Pizol Five Lake Trail

This Pizol 5 Lake hike, aka “5 Seen Wanderung,” has been on my list for years. I finally decided my kids were old enough and they did great, perhaps because we brought friends and they chatted about Pokemon the whole time. The hike is long and hard but so worth the effort. The lakes and surrounding landscape are so gorgeous! This is one of my very favorite hikes that we’ve done in Switzerland.

This hike is recommended for kids 8 and over and I agree, as it takes experience and endurance to complete it. With smaller kids, you can do a shorter version, simply hiking to the first two lakes and back, which would still be a great hike. This hike is extremely popular, so you will not be along on the trail. We were there on a Saturday in early September and it was packed, with lots of big hiking groups constantly streaming by. But we still loved it. Keep reading for all the details and lots and lots of pictures. 

Location:   Eastern Switzerland
Address: Wangs, Sargans, Switzerland
GPS: 47°01’47.3″N 9°26’01.3″E
Car: 1hr from Zurich
Train: 1hr10 from Zurich
Trail: 10 km, about 4-5 hours
Condition: dirt alpine trail
Skill: difficult
Open: mid June through mid October
More info: www.pizol.com

Overview

Here is the official Pizol panorama map. The hike starts at the top of the Gaffia-Pizolhütte lift, which is accessed from Wangs by a cable car and two chair lifts. The hike heads up into the mountains, passes by four lakes, then heads down to Gaffia, where you can catch the chair lift back down the mountain. I know it’s called the 5 lake hike, but I’m not sure where the fifth lake is. Maybe the small Wangersee lake at the top?

The hike is about 10 km, which took us about 5 hours, hurrying along and only taking short breaks. We did this hike in early September with kids aged 7, 9, 10, and 12. I recommend planning for at least 7 hours on the mountain so you can enjoy your time at each lake.

Along the trail, there are no services, no water, no wood, no fire pits. I recommend bringing a picnic and planning to stop at the second lake, Schottensee, for lunch. It’s the prettiest one with easy access to the shoreline for skipping rocks and lots of places to explore.

I recommend planning your day so you can spend an hour or so at the Furt station at the end of the hike, so the kids can play and enjoy the Wasserwald. At the Furt middle station, there are a couple restaurants, multiple playgrounds with trampolines and climbing equipment, and a big water play area.  There is also a restaurant at the top at Pizolhütte (cash only, I think).

Here is a more detailed trail map. The official map lists this as 11 km, but my hiking tracker and the trail map said only 10km. Either way, it’s a long way. It’s not a technical trail, just lots of up and down. This hike has about 550m elevation gain and 900m descent over the course of the trail. I definitely recommend walking sticks on this hike.

The hardest section for us was km 4, which was the second big elevation gain. During the first uphill section, the kids were fresh and excited. But by the second one, they had already seen the two best lake and were tired. The last 2 km were difficult for me as parent carrying all the gear, because the trail is quite steep downhill, hard on the knees.

You can do a shorter version of this hike, by simply hiking to the first two lakes, about 3 km one way, then back to Pizolhütte and ride back down. That would be a wonderful hike with smaller kids that can’t do the full distance.

If you want to do a much shorter hike, you can do the Pizol Panorama Höhenweg, which is a short loop that also starts at the top of this lift. See my other post for details.

Getting There

By car: Get yourself to the town of Wangs, taking exit 50-Sargans off the A3, then following signs to the Pizolbahn. There is a big parking lot, which is not metered during summer.

By transit: Take a train to Sargans, Bahnhof, then a bus to Wangs, Pizolbahn. The bus drops off at the far side of the Pizolbahn parking lot, a short walk from the cable car station. The bus runs about every 30 minutes.

Here is the parking lot and the elevator which takes you up to the Pizolbahn.

Opening Times & Schedule

The lifts are generally open from 8:15 – 17:30, with an hour break at lunchtime.

This hike is long so it is important that you plan enough time to catch the last lift down the mountain, else you’ll have to walk down. This hike finishes at the Gaffia station, where the last ride down is 16:30. Check website for current schedule.

We were very pressed for time and had to hurry the whole way, only taking short breaks for rock skipping and lunch. We rode up at 10:30, on the trail by 11:00 and luckily made it to Gaffia by 16:15. This was too rushed for us. We were sad to not have more time to explore around the lakes. I recommend going up as early as possible so you can have time for longs breaks and some buffer in case the kids go extra slow.

Here is a rough schedule showing how far it is between each point:

Wangs to Pizolhütte lifts, about 30 mins
Pizolhütte to Wildsee 2.5 km, about 1 hour
… then to Schottensee 500 m, about 15 mins
… then to Schwarzesee 2.5 km, about 1 hour
… then to Baschalvasee 2.5 km, about 1 hour
… then to Furt 2 km, about 45 mins

Total walking time: 4 hours, not including breaks. This was a great pace for our kids. Usually we go at least 50% slower than the posted time. But this time, we were right on schedule.

Tickets

In addition to regular up and down tickets, they sell tickets based on which hike you are doing. Sample fare: the Five Lake hike costs 22 CHF for an adult with Halbtax.

They also sell “family tickets”, which includes 2 adults and all children under 17. They accept SBB Halbtax and Junior Cards. In 2016, they are part of the 10 CHF UBS Mountain Offer. They accept credit cards.

Trail Impressions

Here is the playground at the Furt station. Save this for after the hike. The last cable car down from here is 17:30.

Riding up from Furt to Gaffia.

Walking from the Furt chair lift over to the Gaffia chair lift.

Looking up the mountain from Gaffia station.

The hut and restaurant at the top of the Pizolhütte lift. Great views from here even if you don’t feel like hiking. Last lift down from here 16:00. You can do a short easy panorama loop here if you want something easy.

Follow signs to “5 Seen Wanderung.” The first lake on the trail is Wildsee, which is 2.5 km and about 1 hour walking uphill.

The start of the hike, heading up to the grey, rocky saddle between the peaks.

Lots of switchbacks. It was crowded, so we often stepped to the side to let faster hikers pass us.

Looking up this grassy part at all the hikers above us.

Almost there.

The first lake: Wildsee. So pretty! We took a short break here but would have liked to explore more if we had time. It is not easy to access the water, you would have to scramble down the rocks. Better to wait for the next lake if you want to get wet.

The trail doesn’t circle the lake, but just passes by.

This trail descends to the right to the next lake. Lots of people stopped at these rocks for picnics, where you had a view back to the Wildsee and a panorama view in the other direction.

Schottensee

After leaving the rocks above, the trail heads down about 500m to the second lake: Schottensee.

Looking back up the trail to Wildsee.

The Schottensee was our favorite. We could have spent hours here, exploring and skipping rocks. We even saw a few people jumping in quickly to cool off.

Lots of people were spread along the shoreline.

The trail continues along this lake to the right. Some people headed off trail into this rocky landscape to explore. I would have loved to do if we had time.

Looking back at the Schottensee and peaks near it.

Now up and over.

Looking back toward Schottensee.

Lots of switchbacks up this hill.

The view is worth all the hard work!

Schwarzsee

At the top of this hill, you can look over and see the Schwarzsee below.

The rocks where I took the above photo. A nice place for a break before heading down.

A short hike from the cliffs down to the lake, about 15 minutes.

Lots of room to spread out along the lake.

We had our 20 minute picnic here.

Looking back at the lake as we continue on the trail.

Back up again, this time only about 10-15 mins up before you head down for good.

The path up.

A big garden of rock towers at the top.

View from the rock garden down to the valley where the lifts are.

Wide path heading down, one of my favorite parts of the trail.

The trail skirts along these cliffs and peaks.

Baschalvasee

First view of the last lake down below, Baschalvasee. Luckily a stranger was risking their life, so I didn’t have to send one of my kids out there for this pic.

Follow signs to Gaffia and Baschalvasee. The trail heads steeply down to the last lake.

Baschalvasee, the least impressive of the lakes. It was rather muddy all around. We didn’t stop here long.

The trail heads up a bit from the last lake, just a few minutes.

Such a pretty view across the valley.

Then down, down, down to Gaffia. This was such a pretty part of the trail, but we had to hurry so much to catch the last lift down that I didn’t take many photos.

Finally down to Gaffia, where you can take the chair lift down to Furt, then the cable car to the valley. There is a restaurant here, but I doubt you’ll have time, since the last car goes down at 16:30. Better to go to Furt where the last car down is 17:30.

Wasserwald at Furt

Once again, the playground at the Furt station. There are trampolines, swings, climbing stuff, etc. There are a couple restaurants too. The last cable car down from here is 17:30.

From the Furt middle station, it’s a two minute walk to Wasserwald, a water play area in the forest next to a river. There are a variety of water features to play with, as well as the river itself. There is also some play equipment.

There is a marble run, with marbles to purchase for 1 CHF. I recommend bringing your own.

A waterfall and sculptures.

At this station, you can pump water across the stream into the buckets, trying to fill them up.

A picnic area with a fire pit and wood.

Don’t forget to pin this for later:

Beautiful alpine hike to five lakes in Eastern Switzerland. A long tough hike but possible with kids who are good hikers and so worth the effort!

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One comment

  1. We did this one today…well the first 2 lakes (thank you for this advice). My husband has been talking about this hike and even though our kids are young we couldn't resist the UBS discount and the sunshine! It was absolutely gorgeous and I would highly recommend it. Our only issue was our 4 year old. We decided to only 2 the first two lakes because our kids are 4 and 6. Our 6 year old did fine with some incentive and our 4 year old did great, but it was really hard for her and us! 4 is a tough age – too heavy to comfortably carry and too little to hike long distance. She made it though with a few lifts from mom and dad. My recommendation is to either go when you can comfortably carry your child in a carrier or wait until they are 5 or can hike 1.5 hours uphill on loose rock and then back. It was well worth it for us…but we were a little nervous and very tired!! Thanks for the post! This trip was one of the prettiest places we have ever seen! We will wait a few years before we try the whole loop.

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