Bike Ride: Reuss river to Bremgarten

Wow! How have I not ever explored the Reuss River before??? The paths along the Reuss river are so great for families. My friend suggested it and now I’m going to have to bake her some cookies. It’s great. There are biking and walking paths along the river, for many kilometers, all separate from regular car traffic. The paths alternate between hugging the river shore and veering off into beautiful nature preserves. The path is flat almost the entire way, which is great for younger children that don’t have the strength or endurance for tougher terrain. There are many places to stop and picnic and enjoy the river and environs. You can pick any section of the river and bike/walk as far (or not so far) as your little kids legs will take them. There are buses and trains at the towns along the way, so you can shorten your trip if necessary. It’s a lovely day out and a very good option for families.

Location:   Zurich Region
Address: Bahnhofstrasse 30, 5643 Sins
GPS: 47°11’16.5″N 8°23’51.8″E
Car: 30 mins from Zurich
Train: 50 mins from Zurich
Trail: 22 km one way, shorter options
Condition: dirt, obstacle-free
Skill: easy
Open: year round, weather dependent
More info:

Overview

We started in Sins, a bit north of lake Zug, and rode about 22km north to Bremgarten, then took the train back to our car. We started about 11:30 and ended around 16:00, with lots and lots of breaks; it would be hard to estimate total riding time. My 6yr old took the easy way, on the back of my bike. It was a bit challenging for my 10yr old, who had never biked that far before. Despite a couple emotional outbursts, he finished with a smile and was quite proud of his effort.

Getting Here & Bike Rental

As mentioned above, you can start anywhere along the river, but I’ll describe what we did. We have our own bikes and a bike rack on our car. So we drove to Sins (about 30 mins drive from Zurich, see southern point on the trail in the above map), parked at the Sins train station, and started our bike ride there. Parking is inexpensive, in 2015 CHF 5 for 24hrs.

If you don’t have bike racks, you could simply take the train with your bikes to wherever you want to start your ride. Remember that you need a train ticket for your bike. For short distances you simply buy a half-fare card for your bike. For longer distances, you buy a bike ticket, good for all of Switzerland for 12CHF for 24hrs (in 2014). Children with junior cards or GA cards can take their bikes on public transport for free, no extra ticket required.

If you don’t have bike, there is SBB bike rental (info in English) at the Bremgarten main train station. After picking up your bikes in Bremgarten, you could simply ride south on the trail (opposite of the direction we took) or take the bikes on the train to your starting point (like Sins) and ride back to Bremgarten.

We finished the ride at Bremgarten West bahnhof. We locked up our bikes at the train station (no bike racks, a little annoying), took the train back to Sins (about 30 mins), and went back with the car to pick up our bikes. We could have brought our bikes on the train, but I was worried that it might be too complicated because we had to change trains in Wohlen. It turned out to be a rather straightforward changeover and we had enough time to do it. So next time, I would just take the bikes on the train.

Trail Impressions

I recommend that you carefully review the trail map I’ve created above so you are familiar with the route. It’s pretty obvious and well-marked, but it’s nice to have an overview before you start out. I’ve broken the trail into sections, each with a slightly different character, mostly divided between bridges:

  1. Sins to Muhlau (5.3km) – right next to river, lots of picnic spots and fire pits
  2. Muhlau to Rickenbach (4.7km) – partly by river, partly through forest
  3. Rickenbach to Ottenbach (1.7km) – not next to river, mostly through forest
  4. Ottenbach to Werd (3.5km) – not next to river, mostly along open farm fields (my favorite part)
  5. Werd to Geisshof (3.7km) – large nature reserves, paved path
  6. Geisshof to Bremgarten West (3.5km) – narrow walking path through dense forest and some hills

There was a parking lot at each bridge along the path, so you could easily start your bike/hike at any of these sections instead on doing the whole path.


Part 1: Sins to Muhlau (5.3km)

Starting at the Sins train station, leave the station turning left on the small road before you get to the main road through town. Cross the next road (there’s a crosswalk) and turn left on path (not the road) as shown in the map below.


View biking with kids in Switzerland in a larger map

There is bike sign on the path (#1 below). Unlike the road, the path will take you under the train tracks (#2 below). When you come out the other side, continue straight, through the wooden bridge over the river (#3 below).

Immediately after the bridge, turn left on the small gravel path by the river. It’s not labeled as a bike path but there are lots of bikes on the path and clearly meant for bikes.

Here’s the path. It’s easy riding from here on out.

There are several picnic spots (some with picnic tables) and fire pits along the river in this section. It’s not so convenient since this is the beginning of the ride and it’s probably not time for a break yet. There are more fire pits in later sections of the ride but not so plentiful. The water is very fast moving and dangerous, so I wouldn’t plan on letting your kids wade in the river.


Part 2: Muhlau to Rickenbach (4.7km)

When you reach the next bridge (#1 below), this section of the trail ends. You’ll notice that the walking path continues directly across the road (#2 below), into the Maschwander Allmend Nature Preserve. I found this article in English talking a little bit about the rules in this area. There is a map and signboard (pic #3 below) explaining the rules in this area and indicating where walking and biking are permitted. Bikes are not permitted the entire way to the next bridge on this east side of the river through the nature perserve. So instead you’ll need to you’ll need to cross the bridge and turn right on the path on the west side of the river.

Here is the wide gravel path on the west side of the river.

I loved this part here, with a little stream on the right, so pretty. Sometimes the path got a little overgrown with tall grass in the middle and a few rocks in the path. It was a little rough on my city bike tires, but not difficult.

Near the end of this section, there was a big empty gravel lot next to the river. It gave a nice view of the river and there were some old fire pits, but there are better picnic spots later on.

Near the bridge, you’ll find this helpful map. I wish I could have seen this online before my ride. The dotted yellow line exactly where the bike path is. If you click on this picture, you can see a larger version.


Part 3: Rickenbach to Ottenbach (1.7km)

At the bridge, the next section of the trail starts directly across the road on the west side of the river. This area is called Aargauische Reussebene. You do not need to cross over the bridge. There is a walking path on the east side of the river and it seemed to have more open views and access to the river than the path on the west side. The picture shows the west side of the river from the bridge at the start of this section. There were a bunch of kids wading into the water here. It looks a little sketchy to me, but there might be some safe places to get wet here.

To continue on the bike path, do not cross the bridge but simply cross the road and continue straight on the path on the west side of the river. The pic shows the road leading to Rickenbach. You are taking the path on the right along the west side of the river.

The trail splits almost immediately and make sure you take the left fork, which is the bike path, a wide, flat and gravel path. We mistakenly followed some other bikes onto the right fork, which is the walking path. It starts as a lumpy path, not too bad. But then it narrows and gets so sandy that you can’t bike on it at all. It was a big mistake. We walked our bikes through a lot of it until we reached the next bridge (fortunately this section was short!). As a walking path, it’s ok, mostly in dense forest with an occasional peek at the river. But with bikes, stick to the bike path. I didn’t take any pics of this section as we were lost and frustrated.

Right before you reach the next bridge, the trail leaves the forest and you have an open view of the river. There are two fire pits with benches and maybe even tables. Unfortunately, they were occupied, so we had our picnic on the river bank.

There is a shallow dirt access to the river’s edge. It’s probably safe to splash your feet in but not for swimming. I’m so happy we brought a water gun, which provided some much needed fun and distraction when the boys were feeling tired.

At the end of this section, right before you reach the bridge, there is a parking lot where you’ll find another map.


Part 4: Ottenbach to Werd (3.5km)

This was my favorite section of the path. It wasn’t next to the river, but I didn’t mind because
the fields in this part were so lush and full of wildflowers. The bike path was wide, flat and gravel. There is a separate walking path closer to the river. Now you can just enjoy a few pics along the way.

The land between the river and the bike path is a nature reserve. There were a few educational signboards. This one described the frog habitat you can see beyond the signs.

Pretty, eh?


Part 5: Werd to Geisshof (3.7km)

At the next bridge, the walking path continues straight across the road (see pic below), but bikes must turn right and cross the bridge before continuing north along the river.

In the pic below, we have crossed the bridge and we are looking back across to the west side of the river. There is a parking lot and some fire pits, I think.

Here is the gravel path along the east side of the river. You might remember this pic from the beginning of this post.

The next bridge comes pretty quickly. The bike path continues straight across the road along the east side of the river. But there are a few bike signs pointing left across the bridge (#1 below) so don’t get misdirected. After you cross the road, ride through the dirt parking lot next to the river (#2 below). At the end of the lot, take the bike path on the left (#3 below); the walking path is on the right.

At the end of this section (at Geisshof), there is a map that would have been helpful to see at the beginning. So I’m showing it to you now. The bridge and parking lot shown in the above pic are on the far right on this map.

This path starts as gravel but turns into a paved path for a long stretch. This section has a large nature reserve on the left. There are a few lookout stations with picture and information boards about the birds you can find there. It would be fun to have binoculars here so you could get a closer look at the birds.

Here’s what the nature reserve looks like from one of the lookouts:

I was having fun with the panorama feature on my phone, so you’ll have to look at this one too.


Part 6: Geisshof to Bremgarten West (3.5km)

Right before you reach a few farms (aka Geisshof), the official bike path takes a turn to the left and continues on little used road through farm fields.That option is show in yellow on the map below. We didn’t take this path so I can’t tell you anything about that section.

We took the blue path by the river, which is a narrower walking path. We took this path because a) all the other bikes were going on the path by the river and b) we wanted to end up at Bremgarten West train station and I wasn’t sure how we’d get there from the other path.

In general, bikes are not supposed to ride on walking paths, those with the yellow “Wanderweg” sign. However, in reality, you see lots of bikes on these paths unless there is a “no bikes allowed” sign posted, as we saw on some of the other walking paths on this river. This section did not have those signs. So… use your own judgement and be courteous to walkers on the path. We often got off our bikes and walked when the path got narrow and we had to pass walkers. No one yelled as us.


View biking with kids in Switzerland in a larger map

First you’ll pass by some farmhouses and these bee houses, with hundreds of bees busily working.

As we passed by the farms, one of our crew was wondering “Are we there yet?”

Eventually the path meets back up with the river and the walking path, shown below. The map I showed above is displayed here. Turn right and continue down the walking path along the river.

The path starts wide open as shown below. But then it enters the forest, narrows and has some little ups and downs.

Shortly, you’ll reach a wooden bridge. There is a picnic spot right next to the bridge. It was not clear where to go at this point. A few other bikes stopped here and looked just as confused as we were. We saw several bike groups continue over the bridge and come from the other side of the bridge to us. So that’s what we did too. Cross the bridge, turn right and continue down the path along the river.

Here’s a view of the river from the bridge.

Here’s the path after crossing the wooden bridge:

The path enters the dense forest and has a lot of little hills that weren’t difficult but did require changing gears. My son had to walk up a few of them. I forgot to take pictures of this section, but here’s a couple right before we left the forest. You can see another biking family; the dad was pulling a bike trailer for their dog.

Continue through the forest until you see a steep path leading up the hill to your left. The trail sign will say “Bremgarten West” which the train station. The path is very steep and difficult to push your bike up as the ground is very slippery and unstable. You might need to help your kids on this section. We were overjoyed to find a fountain at the top of this path. There was not one fountain along the entire route, which is so unusual for Switzerland. We brought 2 liters of water and ran out at about 2/3 of the way. We’re definitely bringing more water next time!

Here’s a view of the river, looking back down from the top of the steep path, by the fountain.

From the fountain, you turn left onto the main road and take your first right. The Bremgarten West train station is right there. The train runs every 30 mins on the hour and half hour. You take the S17 to Wohlen then the S26 to Sins (as of 2014, check SBB.ch for current schedule). There were no bike racks, so we just locked our bikes to a billboard.

There is also no kiosk or other services. We were hungry. I thought that we’d get some ice cream or other treats at the end of our ride but there is nothing happening in this part of town. You would need to ride into the main part of Bremgarten to find some cafes, etc. But that was downhill on busy roads and I didn’t fancy doing that with my kids.

Of course, you could also take your bikes with you as I mentioned earlier. Make sure you enter the train at a car displaying a bike logo. Those cars have a section for storing bikes as shown below.

Here’s a view of the Reuss river valley from the train, just to give you an overview of the area.

I hope some of you try out this ride. I’d love to hear how you like it.

P.S. It is very difficult to find documented family friendly bike rides like this one. Biking websites and books cover official biking routes that for the most part are on roads, often quite busy ones. Obviously, there are many unofficial bike paths along rural routes, but known only to locals and not publicized. I found this one by taking a vague suggestion from a friend “Reuss river would be nice” and studying Google satellite maps to see if there might be a path along the river. I had no idea what I might find there. Even after biking this route, I’ve found very little trail information or maps online. If you know of any other paths like this one, I would be extremely grateful if you would pass them along. In the meantime, I’ll be scouring Google maps along any body of water, looking for clues.

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