Instead of taking visitors to Pilatus or Rigi, consider Stoos in the Swiss Knife Valley, which offers amazing views, slightly more affordable, with less crowds. There’s a short panoramaweg at the top, suitable for strollers, with spectacular views of Lake Luzern and the surrounding mountains, as well as other more challenging hiking options, a couple of which I’ll describe below. There’s even a short theme trail the Stoos valley, with fun activities educating children about the Moor. The ride up, first on a super steep funicular, then two chair lifts, is a thrill in itself. There is a restaurant and picnic area + playground at the top, all with fantastic views. Please note that it requires a chair-lift, but it does have a windguard that makes me feel a bit safer with small kids. I’ve been here several times and taken many visitors. I highly recommend it.
|Address:||Cable Car: near Rüti 4, 6443 Morschach
GPS: 46°59’24.4″N 8°38’17.6″E
Funicular: Stooshorn 1, 6433 Schwyz
GPS: 46°59’31.4″N 8°40’05.6″E
|Car:||50 mins from Zurich|
|Train:||1hr20 from Zurich|
|Trail:||various from 1.5 to 8 km|
|Condition:||varied, some obstacle-free, some dirt alpine trails|
|Skill:||easy to moderate|
|Open:||late May to end of October|
|Cost:||for return trip from valley to top:
Adult CHF 42, children under 15 free
SBB Half-fare accepted
Here’s the map provided by Stoos in their brochure, with my comments. Strangely I couldn’t find it on their website so I had to take picture of it – ugh! If someone from Stoos every reads this, please please please add the map to your website and send me the link!
Of the many hikes in the Stoos area, I’ve done all or part of the following hikes and will tell you all about them below. But first, an overview.
#1 – Short Loop. The Panoramaweg, is a 1.5 km loop, starting along the cliffs overlooking Lake Luzern, then looping back through the fields back to the chair lift. The path is wide and groomed dirt, suitable for strollers.There’s a playground and picnic area at the start of the hike, right on the edge of the cliffs, but fenced in for safety.
#2 – Hike all the way down. After hiking the first half of the Panoramaweg along the cliffs, we kept walking down the mountain all the way back to Stoos, which took us about 2 hours actual walking time, more with breaks. It was a relatively easy trail, though long, all downhill and beautiful the whole way. I think small children that are used to hiking will easily manage this trail.
#3 – Ridge trail. After leaving the Panoramaweg and hiking down the mountain a bit, you can head back up and walk along the ridge and pointy peaks towards Klingenstock. It’s a more challenging hike, with a steep ascent and narrow paths. But the views are amazing!!! I did this section with a friend and want to take my kids next time. I wouldn’t take little kids on it but I think my 7 year old would do just fine.
#4 – Moor theme trail. This is a 1.6 km loop in the Stoos valley, just outside of town in the Moor. It has various stations with games, puzzles, and activities dispensing educational information about the Moor. It’s basically flat and very easy walking. It has picnic areas and fire pits. With little kids, I might couple this with the Panorama loop, so you get both the spectacular views at the top and a little fun back in the valley, without too much hard hiking.
Details for these hikes below.
These trails are accessed from Stoos, a car-free village in the mountains just south of Schwyz and Brunnen. You can reach Stoos either by a cable car from Morschach or a funicular train south of Schwyz. I suggest the funicular train (aka Standseilbahn) as it is very steep and a fun ride. It also fits more people, which is important on a crowded day.
To reach the Stoos funicular:
By car: The Stoos funicular doesn’t have an address, so I usually put Illgau as my destination in my GPS, which are towns a little past the Stoosbahn. You’ll see the funicular base station on your left before reaching Illgau. Park in the metered lot a couple hundred meters past the station.
By transit: Take a train to Schwyz, Bahnhof, then bus #1 to Schwyz, Stoosbahn, which is adjacent to the funicular base station.
Here’s the funicular train. I read a couple articles that in winter 2014, Stoos was supposed to open a new even steeper funicular (110% instead of 78%) just a few hundred meters from the old one. But I went recently and can’t find any evidence that it has opened yet. Report back if you see it.
Alternatively, if want to take the cable car…
By car: Drive to Morschach, following the signs for the cable car, which is a couple minutes past the main town. There is a big metered parking lot right next to the cable car, which is very convenient. However, the cable car is quite small and you might have to wait a bit on crowded days. The posted times for the cable car are once every 30 mins, but it usually runs more frequently on weekends and holidays.
By transit: Take a train to Brunnen, then bus #4 to Morschach, Luftseilbahn, which is adjacent to the cable car base station.
From either the cable car or funicular, buy a Stoos day pass, which includes your transport to Stoos on either the funicular or cable car and all the chair lifts in the Stoos area. In 2015, adults full fare cost CHF 40, with Halbtax CHF 30, all children 15 and under ride free. I think this is very reasonable full-fare price compared to most other mountains, which makes it a good choice for visitors, especially those with children.
All the trails except #4 start at the top of Fronalpstock. So let’s start there.
Once in Stoos, walk on the paved road towards town, following signs to the Fronalpstock-Bahn, a chair lift, which will be on your right. It’s about a 5 minute walk.
Let’s admire the town of Stoos for a moment, so peaceful and beautiful.
Take the chairlift up to the top, getting off half-way and taking a second chair lift to get all the way up. Here is a view from one of the chair lifts as we went up.
At the top, you get a dramatic view of Vierwaldstättersee (aka Lake Luzern). I’ve been here several times and it still takes my breath away. There is a safe lookout platform enclosed with a high fence, safe for kids of all sizes. We first visited way back when my first son was 3 and I was very pregnant with my second son. We just admired the view and had a nice lunch, but didn’t hike.
There’s a restaurant at the top, with a large patio and indoor seating with large windows letting in the view.
We ate there once and it was slightly above average with typical Swiss prices and a great view.
There is a small fenced in playground at the top with a zip line and other amusements, as well as picnic tables. The whole area is fenced in, so you don’t need to worry about your kids falling off the cliff, unless they are climbers.
You can have a few hiking options from the top, as indicated by these trail signs.
You can also hike under the chair lift down these mild slopes. This seemed to be quite popular.
#1 – Panoramaweg trail
The Panoramaweg starts southwest from the chair lift, or the left as you look at the lake. Here’s a trail map for the 1.5 km stroller-friendly Panorama loop.
It parallels the cliffs without getting too close. However, I’d keep a tight rein on little kids that like to run and not mind safety instructions. This section of the trail is a wide gravel path, very stroller-friendly.
After about 20 mins, the trail divides. the Panoramaweg will loop back to Fronalpstock, away from the cliffs, with views south to Muotathal. If you have a stroller, this is your only option. Straight ahead, down the mountain, is the trail to Stoos, detailed in the next section.
#2 – Hike down to Stoos village
After walking the first half of the Panoramaweg, instead of looping back, we continued on to Furgelli-Hütte and all the way back down to Stoos, total distance of about 5.4km to the Stoos funicular. The first half of the Panoramaweg took us 20 mins. Then another 25 mins to the saddle between the two peaks. Then a little over an hour back down to Stoos. So total walking time about 2 hours, walking very slow with breaks.
Here is the trail map.
When you leave the Panoramweg, you’ll go through a cow gate and join a narrow, steep switchback trail that goes down to a saddle between two peaks. No strollers here. It looks harder than it is. I don’t think it’s a difficult or dangerous trail and small children should be able to manage it without too much trouble. But there are a lot of steps and big rocks to walk over.
There are a couple benches on your way down, a nice place to stop for a snack with a view.
After you reach the saddle between the two peaks, at the Furggeli Hut, the trail continues down towards Stoos. This picture gives you some perspective on where the different trails are.
This part is always the most challenging for us. One time in mid-June, there was still some snow on the trail, which was very slippery and the rest was very muddy from the snow melt. Another time in late July, it was super muddy and all chewed up from cow hooves that we had to jump from rock to rock to avoid sinking deep in the mud. I was glad we all had walking sticks to help us negotiate these parts.
After about 30 mins, the trail joins a dirt road and meanders through lovely meadows.
Right before you reach the town of Stoos, the trail joins the Moor Experience trail, which is detailed below.
#3 – Ridge trail option
This Ridge hike is a more challenging option for those wanting to hike back down to Stoos. I’ve always wanted to do this hike, but was worried it would be too much for my kids. But after hiking it with my friend, I think my kids would be just fine. It’s more difficult but definitely worth it. The trail is narrow with steep slopes on the sides. So I’d be worried with very small children, but older kids should manage nicely.
Start the same as hike #1 and #2, following the Panoramaweg half-way and walking down the switchbacks to the “saddle” at Furggeli-Hütte. At this point, the trail divides. To your left, the trail heads back down to Stoos as described in hike #2 above. Straight ahead, the trail heads back up to follow a ridge trail toward the other chair lift, Klingenstock. Below is a trail map for this option. Our path was 7.5 km and took two chatting adults about 2hr30 with lots of breaks.
Note: Ideally, I would walk on the Ridge trail to the top of the Klingenstock chair lift, then ride back down. But the Klingenstock chair lift has been closed every time I’ve been to Stoos, even though I’ve almost always been on sunny weekends. I can’t imagine when it would be open if not on days like those. So instead of continuing all the way to Klingenstock, you can walk part of the ridge trail, then head back down to Stoos, which is shown in the map below.
After some normal switchbacks up the hill, the trail gets a little narrow and sketchy as shown below. I wouldn’t want a toddler on this section.
It stays narrow but so, so, so pretty. It’s worth the climb.
It stays a narrow footpath along the ridge, with steep slopes on both sides. This is my favorite kind of trail.
Near the top, there is this fantastic picnic spot, with a really cool table made out of a single tree, with the branchs as legs holding up the table and benches. I wished that I had waited to eat until here.
We descended a bit then there was a sign pointing to Stoos 1h and Klingenstock 1h10. Since it was almost 18:00 and Klingenstock chair was closed, we took the path back to Stoos, leading down the mountain.
Such lovely fields on this mountain. This was at the end of June.
About 40 minutes later, there was a picnic area and fire pit with grill overlooking Stoos, that little town by the lake in the distance.
The trail meanders through various fields all the way back into Stoos, where you can follow the road back to the funicular.
A little warning. This section of the trail went through some cow fields. I normally don’t have problems with cows, but this time, they were very aggressive and chased us. I was scared. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure there must have been some calves nearby, though we didn’t see any small cows in the herd. So considered yourself warned. I wrote a little post about Hiking Safely with Cows.
#4 – Moor Experience Trail, aka Moorerlebnisweg
This is a new theme trail in the moor on the outskirts of Stoos. It’s a 1.6 km loop, with 8 stations along the way with fun activities designed to teach kids about the moor. This webpage has more information about the path in English and a link to a PDF brochure, which is available in printed form at the ticket booth.
You don’t need to ride the Fronalpstock chair to access this trail. Just ride the funicular to Stoos and walk through town to the Moor. If you don’t take the chair lift, you can buy a less expensive “Stoos transport only” ticket, CHF 11 with Halbtax for an adult, kids ride free.
Here’s the moor in all its glory. I’m standing on one side of the loop trail looking across to the trail on the other side of the moor.
We didn’t do the whole trail (have to save something for next time), just the stations along the end of our hike back down to Stoos. We really enjoyed the Ladder Game station show below. It has lots of ladders and questions scattered around this hill.
At each question, it has two or more answers pointing you in different directions to different ladders. The correct answers will lead you on the correct path to the top. Otherwise, you’ll have to retrace your steps. I sometimes had trouble making my way around the steep slope, but my kids had a great time scrambling around. The text is in German only so you might need to translate.
You can walk barefoot in moor mud.
There is also a picnic area with a fire pit, wood and tables. It’s near the end of the hike, so plan accordingly.
As you leave the moor and enter town, there is a stocked fishing pond. Read the posted instructions on how to fish there. It’s expensive, but I’m pretty sure you’ll catch something.
Whew! That was a long post. I hope you enjoyed it. After looking at all these pics again, I’m ready to go back to Stoos this summer. I love that place!
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