Travel Blog Archive – Part 17, The Swiss Path Hike

We flew from Paris to Zurich sad that we didn’t have more time to soak in the city but excited for our hiking adventures in Switzerland. We’d found a hiking trail called the Swiss path hike which was created in 1991 to celebrate Switzerland’s 700th anniversary. The hike begins in the town of Rutli on the southern end of Lake Lucerne, originating at the Rutli meadow where Switzerland officially became a country in 1291. From Rutli the hike continues for 35 km around the southern end of Lake Lucerne, ending in a town called Brunnen, which is directly across the lake from Rutli.

On the night before our hike, we arrived in Lucerne and anxiously checked the weather forecast for the next day. Rainy. Cold, cloudy, and rainy. Since we were exhausted from our 20 hour whirlwind in Paris, we decided to sleep in the next day and catch the boat to a later point in the hike to avoid the first section of steep elevation gains and drops in the rain. We caught the 10am boat and headed out into rainy Lake Lucerne. As we approached Rutli, we still weren’t convinced we wouldn’t just go straight to a hotel, but as we neared the start of the trail the clouds parted and gave way to a beautiful blue sky. We happily jumped off the boat at the Rutli dock, shed our rain gear, let the school groups there for the history lesson get ahead of us, and began the first section of the hike: 1200 feet straight up.

The climb was well worth the effort, and the rest of our first day of hiking was full of blue skies and magnificent views of Lake Lucerne and the mountains beyond. The scenery around the lake was gorgeous, and it was especially rewarding to be able to see the whole trail from any given point to gain a sense of how far we’d hiked. The trail is designed to be accessible to everyone, and so there are clearly marked paths with time predictions along the way. The hike is broken into six sections, and each section connects two towns along the lake. It was interesting to hike through each town and get a sense for the character of each one. Bauen, which we passed through on the first day, was particularly interesting as its location in a sheltered cove gives it a Mediterranean climate, and fig and even palm trees could be seen popping up everywhere.

By 7:00, we’d hiked the 20km to our hotel in Fluelen just over halfway around the lake. Exhausted, we got some excellent but expensive Italian food for dinner and crashed. The next day, we set out around 9:00 to hike the remaining 16 km to Brunnen. The first half of this part was supposed to be flat and easy, which it was, and we meandered past the William Tell chapel and admired the view across the lake of the towns we’d passed through the day before.

This day also marked our second run in with a cheese Laurel didn’t like. The day before hiking we’d enthusiastically bought two cheeses in Lucerne based on name and texture. One was from Entlebuch. Sold. The second was labeled mild and felt soft. That night when Brian cut them up in the hostel, he was surprised by the smell of garbage wafting in the window. He assumed the window was near a dirty alleyway and proceeded prepping the cheese. Cut to day two of the hike: opening the bags of precut cheese, Laurel almost fell backwards. The smell of filthy feet was undeniable and overpowering. We tried holding our noses, but it was just too much to eat. Defeated by cheese as smelly as our dog after dairy, we forged on, tired and hungry.

The second half of day two was another 1200 ft ascent up to the town of Morsach and then a slow descent through the hilltop farms down into Brunnen. Though we were pretty tired by this point, the views were incredible, which helped to keep us going. On this last stretch of trail, the path meanders through fields and farms until it drops into Brunnen, a bustling tourist town. We made it to Brunnen and caught the train back to Lucerne where we cooked some dinner in the hostel kitchen and called it a night.

View back towards Lucerne on our ferry rideimage

Brunnen, pulling away from the pierimage

Misty farms on the hillsideimagePeninsula with the Rutli dock and meadow (just visible above the waterline) on the left sideimageSelfie with the peninsula in the background after deciding the weather was only getting betterimage

Rutli Meadow where it all beganimage

Brunnen in the sun


Looking back over Lake Lucerne with Brunnen behind us and our trail for the next day to the right of Brianimage

Looking to the southeast corner of Lake Lucerne – Fluelen, our destination for the night, is just visible at the end of the lakeimage

Mediterranean climate in Bauen


Thanks for the walking bridge adjacent to the vehicular one – wheelchair accessible to boot!image

Protection from falling rocks.  Judging by the number of rocks in the nets, we appreciated the protection.image

Pedestrian tunnels with awesome “gallery” cutouts offering lake views and natural lightingimage

The tiniest of toadsimage

Fake looking river in the nature preserve at the end of day 1 – almost to Fluelen.


The William Tell Chapel


Cowbell parade!


Almost at the end of Day 2 and looking back down the late at Day 1’s hike.


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