Engstlensee: Hike to Lake and Fishing

Last weekend, we drove to Engstlensee to try our hand at fishing. We had seen this lake from a distance when we visited the Melchsee Frutt area last summer. It looked so remote that we thought you would have to hike there. But turns out, you can drive on a one-lane private road all the way up to the lake. It’s a short, easy walk along the lake, but too lumpy and narrow in places for strollers. We walked to the far end of the lake, where we fished, played in the icy stream and picnicked. We didn’t catch anything (and didn’t see anyone else catch anything either) but we had fun anyway. It’s a beautiful setting, an easy hike, and plenty of room for the kids to safely run around and explore.
From Zurich, it takes a long time to get there, but it’s a beautiful drive, and the lake seems rather isolated and special.

Location:   Zurich Region
Address: Oberstrasse 14, Hausen am Albis, Canton Zurich, Switzerland
Car: ~2hr from Zurich, small fee for private road use
Train: possible with post bus
Trail: 1.7 km each way, about 30 mins each way
Condition: dirt, no strollers
Skill: easy
Open: April through October, weather dependent
More info:  www.engstlenalp.ch

Overview

You can drive almost all the way to the lake, so this is a short walk. You just walk from the parking area near the hotel up to the lake, then along the north side of the lake. You can’t walk all the way around. There are other hiking options in the area, including a hike to nearby Melchsee-Frutt or Engelberg. Click on the map for a larger interactive version.

At the end of the trail, you can walk a bit further up the trail to a chair lift that takes you up to Jochpass, which overlooks the Trübsee and connects you to the TitlisEngelberg resort area. You can actually take chair lifts and cable cars from Engstlensee all the way to Engelberg. At the end of this post, I’ll give more detailed information about that option.

Getting There

By car: If Hotel Engstlenalp shows up in your GPS, you can drive there. Otherwise… following the map above, drive past Meiringen toward the Grimselpass. At Innerkirchen, turn left toward the Sustenpass. After 5 mins or so, turn left on a small road called Matteloch. At the start of this road, there is a big sign explaining that this is a private road and you have to pay to use it (8sfr for cars). You don’t pay now, but several km further up the road at a restaurant with a gate across the road. Cash only. It’s a one lane road, but it has lots of turn outs making it relatively easy to pass when necessary.  

By public transport: You can reach Engstlenalp by public transportation by taking a train to Meiringen, then a post bus to Engstlenalp. In addition to the normal fare, you must pay an extra fee for traveling on the private road, even if you have a GA card. This bus only runs a few times a day, so make sure you know the return times beforehand so you don’t miss it.

Trail Details

The road ends at this hotel and the post bus stop. There is a restaurant at this hotel. There is also a cheese shop on the other side of the parking lot, selling a variety of dairy products. Those cows are working for you. You can picnic in the area, obviously, but when we were there, fires were not allowed.

The trail starts on a dirt road from the parking lot. It looks like you might be able to take a stroller, but it quickly turns into a smaller, lumpier path. I saw one family with a stroller, but they carried the stroller back to the road.

After only a couple minutes, you can already see the lake. You can follow the path or just ramble around the hillside.

There are many pretty places to stop along the lake and have a picnic. But no fires allowed. This is a protected nature reserve or something like that.

Just a few pics to give you an idea of what the trail is like. In the middle of June, there was still some snow patches around the lake. The trail is not difficult, but does get rocky in parts. As you near the far end of the lake, the trail crosses a landslide that looks a bit recent. I held tight to my 4YO on this part.

After walking about 15 minutes, we reached this sign that says 15 more minutes to the Jochpass chair lift (more about that at the end of this post). At this point, the trail goes steadily uphill, leaving the lake side. We wanted to fish at the very far end of the lake, so we followed this trail until we got to the end of the lake, then scrambled down the hillside to get to the water. This seemed like a popular option.

Here we are at the far end of the lake. We settled in on this stream that feeds into the lake. Our boys had lots of fun wading in the stream, climbing on rocks, throwing rocks, all that regular kid stuff.

Fishing

Well, at least we cast our hooks into the water a few times. I’m not an expert on fishing in Switzerland, but here’s what I know. You need a fishing license to fish in most lakes and rivers in Switzerland. Each canton issues its own fishing licenses and determines the rules for fishing in the lakes and rivers in that canton. Some lakes and rivers don’t require a license but you have to check with the canton rules to find that out.  I found these two pages helpful: angloinfo.com and englishforum.ch. Engstlensee is in Kanton Bern, so we bought our license on Bern’s website, which we simply printed out and brought with. It cost 28sfr/adult, 17sfr/child for a one day license.

We had one real fishing pole that my 8YO used. He had more fun than I thought he would, even though he didn’t catch anything. There were a lot of people fishing in that lake, but we didn’t see anyone catch anything. We had a small, almost toy fishing pole that my 4YO used. After only a few minutes, we took off the hook from this mini pole and just let him cast and reel with a float and weight on the end of it. I’m sorry to say that we broke both our poles by the end of the day so this might be our last fishing trip for awhile.

Our boys were so entertained by the small pleasures of playing in a mountain stream that we could actually take a little time out and relax. My husband had a little nap in the sun on this big flat rock.

Just a few pics on our walk back at 6pm. We don’t usually stay in the mountains so late, but everyone was having such a good time and the sun was so warm and the day so beautiful that it seemed a shame to leave any earlier.

Another hiking option

As I mentioned above, there is a chair lift at the far end of the lake which goes to Jochpass. I didn’t know about it until we had already hiked around the lake. Unfortunately, I had left both my Halbtax card and my cash in the car, so we couldn’t go up it. It’s only 8sfr round trip with Halbtax (cash only). I expect it would give a fantastic view of both sides of the pass, towards Engstlensee on one side and Trübsee on the other. But beyond this simple joy ride, this chair lift makes a multiple mountain adventure possible with children. 

Here’s a general outline for a trip we hope to do soon. 
– take the train/post bus to Stöckalp, then the cable car up Melchsee
– take the tourist train from Melchsee along the trail to Tannen
– hike ~30 mins down to Engstlensee
– hike ~30 mins from Engstlenalp to Jochpass chairlift
– take chair lift up to Jochpass, the Alpstubli chair lift down Trübsee
– short hike along Trübsee to cable car that takes you down Engelberg
– take post bus/train home from Engelberg

I’m so excited about the prospect of doing this little trek with our kids. When we get around to doing it, I’ll certainly post all the details.

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