Braunwald is a beautiful car-free village, reached by funicular train from the Glarus valley. They have a fantastic theme trail for children called the Zwäärg Baartliweg, with eight interactive stations along the trail. There’s a dwarf rock castle to explore with a throne hidden in a cave lit with glowing gems. There’s a huge water play area, fed by a big waterfall, with streams to divert and rocks to rearrange. The lush “magic forest” has seven dwarfs hidden along the path. At the restaurant in the middle, there’s a big playground with a view. There are plenty of places to picnic and grill. Of course, the mountain views are spectacular. The full trail is not difficult, but it is long and not suitable for strollers. But don’t worry, there are shorter options and obstacle-free alternatives. Braunwald is very close to Zurich, access by public transport is easy and unusually affordable (details below). It’s a great day out for families with children of all ages.
|Address:||Stachelbergstrasse 2, 8783 Glarus Süd Switzerland
GPS: 46°55’42.1″N 9°00’08.3″E
|Car:||1hr10 from Zurich|
|Train:||1hr30 from Zurich|
|Trail:||7.6 km one way, about 3.5 hours. Shorter options available.|
|Condition:||dirt, obstacle-free options|
|Open:||mid-June through October|
The Zwäärg Baartliweg starts from the top of the Burstberg-Gumen lift and hikes down 7.6 km to the Braunwald town, where you can catch the funicular down to the valley. There are several interactive play stations related to a dwarf story, which is told on signboards at each station (more details below). There are restaurants at the top, middle, and end. There are lots of picnic areas with fire pits and wood.
We did the whole trail with kids aged 8 to 12. The official walking time is 3hr30, which I think is accurate. But our kids had so much fun on the trail, that we were on the trail about 6hr30. I recommend getting there early and plan for lots of play time.
For small children and a shorter day, I recommend only doing half of the trail, either from Gumen to Grotzenbühl (4 km) or Grotzenbühl to Braunwald (3.6km). This allows for plenty of time to play on the trail and doesn’t wear the kids out. The first half has more dramatic views, but the kids probably enjoyed the second half more.
The most accurate map I found was this one below, which was on a sign on the trail. As you can see, the trail winds back and forth across the mountain. You can see the official Braunwald hiking map on their website.
Here is an accurate map showing exactly where the stations are. My numbers are different than the above map. See below this map for a list of the stations and distance between them. Click through for a larger, interactive version of this map.
Here are the actual distances between points.
1.0 km – #1 Dwarf castle and picnic area with fire pit
2.5 km – #2 Gem cave with marble run
3.0 km – #3 Dwarf cave and picnic area with fire pits. – at 3 km mark you take a short 250 m detour up the hill to reach the cave, then return to trail
3.5 km – #4 Dwarf play house and picnic area with fire pit.
4.0 km – Restaurant Chämistube and playground
5.0 km – #5 Dwarf “tower” with big slide and picnic area
5.5 km – #6 Magic forest with hidden dwarfs along trail.
6.0 km – #7 Water playground & #8 Dwarf play house and picnic area with fire pit
7.6 km – # 9 Music station and Braunwald funicular
I found this helpful timeline on the trail. I found the times were pretty accurate for our crew.
The full trail is not suitable for strollers, as some sections are narrow lumpy footpaths. One year we did the first half to Grotzenbühl with a stroller, which was not ideal but we made it.
For strollers, Braunwald suggests this alternative, which follows the Melodies of Summer trail (2.9 km), from the top of the Grotzenbuhl lift back down to Braunwald. This trail has 18 signboards with info, questions and activities related nature sounds. We saw a few along the way and it looked nice.
Get yourself to Linthal in the Glarus valley. The funicular train up to Braunwald leaves from there.
By car: Drive to Linthal in the Glarus region and follow signs to the metered parking lot adjacent to the funicular station.
By public transit: Take the train to Linthal-Braunwald station (not Linthal, which is one stop further). The train station is immediately adjacent to the funicular station. Your train ticket is also good for the funicular up to Braunwald, but you need to show your train ticket at the Braunwald ticket booth to get the funicular ticket. More details on tickets below.
If you are coming by car…
Buy a return ticket on the Linthal-Braunwald funicular and a one-way ticket on the Burstberg-Gumen lift, since you will be hiking down to Braunwald. If you are only doing half the trail, just point on the map where you plan to hike and they will sell you the correct ticket.
In 2016, this hiking ticket cost 15.80 CHF for an adult with SBB Halbtax. SBB Junior Cards are accepted for the Braunwald funicular but not for the mountain lifts. But children tickets are inexpensive and children under 6 are free. See current prices on their website.
If you are coming by train…
The train from Zurich HB is surprisingly affordable, only 27 CHF in 2016. This ticket includes the funicular up to Braunwald. SBB Halbtax and Junior cards are accepted for this route, including transport to Braunwald.
Once in Linthal-Braunwaldbahn, go to the Braunwaldbahn ticket booth and show them your train ticket, which is also a voucher. They will give you return tickets for the funicular train up to Braunwald.
At this point, you will also need to purchase your mountain lift ticket from Burstberg to Gumen (or Grotzenbühl if you are only doing half the trail). Show the staff where you want to hike and they will sell you the correct tickets.
For the mountain lift ticket, SBB Halbtax is accepted but not SBB Junior cards. In 2016, this single ride to Gumen cost 16 CHF for adults, 12.80 for adults with Halbtax, 8 CHF for children 6 and over.
The Braunwaldbahn from Linthal runs about every 30 mins, first train 7:25, last train 19:48. The train runs all year round. Check current schedule on their website.
The Burstberg – Gumen cable car starts its daily summer season in mid-June. It runs constantly from 8:00 – 12:00 and 13:00 – 17:00.
Zwerg Bartli Theme Trail
Bartli is a dwarf who lives in the Glarus region. He has a long white beard, red pants and a green jacket. At the eight stations along the trail, you can see typical scenes of his life. The trail has an accompanying book, CD and coloring book available for purchase in the Tourist Buro.
The website has a brochure describing the stations. I’ve put some images here since who knows when this brochure might disappear (as has happened with other trails). There is also more trail info on this webpage.
The brochure contains a trail map, which is so misleading, I would completely disregard it. It makes it seem that you are hiking down, then back up, then down again, the back up – not the case at all. Also, the stations are not shown in an accurate location relative to the lifts.
However, the descriptions and illustrations of the stations are accurate and a nice incentive for the kids.
Trail Details & Impressions
At the top of the Braunwald funicular, you are dropped off in town. Every time we’ve been there are a variety of food and craft booths set up here and we usually buy some snacks for the trail. There are a couple small stores in town if you need supplies. To reach the trail, follow the road shown below toward Burstberg, taking the split to your right.
Walk west 1 km through town to the Burstberg-Gumen lift as shown below. We accidentally walked down to Niederschlacht instead. But there is a free lift that that takes you to Hüttenberg and you can walk the rest of the way from there.
On the path to the Burstberg lift, you’ll pass a couple stations for the Melodies of Summer trail, including a guest book affixed to a pole, as shown below. We all signed our names in the book, look for us!
We saw some bee houses on trees along the trail. This little dwarf welcomed us to the trail.
The Burstberg-Gumen lift is shown below right, about 1 km from the funicular.
The Burstberg-Gumen lift alternates chairs and cable cars, which is a nice option for those with small kids that don’t do well on open chairs.
Ride to the top. There’s a restaurant at the top with a great view.
There are some dwarf rabbits next to the restaurant. This is part of another theme trail, Tierli Parcours, where you can visit several animals along the way and stamp your animal passport. We got the trail map and passport in the Gumen restaurant.
Not all of the animals are along the dwarf path, but some of them as shown below. We saw the rabbits, goats and pigs.
The dwarf trail starts directly below the restaurant. Follow the brown signs to Zwergenschloss.
Take the small detour out to the end of this lookout point before continuing down the trail.
Great place for some family pics.
The trail continues down on a narrow footpath.
Big views all around.
Looking up the mountain as we go down.
After about 15 mins, the path joins a dirt road. Continuing following signs to the Zwergeschloss and the little red dwarf symbols as shown below.
The Zwergenschloss, aka “dwarf castle”, is basically a fun rocky area for kids to explore. It is a short detour off the main path. When you enter this area, you’ll first pass through the picnic area with fire pits shown below.
There is a short circular path around the rocks, with some ladders and rocks to climb over. The path is fun for older kids, but it is tricky and sometimes slippery; little kids will need supervision so they don’t fall and get hurt. Have kids leave their backpacks in the picnic area so they have better balance. Sorry I don’t have better pics of the rocks but I was busy playing with my kids.
Don’t attempt to take a stroller through there either. The first time we came here back in 2007, we thought the trail continued through this area but we were wrong and my husband had quite a time yanking our stroller over trees and through narrow cracks to get out of there. Live and learn!
One of the caves has a throne with a crown, a treasure box, and gems that light up the cave.
The castle has these fun flower and dwarf faces to try on.
After visiting the castle, get back on the main path and follow signs to Edelsteinspalte.
As the trail heads east (to your left), you’ll be walking on a dirt road with a log path on your right (sorry no pic). In the middle of this, you’ll see a trail sign pointing down some stairs to Edelsteinspalte. Take this path. We were worried that we would miss the Zwergehöhle (dwarf cave), but this is just a little detour that leads through a small rock crevice in the forest, then back up to the main trail.
Inside the rock crevice, you’ll find this marble run, some mining equipment tacked to the walls, and a fire gem that you can light up by turning a crank.
After joining the main trail, you’ll walk about 500 m to this turn off tow the Zwergehöhle, aka dwarf cave. The kids weren’t so keen on this detour because they could see the restaurant playground in the distance and wanted to go play. So I went up with just one kid to check it out. It’s a steep climb, but only a couple minutes, about 250 m, to the cave.
The path isn’t marked, but you just follow this faint path around the curve.
Then there are stairs leading up to the cave.
Inside the cave, you’ll find the living quarters for a dwarf, including this table and little bed. The cave is set up to be lit by little gem lights, but it wasn’t working when we were there, so it was very dark. I recommend bringing a flashlight.
There is a little activity book at the mouth of the cave, which was super cute.
After rejoining the trail, it’s another 500m to the Rindenhüttli, another little dwarf house where the kids can play. There is a fire pit and picnic area immediately in front of the house. There are a few animal footprints scattered around the house as well.
The Restaurant Chämistube is just a couple minutes farther, where you’ll find this playground. This is also the top of the Grotzenbuhl lift. With little kids, you might consider starting your hike here.
It’s a self-service restaurant with the usual fare, nothing special except the view. There is a large patio with shaded tables.
Below the restaurant at the playground, there are benches where you can picnic. There was a also bouncy castle the day we were there.
Leaving the restaurant and playground, starting back on the trail. This is both the Zwergeweg and “Melodie des Sommers” trail.
Each sign board on the Melody trail has a question or activity, like this one that asks if you can make the same sound as a Elstar bird.
The trail descends into the forest. Right after you see the teepees, the Zwergeweg takes the right fork, while the Melody trail stays to your left.
About 30 minutes after the restaurant, you’ll reach the Zwergeturm, aka dwarf tower. The main attraction is this big slide. There are also simple telescopes for peering into the forest and metal funnels to amplify the sounds of the forest. There are picnic tables below the platform and wood for a fire, butI didn’t actually see where the fire pit was.
Here is the magic forest, where there are seven hidden dwarfs. There are not hidden very well and easy to find, don’t worry.
The path here is narrow, lumpy path. It was little muddy when we were there.
Exiting the Magic Forest. There are still some hidden dwarfs after this point.
About 30 mins after leaving the tower, you’ll reach the Wasserspielplatz, aka water playground.
There is a waterfall above feeding the water playground, which has a couple different pools to play in, mostly redirecting water in different directions. Our kids spent an hour digging in the mud to reroute the river. They were so happy, it was too bad we got there so late (about 17:00) and had to leave before they were ready.
A little rope for climbing.
Another dwarf play house (Tidli’s), with a picnic area, fire pit and wood.
A few pics inside the play house, so cute. I love the tiny clothes hanging on pegs.
Heading back to Braunwald, maybe the prettiest part of the hike.
Looking back up the trail at the cliffs above.
My favorite pic of the day. These two cuties were telling fairy tales to each other while they waited for us to catch up.
Back to the Braunwald funicular, reading to ride down and catch the train back to Zurich. The funicular runs about every 30 mins. But the train in the valley starts running only once an hour after 18:00. So check the schedule beforehand so you don’t get stuck waiting like we did.
Just a final note to check the weather and webcams before you go. We went in late September one year and there was tons of snow, even though it was a warm day. Whoops!
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