Here & There is a weekly newsletter on a variety of outdoor and travel topics, and part of Mountain Gazette.
Just 45 minutes south of Lucerne by train, the idyllic Engelberg 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. Although there are certainly tourists, they're mostly focused on Titlis–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.
Adventure is abundant, particularly for those seeking stunning hikes, challenging trail runs, hut-to-hut adventures, or mountain biking. While Engelberg is primarily known for its free-riding in the winter (don't worry, I'll be back), it deserves recognition for the variety of summer adventures it offers. I spent most of my time exploring the trail running options in the area. It proved to be a fantastic place for training on these beautiful trails and enjoying the town.
After solo traveling for about a month, I found no other place that matched the combination of good vibes, great location, and friendly people like Ski Lodge. The community they've fostered among their staff, locals, and returning guests is unparalleled. The outside deck serves as a nightly gathering spot for guests and Engelberg locals alike—a fantastic place to enjoy a beer, grab a bite, and meet interesting people. Both Ski Lodge staff and Engelberg locals were happy to provide information and share their favorite runs. I highly recommend staying here as your Engelberg base camp. It's one of the favorite places I've stayed while traveling. Plus, the food is amazing.
The top trail runs around Engelberg
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 create a longer day and 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. If you're comfortable with via ferrata, the station at the bottom will rent you a via ferrata harness and helmet for a reasonable price.
Walenpfad Trail - 6 miles, 1200ft gain
This panoramic trail traverses the mountainside from Brunnihütte to the stunning Bannalp lake, and it's widely considered one of the best trails in the area. 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.
Be sure to check the bus timetables for getting from Bannalp to Wolfenschiessen, otherwise it's about another three miles down (or a wait for the bus) to town to catch the train back to Engelberg. If you reverse this hike, just catch the train from Engelberg to Wolfenschiessen and then take the 331 bus to Bannalp. You could also make this a more difficult hike by starting or ending in Engelberg (and not taking the cable car).
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.