If you live in Zurich, the Sihl river is a good choice for family biking and walking. It’s mostly on smooth dirt paths away from traffic, along open fields, through the forest, and along the river. It’s also mostly flat, making it easier for smaller kids to keep up. It goes parallel to the train tracks (though usually not right next to the train), so if your kids get tired and can’t ride back, you can always take the train back instead. There are lots of green places on the river to stop for a picnic and even make a campfire. We live near the Sihl, so we’re out there a lot and love it. I hope you love it too.
I’ve marked out a path from Zurich Allmend to the Sihlwald, following the river for about 12 km. This takes my kids on bikes about 90 minutes, more if we stop and play in the river along the way. For a shorter ride for little kids, I would recommend the section between Brunau and Adliswil, about 5 km.
For the most part, the path is separate from car traffic from on a smooth dirt path, doable with city bikes. It is on quiet local roads for short sections. For the most part, bikes and walkers share the same path, but occasionally they diverge. Make sure to follow the signs.
The river passes through the Sihlwald, a protected forested nature reserve. It has a visitor center, the Sihlwald Besucherzentrum (Alte Sihltalstrasse 38 8135), which has tours, educational programs, animal enclosures, a cafe, picnic area with fire pits and a big playground. This is nice area to visit even if you aren’t hiking. The big playground here is a good reward for making it the whole way.
You can ride back or take the train back. Since the path parallels the train line, you can easily cut your trip short by taking the train back earlier. Here are the distances.
…to Leimbach 2.6 km
…to Adliswil 5.5 km
…to Wildpark-Höfli 7.5 km
…to Langnau-Gattikon 9 km
…to Sihlwald 12 km
Obviously, you can ride as short or long as you like. The first leg on the map from Allmend to Adliswil is about 5.5 km (3.4 miles). I think this takes us about 45 mins. The second leg from Adliswil to Sihlwald is about 6.5km (4 miles). Sorry, but I don’t remember how long this took us.
I have the path starting at the parking near the Fork & Bottle, though this is also close to the Zurich Brunau train station and Sihlcity. Of course, you can start anywhere around this general area. If you are coming by tram, you can get off at Sihlcity. If you are coming by train, you can get off at Zurich Brunau. By car, park in the metered spots near Fork & Bottle or by the Saalsporthalle (Moosgutstrasse) north of the Allmend park.
I’ve marked a few nice picnic spots, where the WCs are, a couple groceries along the way for supplies, etc. But while riding, just simply follow the red bike path signs and you won’t get lost.
Now for some pictures to give you a better idea of what it’s like.
If you start near the Fork & Bottle, the road starts out paved, right next to the Sihl river.
After a few hundred meters, you’ll be forced to turn right and cross a little bridge over a little stream. After this, turn right on the bike path before crossing the big bridge over the big river. Here is that walking/bike path on the east side of the river. It can get busy on nice weekends, but perfectly fine for little kids.
Crossing under the freeway. Despite the slight hum of traffic above, the park is still very quiet and peaceful. I like the contrast of city and nature but maybe that’s not your thing.
You can also go on the west side of the bridge, but the trail gets pretty rocky and dips through some streams, better if you have a mountain bike. On the west side (shown in the below pic), there are some nice rocky spots next to the river where you build a campfire.
After passing under the freeway, you’ll pass several some grassy spots with benches.
You’ll then ride under the main road and enter the forest for about a km. The below pic shows what it looks like in summer, winter and fall. It’s nice in all seasons.
Before you get to the next bridge, you’ll reach a nice spot by the river where you can build a campfire and wade in the river. It’s usually very shallow but it can still be dangerous if your kids wade out into the running water. So don’t get too complacent. If you don’t feel like riding bikes that day, you can park very near here in a blue zone and just walk over (street is called Sihlhof).
Here’s what the same spot looks like in winter. Still fun.
As you continue towards Adliswil, you’ll be out of the forest and right next to the river. For this section, the official bike path is on the west side of the river. The walking path is on the east side. Follow the red bike path signs. You’ll join up again on the east side right before you reach Adliswil.
Right as you enter Adliswil and before you pass the small waterfalls, there is a shallow part of the river bed where you can picnic and build a fire if the river is running low. This pic was taken in March.
The same spot as above, but looking back away from Adliswil.
After Adliswil, the bike path continues mostly through city streets and industrial areas to Gattikon (the small town after Adliswil). It also had a couple hills, which were a little hard for our 7 year old. But after Gattikon, it was pretty again, just following the river all the way to the Sihlwald. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many nice picnic spots in this section. We kept riding and riding, looking for a good spot.
We finally stopped just before reaching the Sihlwald Naturzentrum and built a fire on the river banks.
Don’t forget to stop at the big playground at the Sihlwald visitor center before going home. You’ll need to cross the bridge to reach the visitor center and train station.
Then we took the train from Sihlwald back to Zurich Brunau and rode home. If you take the train, remember to buy a half-fare ticket for you bike. Here are the SBB rules for taking your bike along on the train.
Don’t forget to Pin this for later…