Rheinquelle Hike

This hike to the source of the Rhein river is a bit difficult but so worth it. Once we we peeked over the rocks to spy this magical spring, we immediately forgot the long climb it took to get there. It’s a popular spot but there’s plenty of room to spread out, with grass for running, boulders for climbing and wild blueberries for picking. The trail is not difficult, but it does climb 350 m over the last 2 km, which made our kids a little grumpy. But we saw lots of families with little kids on this trail (the 3 yr olds carrying their own packs put our kids to shame!), so you can do it too!

This hike is part of first 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 from the Gotthard pass to the source of the Reuss river, part of stage 3 of the Vier Quellen Weg. We hope to do all five stages of this hike eventually.

Region:   Graubunden
Address: Oberalppass, Canton Uri, Switzerland
Car: ~2hr10 mins from Zurich
Train: ~2hr10 mins from Zurich
Trail: 4 km each way, about 4 hours there and back
Condition: dirt, alpine trail
Skill: moderate, 300 m elevation gain
Open: July to early October, weather dependant
More info:

Overview

This hike starts at the train station next to the Oberalpsee, about 10 km east of Andermatt. The trail starts east along the road for a bit before heading toward the mountain. The trail starts rather flat for the first 2 km, then climbs 350 m over the next 2 km, ending at Tuma lake, the source of the Rhein river.

This is an alpine trail, with dirt, rocks and switchbacks, not suitable for strollers.  It took us about 2 hours, with some quitting and complaining on the way up. But we were all smiles at the top and happy to have done it. We did this hike in early August on a hot day.

Here is a map of the full Vier-Quellen-Weg. This hike is part of stage 1.

Getting There

By transit: It’s so far from Zurich that we opted for the train, so both adults to relax on the ride. You basically take a train to Göschenen, then another train to Andermatt, then Oberalppass. The trail starts right near the train station.

By car: Use the map below to drive to Oberalppass, as shown on the map below. There is a big parking lot next to the restaurants.

Trail Detail

Here’s the Oberalpsee and train station.

There are a couple restaurants and info center at the pass before you start the hike.

The hike starts east along the road. There is another trail that will also reach the lake, but it goes up and over the mountain, longer and more elevation gain.

Follow signs to Lai da Tuma (lake Tuma) and #40 Vier-Quellen-Weg.

Looking back to Oberalppass.

Narrow path skirting along the hillside.

We stopped at this river to cool our hands.

Found “crystals” in this stream.

Looking east, down the valley toward Brigels and Ilanz.

The trail gets a little rocky.

Are we there yet? Little did we know we were just a couple minutes away. We almost quit here because we didn’t know how much farther it was and our boys were pretty grumpy.

Let’s just see what’s just beyond this trail sign…

We made it!!!

A different sort of wildflower up here.

Yep, the right place: Rheinquelle!

We were surprised to see so many people here! I was disappointed at first but it was easy to find a spot to ourselves.

It’s a bit marshy, so waterproof shoes are helpful.

Exploring a little upstream.

The trail continues up and over those mountains to a mountain hut and back down to Oberalppass. But we went back the way we came.

Looking for a place to ourselves.

We settled into these rocks and found a nice flat spot for our picnic.

From the top looking down the trail back home, a long way back.

We ran out of water on the way back. So we ran to this cafe and guzzled a bunch of apfelschörle before eating a bunch of ice cream sundaes as a reward for all our hard work.

Don’t forget to Pin this for later…

A bit of a climb to reach the source of the Rhein, but so worth it. This special spot has lush grass for running, boulders for climbing and wild blueberries for picking. We saw lots of families with little kids on the trail. - Graubunden Switzerland

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