Fürenalp Hike to Waterfall

The Engelberg-Fürenalp lift is one of the few cable cars that starts its summer season in late April, making it a good choice for spring hiking when other mountain transport is still closed. The long gentle hike at Fürenalp leads to a roaring waterfall, then follows the river down into the Engelberg valley, dipping through fields and forests all the way back to valley station and your car. It was fantastically beautiful and a very enjoyable hike. I especially liked that the terrain varied over the hike, from wide open fields to narrow rocky paths to forest to rivers; it was all nice.

The trail was a bit longer than what we usually do with our kids (9km and ~3.5 hours walking time). But since most of the trail was either flat or downhill, it was manageable. Although much of the trail is on a dirt road, I wouldn’t recommend it for strollers as some sections are narrow and rocky. If you want to just catch the views, there is a restaurant at the top of the cable car with great views and a big playground. I’m looking forward to coming back to try other hiking options from this lift.

Location: Central Switzerland
Address: Wasserfallstrasse, 6390 Engelberg
GPS: 46°48’06.6″N 8°26’57.8″E
Car: 1hr15 from Zurich
Train: 2hr15 from Zurich
Trail: 9 km one way, about 3.5 hours, shorter options too
Condition: narrow dirt path and dirt road, no strollers
Skill: moderate
Open: May to October
Prices: One way hiking ticket: Adult CHF 13, Child CHF 6.50,
no SBB Halbtax or Junior Cards accepted
Services: restaurant, playground, no fire pits
More info: www.fuerenalp.ch

Overview

The hike starts at the top of the Engelberg-Fürenalp cable car. You will start on the first half of the Grotziweg theme trail and later join with another trail and then a dirt road. Near the waterfall you will take the trail on the west side of the river, following it down to the road. You can then follow the road and river back to the valley station, walking on the trails that parallel the road.

Getting There

By car: Drive to Engelberg and keep following the road through and out of town, following signs to the Fürenalp lift. There is a small parking lot next to the valley station (shown on left below), which costs 5chf for the day.

By transit: Take the train to Engelberg, then bus to Fürenalpbahn (runs once an hour, 13 minute ride).

Tickets and Mountain Transport

The Fürenalpbahn fits only about 8 people, so on a busy day there can be a long wait. So hurry and get in line, which is the same line to pay and go up the lift. We arrive at 10am and had to wait about 30 mins.

I was particularly happy with the price, particularly for those without Halbtax. At 13chf/adult and 6.50chf/child one way, Fürenalp is much more affordable than the other options in this valley. In 2014, Titlis is 89chf/adult return without Halbtax, Brunni is 30chf/adult return without Halbtax.

Trail Details

At the top of the cable car, there is a restaurant with big patio with fantastic views. I didn’t eat here so I can’t vouch for the food. But given the views, I’d certainly give it a chance.

Below the restaurant, there is a playground with swings, slides, trampolines, sandbox, and a view. More pics of playground on their website.

If you walk under the cable car, you get a sweeping view of the Engelberg valley.

Now onto the trail. Heading east from the cable car, there are two parallel paths (trails #1 and #2) leading west to the Stäuber waterfall. The most straight-foward option is trail #2. However, we started on the Grotzliweg trail (#1), which starts slightly lower than trail #2. They join together after a kilometer or so, after which you can continue on trail #2 to the falls instead of turning back and completing the loop of the Grotzliweg.

The Grotzliweg is an educational theme trail. We saw a few numbered markers (shown below) but no information signs to go with them. After posting this, I heard from the Fürenalp team who directed me to a PDF on their website (in English!) that has descriptions for each numbered station on the trail. For example, here is the description for #3 below: “As soon as a mountain range rose above the sea level the energy of weathering started to have its effect. River carved valleys through the layers of rock. The cold and the water broke the stones. The weathering is easily recognisable around us, for instance on the pale high mountain limestone along the path. Rainwater washes away the calcium out of the stone leaving groves in the rock surface called karst.” Quite interesting. And special thanks to the Fürenalp team for helping us all out!

It doesn’t matter how you start the trail, just make sure you follow trail signs to Stäuber. I slightly prefer starting on trail #1 because it passed by interesting rock formations (shown below) and through some wild blueberry bushes (usually the fruit is ready in late August). We had a tummy full of blueberries to hold us over until lunch time.

A couple views of the trail. In this section, it got narrow and had a few switchbacks. The photo on the right is looking back up the trail, so don’t worry: we walked downhill, not uphill.

After the switchbacks, the trail joined up with a dirt road.

After about 1hr on the trail, we stopped at this cafe/cheese shop/overnight hut to use their bathrooms. We also bought some pretty delicious cheese.

Finally the waterfall was in sight. We reached it about 15mins after Alp Hobiel, the cheese place. The Stäuber promotional pictures imply that you can get very close to the falls and even get wet – false advertising! We brought our swimsuits in anticipation of this. However, we couldn’t figure out how to get any closer than the picture below on the right. The main trail doesn’t get close to the falls. We couldn’t see a trail on the other side of the falls. We scrambled around near the falls, but didn’t feel like we could safely get any closer. So we enjoyed it from afar and moved along.

At the falls, the trail splits. Take the trail down the valley, along the river, toward Engelberg. This section has some narrow, rocky switchbacks (below left), but not particularly difficult or dangerous.

Eventually the trail flattens out and you can easily walk off the side of the trail and access the river (shown below). The river was flowing fast but not too high when we were there. There weren’t any fire pits along the trail, so we made a fire next to the river (shown above) and had a picnic there.

We had a few encounters with “wildlife.” My 6yr old caught an enormous grasshopper, which in retrospect totally creeps me out as we’re currently reading about the locust swarms in Little House on Plum Creek. He also spied a snake in the grass, a rather unusual sighting in Switzerland. I guess it was our lucky day.

Along the way, we saw lots of other waterfalls, small and big, near and far.

As we descended farther into the valley, we could choose between walking on the road or a dirt path on the hillside, in and out of a forest.

When we reached the main road, there were a couple restaurants with outdoor patios. At this point, we still had another hour of walking ahead of us. So you might consider a little break before continuing.

We passed another cable car that was much closer to the falls. At the Fürenalp valley station, the road was blocked and it seemed that you couldn’t drive farther. But clearly, this parking lot had cars, so perhaps you can pay or get special permission to come up here. If you have mobility issues, it’s worth looking into.

Eventually the trail flattened out, the riverbed widened, and the trail meandered through big fields.

Occasionally the trail dipped into cool forests and hugged the edge of the river. The trail leads you directly back to the Fürenalp valley station and your car.

We spent the whole day at Fürenalp, arriving at the valley station around 10am and returning to our car around 4:30pm. Total walking time for the 9km was about 3.5 to 4 hours with some very slow walkers. It was a really fun day. I hope you like it too.

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2 comments

  1. Great post Tanja – thanks for sharing. I am responsible for the website of the fuerenalp and have linked this post to our website. I hope that is fine for you. You write about the “Grotzliweg” and miss some additional information. This can be found on our website as a document to download: http://www.fuerenalp.ch/en/grotzliwalk. If you like any more information, we are happy when you contact us at info@fuerenalp.ch. kind regards Peter

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