This hike at Piotta-Ritom is one of my favorites. The super steep funicular ride (87.8% grade) is rather exciting and slightly terrifying. The lake is a gorgeous deep blue. The surrounding mountains are dramatic. The restaurant had delicious food. The trail is quite long for kids, but stroller-friendly so the parents can do all the work. One downside is that it’s just on the other side of the Gottard tunnel (south), which means you may get caught in traffic on the way there or on the way back. But let’s assume you are lucky, like we were. Plus I’ll tell you about a “secret” way back that bypasses most of the tunnel traffic.
|Location:||Lauterbrunnen, Jungfrau Region, CH||Trail:||4.7 km, ~1hr30|
|Car:||~2hr from ZH||Difficulty:||easy|
|Train/Bus:||~2hr40 from ZH||Theme:||none|
|Open:||mid May thru mid Oct||Website:||www.jungfrau.ch|
The map below shows a long 12 km loop up one side the lake, in the hills, looping around the restaurant and continuing back along the other side of the lake. The north side of the lake is a paved road most of the way and is a shorter, more direct route to the restaurant, suitable for strollers. We’ve hiked up and back on that side a couple times. Last time, we took the alpine route on the south side of the lake, which is a much prettier trail, narrow and close to the lake shore, dipping into the forest. But it gets very steep after leaving the lake, and is a longer route to the restaurant. You could also just walk along the south side of the lake and find a nice picnic spot and walk back without any of the hard work.
With slow kids walking, it took us about 20 mins to walk from the top of the funicular to the lake. Then another 1hr25 to reach the restaurant walking on the road on the north side of the lake.
Drive to Piotta by driving south on the A4 then A2, going through the Gottard Tunnel, then taking the first exit after you leave the tunnel. Follow the local road south to Piotta, turning left when you see signs for the Piotta-Ritom funicular. You can park right next to the funicular station. (See map above for more detailed directions).
At the Piotta Funicular station, buy return tickets. In 2016, a return ticket cost 24 CHF/adult and 12 CHF/child 6 and over. Family pass for 2 adults and multiple children is 62 CHF. Cash only. I don’t think they accept SBB Half-fare or Junior cards.
The funicular runs from mid May through mid October, daily from about 8:30 to 18:30. Check the website for current times and prices.
The funicular only runs about every 40 to 60 minutes and the capacity is small. So it’s possible you might have to wait if there’s a crowd. But we’ve never had a problem. There’s a big playground and field next to the lower funicular station, so your kids can entertain themselves while you wait for your ride.
The funicular has a 87.8% grade, making it one of the steepest funiculars in the world open to the public. It feels more like an elevator ride and is a little unnerving. It’s in an enclosed car, so it feels safer than Gelmerbahn’s open car.
View from top of funicular
At the top, you’ll follow the road to your right (if you are looking at the mountain) towards Lago Ritom. It takes about 20 mins to reach the dam and lake.
At this point, the paved road turns into a dirt road but it’s wide not particularly bumpy, so still pretty stroller-friendly. The trail continues up about an hour past the lake to two other small lakes. It’s not a steep grade, but the trail definitely climbs upwards so small children probably can’t do it on their own and you will sweat a bit pushing up the stroller. Our 4.5 yr old walked most of it (with lots of encouragement) but made me carry him on my back for the last 20 minutes or so.
and finally the Capanna Cadagno restaurant. There is a lot of outdoor seating and a sandpit with toys for the kids. It’s not fancy but our food was hearty and very tasty.
I ate lentil stew with polenta – yum!
our boys had a great time playing in this tiny sandpit while the adults ate
one of the smaller lakes near the restaurant
When you drive back home, take the local road again and when you enter the freeway, you will have bypassed most of the backup before the tunnel.