Discover eight breathtaking destinations and hikes around Lake Walen that you definitely don’t want to miss. Many of them are real hidden gems.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
Lake Walen – A beautiful Swiss lake with an impressive history
Around 20,000 years ago, not only the area around today’s Zurich was covered with ice, but accordingly also Lake Walen. It was the so-called Rhine Glacier during the Würme Ice Age that shaped the U-shaped valley of Lake Walen. The glacier even reached as far as Schaffhausen about 24,000 years ago! Equally impressive is that the average temperatures back then were around 15 degrees colder than today.
In order to form a lake like Lake Walen, the glacier must have previously carried out deep erosion. This is how a depression is formed. The melting of the ice during the retreat of the glacier must also happen quickly, otherwise the exposed area is filled with debris (sand, clay, gravel). Incidentally, Lake Zurich and Lake Walen were once one lake. But the Linth river filled up the current part around Bilten, Nieder- and Oberurnen and Weesen with sediments coming from the Swiss Alps.
Transportation was once a huge challenge
Incidentally, Lake Walen has always been a challenge in terms of transportation. Because of the steep slopes, the transport of goods through Lake Walen was only possible by ship. The Linth Canal was also very challenging for ships, as it had many branches. Only with the straightening of the Linth and later the construction of the lakeside road and motorway improved the situation massively.
But the landscape and excursion destinations around Lake Walen are breathtaking and attract many people both in summer and winter. Here are eight tips for unforgettable moments.
1). Seerenbach Falls near Lake Walen
The Seerenbach Falls are probably the most spectacular excursion on Lake Walen and a highlight especially in spring when the snow melts. Moreover, the waterfall plunges more than 600 metres into the depths over 3 levels. Hence, the middle step, which can be seen very well from the hamlet of Betlis, is one of the highest waterfall steps in Switzerland and even in Europe. Only the famous Staubbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen is of a similar size in Switzerland.
Further down is the Ring Spring, which has nothing to do with the Seerenbach Falls. The water comes from a branched and mostly unexplored cave system. Researchers and divers are exploring now the caves. The system apparently goes several kilometres in and hundreds of metres down, but the cave has only been explored since 1953. Currently, the cave has a measured length of about 2 kilometres km with a height difference of 33 m, of which more than 1.8 km is under water. Therefore, it is one of the largest karst springs in Europe.
Ringquelle – The water comes from a carst system
The water that comes out here at the Ring Spring has seeped away at the Churfirsten mountains, which are located above Lake Walen. Up to 30,000 litres per second flow out at peak times, such as when the snow melts. There are countless caves throughout the Churfirsten area. The longest is over 6 kilometres long and 500 metres deep.
During the walk you have a fantastic view of Lake Walen. You can also discover a castle from Roman times right near the car park. The Romans used Lake Walen as an important trade route between Italy and Switzerland.
However, it is good to know that especially in a hot midsummer there is practically no water and it is not worth travelling to the waterfall. The best time to travel to the Seerenbach Falls is spring during the snowmelt.
Journey to the Seerenbach Falls
There are two ways to get to the Seerenbach Falls. Either you can travel by public transport and walk to Betlis in about an hour on a pram-friendly road. Or you can drive to the car park, where you can reach the waterfall in around 25 minutes. Parking costs 2CHF per hour and can be only payed by coins.
It is important to note that the drive to the waterfall is only allowed between 00-05 and 30-35, as it is a narrow one-way street. Back in the direction of Weesen it is between 15-20 and 45-50. However, the car can also be parked at the Lago Mio beach bistro (one hour hiking time per way to the waterfalls)
A little insider tip: In summer, the Betlis stop can even be reached by boat.
2). Quinten – the most beautiful village at Lake Walen
Quinten is probably the best-known village on Lake Walen and can look back on a long history. The picturesque village was first mentioned in 849 and Roman coins were even found here. Due to the Mediterranean climate, many southern plants grow in Quinten, such as figs or palm trees.
The southern charm as well as the beautiful houses with the lake location make the place a perfect destination for an excursion. But there is one thing you need to know: Quinten can only be reached by boat or foot.
If you want to reach Quinten with a hike, a combination with the Seerenbach Falls is highly recommended. On the other hand, the village can be reached within 22 minutes by boat from Murg. The boats always leave every hour, regardless of whether it’s summer or winter.
3). Insider tip Durschlegi vantage point – the most beautiful vantage point above Lake Walen.
The Durschlegi viewpoint is one of the biggest insider tips around Lake Walen. From here you have the most beautiful view of the Swiss lake without having to share it with many people.
Travel by public transport or car to Amden, Dorf. This is where the walk begins, which takes about 45 minutes. Even during the walk you are rewarded with a fantastic view of Lake Walen. Even benches invite you to relax and enjoy the view during the walk. It only gets better at the final vantage point. Here, as well there are benches and even a fireplace waiting for you. The view over the lake, the Swiss Alps and in the direction of Amden is indescribable and makes you daydream. Some paragliders even take off here.
Durschlegi is definitely one of the most beautiful destinations in the Lake Walen region and a top secret tip.
4). Lake Talalpsee
The Talalpsee is another great tip above Lake Walen. The lake, which is still very unknown despite its beauty and proximity to Zurich, is a real gem. It is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sardona and is truly a small natural wonder. This is because the lake is located in a karst area. These are known for the porous stony underground where the water quickly seeps away and disappears. However, why is there a lake?
In order for a lake to form, there must be a sealing of the entire subsoil. The sealing is done by driving over a glacier and filling it with debris and sediments, as it was the case here. Afterwards, the upper part can be filled up with water, which leads to the formation of a lake.
You can not only swim in the Talalpsee, however, there is also a barbecue area waiting for hungry guests. Furthermore, you can disvoer as well a charming restaurant above the mountain lake that is still operated without electricity. An absolutely worthwhile experience!
By the way, there are two ways to get to the Lake Talalpsee. One is to take the gondola to the Kerenzerberg and then hike to the lake. On the other hand, you can also drive up by car, although the private road costs 7CHF and the few parking spaces are quickly snapped up, especially during weekends. Nevertheless, Talalpsee is one of the few lakes near Zurich that is not yet overcrowded.
5). Kerenzerberg with scooter descent or tobogganing
The Kerenzerberg has already been mentioned in connection with the Talalpsee. Because the destination above Lake Walen is often combined with hiking excursions to Talalpsee. But there is much more to discover. Because on the Kerenzerberg, scooters can be rented in summer and autumn, and in winter you can even go sledding. And I admit it. There are few sledge runs as good as on the Kerenzerberg. Compared to the Flumserberge, for example, it is proportionately very safe for families as well, because it runs along the mountain road. The only drawback is that in warm winters the piste is sometimes not fully open. However, a trip to the Kerenzerberg is worthwhile in both the warm and cold months. Furthermore, there is also a restaurant on the mountain where you can eat.
6). Murg at Lake Walen
What a dreamy place, this Murg. Compared to other places on Lake Walen, Murg is relatively modestly visited in summer. An absolute dream tip is a walk along the lakeshore, taking a seat on one of the many benches. This way you can enjoy the view of the Churfirsten mountain chain as well as the seemingly endless Lake Walensee.
It only gets better if you spend the summer months sunbathing and enjoying life in the free bathing area or on the lakeshore. Because Murg is definitely a worthwhile destination on Lake Walen.
7). Wild and romantic Murg Valley with the Murg Lakes
Romantic, more romantic, Murg lakes. This form of exaggeration may sound a little casual, but it could well exist when one discovers the beauty of the Murtal valley and the Murg lakes.
The adventurous journey can only be made by car or taxi from Murg on Lake Walen. As the private road costs 10CHF and can only be paid with coins, you should definitely have enough small change with you. There are two ways to get to the Murg lakes. One is a circular hike, which takes six hours. On the other hand, the fastest hike would be the same way there and back (approx. 3h).
On both hikes you will roam through wild stone pine forests, romantic streams and discover the breathtaking Murg lakes, which consist of a total of three mountain lakes. When you reach the upper and middle Murgsee lakes, a restaurant awaits you. This mountain restaurant was once built by ore workers. That’s why the Murgsee is dammed and the hiking trails are partly paved.
Meanwhile, the Murg lakes are relatively well known and there is a lot going on, especially at weekends. That’s why I would recommend arriving during the week.
8). Arvenbüehl – Vorder Höhi
There is no view over Lake Walen, but the hike will delight all nature lovers – in summer as well as in winter. Because the path leads to a vantage point called Vorder Höhi. Here you will find a mountain restaurant that is open sporadically. Furthermore, the breathtaking view of the Churfirsten and Toggenburg awaits you. If you want, you can even continue hiking from here in the direction of Stein SG in about two hours.
In winter this is not possible due to the wild animal protection zone and snow, but between spring and autumn the hike is highly recommended. On the other hand, you can sledge down back to Arvenbüehl in winter, in case you have taken a sledge with you.
Summary of excursion destinations around Lake Walen
The region around Lake Walen has a lot to offer. Often there are destinations that you don’t even know about, even though they are so easy to reach from Zurich. Whether summer or winter, this region is always worth a trip.