Winterthur FoxTrail

Over the fall break, we did the newest FoxTrail in Winterthur and had a fun time solving clues and getting to know the city in this unique way. As you might know, a FoxTrail is an elaborate activity trail, where you interpret clues and decode secret messages to help you find your way. On this FoxTrail, we cracked a musical code, uncovered invisible messages with a special device, received clues from ducks and frogs, confessed our sins to a pastor, and most memorably, walked through a subterranean passage in the dark. The trail goes through both beautiful forest and city streets, a nice walk in addition to the interactive elements. This FoxTrail was a bit trickier than the Foxolino trail we did in Lenzerheide over the summer, but still appropriate for my kids, aged 10 and 12, who enjoyed the challenge.

I won’t give away all the secrets here, just some teasers to peak your interest as well as important logistics and tips for success. We had a great time and I hope you will too.

Thanks to FoxTrail for hosting our family so we could bring you this review. 

Location: Winterthur, Zurich Region, Switzerland
Address: Check in: Winterthur Tourist Information at main train station
Bahnhofsplatz 7, 8400 Winterthur
Car: 30 mins from Zurich
Parking at Bahnhof Parking Winterthur
Rudolfstrasse 20, 8401 Winterthur
Train: 25 mins from Zurich HB to Winterthur
Adult half-fare return CHF 13
Trail: about 6 km one way, about 3-4 hours with kids
Condition: dirt paths, sidewalks, stairs, not suitable for strollers
Skill: easy
Open: year round
Cost 2017: CHF 79 for Family of 2 Adults, 2 Children
Services: cafes, kiosks and playgrounds along path
More info: www.foxtrail.ch

Overview of FoxTrail

As I said above, a FoxTrail is an elaborate activity trail, where you interpret clues and decode secret messages to help you find your way along on the trail. There are FoxTrails all over Switzerland, mostly in cities. Winterthur is the newest FoxTrail added in October 2017.

The Winterthur Alban trail is about 6 km, easy walking on dirt paths through forest, through quiet neighborhoods, through pretty city parks, busy city streets, and pedestrian only city squares. It took us about 4 hours to complete the trail, with a few missteps and stops for snacks along the way.  After a few stations, the team behind us overtook us, but we just gave them a few minutes head start so we weren’t solving the clues together.

The clues weren’t super difficult to solve, but sometimes the next station was hard to find because the clues were kinda vague. Our main problem was overthinking the clues and walking off trail to search for them. You can text the help line to get additional clues if you get stuck, which we did a few times when we felt like we were taking too long.

Tickets & Prices

You must book your FoxTrail in advance online here. For weekends and holidays, it could fill up. However, during the fall break, we booked our trail in the morning for that same afternoon.

You book a specific day and time slot from about 8:00 to 16:00. We started in the late afternoon, which wasn’t ideal because it was dark before we finished. So better to start in the morning. Although city FoxTrails are open year round, this Winterthur trail has a detour when weather conditions make it not possible to walk in the subterranean tunnel. Also one of the stations is inside a church, which closes at 17:00. Unfortunately, we arrived after closing time, so we had to use the alternate clues in our starting documents. Another reason to start earlier.

The Winterthur Alban FoxTrail costs CHF 31/adult and CHF 16/child aged 4-16. A family discount of CHF 15 is applied for 2 adults and 2 or more children. So CHF 79 for a 2/2 family. This includes your bus transport in Winterthur at the start of the FoxTrail. Each FoxTrail is priced differently because they include different features. Check website for current prices.

Starting Documents & Checking in

Part of the fun of the FoxTrail is that you don’t know exactly where you’ll be going or what you’ll be doing. When you book your FoxTrail, you will receive some starting documents via PDF (and through the post if you book way in advance) that tell you what to bring with you and where to meet. It also includes some hints for each station on the trail and a helpline number in case you have trouble solving the clues. These documents and all clues on the trail are available in English.

To start the FoxTrail, you first check in at the Winterthur Tourist Information Center at the Winterthur main train station. They will give you a FoxTrail starter package, including your bus ticket, an electronic device and your FoxTrail badges. Your starting documents will help you find the first clue so you know where to take the bus to start the trail. The trail also ends here at the Winterthur main train station.

One tip: At station 8 Sonitus, the English text has one word translated incorrectly that made it difficult for us to solve the clue. So “marked with the letter” should be “marked with the category”. You’ll figure it out.

Getting There

Everything starts and ends at the Winterthur main train station. The tourism office faces the buses outside the train station.

By car: Drive to Winterthur and park in the main train station parking lot, Rudolfstrasse 20, 8401 Winterthur,  or another lot if that is full.

By public transport: Take a train to the Winterthur main train station.

On the FoxTrail…

When you check in, you get a little electronic device that you use at various stations to find the clues. Near the start of the trail, you’ll take a bus then pull the tail to find your way.

I was glad that part of the trail was in the forest, which feels so remote even though it’s right in the center of the city.

Looking for a secret messenger in the pond.

Such a pretty pond, a little surprise along the way.

Lots of families were enjoying the day at this picnic spot and nearby playground. I’d love to come back and just explore the forest.

Some clues were totally obvious, some were tricky to find, but maybe just for us.

At this station, you have to crack a musical code to find your way through the rest of the forest.

Hope we took the right path.

This model helped us find the next clue, so cute.

Looking for an amphibian with a message.

I loved seeing so much of Winterthur along the way.

At this station, you have to answer a series of questions to unlock your next clue. Your detour from the tunnel will start here if you choose that option or if weather demands it.

Part of the trail goes along a subterranean canal under the city. If you are afraid of the dark, claustrophobic, or have kids under 12, you can take a different route that skips the canal.

I loved walking along this part of the canal.

Then it entered a dark tunnel. I mean completely dark, no lights, for 1 km. We had a flashlight, but to be honest, we were all terrified. Any way you looked, it was pitch black and I kept imagining zombies attacking us. We all linked arms and sang marching songs to help us stop freaking out. So if anyone in your group is at all scared of the dark, definitely take the detour. At the end of the tunnel, you have to climb across these bars to reach the stairs exiting the tunnel.

Well, that’s all I can show you. The rest you’ll have to discover yourself. Have fun!

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