A visit to the Walensee waterfalls is an easy and fun day trip for Zurich families and a great affordable outing for visitors that will still impress. The short hike along the gorgeous lake is also a treasure hunt activity trail for children, with 8 treasure chests hidden along the way. Each chest has an activity, like a quiz or puzzle solve.
You can make a full day of it, picnicking at one of the several fire pits or taking it easy at the restaurant with a playground and a view. There is even a large swimming area with crystal clear waters and a grassy lawn for lounging. Even if the water is too chilly, kids love throwing rocks lakeside while parents enjoy the view.
This hike is short and easy, but if you fancy a longer, more difficult hike, try the more challenging 7.5 km hike from Au/Quinton to Betlis, which passes the waterfall along the way.
|Address:||Ferry dock: Hauptstrasse 23, 8872 Weesen|
|Car:||40mins from Zurich to Weesen
Parking in Betlis: 47°08’09.5″N 9°08’41.7″E
Parking near Ferry: 47°08’04.9″N 9°05’53.9″E
|Train:||1hr from Zurich HB to Weesen
CHF 27.80 Adult return with Half-fare
Bus stop: Weesen, See
|Trail:||2 km each way|
|Condition:||paved road and dirt, strollers ok|
|Services:||restaurant at lake, fire pit near waterfall|
|Cost 2017:||Ferry round trip, Adult CHF 12.10, Child CHF 6.05
SBB and Junior Cards not accepted
|Open:||waterfall best May to July, possible year round|
|More info:||www.amden-weesen.ch – www.walenseeschiff.ch|
The Seerenbach waterfalls are on the north side of the Walensee lake. The trail starts in Betlis, which can be reached driving or walking on a narrow one lane road (2.7km from Weesen) or by a ferry boat from Weesen (about 10 mins).
From Betlis, the trail is 2km on a quiet farm road to the falls, suitable for small children and strollers. When you get close to the falls, a 10 min detour from the main trail leads up the hill through the forest to a close up overlook of the falls. There is a nice fire pit here with wood and a water fountain.
After admiring the falls, walk back down to the main trail and continue walking east for a couple minutes to a bridge over the river, where you can admire the falls from below. Then return the way you came (this trail continues all the way to Quinton, another 5.5km).
Click the trail map below to see an interactive version.
After enjoying the falls, make your way back to Betlis, where you can catch the ferry back to Weesen. Near Betlis there is a restaurant with a small playground and rocky shores where you can swim. There are at least two picnic areas with benches are fire pits, one at “castle” near the Betlis ferry dock, another near the waterfall at the edge of the forest.
While the posted time was 25 mins, it usually takes us 45-60 mins each way with little kids. Our first time, it took us an hour with our almost 2 year old walking most of the way himself. Strollers are ok for the most of the path, though you’ll need to leave them behind when the trail narrows during the last five or so minutes.
The trail starts in Betlis. You can take the ferry to Betlis or drive on a narrow one lane road to Betlis. Some people even walk on that road from Weesen to Betlis, but I think that is wasted effort with kids.
By car: Drive to Weesen and follow signs to Betlis. This will take you on a narrow one lane road along the lake. Traffic on this road is controlled, meaning that traffic flows only one direction, switching every 15 minutes. So you can drive to Betlis at :00-05 and :30-35 each hour. This gives enough time for the cars to drive the 2.7km to Betlis before cars start driving the other direction. In Betlis, there is room for about 40 cars to park. It costs CHF 2/hr, payable in coins. On busy weekends, the spots can fill up fast.
Alternatively, park at the Weesen ferry dock and take the ferry to Betlis.
By train: Take the train to Ziegelbrücke, then a bus to Weesen, See. The ferry dock is directly opposite the bus stop.
Taking the Ferry
If you are taking the ferry, go to the ferry dock in Weesen and buy return tickets on the ferry to Betlis, which cost CHF 12.10 for an adult in 2017. They don’t take SBB Half-fare or Junior Cards. Children under 6 are free. Children 6-16 are half price. The ferry ride takes about 15 mins and adds to the excitement of the trip for the kids. Strollers are easily accommodated on the boat.
Check the Walensee ferry schedule carefully to make sure the ferry is running and that you’ll have enough time to do your hike before the last ferry of the day. The ferry has a very limited schedule, even on summer weekends but even less so in the shoulder season and winter.
For example, based on the 2017 summer schedule, you could take the 11:00 ferry from Weesen, arriving in Betlis at 11:15. Plan about 3 hours for hiking and picnic. Then catch the 15:15 ferry from Betlis back to Weesen.
Make sure you carefully read the codes on the ferry times. Some boats only run on weekdays, others only Sundays. If you miss the last ferry, you’ll have to walk along a road for an hour back to Weesen. We’ve done it and it’s annoying with kids.
View of the falls from the ferry.
Treasure Hunt Trail
If you want to do the treasure hunt trail, follow signs to the restaurant, where you can pick up the Rätselpass, the activity book that accompanies the theme trail. The book has a map showing generally where chests are hidden and a page that corresponds to each treasure chest activity. See Amden Weesen website for more details in German.
Here are a couple of the treasure chests. They aren’t too hard to find, usually visible from the main trail but maybe not right on the trail itself.
Here are some sample pages from the book. The text is in German only.
Trail to Waterfalls
Hooray! You made it to Betlis. Follow the trail signs to Quinton, which will lead you to the waterfalls. The hike starts with a short narrow dirt trail through some trees, as shown below. It crosses some cow fields then joins a paved road.
If you have a stroller, you can avoid this section by instead following signs to the restaurant, left from the sign below, walking through a big field. At the restaurant, turn right and follow the paved road, which leads to the waterfall.
If you start on the dirt trail, you will pass the ruins of a little castle, which our kids found interesting. There is also a grill pit with benches next to the castle.
The trail proceeds through this beautiful meadow for a few minutes before joining up with a paved road.
The majority of the trail follows this paved road, easy for strollers. It is not a difficult hike, but it is gradually uphill the whole way so little ones can get tired. But happily that means the way back is all down hill.
Along the paved road, there are farms with goats and cows. Our kids enjoyed this distraction.
As you approach the falls, you can see them on the cliffs above. The pics below show the difference from mid May and early October.
Near the base of the waterfall, you turn away from the lake and walk up a grassy hill and onto a dirt trail through the woods. Strollers can make it all the way but you could leave them at the entrance to the forest.
This official Schweizer Familie grill pit is located just before you enter the forest. There is wood and a water fountain.
The trail to the fall lookout is in the forest. The path is dirt, a little rocky but wide enough for a stroller and not difficult.
Here we are at the lookout over the waterfall – you’ll get a little wet from the spray. They run the biggest in May and June. On the right, you can see how the falls were much small end of July. One time in August, it was only a dribble. But one time in October, the falls were big again. Who knows.
You’ll see a narrow, steep, muddy, rocky trail with stairs that goes up from this point so you can get a little closer to the upper waterfall section. It’s not safe for little kids and not really worth the effort in my opinion.
Walk back down to the main trail, then take a short detour for another view of the waterfall and river by walking east on that main trail into the forest toward Quinton. It turns into a narrow dirt path (no strollers) for just a couple minutes until you reach a bridge that crosses the river flowing from the waterfall. Here is the bridge.
Here is the view up to the waterfall from the bridge. Walking another minute further for another waterfall and bridge. Then turn around and walk the way you came all the way back to the restaurant. If you are following the treasure hunt trail, make sure to follow the map in the activity book and take the fork in the road.
Restaurant & Playground
After walking back to Betlis, you can stop at Restaurant Burg-Strahlegg, which is about a 5 min walk from the Betlis boat dock. It has a little playground and a lovely view of the Walensee and surrounding mountains. The menu is small, with just sausages and salads. But it filled our tummies and it was relaxing. They also have ice lollies to go.
While you’re waiting for the ferry, there are plenty of rocky beaches where your kids can throw rocks and splash around. Reminder: the ferry doesn’t run frequently and changes based on the season, so check the schedule online before you go to make sure you’re not waiting for a long time at the dock.
If it’s a hot day, I highly recommend swimming. There is a big swimming and picnic area near the parking in Betlis as shown below.
The “beach” is very rocky and hard to walk on barefoot. You might want water shoes.
There are two fire pits with grills right next to the water and a grassy lawn for games.
My kids also had a great time climbing around on these rocks near the Betlis ferry dock. It gets deep on the other side of these rocks, so put water wings on non-swimmers and watch them carefully.
Back in Weesen, there is a swimming area on the south side of the river, as shown with the marker below. You can park near the main road and walk a few minutes out to the pebble beach.
It’s shallow enough for wading. We liked that we could build a fire right on the beach.
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