28 May 2015

The Swiss Path: Overview

To celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation, the "Swiss Path," aka "Weg der Schweiz" was built around the southernmost end of Lake Luzern. The trail is broken into 7 sections, each easily accessible by public transportation, so you can walk as little or much as you like. So far, we've hiked sections A-D, from Rütli to Flüelen, each section with its positives and negatives. Below is an overview of the whole Swiss path, with maps and links to details for each section.

The Swiss Path: Rütli to Seelisberg to Bauen (Sec. A and B)

The Rütli-Bauen section of the Swiss Path, aka "Weg der Schweiz," is a lovely trail in the forests and high alpine meadows bordering the southwest section of Lake Luzern. This hike is just one part of "The Swiss Path," aka "Weg der Schweiz," was built to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The whole Swiss Path is 35 km, but is broken into 7 sections, each easily accessible by public transportation, so you can walk as little or much as you like. This post covers sections A and B, the 8.6 km stretch from Rütli to Bauen, which includes a steep ascent to the alpine village of Seelisberg, then a leisurely walk back down to Bauen on the lake. Even though this hike sometimes follows roads and dips through small towns, we still really liked this hike and would definitely recommend it.

This hike is not suitable for strollers, but sections C and D of the Swiss Path are. That hike, from Bauen to Flüelen, is a mostly wide, flat path hugging the lake shore, with nice views of the surrounding mountains. It's not nearly as nice as this hike, as it is often right next to the road. But it's still a good time and I would recommend it if you need a low-key, easy walk with a view. See details for sections C and D here. I've also written an overview of the Swiss Path here

The Swiss Path: Bauen to Flüelen (Sec. C and D)

The Bauen-Isleten-Flüelen stretch of the Swiss Path is a flat, stroller-friendly trail on the shore of Lake Luzern, with pretty views of the surrounding mountains. This hike is one part of the much longer "Weg der Schweiz," aka Swiss Path, was built to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The whole Swiss Path is 35 km, but is broken into 7 sections, each easily accessible by public transportation, so you can walk as little or much as you like.

This post covers sections C and D, the only two stroller-friendly sections, about 10 km from Bauen to Flüelen. It's a flat, easy trail hugging the lakeshore, with lovely views of the lake and surrounding  mountains. There are lots of sculptures and art pieces along the way, celebrating the culture and history of Switzerland. Unfortunately, much of the trail is right next to a busy road and some even inside a tunnel with windows, which is not my ideal hike. But it's still a good time and I would recommend it if you need a low-key, easy walk with a view. It's also a good option for the shoulder season when higher altitude trails are closed.

I'll tell you all about sections C and D below. But you might also be interested in sections A and B, from Rütli to Seelisberg to Bauen, which are much prettier, through lush forests and flowering alpine meadows, but also more challenging, with steep ascents and lots of stairs. I've also written an overview of the Swiss Path.

27 May 2015

Stoos Hiking - Panorama, Ridge and Moor

Instead of taking visitors to Pilatus or Rigi, consider Stoos in the Swiss Knife Valley, which offers amazing views, slightly more affordable, with less crowds. There's a short panoramaweg at the top, suitable for strollers, with spectacular views of Lake Luzern and the surrounding mountains, as well as other more challenging hiking options, a couple of which I'll describe below. There's even a short theme trail the Stoos valley, with fun activities educating children about the Moor. The ride up, first on a super steep funicular, then two chair lifts, is a thrill in itself. There is a restaurant and picnic area + playground at the top, all with fantastic views. Please note that it requires a chair-lift, but it does have a windguard that makes me feel a bit safer with small kids. I've been here several times and taken many visitors. I highly recommend it.

25 May 2015

Toggenburg Tone Trail

The Toggenburg Tone Trail (aka Klangweg) is the gold standard when it comes to theme trails, with over 20 musical "instruments" scattered along a mostly stroller friendly hike in the eastern part of Switzerland. Every few minutes along the walk you'll find a different musical instrument for the kids to clank, bang and make lots of noise with. Your kids will be motivated to keep walking because you can usually either see or hear the next music station. This is a popular option for families and school groups, so you won't be alone on the trail. But there's plenty of room to spread out.

The whole trail is a little over 6km one way and you'll need to take a bus back to your car (details below). We usually spend about 4+ hours on the trail, playing at every station along the way and grilling our lunch. This is a full-day affair, but totally worth it. The trail is has a few ups and downs, but is not especially difficult and is mostly suitable for strollers. I've sent many people here and everyone has enjoyed it. I hope you do too!         (Last updated: May 2015)

17 May 2015

Emmental Show Dairy and Cheese-making

The Emmental Schaukaserei, aka Show Dairy, is a living museum showcasing cheese production throughout history. You can see various artifacts associated with historical cheese making, view modern cheese making live, and taste a few cheeses from the region. The site is free to visit and there is plenty to see without paying extra. Informational brochures, audio guides, guided tours and cheese making workshops are available for a fee. Kids will be pleased with the big playground, the puzzles and games on signboards around the property, and a scavenger hunt with a detective kit. It's touristy, but well-done and a fun place to take visitors.

15 May 2015

Kambly Cookie Experience

Kambly is a Swiss cookie company that has a visitor center in the Emmental region of Switzerland, where you can taste a wide variety of cookies and snacks that Kambly offers and learn about the origins of the Kambly company. They offer cookie-making workshops for children on Wednesdays and Saturdays, advance reservations required. They even have a special Kambly Train that will take you from Luzern or Bern to their visitor center in Trubschachen. The visitor center is small but fun and the cookies are delicious. Unless you're doing the cookie workshop, it's only worth a short visit, so you may want to combine this a visit to the nearby Emmental Show Dairy.

10 May 2015

Zentrum Paul Klee Bern and Children's Art Classes

Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to the art of Paul Klee, a Swiss-German painter influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Besides being an interesting cultural experience, the museum offers a variety of activities for children, which I describe below. My kids particularly enjoyed Open Studio, a one hour art class where they learned to imitate the line art of Paul Klee. I appreciate the extra effort they make to interest children in art and make them comfortable at the museum. It's a good option for a rainy day or any other time you need a bit of culture.

08 May 2015

Wirzweli Witch Trail

The Wirzweli Hexenweg, aka "Witch Trail," is a theme trail for children in the foothills between Luzern and Engelberg. Lizi, the "herb witch," tells the story of her forest through a series of interactive and informative stations, including a flying broom zip line, pine cone toss, guessing herbs by smell, a witch's house, etc. Kids have fun spying various witch artifacts hidden it the trees, like brooms, spiders, bats, owls and other animal statues. The trail is not suitable for strollers, but is mostly downhill and not difficult, recommended for children aged 4 and older. There are many nice picnic spots with grill pits and wood. Back at the gondola, there's an enormous playground, a rodelbahn, and ponys to pet. It's a fun day out for the whole family. Another bonus: since Wirzweli is at a relatively low elevation, it opens in late April, earlier in the season than other mountain hikes.

Note 25.May.2015: a couple readers have reported that the Witch trail is not quite ready for prime time yet this season. In early May, the trail was closed all together due to heavy rains during the week. Last weekend, several of the theme trail features were missing or in disrepair. I suspect these issues will be resolved by the time the summer hiking season starts in late June. But you never know. Consider yourself warned. 

17 April 2015

Sattel-Hochstückli Panorama Trail

Sattel-Hochstückli is a mountain resort with lots of attractions for kids, including a huge bouncy castle complex, toboggan run, and a long suspension bridge. Among several hiking options, the panorama trail is particularly nice, with stunning views and a series of interactive educational stations for the kids. Since it's at a lower elevation than most resorts, it's summer season starts very early, in late April and runs through early November. Since it's so close to Zurich, you could even go for a Wednesday afternoon after school. It's a nice resort in winter too, with a long sled run into the valley. See my Sattel in Winter post for details.