Vacation rentals in Switzerland (chalets, farms, apartments)
Hiking in Engelberg
The mountain town of Engelberg serves as an excellent base for hiking and is a delightful town to visit. It is located at the end of a valley south of Lake Lucerne. Engelberg can be reached by train from Stans, near the lake.
You can reach enough hiking trails directly from the town to easily fill a week or two of hiking. If you stay longer, there are other good hiking areas nearby: several spots down the valley to Stans, hikes from the towns on Lake Lucerne and hikes in the area around Meiringen. If you have bad weather, there are good low level hikes in Engelberg.
In August 2003 we spent a week in Engelberg in a vacation rental apartment that we found through the tourist office. We devoted our days to hiking in the area. Although we did have a car for our trip, we could easily have managed without it in Engelberg.
Engelberg (population 3,000) is a nice sized town with good food shopping stores and several restaurants. We did not see many Americans here; mostly German and Swiss visitors. There is some tourist traffic because of the mountain ride to Titlis, one of the highest peaks in Switzerland. There are several hotels and vacation rentals.
There are five main hiking areas in Engelberg:
These areas are described in more detail on this page.
At the tourist office you can purchase a lift pass good for six consecutive days for all the mountain rides from Engelberg (this does not include the ride from Trubsee to Titlis). In summer 2002, we paid CHF 76 for this pass. You don't save much money buying the pass but if you plan to use the rides a lot it is worth getting.
Note: Be clear on how long the pass is good for and when it starts. The Engelberg Tourist offices is open on Saturday, but only in the afternoon on Sunday. You might have to buy your pass on the Saturday, but be sure it starts from the Sunday, the first day you will use it.
Hikes from Trubsee
To reach Trubsee from Engelberg, you take a gondola. There is a stop at Gerschnialp, a farming area below Trubsee. From Trubsee, you can do an easy walk around the lake, or walk back down to Engelberg (1hr 45min), or hike up to Jochpass (1hr 40min), or hike up to Jochpass and down to Engstlenalp (2hr 30min). The hike to Jochpass is uphill and there may be mountain bikes on the trail.
Hiking sign at Trubsee
Our Hike from Trubsee to Engelberg
This is a nice easy hike, with a good restaurant in Untertrubsee for lunch.
Thursday, August 29, 2002: We were all set to hike, but could not decide where to go. Clouds sat over Trubsee on one side of our valley and over Brunni on the other. It looked like there were breaks in the clouds over Trubsee, so we decided on a low level hike there. For some reason, the gondola was not running. Instead there was a funicular to the first level and then a large cable car from there. We took these to Trubsee.
Trubsee was covered in cloud, but visibility for hiking was good. We did an easy 2 hour hike down the mountain, back to Engelberg. First we walked along the lake, then down a steep hill full of cows. It leveled off to a nice hike after a bit. We stopped at Unter Trubsee for a good lunch. This restaurant is at the base of a mountain ride that was not running and can also be reached by private road. It was cold so we sat inside. I had "kaseschnitte" - melted cheese sandwich. Steve had Rosti - potatoes. We shared a meringue dessert. This is a specialty of the area. It is like a hunk of sponge candy and tastes like pure sugar. They topped it with a huge amount of fresh whipped cream. Nice, but you would not want to have one too often! After lunch, we did an easy walk on a little used road back to Engelberg.
Hikes from Jochpass (2207 meters)
To reach Jochpass from Engelberg, you take a gondola to Trubsee, walk across the valley (15min), then take a chairlift to the top of Jochpass.
From Jochpass, you can walk down to Engstlenalp by two different routes (1hr or 1hr 20min) or over to Tannenalp (1hr 30min), or walk back down to Trubsee (1hr) and Engelberg (3hrs).
Hiking sign at Jochpass
Our Hike from Jochpass to Engstlenalp
This is a difficult and rocky downhill hike. There is a good restaurant in Engstlenalp for lunch.
Sunday, August 25, 2002: This was our first hike in Engelberg. We took a gondola from town to Trubsee. From there you can take a very expensive ride to Titlis (not covered in our lift pass - would be CHF 76 from Engelberg), but we didn't bother with this. From the Trubsee gondola, you walk across a small valley, along a lake for 15 minutes to get to the Jochpass chairlift. There was a restaurant at the top of the Trubsee gondola, but we walked to the one by the Jochpass chairlift and had coffee there. There are restaurants in the hiking (and skiing) areas all around here.
We took the open air chair lift up to Jochpass and then took the trail from there. You could take another chairlift down from Jochpass to the Engstlensee where you walk for 20 minutes to Engstlenalp (this is a better plan, which we did do another day). That way you would get to Engstlenalp easily and then do more hikes from there. Instead we did a trail that went up from Jochpass, along the side of the mountain and then steeply down to Engstlenalp. The trail was rutted and rocky and was hard on the knees going down. It took about 2 hours (but some of that time was me just standing there and complaining).
The views on the hike from Jochpass to Engstlenalp were incredible.
We had a good lunch at Hotel Engstlenalp: Rosti with fried eggs and beer. Everyone else was having those huge German sausages. We sat outside on the terrace and the place was packed; all Germans and Swiss out for a day of hiking.
The last rides go back around 5pm, so you need to get an early start on returning from a hike. After lunch (around 3pm) we walked to the chairlift and then took rides all the way back to town (almost an hour on three different rides with some walking between them). It started to rain lightly and at one point we were almost in the clouds.
Hikes from Engstlenalp
To reach Engstlenalp from Engelberg, you ride on gondola to Trubsee, walk across the valley (15min), take a chairlift to Jochpass, another chairlift to Engstlensee, then a 10 minute walk to Hotel Engstlenalp where many hikes start, and where you can get a good lunch. It takes over an hour to get from Engelberg to Engstlenalp. Engstlenalp is a large valley with a small lake and a hotel.
From Engstlenalp, you can hike up to Tannenalp (45min) and then to Frutt (1hr 50min). From Frutt you can take a ride down to Sarnen where you get a bus and then trains back to Engelberg. From Engstlenalp, you can take a bus to Meiringen or walk (4hr). There are other trails up on Tannenalp and in the Engstlenalp valley.
Engstlenalp is accessible from Engelberg by gondolas and chairlift and from Meiringen by bus or car. You can stay in Engstlenalp at the hotel there.
Hiking sign near the Hotel Engstlenalp
Our Hike from Engstlenalp to Tannenalp
This is lovely walk from Engstlenalp to Tannenalp. There is a good restaurant in Engstlenalp for lunch and a cafeteria style restaurant in Tannenalp.
Friday, August 30, 2002: This was our chance to return to Engstlenalp and do the hike up to Tannenalp. We were at the Trubsee lift by 10am. (An earlier start would be better. During our stay, most days were starting out cloudy, then clearing; we were setting our start times to catch more clear sky.)
We took the gondola to Trubsee, walked over to the base of Jochpass, took the chairlift up and another down, then walked to Hotel Engstlenalp for coffee. It took an hour on the rides and another 20 minutes walking at the end. By noon we were just starting our hike. There were not many people on the trails and mountain rides. When we returned on Sunday, there were lots of people.
Chairlift coming down from Jochpass to Engstlenalp
Engstlenalp consists of the one hotel with the restaurant and a few farms in a wide open valley. There is a lake at the end of the valley. The mountain ride comes down at one end of the lake and the hotel is at the other end.
From Hotel Engstlenalp it is 45 minutes uphill to Tannenalp. Most of it is a beautiful, gentle uphill. You only have a steep climb for 15 minutes or so. Beautiful views back down the valley to Engstlenalp.
This trail went up along a hillside with some trees and fields of wildflowers. At the top you reached a large plateau with Tannenalp (a few houses, farms, a church, a restaurant) and a lake. If you walk another 1 hour 15 minutes you would reach another lake and the town of Frutt where you can take a gondola down to a town and then a bus to the train which returns to Engelberg. This might be fun, but would take some time with all the bus and train changes.
We had hoped to hike to Frutt, but we had left too late. The rides back end at 4:30pm and we would not have made it back to Engstlenalp in time. So we walked around Tannenalp, then went back down to Engstlenalp in time for a late lunch at the hotel. Steve had trout, I had Rosti with cheese.
We had a lovely lunch sitting on the sun terrace. A group of older (well, older than us) Swiss men were having a snack and I asked if I could take a photo of their beautiful cheese dish. One of them spoke in Italian to Steve and invited me to take a photo of real Swiss hikers.
We walked back to the mountain ride and started riding back by 3:30. Back in town before 5pm.
Swiss hikers having a cheese break
Hikes from Brunni (1806 meters at Ristis)
A large cable car takes you from Engelberg to Ristis. From there you can hike or continue higher by chairlift to Brunnihutte.
From Ristis you can do an easy walk back down to Engelberg via Schwand. We did not do this, but it looked like a good hike. Or you can do a loop hike up to Planggenstafel then across to the Brunnihutte and across further, then down and back to Ristis. This is a 2 hour hike.
From Brunni, you can also walk other routes down to Engelberg and high level hikes.
This hiking sign shows the high level trails to Oberrickenbach in one direction and Rugghubehutte in the other. It also shows the easier hike to Schwand and Engelberg.
This hiking sign shows the different hikes you can take down to Engelberg (all are under 1hr 30min).
Our Hike from Ristis to Brunnihutte and back to Ristis (a circle)
This is a good hike with both uphill and downhill. You can enjoy lunch at a good restaurant at Brunnihutte.
Thursday, August 29, 2002: Took the cable car (large gondola) to Brunni. The cable car station is a couple of blocks from our apartment and we found a path to it cutting behind the Hotel Edelweiss so we did not have to walk down the hill to town and then back up again to the gondola station. The gondola leaves every 30 minutes.
We got on the gondola at the station and waited. A few other hikers got on. A nicely dressed, elderly woman stood on the platform. When the buzzer rang, she got into the gondola. A "driver" also got on. We started out up the hill, but about half way up we stopped at one of the big cable support structures that had a platform on it. This must have been the half way point, because the gondola going down stopped there too. The driver opened the door and pulled a gangplank down, the elderly woman walked out onto the platform. The driver left too, put the gangplank back up, closed the door, went to the other gondola and got on it. We continued up the hill (driverless). Looking down I could see the woman had to climb down about 30 steps to reach the ground. There were a few houses and farms close by. This must be how she gets back and forth to town. On our way back down in the afternoon, we saw a couple of school children do the same thing. This time we were on the gondola going down and the driver got in with us to return to the station.
The Brunni gondola ends at Ristis. There is a restaurant and some things for kids here (playground, a slide thing, some farm animals). We were not able to figure out a good hike ahead of time, so we looked at the signs and picked one.
We chose the Brunni-Pfad, a sort of nature trail. It climbed gently uphill on a good wide trail for 1 1/2 hours to the Brunnihutte. We had a good lunch at the Brunnihutte (Rosti again), then walked back down to Ristis (another hour). This was a good trail. It makes a sort of circle from Ristis. We started in the direction of Alperbeizi Rigidalalp, then to the Brunnihutte, then the long route back to Ristis. We passed some farms, stopping at one of them for coffee, and took in the beautiful views across to Titlis. On the top section we were walking in the alpine area above the tree line.
View from the trail to the Brunnihutte and Titlis across the valley.
Hikes from Furenalp
The cable car to Furenalp is at the end of the valley, a couple of miles from Engelberg. You can drive and park or take a bus. The cable car is a bit terrifying, ascending very steeply up the mountain side.
From Furenalp, you can walk in two directions:
There are restaurants at the top of the ride, and several along the trails. They are marked on the hiking map.
This sign shows the hike that takes you back along the mountain, then down a river valley back to the bottom of the gondola station
Instead of a hiking sign at the top of Furenalp, there was a large map showing the routes. Click here to see it (large image). These are some of the routes listed on the map:
Hikes to the East
Furenalp > Abnet > Stauber > Stafeli > Alpenrosli > Talistation Furenalp (cable car station) - 3hr (this is the hike that we did, with a short extra walk to a farm for coffee).
Furenalp > Abnet > Stauber > Blackenalp > Surrenenpass > Brusti > Attinghausen - 6hr. Attinghausen is a town on the motorway to to the Gottard Tunnel, just south of Altdorf. From here you could take a bus or train back to Engelberg. There is a mountain ride from Brusti to Attinghausen.
This hiking sign was along the trail from Furenalp to Engelberg.
Hikes to the West
Furenalp > Dagenstal > Wasserfall > Talistation Furenalp (cable car station) - 2hr
Furenalp > Dagenstal > Ober Zeibien > Horbis > Engelberg - 4hr
Our Hike from Furenalp to Blackenalp and then down to the valley where we parked
This is a good hike, with a good restaurant in Stauber for lunch.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002: Today we tried the third hiking area in Engelberg - Furenalp. We drove about 5 minutes to the end of the valley and parked (free to get in, but you had to pay CHF 3 to leave!). There is a bus service to this gondola if you do not have a car. You could see this was the scariest gondola of the area. This was a small gondola car holding 8 people that went straight up a wall of rock. There was no tower until you were at the top of the rock face.
There were a few casual and chatty Swiss hikers with us. I sat with my back to the downhill and did not look out. I was terrified, and I didn't see anything. Steve was standing and saw the whole view and was terrified. But, I figure, what are the chances of dying in a gondola accident in Switzerland? They must be pretty low. The odds were with us.
There is a restaurant at the top of the ride, but who could even think of eating after that? There are two main trails from the top of this gondola, one high level walk back to Engelberg and one easier walk further up the valley and then back to the valley floor to the bottom of the gondola station. We chose the latter and it was the best hike of the trip so far. This would be a good hike to start out on. The trail was in good shape and gently sloped down. Some parts were a bit steep. There were lots of cows on the trail. You hike with the sounds of their bells.
Cows on the path
It was about 1 1/2 hours to a turnaround point, but we extended the hike further up the valley to Blackenalp. This added a 30 minute uphill climb (nice after all the downhill), a stop at a farm for coffee (I am starting to like instant coffee) and to buy farm made cheese (CHF 15, about $10, for 1 kg. We bought 1/2; it was really good.) and then 30 minutes downhill to rejoin the trail. You could keep going up past this farm for longer hikes.
This farm was run by a friendly couple. She sat knitting until people arrived, he was working around the farm yard. They offered drinks and snacks. There were also hotel accommodations. You can only get there by hiking - no roads to this place. They also had public restrooms for the hikers (all the farms that have food available also have restrooms). She spoke perfect English and showed us the cold room where they store the rounds of cheese and the giant pot in the corner of the kitchen where they make it. Many of these farms are lived in during the summer only. The farmers come up from the valley floor and let their cows graze in the meadows. In September there is a special celebration in Engelberg to welcome the farmers and cows back to town for the winter.
We had thought we would get lunch at Blackenalp, but no real food was available. We continued on the hike and made it by 1:30pm or so to Stafeli, a place with a restaurant that can be reached by a private road. We sat outside with several other groups of hikers and looked out at the Spannort mountains. I had a small bottle of white wine (Fendant from the Valais region - smaller than a half bottle, it was 3 dl). Steve had beer and we had, once again, Rosti with eggs. Again it was excellent.
It is lovely to sit out in the full sun eating lunch and looking at the incredible mountain vistas. We had a one hour easy walk back to the car. The total was about 3 1/2 to 4 hours of walking - a perfect hike.
This was our favorite hike in Engelberg. You could make it shorter by skipping Blackenalp or longer by continuing on to Surrenpass, past Blackenalp.
www.engelberg.ch: Engelberg Tourist Office. Information about the area and accommodation booking.
www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=538: Photos from our week in Engelberg, September 2002.
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