What’s an outdoorsy family to do in the shoulder season? As you probably know, most mountain trails and transport (cable cars, funiculars, etc.) close between late October and December and again between early April and late-June, for maintenance and lack of customers. But sometimes we can get lovely sunny warm days during spring and late fall, aka the “shoulder season,” that have us itching to be on the trail. Where can you go???
If the weather cooperates, there are still plenty of hiking options during the shoulder seasons. In general, pick trails that are lower elevation and don’t require mountain transport. Trails by rivers and lakes are good choices. In May and June, it’s waterfall season and many of those trails start in the valleys. The more famous mountain peaks are typically open year round, so you can ride up and get a view even if you can’t hike. I have lots of specific suggestions below.
Be prepared and flexible
First, a word of warning. Before heading out, carefully check the weather, websites and webcams to make sure the trail and services are open. Some trails are even under construction during the shoulder season.
Even if they are typically open, weather can change conditions quickly. If you pick a trail at a higher elevation, the trail might still have some snow or be super muddy as the snow is recently melted. So use common sense and be prepared to abandon your original plan.
Exhibit A: We did not expect snow this day in late October, so we had inappropriate footwear and some children had be carried because their feet were wet and icy cold. Also, we thought the restaurant was open – it wasn’t and we had to make do with the very few snacks in our packs.
Now for some recommendations…
Mountain top views
Some of the more famous mountains are generally open year round. So you can go up and get the views, even if the trails are closed for unpredictable conditions and maintenance. But still check websites to make sure they are open before heading out and don’t expect to hike in early spring or late fall.
Low elevation trails with a view
These local trails are still have fantastic panoramic views despite the lower elevations.
Low elevation theme trails
These theme trails don’t have mountain top views, but they are still beautiful in lush valleys and forests. Plus they have fun interactive activities for the kids.
Rivers and river gorges
We love hiking and biking along any river. But river gorges are particularly special, with concentrated beauty, with lots to observe including interesting rock formations, wild flower beds, moss walls, and waterfalls.
While the snow is melting in spring, it’s a perfect time to visit a few waterfalls.
No Swiss town is far from a forest and most are filled with walking paths. I recommend first exploring the forests closest to your home then trying one of these below.
Hikes around lakes
Most of these are open year round, weather dependent. Some also allow biking.
Any other suggestions for shoulder season hikes?