The Swiss Path: Rütli to Bauen

The Rütli-Bauen section of the Swiss Path, aka “Weg der Schweiz,” is a lovely trail in the forests and high alpine meadows bordering the southwest section of Lake Luzern. This hike is just one part of “The Swiss Path,” aka “Weg der Schweiz,” was built to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The whole Swiss Path is 35 km, but is broken into 7 sections, each easily accessible by public transportation, so you can walk as little or much as you like. This post covers sections A and B, the 8.6 km stretch from Rütli to Bauen, which includes a steep ascent to the alpine village of Seelisberg, then a leisurely walk back down to Bauen on the lake. Even though this hike sometimes follows roads and dips through small towns, we still really liked this hike and would definitely recommend it.

This hike is not suitable for strollers, but sections C and D of the Swiss Path are. That hike, from Bauen to Flüelen, is a mostly wide, flat path hugging the lake shore, with nice views of the surrounding mountains. It’s not nearly as nice as this hike, as it is often right next to the road. But it’s still a good time and I would recommend it if you need a low-key, easy walk with a view. See details for sections C and D here. I’ve also written an overview of the Swiss Path here.

Location:   Central Switzerland
Address: Brunnen SGV, Ingenbohl, CH-UR
Car: 50 mins from Zurich
Train: 1hr10 from Zurich
Trail: 8.6 km, 750 m elevation gain
Condition: easy
Skill: moderate, steep ascent for 2km
Open: year round, weather dependent
More info: www.weg-der-schweiz.ch

Getting There

Drive or take a train to Brunnen (Ingenbohl, Kanton Schweiz) and make your way to the ferry dock. There are many large metered parking lots around Brunnen. Buy a round trip ticket, going first to Rütli and returning from Bauen. In 2015, this cost CHF 11 with Halbtax, SBB-Juniorkarte accepted.

If you don’t want to walk up to Seelisberg (750m elevation gain over ~2km), you can instead take the ferry to Treib, ride a funicular to Seelisberg and join the Swiss Path there. See the Seelisberg website for details.

Closely examine the ferry timetable before heading out. Some times and stops are only serviced on weekdays or only on Sundays and holidays. Also, Fall, Winter and Spring have much more limited schedules that summer. You don’t want to be stuck waiting 2+ hours for a ferry with little to do but throw rocks in the lake.

With kids, you will need to estimate at least 4 hours on the trail, more if you plan to stop for lunch or playtime. As an example, in late May 2015, we took the 10:11 ferry to Rütli, hiked the trail in 3hr30 with a 30 break for lunch and lots of dawdling along the trail (actual walking time about 2hr20). Happily, we made the 14:21 ferry from Bauen back to Brunnen, since the next ferry wouldn’t come until 16:21. If I were to do it again, I’d plan for 5 hours on the trail, so the kids could have spent more time at the playground and vitaparcours course and so I wouldn’t have to hurry them along.

Trail Overview

Here is my map of the trail. See the map in more detail here.

There are a couple brochures available at ferry ticketing booth that include maps and information about the trail. The “Weg der Schweiz” brochure, available in English, includes an accurate map (a partial segment shown below) and short descriptions of the trail. Unfortunately, this particular map is not available online, but they provide a couple other maps here.

The Treib-Seelisberg-Bahn provides a high-level map of this Seelisberg section in their “Plakatfahrplan” brochure (shown below). It’s not particularly accurate but did give some perspective. Note that it shows lots of trails instead of focusing on the “Weg der Schweiz.”

Trail Impressions

Ride the ferry from Brunnen to Rütli, about 10 minutes. The picture below shows the Seelisberg hill you are going to climb. Rütli is on the left after the exposed cliffs. You can kinda see Seelisberg, the green lawns on top of the mound.

When you disembark at Rütli, you’ll see this red sign. Follow the path up to Rütlihaus, stopping by the Schwurplatz for some history on your way.

Here’s the short trail leading up to Rütlihaus, where you’ll find the restaurant shown below.

At Rütlihaus, do not take the alpine trail above the restaurant, noted by the white/red/white stripe on the trail sign. This trail is not the Swiss Path, though it does connect to it at the top. It’s steeper and more difficult than the main path you will take.

Instead, turn right at the restaurant, following the little yellow trail sign with the hiker symbol to the north. The trail will start a bit downhill and you’ll think you’re going the wrong way, but it will head back up soon enough and will continue up for about 2 km.

It’s not a difficult trail; the path is usually quite wide, smooth and well maintained. But you are gaining over 700m in elevation, which is tough. My 7 and 11 year olds didn’t complain much and made it up to Seelisberg in about 65 minutes. We saw a few younger kids on this part of the trail, but much more at the top. I think some skipped the climb, taking the Treib funicular instead.

Take note of these markers as you pass them. There’s one for each Swiss canton along the Swiss Path, indicating when that canton joined the Swiss Confederation.

After your climb, you’ll leave the forest and join the road leading to Seelisberg. Continue following the yellow trail signs. After a few minutes, the trail will leave the road, cutting left between some houses. The trail leads you to the top of the Treib funicular, shown below, where you’ll also find a WC (50 rappen to use). There’s also a restaurant next door. The trail continues up the road to your left.

Note that sometimes you’ll see the yellow sign with the “99 Weg der Schweiz” symbol and sometimes you’ll just see the hiker symbol. If there are multiple paths, make sure to choose the “99” path or anything pointing to Bauen, your final destination.

After awhile on the road, the path will briefly leave the road at the WC and water fountain shown below, to access a nice viewpoint (shown below right). There’s also a couple fire pits and wood. There are nicer fire pits later on, so I’d recommend waiting a bit.

Back on the road for awhile, but with nice views and very light traffic.

The path takes another short detour from the road to simply walk behind some of the buildings and past this church before rejoining the road.

The path leaves the road shortly before this great playground. There are two fire pits at the playground and many more in the adjacent forest. There are benches and picnic tables. There’s a nearby WC. There’s even a Volg grocery nearby if you forgot any supplies. The playground skews to a younger crowd, but my 7 year old was happy on the swings and climbing tower.

I approve this view!

Right after the playground, the path goes through this dense forest. There’s a vitaparcours course there, with lots of stations. My kids played at a few of them, like the balance beam and parallel bars shown below. We wanted to stay longer, but we were in a bit of a rush to catch the ferry. Maybe next time. There are a few picnic areas and fire pits at the end of the forest, one with a very nice view shown below. If I were making a fire, that’s where I’d do it.

Here’s the view, looking toward Brunnen in the distance where we started this adventure.

This was my favorite spot on the hike. I felt like I was way up in the alps, instead of so close to roads and civilization.

The path goes again into the forest, crossing some fields and farms.

Then spits you back on the road, with a nice view of this mountain peak. We’ll have to climb that one next time.

After you pass the lake on your far right, the trail will split off the road again, to your right as shown below. We were confused because one of our maps didn’t show this split. So we took the road instead. But our friends took the split and confirmed that is the correct way. It joins up with the road again in 10-15 mins.

The path continues on the road for a long while, but there were no cars and the views were fantastic. We passed a “Schlafen im Stroh” farm, where you can sleep in the hay, a popular pastime around here. It looked like a nice one: www.stroh-traum.ch, open May to October.

The road ends at this building, which has a WC and water fountain on this side and covered picnic tables and grill on the other side. They also had wood for the fire. Here, the trail becomes a narrower footpath and starts the long descent down to Bauen, with lots of stairs.

Here is what some of the descent looks like. I forgot to take a picture of the many, many stairs so you’ll have to just believe me.

Once you reach Bauen, make your way to the ferry dock. You’ll pass this church and a statue of Father Alberik Zwyssig who composed the Swiss national anthem. There are a few cafes and nice places to lounge while you wait for the ferry.

If you want to keep walking, Section C to Isleten starts here. Read all about it in my Swiss Path: Bauen to Flüelen post.

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