hotel Tschingelhorn (033/855 13 43; a), while twenty minutes on up the trail is the Obersteinberg (033/855 20 33, fax 855 15 85; a), a working farm that relies on candlelight after dark and has no showers. Both the Tschingelhorn and the Obersteinberg also have dorm places, and both are above the treeline, giving spectacular views.

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