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Engelberg - A runner's guide to this Swiss mountain paradise.

After a week of sublime trail running while staying at the Ski Lodge in Engelberg, it was extremely difficult to leave.

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

It's a warm summer night after a long day on the trail. I’m several lagers deep, chatting about travel, discussing the differences between London and New York, and local restaurant manager Steph is explaining to me that although Switzerland can be expensive -- there’s really not a better place to be. I'm hard-pressed to disagree. 

I’m here in Engelberg staying at the Ski Lodge, and life is pretty good. The locals are friendly, the vibe is great, and the access to adventure is simply unparalleled. Summer days are filled with hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and more. In the evening both locals and visitors gather at the back deck to recount their adventures for the day, hang out, and chat over one or two (or three) delicious beers and great food.

I’ve been here for a week now and even though I’ve tried to plan a rest day, I’ve woken up every morning, looked out the window at the mountains, and convinced myself to head out and explore, rather than resting (and it’s all been worth it).

Let's talk about Engelberg

Just 45 minutes south of Lucerne by train, this idyllic valley is surrounded by magnificent peaks and sublime trails. I spent a week here trail running through the mountains, taking ice baths in the river, and soaking in the Swiss life. While there are certainly tourists, it doesn't feel like the more crowded, infinitely instagrammed spots in Interlaken, Grindelwald, Zermatt, or Jungfrau. Life here in the summer still feels relatively calm. 

That said, there's no shortage of adventure nearby, especially if you're looking for a stunning hikes, a challenging trail runs, hut-to-hut adventure, or mountain biking. Although more well known for its free-riding (don't worry, I'll be back), Engelberg deserves plaudits for the variety summer adventures; I spent most of my time exploring the trail running in the area. It was a fantastic place to spend a week training on these beautiful trails and enjoying the friendly town.

Where to stay: Ski Lodge Engelberg

I'd been solo traveling for about a month when I arrived here, and no place brought the combination of good vibes, great location, and friendly people like Ski Lodge. The community they've cultivated between their staff, locals, and repeat visitors is like few other places I've been. The outside deck is a nightly gathering spot for guests and Engelberg locals alike -- a fantastic place to grab a beer, a bite, and meet interesting people. Ski Lodge staff and Engelberg locals alike were happy to provide beta and share their favorite runs. I highly recommend a stay here for your Engelberg base camp. It's one of my favorite places I've stayed while traveling. Plus, the food is amazing.

The best trails in Engelberg

This is just a small selection of what's possible in the surrounding mountains. I was here for a week, but could have spent so much more time exploring these trails.

Rugghubelhütte and Rot Gratli - 10.3 miles, 2400 ft gain

Starting from the Brunnihütte (or Engelberg, if you're looking for a real challenge), head up the trail to the Rugghubelhütte. You'll be treated to sweeping vistas of Titlis and Wissberg, and gradually ascend out of the grassy mountainsides into wild, rocky, alpine terrain. Past the Rugghubelhütte, continue climbing upwards to Rot Gratli for an up-close view of Oberberg, and vistas north towards Vorderalp. From here, you have options for a summit of nearby Engelberger Rotstock, or continue across the pass and loop around to Bannalplsee (or all the way back to Brunnihütte for an epic loop).

Lutersee Loop - 11 miles, 4200ft gain

From Engelberg, head towards Eugenisee and then wind upwards to Ober Zingel. You'll have great views of the valley, and steep climbing. Continue upwards to Lutersee, and then ascend along steep mountainsides and grassy ridge lines, watch your step! When you reach the pass, enjoy views of Engelberg and the surrounding mountains. It's a steep path down from here into the valley, past Untertrübsee, and all the way back to town and apres at Ski Lodge.

Furenalp Panorama Trail - 6.2 miles, 102 ft gain

From the top of the Furenalp cable car, follow a the trail up the valley towards Stauber. At the waterfall, take a right turn back down the valley. Follow a mellow trail back down to Furenalp. Alternatively, you could climb the Furenalp via feratta up to the the top, instead of taking the cable car. It's a fun, challenging climb with an airy, overhanging ladder on the final pitch.

Walenpfad Trail - 6 miles, 1200ft gain

This panoramic trail traverses the mountainside from Brunnihütte to the stunning Bannalp lake. To get back to Engelberg, take the Bannalp cable car down, then catch the bus to Wolfenschiessen where you can jump on a quick train back to Engelberg. You can also reverse this entire trip, getting most of the logistics done first and ending by taking the Ristis cable car back down into Engelberg. 

Another popular version of this completes the circle by continuing past Bannalp and climbing back up to Rot Gratli, where you can cruise downhill past Rugghubelhütte and back to the gondola/town.

Trübsee and Jochpass

There's a wide variety of trails and options for exploring this area. While you can ride the gondola/lift all the way up to Jochpass from town, you could also hike/run, or take the gondola one direction and then hike down. I also enjoyed exploring the other side of Jochpass, heading down to Engstlensee and over towards Tannalp before looping back. Running up to Trübsee from town via Untertrübsee, and then decending via the steeper trail below the gondola is also a great route, and roughly the course for the Cirque Series trail race held here. The lakes are a vibrant, as is the surrounding landscape. Choose your own adventure.

Long story short...

Zermatt was stunning, Grindelwald and Wengen were predictably beautiful (but crowded and touristy), but Engelberg was my favorite spot in Switzerland. It's small-town vibe combined with quiet trails and so much to do makes it an incredible place to spend a few days (or a week). Start planning your trip for next summer (and maybe sign up for next years Cirque Series trail race). 

Say hi to the folks at Ski Lodge for me!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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