Last weekend, we chased the sun all the way to Adelboden in the far west corner of the Berner Oberland. It’s a bit far for a day trip from Zurich, but there are plenty of activities in the Adelboden area to keep you busy for a weekend or longer. We went up the Engstligenalp cable car, which gives a great view of the 2nd highest waterfall in Switzerland. At the top, there is an enormous, strangely flat alpine valley surrounded by impressive snowy peaks. There are lots of hiking options including an easy stroller-friendly path circling the valley with a boulder parkour course. This area felt special and unique and definitely worth the long drive, at least for our family.
|Address:||Unter dem Birg, 3715 Adelboden
GPS: 46.459279, 7.566449
|Car:||~2hr10 from Zurich|
|Train:||~2hr45 from Zurich|
|Trail:||4.5 km loop|
|Condition:||smooth dirt, obstacle free|
|Open:||mid June through mid Oct|
|Cost:||Adult CHF 32, Child CHF 12, SBB Half-fare and Junior cards accepted
Family pass CHF 56 for 2 adults and max 4 children
|More info:||www.engstligenalp.ch – webcam – weather|
There are many hikes in this area, all detailed on the free map available at the gondola station. We rode the gondola to Engstligenalp, then did two hikes at the top. First, we hiked a bit down the mountain so we could get a closer view of the waterfall. Then we hiked back up and did the loop trail around the valley. which also had a boulder garden for climbing. This hike is shown on the map below. Details of both hikes are below. We hiked here in July. You can also simply hike from the valley to the base of the waterfall for free and all the way to Engstligenalp. I have a friend that did this with her five children, including toddlers.
By car: Drive towards Adelboden. Your GPS might tell you to drive through Luzern and Interlaken. But we drove instead through Bern then down through Spiez, so we could stay on the freeway and not go over any mountain passes. It was about 15 minutes longer, but we preferred it. Just before you get to the center of Adelboden, you will turn left and head south away from town, following signs to Engstligenalp gondola.
By public transit: Take a train to Frutigen, then a bus to Adelboden Oey, then another bus to Adelboden, Unter dem Birg.
As you approach the gondola base station, you can see the big waterfall in the distance as shown above. At the end of the road, you’ll find a big parking lot next to the gondola station, where you’ll also find a restaurant and a small playground.
You can simply hike to the base of the waterfall from here for free. Or you can take the gondola up for an aerial view as it takes you up Engstligenalp, like we did. The gondola goes up every 15 minutes and was quite affordable. In 2016, a return ticket cost 28 CHF/adult and 11 CHF/child. The accept SBB Half-fare and Junior cards. They also offer a family card: 56 CHF for 2 adults and max. 4 children. See current prices on their website. Their summer season runs from mid June through mid October, daily 8:30 to 17:10.
At the top, you arrive at the high alpine valley, where there are a couple restaurants and cheese makers.
We happened to be there on a special event day, when organ grinder enthusiasts were stationed along the trail, grinding out happy tunes and adding some vintage atmosphere. It’s a good idea to check out the resort’s event calendar and coordinating your visit with one of these events.
Both hikes described below start from the top of the gondola.
#1: Hike to waterfall viewing point
Before we did the easy valley walk, we hiked down to get a closer look at the waterfall. This trail is not stroller-friendly, but it’s not particularly long or difficult and you get a really great view of the waterfall and surrounding peaks. I recommend doing this first when everyone is at full energy, then moving on to the easier valley walk. We spent about 90 mins going down and back, walking slowly and taking lots of recreational breaks. But actually walking time was about 20 mins each way.
To see the waterfall, follow the main trail into the valley until you reach the big river, then turn right and follow the trail along the river (it passes a little dam) and down the mountain. There are few different trails splitting off the main trail; it doesn’t matter so much which you take as they all converge sooner or later at a cow gate. If you take the dirt trail close to the river, there is a nice spot (about 10 minutes down the trail) where you can you splash around, throw rocks and enjoy a couple of the smaller waterfalls before you get to the really big one. Two of our crew even swam in the chilly water.
Continue on the trail until you reach the cow gate. After you go through a gate, the trail weaves around to a view point near to the waterfall.
This was a great picnic spot, not only because of the view but because we finally found wild Edelweiss. Almost seven years hiking in the alps and never once have we seen it growing in the wild. Very exciting!
When you’ve seen enough, make your way back up to the valley. We took a different trail back up, farther from the main river, which had lots of wildflowers and cows.
#2: Stroller-friendly valley loop trail
The obvious option with kids is the valley loop trail that is specifically designed for accessibility, with a picture of a wheelchair right on the trail sign. You can see in the pic below, a family with a stroller cruising through the alpine meadow. The trail is 2.5km long and I think the posted walking time is 1 hour. We spent about 2 hours on the trail, including lots of “rock climbing”.
Parts of this trail follow along streams and rivers, which is always a nice distraction for the kids.
At the far end of the valley, there is a big boulder garden, which is promoted as the Mammut Boulder Parkour course. There is a brochure and boulder map available at the gondola station (and here as a PDF).
I didn’t find the brochure particularly helpful. But from what I could tell, various boulder have marked routes, painted with a number and arrow on the rock itself. The color indicates the difficulty: green = easy/children, blue = medium, red = hard, grey = impossible.
This was very exciting for my boys as we’ve been watching lots of parkour/free running videos and following Ninja warrior. So my boys wanted to try out their “skills” in the wild. My 8 YO could do some of the green ones and my 4 YO had fun trying. There are lots of smaller rocks that even very little kids could safely and easily climb around on, even if they can’t do the marked routes.
By the way, don’t my boys look handsome in their new jackets, courtesy of Zalando.ch. Zalando makes online shopping in Switzerland easy, especially with the free shipping. It’s like shopping in Konstanz without leaving my couch. Thanks Zalando!