Switzerland is our favourite mountain destination by far. This year we visited Engelberg in central Switzerland twice – skiing in winter and hiking in summer. You may have heard of Mount Titlis. It’s the most famous landmark of Engelberg, the one that hundreds if not thousands of tourists from all over the world visit daily. Since we have been on Mount Titlis in winter, we decided to explore some other less-known places in and near Engelberg in summer.
We were told that one of the nicest walks in Engelberg is the Four Lakes Hike. The whole walk is 21km long and would require minimum 7 hours of easy to moderate hiking to complete. I thought all those people were out of their minds to suggest a walk like that for a family with young kids. But since we got the same advice from at least three sources, we decided to give it a try. After all, we could always decide to turn back.
Four Lakes hike in Engelberg with kids
The Four Lakes hike starts at Trübsee lake in Engelberg, passes the lakes of Engstlensee and Tannensee, and ends at the biggest of the Four lakes – the Melchsee. The nice thing if doing this walk with kids, is that you can ‘shorten’ it by taking a couple of cable cars. And – if you decide to do the complete walk – you can take a tourist train for the last part as well (between Tannalp and Melchsee).
Trübsee to Jochpass
We started our walk at Trübsee. We were staying on the mountain, at BergHotel Trübsee. If you are staying in Engelberg town, you need to take a cable car to Trübsee first.
There are two options to walk around the Trübsee lake. We took the short route on the left side and it turned out to be a good choice in the morning – the sun was behind us and we could see the perfect mountain reflections on the lake.
The walk started slowly. The reflections on the lake were absolutely stunning and who would be able to resist a short rest in the hammock with such a view! We reluctantly continued to the cable car on the other side of the lake and in no time we were on our way to Jochpass.
It’s a steep mountain and it would take at least an hour and a half of serious climbing to reach the top, so I recommend taking the cable car, definitely if you plan on doing the whole Four Lakes hike with kids. The views are the same and you can save your energy for later (you’ll need it).
We were somewhat familiair with the area since we were skiing here last winter. Needless to say, it all looked very different in summer. The ski slopes were full of grazing cows and we discovered a lake or two we never knew existed…
At Jochpass there is a hotel-restaurant and a tiny little lake with beautiful reflections and hundreds of tadpoles. We stopped to absorb the views. In the meantime the boys saw the fish in the water and were trying to catch them with bare hands. We had to promise them to bring the fishing nets next time we come to Switzerland. Should we have told them that next time will be in winter?
Jochpass – Engstlensee – Engstlenalp
At Jochpass we decided to take a second cable car to the valley towards the Engstlen Lake. This would have been a nice hike down the hill, but – once again – this saved us at least an hour and we could enjoy the beautiful scenery just the same. Stunning views on this side of the mountain with an emerald-blue lake – Engstelnsee – below us.
After leaving the cable car, we hiked towards the lake. In our opinion, Engstelnsee is the most beautiful lake of the whole Four Lakes Hike.
No more cable cars further on this hike – the rest of the Four Lakes hike is actually a walk. We were all really fit and confident that we could reach the third lake and so we continued further in the direction of Engstlenalp. We hiked along the side of the lake enjoying stunning views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
The kids were really determined to catch some fish. I hardly just turned away to take some pictures and they were already ‘fishing’. As expected, they ended up with wet and muddy shoes and no fish. What was supposed to be a short photo stop, turned out longer than we planned. We had to scrape the mud of the kids’ shoes and wash them before we could continue further.
After another 10-15 minutes we reached a charming old hotel at Engstelnalp. The restaurant terrace looked very inviting, but it was not even noon yet, so we decided to continue further.
Engstlenalp – Tannalp
The hike between Engstlenalp and Tannalp is the longest stretch of the Four Lakes trail. First we passed a small village with tiny wooden houses decorated with cow bells and milk cans. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of cows with Swiss cow bells in all shapes and sizes ringing all around us. If there is a paradise for cows, then it has to be here at Engstlenalp. We saw no people – only cows, amidst the most beautiful mountain landscape.
At first, the path was flat, but soon it started to climb. It’s definitely the most strenuous part of the Four Lakes hike. The path is narrow and it’s very steep, – not ideal for families with young kids. Our boys did well, but we tried to stay on the mountain side and as far from the edge as possible.
The path took us along the ridge of the mountain and around it to another minuscule village, Tannalp. The sign said it’s only 45 minutes walk from Engstelnalp to Tannalp, but it took us more than an hour – it was hot, the path was narrow and steep, and we stopped often to catch our breath and absorb the views. Hiking time indications are not really generous in Switzerland. It’s the real hiking time at a steady pace and without any stops, so keep this in mind!
We were planning to have picnic lunch at the Tannalp lake, but it was further than we thought and the kids started to complain that they were getting hungry. But then we reached the Tannalp village and they quickly forgot about the hunger when they saw two little goats by the road. The goats seemed to like the attention and they followed us through the village as we continued towards the lake.
All of the sudden the sound of the cow bells got increasingly louder and we found ourselves in the middle of a herd of cows that were being brought to a new grazing location. There were cows all around us! It was fun to watch and it’s just so Swiss – the mountains around us, the cows, the sound of the cow bells… This spectacle alone was worth the strenuous hike!
After another 10 minutes we finally reached the third lake – Tannensee.
Lunch time. Finally! We had some picnic lunch with us and we ate it by the lake. This lake might not be as spectacular as the previous two, but it’s a bit more kid-friendly and has a little ‘beach’. We even saw a family swimming here. The boys took off their shoes and went toe-dipping. They were trying to catch some fish… again. And again they went in too deep and this time their shorts got soaking wet. It could have been worse if it was a colder day. But it was really warm and the wet clothes kept them cool for the rest of the walk.
Tannensee – Melchsee
The last part of the Four Lakes Hike is between Tannensee and Melchsee. It’s at least another hour hiking. Alternatively, you can take a little tourist ‘train’ that runs between these two lakes.
We decided not to continue to Melchsee. Melchsee is on the other side of the mountains from Engelberg, so if you choose to walk all the way till the end, you have to take a bus in order to get back to Engelberg. There are only a couple of busses a day and it takes 2+ hours driving time to get back to the starting point. Since we were staying at Trübsee mountain hotel that is only reachable by cable car (last ride at 5pm in summer), we knew that the bus was not really an option for us. So we went back the same way as we came, hoping to catch the cable car to Jochpass and Trübsee before it stopped for the day.
Tannensee – Engstlenalp – Jochpass – Trübsee
The walk back to Engstlenalp was much easier as it’s down hill all the time. In fact we reached Engstlenalp hotel so quickly that we had plenty of time to take a break and enjoy an ice cream on the terrace of the hotel that we had passed in the morning. And since we came past the cow village again, we couldn’t resist another picture.
This break gave us enough energy for the last short but rather steep climb from Engstlenalp to the cable car. None of us said much – these last meters were really tiring. But soon enough we were sitting in a cable car on our way up to Jochpass. At Jochpass we took another cable car down to Trübsee.
Back at Trübsee we decided to take the longer route back to the hotel – the part we skipped this morning. This is a family-friendly walk, the Knorrliweg, and there are several play areas and all kinds of tasks to keep the kids busy.
I don’t know where the kids get their energy, but all of the sudden all three boys were reborn again. They were running around, pumping water, building dams… In the meantime we installed ourselves in the hammocks next to the play area. It was good to be able to rest our legs after a long hike.
The Knorrliweg is an easy short walk (3,5km – 1,5hrs). It’s a round trip around the lake Trübsee and is suitable for families with young children. You could even do it with a stroller, just note that the path is gravel for the biggest part, so the bigger the wheels, the easier it will be.
If you are planning on doing this walk, check with the Engelberg Tourism Information first (they are down in Engelberg village). They have a little activity booklet that the kids can ‘mark’ along the way and then get a little present afterwards. I don’t know how it works for sure, but we saw a woman running around the lake with 4 of these books in her hands and marking them at every play area. No idea where her kids were, but apparently she found the presents worth the effort… We did this Knorrli walk without knowing about any special incentives and found it worthwhile by itself. The kids really loved it!
Trübsee rowing boats
We had been hiking for more than 6 hours by the time we reached our hotel. But the kids decided that they were not tired yet and wanted to go for a boat ride on Trübsee lake. There are a couple of boats available for use at the lake and we loved going there in the evening, after the cable car had stopped for the day and all the day tourists had left. That’s a big advantage of staying at hotel Trübsee on the mountain rather than in the village – in the evening the whole place is yours (and a few other hotel guests, of course).
PRACTICAL INFORMATION for Four Lakes Trail
- The Four Lakes hike starts at Trübsee, Engelberg. You need to take a cable car from Engelberg to Trübsee. You can also start at Melchsee-Frutt and walk in the other direction.
- I advice to buy a ticket for Jochpass cable car as it’s a steep climb up. We also took the cable car to Engtlensee to shorten the hike for the kids. If you are planning on doing more hiking in the area, a hiker’s pass might be a more economic choice.
- As I said, the whole Four Lakes Trail is be 21kms, but you can shorten it by taking cable cars and a little train. We did the Four Lakes hike with three kids of 5, 5, and 7 and hiked some 15,4 km, about 6 hours including everything except the boat at Trübsee – the hike as described above. Our kids could do this hike without any problems.
- There are restaurants and bathroom facilities at the following locations: Trübsee (both sides of the lake), Jochpass, Engstlenalp, Tannalp and Melchsee – Frutt.
- The walk ends at Melchsee from where you can take the cable car to Stöckalp and a bus back to Engelberg (or vice versa). Note that there are only very few busses, so inform in advance at the tourist office.
- Take lots of drinking water for this hike. It can get really hot in summer and there is hardly any shaddow along the way. Ideally, carry a reusable water bottle that you can fill up in the restaurants along the way.
- Sturdy walking shoes, a sun hat and sunscreen are a must.
- It’s best to stay in Engelberg for at least two nights if you are planning to do the Four Lakes Hike. You can find the best deals for Engelberg accommodation here.
Four Lakes Trail Map
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