6 Circular Walks Around 60 minutes From Zürich
September and October are perfect months for hiking in Switzerland as the days can be mild and many of the mountain lifts stay open until the end of the school holidays or ‘Herbstferien’, around the middle of October. There are lots of maps and websites to give you ideas on where to go, but to help you get started we’ve chosen a selection an hour or less from Zürich. Some are easy family walks, others are longer days out, but all the routes are circular, so you start and end at the same place. Follow the links provided to wanderland.ch for full details of each walk (in 4 languages!).
1) Round the Pfäffikersee (approx. 8km, buggy-friendly)
This flat walk loops around the lake beside Pfäffikon. It’s a great family day out at any time of year: in summer, you could bring swim things and have a dip from the tiny (free) bathing hut below the Jucker Farm, or make an afternoon of it at the large badi close to Pfäffikon town. Kids might also enjoy scrambling over the walls of the old fortress on this side. Whenever you come, make sure to allow time for coffee and a cake at Jucker farm, which is open 365 days a year and at its busiest in October during the famous pumpkin exhibition. See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
2) Three Lakes Lookout (approx. 10km)
This is a nice one for a Sunday morning, and if you don’t have a car it’s easy to reach the start (Kempten Bahnhof) by train. Begin at the station, and take care following the yellow signs out of town; you go through school grounds at one point and it’s easy to miss the turning. The path then climbs quite steeply through the woods before emerging at the very friendly Rosinli restaurant where you can have coffee or lunch and lovely views over the Pfäffikersee, the Greifensee and the Zürichsee. There’s also a little slide and playground here for kids, and a mini waterfall along the way back down. See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
3) Murg Lake Circuit (approx. 14km)
This is a tougher walk, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit and have decent hiking boots, but it’s wild and really spectacular, with waterfalls and high peaks all around you. You access the start along a winding road from the town of Murg on the Walensee, and you’ll need 10chf in cash to pay for the car park (this also contributes to the upkeep of the road). Take food and water to keep you going, though there is a nice little mountain guesthouse and café once you reach the lake (open daily May to end October). Allow around 5 hours due to the climbs! See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
Pizol Schottensee Lake
4) Pizol 5 Lakes (approx. 11km)
This is a classic route for any keen hikers, a little over the hour’s drive from Zürich, but one you have to try if you get the chance. It’s another fairly challenging hike, with lots of ascent and descent, but nothing technically difficult, and you get a real sense of achievement completing the circuit. You need to use the Pizol ski lifts to start and finish this walk, so timing is important: the last chair lift down is around 4.30pm, which means you should try to start your walk by 10.00 to allow plenty of time to enjoy the views. There are cafés at the start and end of the route, but nothing along the way so take a picnic. You can also access this walk via train from Zürich (takes around 2 hours each way) – look out for special lift and train ticket combi prices, and don’t forget your halb-tax card if you have one. See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
5) Fischingen Monastery (approx. 10km)
This hike is a good one if you want to get up a bit higher for great views without having to rely on lifts. The path climbs to the highest point in Canton Thurgau; at around 1000m it’s quite modest in Swiss terms, but the views across the rolling hills and forests are wonderful, and you’ll work up a bit of a sweat getting up there! The monastery at Fischingen is still used by Benedictine monks, but there is also a hotel/restaurant on site where you can have a drink or a meal (though call in advance as it sometimes closes for private functions). See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
6) Hirzli Circuit (approx. 7km)
A short route, with some very steep climbs, suitable for fit kids, though take care with the drops near the top. You access this path from a little cable car out of Niederurnen, which runs all year round, generally on the half hour from 8am till 6.30pm with a break over lunchtime. As soon as you get out of the cable car you start to climb, and the half way point is the top of the Hirzli at 1620m. From here you get incredible 360° views over the Walensee and back along the valley floor, where the cars and trains look like toys. There’s a small restaurant at the end of the walk (very busy on a sunny day). See further details of the route on Wanderland.ch here.
Article written and all photos by Heather Moore