WALENPFAD HIKE IN ENGELBERG, SWITZERLAND
The Walenpfad hike in Engelberg starts off with a bang by circling Lake Harzli before pushing you into a steep ascent to overlook the lake. The trail then has a beautiful downhill segment towards Engelberg before rounding to the corner, through the forest, as you make your way to the finish point, the Brunnihutte. It’s a great hike for a slow-paced adventure to take in multiple vistas in the Engelberg region.
Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike was 10.6km starting at the Bannalpsee Lake and finishing at the Brunnihutte. However, we hiked down from the Brunnihutte as we stayed for sunset so the cable cars had definitely finished by then. That meant our total hike from Bannalpsee to Brunnihutte to Engelberg Town was 16.3km.
Hike Duration: Our total elapsed time from Bannalpsee to Engelberg Town was 5 hours and 41 minutes but the total moving time was only 3 hours and 41 minutes. We take lots of photos and stop to take in the scenery often.
Hike Difficulty: The Walenpfad hike is one of the easier hikes we’ve done out here in Switzerland. There were some moments of incline but the trail itself was always quite safe and there was no scrambling or rock bouldering necessary. This is a good hike for anyone who can handle the distance. I could imagine families, young children and dogs managing this hike fine especially with the cable car down from Brunnihutte.
Hike Incline: Total elevation from Bannalpsee to Brunnihute was 834m. We also grabbed about a kilometer of decline as well, which is often just as hard!
HOW TO GET TO THE WALENPFAD HIKE (STARTS AT BANNALPSEE)
The Walenpfad hike is a great trail to head out on if you are based in Engelberg Town, which is in central Switzerland. From Engelberg Town, it takes 1-hour and 15-minutes on a train and one bus before you reach the ticketing office for the gondola/cable car. The trail starts at the Luftseilbahn Fell where you will catch the cable car to Bannalp and hike through to Brunnihutte. You can do the hike in reverse but I prefer this route as you can visit at golden hour with views of Mount Titlis.
CABLE CAR TO BANNALP AND DOWN FROM BRUNNI
The Bannalp-Chruzhütte cable car costs $12 for a one-way ride. The last cable car is at 5:30 in the summer but you can check the timetable here to be sure of the latest updated info.
The Brunni cable car to and from Engelberg is $20 for adults for a one-way ticket. The last cable car down from Brunnihutte to Engelberg is 4:59 pm. You will need to check the current timetable here. However, what that means is that if you want to catch the last cable car down you should start by midday at Bannalpsee to make sure you get there in time. If you prefer to stay for golden hour and don’t mind the 1.5-hour walk down to Engelberg, catch a cable car to Bannalpsee around 3 pm or 4 pm and then save yourself the $20 when you arrive at Brunnihutte, enjoy the sunset and walk down to Engelberg.
If you have the Swiss Half-Card you will receive a huge discount on your tickets. I bought mine when I arrived in Switzerland and it has saved me over a thousand dollars.
WALENPFAD HIKE MAP
On the below map you can see the route we took from Bannalpsee to Brunnihutte and then down to Engelberg. I’ve attached our GPX route so you can see where we went. You can download it here for use on your Garmin, smartwatch or another app.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE WALENPFAD TRAIL
The Walenpfad trail can begin from either Brunnithutte, Engelberg or Bannalpsee. We did the hike from Bannalpsee so we could have a beautiful golden hour/sunset looking out towards Titlis and the mountain range surrounding. This meant we left Engelberg around 3 pm and kicked off our hike at 4 pm. That might seem quite late for a hike that ended up taking is 5 hours and 41 minutes. However, the trail down from Brunnihutte to Engelberg is very safe in the dark and this is the best way to have nice lighting as we have in the photos you will see.
At 4 pm we arrived at Bannalp after taking the cable car up. There are actually quite a few nice little huts here with food, coffee, and playgrounds for the kids. We continued on without stopping in this area. The trail begins by winding around Bannalpsee, a beautiful alpine lake. At the same time as you begin to marvel at the lake, you will also start to hit the incline as the trail heads up into the mountains. The view of the lake continues to get better and better as you climb higher and higher.
The gradient is quite intense with a consistent incline for the first 1-2 hours of the trail. However, if you do feel like a break mid-climb there is another mountain hut halfway up the climb. We skipped the hut but took a break on our own little viewpoint after passing the herds of cows and goats.
After the mountain hut, the trail really juts into the side of the grassy mountain and is quite spectacular in making the hikers look like tiny ants crawling across its surface. This section of the trail is really the last final climb before you start to hit the downhill and send your farewells to Bannalp as you edge closer to Engelberg.
You will know you have hit the halfway point when you reach the fence crossing in the middle of the field. From this point on you are heading down, down, down to the Brunnihutte. First, you will wind your way along the switchbacks of the huge grassy hills. You won’t quite see Titlis yet but the backdrop is already starting to form with multiple layers of mountains in the distance.
The trail then sends you into the forest and the trail really diversifies as you are in complete shade and surrounded by trees rather than the wide-open views as you were accustomed to earlier in the hike. As you wander through the forest the trail undulates ever so slightly with small ups and downs before finally, you emerge into the open again and the views have intensified with bigger mountains now dominating the horizon.
Now the trail is hugging the underside of the cliffs above as it winds you in the final steps towards to Brunnihutte. Titlis (3,238m), the most popular peak in Engelberg emerges just before you reach Brunnihutte. If you have timed it well the lighting should be giving you some incredible views towards Titlis and the other peaks in the region.
At Brunnihutte there is a small pond, kids games and of course a restaurant, toilet facilities and a great seating area looking out towards Titlis. We sat down here for a while enjoying the late colors of the evening sky. There was no epic sunset but the golden hour we had enjoyed on our walk to Brunnihutte would make the journey worth it.
We now had a 1.5-hour walk down to Engelberg from Brunnihutte, which took just over an hour an actuality. It’s a very safe and easy trail down, which is signed the whole way.
I highly recommend this hike, especially doing it from Bannalpsee to Brunnihutte to Engelberg if you are a keen photographer as the lighting you will get with that route and the late part of the day is spectacular!
BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND WITH TRANSPORT IN SWITZERLAND
In Switzerland, the most popular form of transport is the train (and sometimes bus). It always arrives on time, is comfortable, efficient and covers almost all parts of the country. It’s damn good and one of the best public transport systems in the world. But it’s not cheap. A one-way ticket for a 1.5-hour journey can quickly rise to 70 USD. The best option is to buy a 3-day, 8-day or 15-day pass with the Swiss Travel System Pass, which gives you unlimited train rides during that period. It will pay itself off very quickly and makes the train (and bus) travel very convenient without requiring you to buy a ticket each time. I used this myself and used the trains and buses for almost my whole time in Switzerland. To head to the page where you can book your Swiss Travel Pass online you can click HERE and select how many days you would like to purchase the pass for.
The other option (Which I also purchased) was the Swiss Half-Fare Card, which gives you half-price tickets on all transport including buses and trains. This ticket lasts for a month and is much cheaper than the full pass obviously but will pay itself off in a matter of a few days as we quickly found out! To visit the page where you can book your Swiss Half-Fare Card you can click HERE and select the date you want it to start.
The other option is renting a car. After our first few expensive train tickets, we started to think this might be the better option and to our surprise, the train can often be far more expensive than renting a car in Switzerland. For example one day we went from Zurich to hike Mount Pilatus and back to Zurich and our total train tickets for four people was $300 USD. The car rental per day was $90 USD. If you are in a group of two (definitely three) or more, I highly suggest renting a car if you are covering a lot of ground as it will give you scheduling freedom and likely be cheaper as we found.