02 January 2014

Winter Walks with Kids


Before my kids could ski, we often went to the mountains just to play in the snow and do a little sledding. Then we found out that many resorts groom trails so you can do a leisurely winter walk without snowshoes. This a great winter alternative to skiing for families with very little kids. You could take an all-terrain stroller. But it's more fun to take a big wooden sled, equipped with a chair and insulated stroller bag to keep your little one all snug and warm.

Below are a few winter trails I can recommend, including Buchenegg-Felsenegg, Titlis-Trübsee, Sattel-Hochstückli and Zugerberg. These are all loop trails that are not difficult, manageable with kids in a sled or stroller, restaurants along the trail, and very nice views. I'm always looking for more, so please leave comment if you know of a good one. I'll add more as I try them out.


Buchenegg-Felsenegg

When Zurich actually gets snow, the Uetliberg range, west of the city, can be a beautiful winter wonderland. We've had several fun snowy winter walks on the Felsenegg-Buchenegg trail, west of Adliswil, about a 15 mind drive from Zurich. To access this walk, you can drive up to Buchenegg pass (about 15 mins from Zurich), park near the Buchenegg restaurant and walk north along the ridge. You'll reach the Felsenegg restaurant in about 20-30 minutes. Or take the Felsenegg cable car (short walk from Adliswil train station) up to the ridge and start walking south to the Felsenegg restaurant. At the restaurant, you can walk west down the trail, and then south, following the trail by a few farms and looping back up to Buchenegg. The whole loop might take an hour with little kids, less with only adults.

part of the trail from the Felsenegg cable car to the restaurant

I don't know if this trail is regularly groomed for walkers. Sometimes we've been on it and it had been obviously groomed with a machine and other times, it was just tramped down by other hikers. Because of the unpredictability, I'd recommend taking kids on a sled instead of a stroller.

the trail can be quite busy on the weekends - the view of Zurich from the restaurant

Behind the Felsenegg restaurant, the trail road descends into the valley. If there aren't too many walkers to avoid, it makes a good sled run. Below, you can see a couple pics of us sledding on this trail.





Titlis Trübsee

The Titlis Engelberg area has lots of winter walks. See website and particularly the map. Winter walks (groomed walking trails) are a dotted pink line with a little hiker symbol as opposed to yellow dots (snowshoe trail) or dark blue dots (cross-country skiing).

We walked around the Trübsee lake, which is at halfway point on your way up to the Titlis peak in the Engelberg area. Simply take the cable cars up to the Trübsee stop, then walk down to the lake and follow trail signs toward Obertrübsee. When the trail forks, take the left fork looping back along the lake instead of continuing to the Obertrübsee lift. Near the end of the hike, there was a restaurant along the trail where you could stop for lunch. We were on the trail for about 2 hours. Our 5 yr old walked the whole thing but he got very tired and it was a little tough for him to finish.


This was our first winter walk so we didn't know what we were doing. We took the stroller and quickly learned that it would have been much more fun with a sled. We brought our little disk sleds, which were great when there were downhill sections, as shown in the pic below.


The trail is groomed and on the day we were there, possible with a stroller. We dressed in all our snow gear, but with the sun and effort of walking, we were all sweating after a few minutes and stripped off a lot of layers.






Sattel-Hochstückli

Sattel Hochstückli offers two groomed winter walks accessible from the top of the cable car. I only walked these in summer, but I imagine they would be great in winter too. I'm including pics from our summer hike so you can see what the views are like. You could combine this sledding down the whole mountain instead of riding the cable car back down. See the website for details.

The RUNDweg Engelstock is a 5.4km and took my kids about 3 hours in summertime, with lots of breaks. It's not particularly challenging, but it is slightly uphill for the first half of the trail. The views of Rigi and the Mythen peaks are fantastic.

view of Rigi from top of Sattel Hochstückli cable car


view of the Mythen peaks from the RUNDweg trail in summer

The BrückenRUNDweg is 2km, easy with some elevation gain. The main attraction is crossing the very long suspension bridge, which is very exciting. Note that strollers are not allowed on the bridge as it is so narrow. I don't know about sleds.

suspension bridge and trail leading to it


Zugerberg


I wrote about the Zugerberg Sculpture trail in another post. So look at that post for all the details about how to get there, etc. But I'll mention it here too as it's also a good winter walk. It's about a 40min drive from Zurich. The loop trail is lined with animal sculptures carved out of wood. The trail dips in and out of the forest and has views of the mountains afar off in the distance. It's higher than Zurich, but not super high elevation so it might not always have snow in winter. Here a few pics of the trail in February a few years ago to give you an idea of what it looks like in winter.

the winter walks are indicated with the pink trail signs

sometimes the trail was icy and hard to manage with feet and the stroller


We went in February and there were only patches of snow. So a sled wouldn't have worked that day. Make sure you research the conditions beforehand.
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