No matter how much I see of Switzerland, there’s always another bit of paradise just around the corner. Last weekend, we went chasing a few waterfalls in the Weisstannental (aka “White Fir Tree Valley”) that we had seen on waterfall.ch. It’s a long beautiful valley, with lush green meadows, a roaring river cutting through the center and waterfalls spilling from the mountains and cliffs on either side. We chose Mattbachfälle at the end of the road as our destination, which was luckily easy to find as we hadn’t brought a map and there was no cell reception. Although there are many hiking options in the area, we simply drove right up to the falls and had a picnic with a view. This spot has a lot of advantages: it’s accessible in April and May before most cable cars are open for the summer season, it doesn’t require a hike which appeals to those with mobility concerns, and it’s free, perfect for those who already spent their whole budget on Jungfraujoch or Zermatt. I loved it and hope to be back soon to explore more.
|Address:||Wiesenhof, 7326 Mels
GPS: 46°57’59.1″N 9°16’09.8″E
|Car:||1hr30 from Zurich|
|Train:||1hr30 to Weisstannen, Oberdorf, then 5km walk to falls|
|Trail:||short walk to falls, other trails in area|
|Open:||year round, weather dependent|
|Services:||nearby Schweizer Familie fire pit with wood|
Using the map below, drive to Sargans, taking exit 50 off the A3. Follow signs to Weisstannen, which will take you on a small, winding road up the mountain. You can take a bus up the valley, but it only goes as far as Vorsiez, one stop past Weisstannen. To reach the Mattbachfall from Weisstannen, it’s about another 1hr walk further up the road.
Along the way, you’ll see lots of waterfalls so drive slow and enjoy the view. Here are a few pics I snapped along the way up the valley…
Such a pretty drive…
And a couple more waterfalls along way…
Follow the road to Weisstannen (some maps show it as Oberdorf). It’s a small town, a couple cafes but limited services, no grocery or gas that I could see. At the end of town, take a right when the road forks. Continue driving all the way to the end of the valley.
A couple minutes before reaching the end of the road, you’ll pass an official Schweizer Familie Feuerstelle (fire pit) with picnic tables and wood. It’s right next to the river.
Here’s the view from the Feuerstelle. Not bad, eh?
Keep driving and just after a farm, just before the road turns into a dirt, you’ll see the Unterer Mattbachfall on your right. You can drive up the dirt road and just park wherever you like. In the left photo below, we had just stepped out of the car, so you can see how close we could get without walking.
We scrambled up the left side of the falls to get a closer look. It was muddy and slippery and a bit steep, not a great option for very little kids. Please note that at the top of this little mud scramble, the grassy hill abruptly ends and drops off a few feet down to the bottom of the waterfall. It’s not exceptionally dangerous, but I was glad my husband was in the front of the pack and saw the drop off before our boys raced forward without looking.
Here’s the waterfall up close. It was fun and took less than 5 mins to get there.
There’s nowhere to sit and enjoy the falls up close, just a muddy, wet knoll with a drop-off. We snapped a few pics then slipped our way back to the meadow.
There are three, maybe more, waterfalls directly across the meadow from the Mattbachfall. It’s one pretty meadow, don’t you think?
There was a small stream near the falls, so we built a fire there and had a picnic.
There are some other falls and another Feuerstelle further up the dirt road. Get back on the main road that brought you here and keep driving up the valley, veering right when the road splits, about 2 minutes total driving. The road “ends” at a Feuerstelle and a small circle in the road. Park here and you can walk further up to a river (trail shown in pic below) and more falls. Please note the “don’t touch bombs” warning sign on this trail. Usually when you see signs like this (hopefully not too often!), they want you to stick to the trail just in case they haven’t found all the undetonated bombs in the area.
There are more waterfalls up this valley, but you have to hike up along the river, a little slow going for our crew. But I’d love to come back and hike to see the snowy mountain peaks on the other side.
More of the trail to the big river and the river itself.
Here’s the river up close. This would also be a fun place for a picnic with lots of room to explore. But this day, we preferred the meadow.
View from the big river back to the Mattbachfall.
On our way home, we took the left fork in Weisstannen, just to see what we could see. There are more waterfalls in that direction. But you can’t drive to them as the road is restricted. It’s about a 2hr hike to reach those falls – maybe someday. However, we did get this fantastic view from the end of the road looking back toward Weisstannen.
Last note: the day we were there was the grand opening for a new “Lernpfad” trail in this valley. It starts a couple km west of Weisstannen and works it way along the river back to town. You could park in Weisstannen, take the bus to Vorsiez (one stop past Weisstannen) and walk back along the trail and river to town. There are some educational signboards along the way. I didn’t do the trail, so I don’t have much to say about it. But we passed lots of happy walkers on our drive home.