Schellenursli Theme Trail

Schellenursli is a classic Swiss children’s book set in the town of Guarda, where this hike is located. This theme trail has interactive play stations related to each page of the book (about 20), which are displayed on a signboards along the trail in German and English. The stations kept the kids interested and we all loved the varied and gorgeous scenery. The town of Guarda is irresistibly adorable with the intricately decorated buildings and lush flower boxes. The whole Engadin region in southeast Switzerland is packed with wonderful outdoor activities for families and definitely worth a visit.

Location:   Southeast Switzerland
Address: Guarda, Engadin, Graubunden, Switzerland
GPS: 46°46’33.1″N 10°08’43.4″E
Car: 2hr30 from Zurich
Train: 2hr50 from Zurich
Trail: 5.9 km loop, about 4 hours
Condition: partially on dirt road, mostly on narrow dirt path
Skill: moderate
Open: May through October
More info: www.engadin.com

Overview

The trail follows the story of Ursli’s quest to fetch the biggest cow bell from a mountain hut, so he can join in the early spring festival, where the town clangs cow bells to scare away winter. Every Swiss person knows this story and you can get this book at any library, so you can read it beforehand. You can purchase it in English as well. On the trail, each station has a page from the book, with the text in German and English. This story was also made into a film in 2015 (in Swiss German), so you might want to watch it beforehand to get into the spirit.

We did this trail in 2012, when my kids were 5 and 8 years old. I suspect at something things have changed on the trail, especially since the release of the Schellenursli film last year. So I’ll give the best info I have and I’m sure it will all work out.

Here is the trail map from the official site. We did most of the trail shown here.

However, the official site also has a picture of another trail map (shown below), which is in the same area but shorter and slightly different. This one shows the location of various interactive stations but no more info on the website. Aaaahhh! You are just going to have to follow the signs when you get there and hope for the best. Sorry I didn’t plot the map while I was there.

Starting summer 2016, they offer a Schellenursli “Passbook” which is a stamp book for various places in the Unterengadin, also with stories, songs, etc related to Schellenursli. The website says to get this book at the “Unterengadin Gäste-Information”, which I assume is the Tourist Info office in Scuol. Let me know if you go and find out more about this.

Getting There

This area is quite far from Zurich, so it’s probably better to do this as a part of an overnight stay. A few summers ago, we rented an apartment for a week in the nearby Scuol, which is the biggest village in the Engadin region. It was adorable, close to lots of outdoor activities and had all the services we needed like grocery, restaurants, playgrounds, pool, easy train access, etc.

To Guarda by car: Drive to Klosters-Serneus and follow signs to the Vereina tunnel. This is a train that will take your car through the tunnel to the Engadin region. It runs every 30 minutes and costs 34 CHF in summer. It takes 18 minutes from Klosters Selfranga to Sagliains (Engadin). After exiting the tunnel, head east on 27 toward Scuol. Take the exit to Guarda and drive up the mountain road to the parking lot just outside the main town. Use the map below for details.

To Guarda by public transit: Take a train to the Guarda train station, then a bus up to the town. The bus runs very infrequently, so check the schedule before heading out.

Here is the parking lot just outside of the main town area. I don’t think it was metered when we were there but it might be now. You can park here overnight if you are planning to stay in town or in a nearby hut.

Town of Guarda

First, let’s just admire the town of Guarda, fantastic setting and super adorable houses. There are lots of fountains to fill up your water bottles. It’s a pretty quiet town, but there are a few cafes if you need to eat before or after your hike. My Swiss friend had her wedding party at a hotel in town and said the food was great.

There is a Schellenursli museum with traditional objects referenced in the book, like the cow bells. Open daily 10:00 to 17:00. See more details here.

Doesn’t this look just like the door from the book?

Lots of flowers in summer and flowing fountains to fill your water bottles.

All the buildings decorated in that traditional Engadin style.

Trail Impressions

Note: we did this as part of our hike to the nearby Tuoi mountain hut. So we didn’t hike the Ursli trail in order, nor did we hit all the stations. So the pictures below just give a sampling of what you will see on the trail to peak your interest.

When you are ready to hike, follow the little signs with the Schellenursli figure on it, as shown below.

The hike starts on road that leads out of town, up into the mountains.

The first station was on this road, where the kids play a match game with images from the town. Below is also station 17, which was also on this road, coming back the other direction. At station 17, the kids can use the door knocker to knock just like Ursli in the story.

Looking back toward Guarda, with a lovely view of the Engadin valley.

A telescope to spy things on the mountain across the valley.

Wide dirt road for some of the trail. But most is a narrow lumpy dirt path.

A forested section with sheep grazing.

At station 7, there are pieces of paper in the mailbox, so kids can draw or write about Ursli’s sad thoughts at this point in the story. The instructions say you can turn in the paper in the mailbox of the Verkehrsburo in Guarda and possibly win a prize. Not sure if that is still the case.

At station 8, the trail crosses the road, then the river, then heads down river. The sign challenges the kids to try getting to the bridge without stepping on grass, just jumping from rock to rock.

Following the Ursli trail up the hill to the house with the cow bells.

At station 10, you can try different keys to find the one that fits the lock. The house wasn’t much to look at and you can’t go inside. That was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe they’ve renovated since we last visited.

At station 11 in the field near the house, you are supposed to search and find Ursli’s cow bell. We looked but never found it. I don’t know if that’s because the bell was missing or we didn’t look hard enough. Good luck.

Walking down the river back to town.

At station 13, kids match the animal to its footprints.

Through some pretty meadows with a view of the Engadin valley.

At station 15, the kids are supposed to imagine which animal figures can be carved out of various pieces of wood. At this point, the Ursli trail crosses back over the river and joins the road. Since we had already done that section, we followed a different trail along the river toward Guarda.

If you continue on the Ursli trail, you pass station 19 on the road back to town. Here the kids can spin the cow bells to make some noise, just like the bell parade for Ursli.

Here are a few pics of our detour on the west side of the river, which was very lovely.

The detour traverses this hill with views of the Engadin valley.

A narrow foot path, but not difficult.

The trail dips back down to the river. Continuing to follow trail signs to Guarda, which is pretty close at this point.

Don’t forget to Pin this for later:

A fun themed hiking trail for families centered around a classic Swiss children's book, Schellen-Ursli, set in the town of Guarda, where this hike is located. This theme trail has interactive play stations related to each page of the book, which are displayed on a signboards along the trail in German and English. Southeastern Switzerland.

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