Elm “Giant Forest” Theme Trail

We love the new Riesenwald, aka “Giants Forest,” theme trail at Elm, with more than a dozen play stations, including a giant xylophone, an oversized picnic table and forest kitchen, an obstacle course, a suspension bridge, and much more. Much of the trail is in the forest, but you still have great views of the surrounding mountains. There are several picnic areas with fire pits, so definitely bring a lunch to cook. Next to the restaurant, there is a playground, including lots of trampolines so you can jump with a view. It’s also very inexpensive, especially compared to other mountains; it costs less to go here than bringing the family to Trampolino. I’d recommend it for an easy, inexpensive, spectacularly beautiful mountain experience with kids.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Elm, a beautiful mountainous area in Glarus region south of Zurich. We love skiing and sledding there in winter. We’ve hiked in the mountains and biked in the valley in summer. This is a great region for a wide variety of fun outdoor family activities

Location:   Eastern Switzerland
Address: Obmoos, 8767, Switzerland (46.913473, 9.162632)
Car: ~1hr20 from Zurich
Train: ~1hr50 from Zurich HB
Trail: 2.6 km loop, about 2 hours
Condition: smooth dirt, obstacle-free
Skill: easy
Open: June through October
More info: www.sportbahnenelm.ch, www.riesenwald.ch, Elm webcams

Overview

First, you take a cable car from the valley up to Ämpächli, where you’ll find a restaurant with a great view, overlooking a playground with trampolines, a swing, climbing structures, sunbeds, etc. The trail begins very close to the restaurant and follows a 2.6 km loop, with several big play stations along the way as described below. The path is smooth dirt, mostly flat, suitable for strollers and small children walking. Back in the day, our 2 year old walked almost the whole thing.

There are several picnic areas with grill pits, the largest and best at the far end of the trail before it turns to come back. You can pick up Trotti scooters at the cable car station to ride down a 4km trail back to the valley.

There are more trail options in this region. Click on the map below to see a larger panorama map of the area.

Getting There

By car: Drive toward Elm using the below map. Take the right fork in the road just before entering the town of Elm, following signs to Elm Sportbahnen. There is free parking directly in front of the cable car.

By transit: Take a train to Schwanden, then bus 541 to Elm Sportbahnen (comes about once an hour), which drops directly in front of the cable car station.

Tickets & Opening Times

The cable car is relatively inexpensive. In 2016 a return ticket was 16 CHF/adults, 8 CHF/children over 6. (SBB Halbtax and Junior cards not accepted).

If you plan to ride the Trotti scooters down later, you can buy a combo ticket that includes a one way ride up the cable car and the scooter rental for the way down. In 2016, this costs 18 CHF/adult, 11 CHF/child. More about the Trotti scooters at the end of this post.

The cable car runs daily from 8:30 to 17:00. The website says every 30 minutes, but every time I’ve been it runs continuously since it has lots of small gondola cars not one big cable car.

See current prices and opening times on the Elm website.

Restaurant & Playground

Here is the Ämpächli restaurant at the top of the cable car. Food is adequate, typical Swiss cafeteria fare. But the view is fantastic!

The trampolines in front of the restaurant, free to use.

Some other play equipment in front of the restaurant next to the trampolines.

Elm is “famous” for this interesting hole in the mountain across the valley. Twice a year the rising sun shines through this hole directly on the church in the Elm dorfli.

Behind the restaurant, there is a gold mining station. You pay a fee to mine and exchange the “gold” you find for a prize. I’ve never done it so I can’t tell you more. Let me know if you do.

Trail Details

To access the trail, walk past the restaurant, heading north on the dirt road to the forest, following signs to the Riesenwald. Sometimes the cows are out, sometimes not.

Entrance to the Riesenwald.

First station, an obstacle course. Our kids had fun timing themselves running through it. There are two courses of different sizes for big and small kids.

Fire pit next to this first station, with plenty of wood in a covered box.

You will still see animal sculptures from the old Tierli-Weg along the trail.

This station was supposed to be a house that a giant threw upside down. Inside the furniture was on the ceiling.

On top of the house, you can use the telescope to scan the mountains. As you pass by something, the name of it appears on the glass.

At this station, you are supposed to see the giant’s “face” in the rock.

Not all the stations were exciting. This station was the giant’s herb garden. My boys said: what are we supposed to do here? Good question.

Most of the path is in the woods, but periodically the trees will part and you’ll get a fantastic view of the mountains across the valley.

Some animal sculptures along the way.

The picnic area at the far end of the trail before you turn back. It is enclosed by a fence to keep the cows out. Make sure to close the gate behind you. Some other guests didn’t while we were there and the cows hustled in and took over our picnic. There are four grills, plenty of wood in covered boxes and multiple tables and benches.

There are a few amusements in this enclosed picnic area, including this giant chalkboard and balancing course on the right. The kids are encouraged to chase each other on the balancing course.

There is a slack line for balancing.

Outside the picnic area, there is this house with a guest book you can sign. See if you can find our names in there.

A little past the picnic area, not on the trail, is this giant xylophone. There is a book of sheet music for several simple songs.

After this big picnic area, rejoin the trail and walk up a couple switchbacks, then back toward the start. You’ll pass a couple more stations, including our favorite, this giant hanging bridge.

The last station before exiting the forest. You can mark your height with chalk on this board. Are you a giant?

Picnic area next to the measuring station.

After you leave the forest, follow the Riesenwald signs around the back of the restaurant to this water play. This was under construction when we were there and I’m not sure what the end game is. But it certainly is elaborate and might be a lot of fun. Take these stairs down to end up at the cable car station.

Trotti Scooters

At the top of the cable car, you can rent a three-wheeled Monster mountain bike or Trotti bike to ride down to the bottom, about 4 km.  (about 15-25 mins depending on how fast you go). In winter, you can rent sleds to go down the same path. If you plan ahead, buy your trotti bike pass with your cable car ticket, instead of buying a return cable car ticket – it’ll save you a few francs.

I forgot to ask the age restrictions for using the scooters, but I do know that kids must be over 140 cm to use the Monster carts, which are three wheel carts with seats. The operator also asked my son’s age, which was 12. My 8 year old (130cm) was allowed to ride alone on the smaller two-wheel standing Trotti scooters.

Smaller kids can ride tandem with a parent as shown below. The 4 and 5 year old boys rode down with their dads. The 2 year old rode down on the cable car with mom. My friend took her under 2 year old on the low rider bike, though she said it was not ideal because a child that young isn’t great about always holding on and following instructions so the parent can effectively steer and use the brakes. Use your best judgment.

Several years later, these boy grew up and the 12 year old rode the monster cart and the 8 year old rode the smaller trotti scooter. I rode the bigger trotti scooter along with them.

Starting on the trotti path, which is mostly gravel, a little slippery but the big tires can handle it.

There is no “traffic” per se on this road, but there can be the rare farm vehicle, so use caution.

Pretty path, no? I was so glad we spent the extra francs to do this. So much fun!

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8 comments

  1. This was the first hike I did with just me and my kids (4 and 6). Thankfully there was lots to keep my 4 year old motivated (she can be a bit lazy with hiking)! It was a success and we had a wonderful time.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ksenia. You are right about the time! I went back to check the time on my photos and our actual time on the trail was well over an hour plus another 45 mins for grilling and picnic. The posted time on the Elm website is 1 hour. I guess I was discounting the walking time because we had a slow 2yr old. I'll update the post with a more accurate time. Thanks again!

  3. Hi Tanya,

    Thank you very much for the description, we made this trip last weekend and had a lot of fun! And thanks for the useful website in general, we use it every time when we plan our trips.

    I just want to make a small remark that it would be very hard to walk through the whole trail in just 30 min. The booklet gives estimation around 1 hour, but with the child who would probably want to make photo with every animal it would be most likely around 1.5 hours, and even more if you make a grill-stop. The trail ends much higher than Ämpächli restaurant, so you need to include another 7-10 minutes to get back to the restaurant to finish your round trip. Maybe you used some shortcut and made a shorter trip, that's why it took you less time?

  4. Thanks for posting re the Sportbahnen being closed in November. I am looking for a hike to do this weekend and am finding that many mountains are closed for the month. Anyone with suggestions, please let me know.

  5. We really wanted to do this hike today; unfortunately, the Elm Sportbahnen is closed on weekends for the entire month of November. We drove back down the road into Engi and stopped at a hotel that had its own mini-golf course. There were also animals in small habitats, a coin operated mini merry-go-round, teeny tiny playground and a nice paved trail to walk along. The area is really beautiful so the day was not lost. The four kids (ages 19mos. – 5yrs.) between two couples had a lovely time.

    We really enjoy your blog and look forward to our next outing!

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