This beautiful hike at the Gotthard Pass skirts along a big reservoir before heading up the rocky mountain to the source of the Rhein river, a bubbling spring nestled in the rocky peaks. It’s a very nice hike with lovely scenery. It was a bit long for our little kids (5 and 9 at the time), but they did fine, especially since the way back was mostly downhill.
This hike is part of third stage of the “Vier Quellen Weg” that hikes to the source of four rivers (Rhein, Reuss, Ticino und Rhone), staying in mountain huts along the way, 86 km over 5 days. The full hikes are too long for our kids, ranging from 13 to 21 km. But you can hike each river source as a shorter day hike, which is much more appropriate for families with small children.
We have also hiked part of stage 1, from the Oberalp pass to the source of the Rhein river. We hope to do visit all four river sources eventually.
This hike starts a bit north of the Gotthard pass, at the bottom of the Lake Lucendro dam. First you hike up to lake, walk along the lake, then hike up the mountain to the spring. The first half of the hike is on a dirt road (ok for all terrain strollers) until you leave the lake, then it turns into a narrow dirt and rocky alpine trail the rest of the way to the spring.
There are no services along the trail. There was one farm on the far side of the lake. Maybe there have a farm shop or small cafe but nothing was open when we were there in August. We didn’t see any fountains. There’s no trees, so wood for a fire. We brought a mini disposable grill so we could cook our lunch at the top. But probably better to just bring a picnic.
We tried to do this hike in the middle of June 2013, but when we got there, there was a meter of snow packed on each side of the road and people were snowshoeing. Whoops, should have checked the webcam. We came back on a sunny day in mid September and it was great, but cold and windy at the top. We all wished we had thicker jackets and our boys huddled under a tarp while we cooked lunch.
Here is a map of the full Vier-Quellen-Weg. This hike is part of stage 3.
By car: Using the map below, drive to the Gotthard pass. It’s a little tricky to find the right road to the dam, so it’s best to look at the map below, which shows how you turn off the main road, then take a sharp left and follow that run back under the main road and over to the dam (GPS: 46.561645, 8.553494). There’s a big dirt lot right under the dam.
By transit: Take a train to Airolo, then a bus to the Gotthard pass, then a short walk to the trail head, following trail signs to Lago di Lucendro.
This shows the roads leading to the bottom of the dam. On the right, you can see the parking lot close to the dam and the road leading up to the dam.
Here we are in the parking lot. From here you can follow the dirt road up to the dam or the narrow footpath that joins up with the dirt road at the top of the dam. I recommend the footpath as you get some nice higher up views of the lake than the road.
On the footpath to the top of dam.
Walking on the dirt road along the lake.
Looking back at the dam.
Almost to the far side of the lake.
A farm or something but all closed up. No services, at least the day we were there.
Looking back at the lake as we start to climb up.
The trail narrows as you head up the mountain. This sign gives some instructions about trail etiquette when sheep herds are loose in the area, also warning that guard dogs will protect the herd if you get too close.
Two hours later we made it to the Reuss Quelle. Congratulations!
It was a calm peaceful spot, not spectacular like the source of the Rhein. But we liked it. We had our picnic here among the rocks. It was very cold and windy in this spot in mid-September. Be prepared for shifts in weather.
The trail continues into the mountains and on to the next river source. But we just headed back the way we came, as shown below. It was chilly up so you can see we had on double jackets, hats and gloves.
Making our way back down, happy for the sunshine.
The way back was slightly faster than the way up, but not by much.
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