Sihlwald Forest Theme Trail

The Sihlwald “Walderlebnispfad” is an fun 2km loop trail through the forest with 12 interactive stations, including a wood log xylophone, a barefoot path, an animal long jump, and raised path through a mysterious bog. This is a good choice for children as it is short and the stations help keep kids motivated. Although it is open all year, it is particularly charming in October when the fall leaves are changing.

Location:   Zurich Region
Address: Alte Sihltalstrasse, 8135 Sihlwald, Switzerland
Car: ~20 mins from Zurich
Train: ~25 mins from Zurich
Trail: 2 km loop, about 2 hours
Condition: dirt, obstacle-free options
Skill: moderate, some steep sections
Open: year round, weather dependent
More info: www.wildnispark.ch

 

Overview

The trail starts at the train station and parking, which are a short walk from the park visitor center. he trail is a loop, so you can hike either direction. I recommend going south first (labeled “Start” on the map below), which means you’ll end your walk at the visitor center and the playground. That way your kids will be rewarded by playground at the end instead of spending all their energy there before even starting the hike.

Below is the trail map from their PDF flyer. This map is also available inside the visitor center. It show where all the interactive stations are, which helped when the kids got a little anxious. If the visitor center is closed when you are going, I recommend printing it from the PDF before you go.

The trail is easy follow. Just look for the black signs labeled “Walderlebnispfad” (as shown above), which appear at every junction.

The trail is not difficult, but be aware that the beginning and end of the trail are quite steep with stairs (only a short section), which could be challenging or even dangerous for very small children. However, there is a dirt road detour for both steep sections, which also makes the trail possible with a stroller.

There is a fire pit with a picnic table in the middle of the trail and also a few fire pits at the visitor center at the end of the trail.

The trail and park are open year around, but the visitor center and other services are closed during winter. Also there were “kein Winterdienst” signs, meaning that snow will not be cleared or groomed unlike “Winterweg” trails where the snow is packed down so you can walk with regular shoes. We went in November, which mean the trail was often covered in slippery leaves and mud. It was still very nice, but just something to consider.

This trail is only one of many attractions at Wildnispark Zürich: Sihlwald, a nature reserve along the Sihl river, about 15 minutes south of Zurich. At the park, you’ll find a visitor center (open late Mar through early Nov), animal exhibits (including beaver and fish otter habitats), a variety of trails, a large playground, fire pits, a cafe, etc. This trail takes about 2 hours, including time spent at each station. But you could spend several hours at the park, visiting the animals, on the playground, and wandering along the river.

I’m always surprised how difficult it can be to find trail information even if you know what you’re looking for. I knew about this trail and it still took me a long time to find any information about it, which reminded me why I write this blog – so you don’t have to work so hard! This trail is hidden on their website under the odd title “Auf eigene Faust” which translates to “On your own”. This page has a link to a very helpful PDF flyer for this trail, which has a trail map and a description of each station. The flyer is in German, but happily all the interactive stations include text in English.

Getting There

Using the map below, drive south of Zurich to the Sihlwald Bahnhof, aka train station. The train station is in the Sihltal (aka valley), next on the Sihl river, just south of the Langnau am Albis and Gattikon towns.

There is lots of metered parking next to the train station, which costs 5CHF for the day. For those taking the train, it runs once an hour so check the schedule beforehand. The Wildnispark Zurich: Sihlwald visitor center is directly north of the train station.

By public transport: take the S4 train to the Sihlwald train station.  The train runs infrequently, so check the schedule beforehand.

On Sundays from April to October, a special steam train, aka “Dampfbahn,” goes from Zurich to the Sihlwald (details here). On 6.Dec, your kids can ride the steam train with Samichlaus (details here).

Trail details

To start the trail, walk south of the train station, following the paved road that veers to your left and crosses the river. After crossing the river, on your right, you’ll see one of those black trail signs pointing to a small path up the hill. This part is steep and has lots of stairs (shown below left).

If you need the stroller-friendly detour, take the dirt path on your left that heads up the hill (not the path that follows the river), shown with red dashes on the map above. It’s a long detour and skips one station, but it will eventually reconnect with the main trail. The solid red parts of the trail are wide dirt paths (shown below right), which are manageable with an all-terrain stroller.

There are 12 interactive stations along the trail, with some educational information and usually something for the kids to do. Here are a few to peak your interest…

At the “Balance” station, the kids had to try to balance each stick on top of a pointed log. It was very tricky and the kids felt quite a sense of accomplishment once they completed them all.

Seems like every trail has a barefoot path these days, but we still like them. The sign encourages you to close your eyes so you can concentrate on your other senses during the walk.

This “Long Jump” station was our boys’ favorite. Along the jumping area were signs indicating how far various animals could jump. We laughed when we saw that frogs and rabbits could jump farther than we could. We were surprised to see that the human world record is a whopping 8.95 meters. Unbelievable!

The “Fairy Tale Forest” is a short loop on a raised wooden walkway through a bog. The wood can be very slippery so be careful and keep a close eye on very small children. No strollers on this part (some stairs). The loop returns to the main path, so you can just leave strollers at the entrance.

On the left, you stick your head in the rock and hear vibrations traveling through the rock. On the right, you can see how old the tree is by counting the rings.

On the left, just a typical section of the path through the forest. On the right, a xylophone of wood logs. Each log has a different sound depending on type, humidity, size, etc.

Here’s the picnic area and fire pit in the middle of the loop trail, near the barefoot trail. There are two fire pits, lots of benches and a picnic table. The wood box was locked up when we were there, but maybe in summer it’s open. But bring your own wood just in case. There is also a water fountain with drinkable water behind the picnic area.

After you finish the trail, there’s plenty back at the Sihlwald visitor center to entertain you. First, there’s the lovely river.

Here’s the playground near the visitor center.

One of the big picnic areas and fire pits near the visitor center. They have lots of wood available in the bins next to the picnic area.

Don’t forget the beaver and fish otter habitats. We didn’t see any animals except fish (maybe it was too cold in November), but the educational signboards were entertaining.

Well, that’s all she wrote, folks. I hope you enjoy it!

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