The Fürenalp lift near Engelberg 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. It is not suitable for strollers as most of the trail is narrow and rocky. There are much shorter loop hikes if you have smaller kids, where you can still enjoy the views and flowers. 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.
|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|
|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|
Here is the hiking map provided by Fürenalp.
We did the hike from the top of the Fürenalp cable car east to the Stäuber waterfall, then followed the river down to the valley and all the way back to the cable car valley station. It’s a beautiful, varied hike with big views and fields full of wildflowers. Loved it, loved it, loved it!
At the top of the Fürenalp cable car, you’ll find other trails and a playground and restaurant with a view. If you need a shorter hike, you can do the Grotziweg loop trail (3.4 km) or even just half of that trail and you’ll still enjoy great views and the wildflowers.
Here is an accurate trail map.
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 arrived at 10am and had to wait about 30 mins.
I was particularly happy with the price, particularly for those without SBB Half-fare cards. At CHF 13/adult and CHF 7/child one way, Fürenalp is much more affordable than the other options in this valley. For example, full price adult return is CHF 92 at Titlis and CHF 30 at Brunni in 2017.
Restaurant & Playground
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 15 mins 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, 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. The river was flowing fast but not too high when we were there.
There weren’t any fire pits along the trail, so climbed down to the river and just made a fire with driftwood and had a picnic there.
However, we should have walked a bit further where the river valley widens and there is easier access to the river, as shown below, left of the trail. We saw a couple people picnicking in this spot.
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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