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Engelberg 4 Lakes Trail (Vier-Seen-Wanderung)

Easy mountain trail near Lucerne, visiting four alpine lakes where you can picnic and swim. Plus nice playgrounds for kids.

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The popular “Vier-Seen-Wanderung” trail south of Lucerne visits four gorgeous lakes as you hike from one mountain resort to another. You can swim in at least two of the lakes, making it a good choice for hot days.

Kids will love the playgrounds at both ends. Since there are a few restaurants along the way, you don’t have to carry many supplies.

It’s a pretty easy trail, a good choice for families and relaxed hikers. I’ve included ways to shorten and lengthen the hike (options from 6.5 to 25 km), so you can match it to your group’s needs.  I hope you like it!

Region:   Lake Lucerne Region
Starting point: Engelberg – Titlis gondola station
Gerschnistrasse 12, 6390 Engelberg
From Lucerne 40mins by car, 1hr15 by train/bus
Ending point: Melchsee-Frutt gondola station
Fruttstrasse 53, 6067 Stöckalp
Trail: 11.3 km one way
Time: about 3.5 hours
Difficulty: moderate / 230m up, 510m down
Condition: dirt path, no strollers
Elevation: highest point 2210m
Open: July to mid-October, weather dependent
Cost 2023: mountain lifts CHF 57/adult, discount with Swiss travelcards
plus bus/train to connect to your starting point
Extras: mountain restaurants, playgrounds
More info: engelberg.chwebcamsforecast

Gallery

Location

This hike starts in the alpine village Engelberg, south of Lucerne. You access the trail with gondolas and chair lifts.

Trail overview

The Four Lake Trail starts in Engelberg, where you ride a cable car up to Trübsee lake. Then a chair lift up to Jochpass where you start the hike.

The trail passes Engstlensee and Tannensee lakes, ending at Melchsee lake. Then you can ride a cable car down to Stöckalp and catch a bus back to your starting point. You can also do this trail in reverse.

Hiking map

There are many variations of this trail. But I suggest the 11.3k stretch from from Engelberg Jochpass to Melchsee Frutt. It visits all the most scenic parts of the trail and is reasonable distance for most average hikers. Below I have variations so you can shorten or lengthen this trail as needed.

The section from Jochpass to Engstlensee is a typical narrow dirt mountain path. But after that, the path is mostly wide and smooth the rest of the way. The section between Tannensee and Melchsee is also a narrow dirt path, but very easy and quite flat.

Download map on KomootSchweizMobilOutdoorActive

Extra credit: Lake 5

If you have time and energy, we really recommend hiking a bit past Melchsee Frutt to the Blausee lake (see on map). It’s an extra 1km each way from Melchsee Frutt to that lake. But it’s very beautiful and much less busy that the other parts of this trail. 

Blausee with Melchsee-Frutt village in the distance

Trail variations

The trail I suggest above visits all the highlights and is a reasonable distance and difficulty for the average hiker. If you want to hike more or less, you can adjust the trail as follows (distances are approximate):

  1. Engelberg to Trübsee: gondola or hike 6.5 km, 750m ascent
  2. Trübsee to Jochpass: chair lift or hike 2.2 km, 430m ascent
  3. Jochpass to Engstlensee: hike down 3.3 km, 350m descent or chair lift down + 2 km, 110 descent
  4. Engstlensee to Tannenalp: hike 4km, 180m ascent
  5. Tannenalp to Melchsee Frutt: hike 4.6km or hike 2km around Tannensee, then Fruttli shuttle to cable car
  6. Melchsee Frutt to Stöckalp: cable car or hike 6 km, 810m descent

FYI, the full trail skips all mountain transport, hiking from Engelberg valley up to Jochpass, across to Melchsee Frutt, then down to Stöckalp. This trail is 24.8km with 1377m up and 1298m down. See trail map.

Easy for little kids

If you need a short and easy hike, you can do the easy lake walk around the Trübsee, also a theme trail for kids. Or you can do the Tannensee lake walk at Melchsee Frutt. Both are flat and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

easy path around the Tannensee

Opening times

Summer season in these mountain areas is typically from mid June to mid October. See current status of trails and facilities.

The Engelberg gondola runs from 8:00 to 17:15. The Melchsee Frutt gondola runs from 8:25 – 17:20. See current opening.

Ticket prices

You’ll need one way cable car tickets on both ends of the trail. You’ll also need to use public transportation to get back to your starting point.

In Engelberg, you’ll need a one way ticket from Engelberg to Jochpass. In 2023, this costs CHF 34/adult, CHF 17/child 6-15, under 6 free. See current prices.

At Melchsee Frutt, you’ll need a one way ticket from Melchsee Frutt to Stöckalp. In 2023, this costs CHF 23/adult, children under 15 free. See current prices.

The websites are not clear about this, but it’s possible you can buy all necessary tickets at your starting point. If you plan to skip any of the mountain lifts included in my plan here, inform the ticket office what hike you plan to do and they will sell you the correct tickets.

Discounts

At both Engelberg and Melchsee Frutt, it is free with the Tell Pass and discounts for Swiss Travel Pass, GA, Half Fare. Free for kids with a Junior Card.

SBB Railaway has a combo offer for a small discount on the cable cars if you travel there with public transport. See the offer.

How to get there

By public transport

There is public transportation at both ends of this hike. We started in Engelberg, but you could reverse these directions. 

To start, take a train to Engelberg. Then a short walk or bus ride to the Titlis gondola station (stop: Engelberg, Titlisbahn). Buy gondola tickets here and ride up to the hike.

The hike ends at Melchsee-Frutt. Ride the cable car down to Stöckalp, where you can catch a bus. The bus leaves hourly. Check the current schedule on SBB.ch.

By car

Since this is a one way trail, you’ll need to use public transport to get back to your car. You could park at either end of the trail. But we suggest parking at the Stans train station, which is between Engelberg and Melchsee Frutt. Then you don’t have to retrace your route.

At Stans, you can get a discounted price of CHF 8/day if you take your parking ticket and train/bus ticket to the train station ticket office. They will apply the P+Rail discount to your parking ticket.

The train between Stans and Engelberg takes about 30 mins. The buses between Stans and Stöckalp (Melchsee Frutt gondola station) takes about 1h10.

Photo story of trail

In Engelberg, you start your day at the Titlis gondola station. You can buy your mountain railway tickets here. You need a ticket for the Engelberg-Trübsee gondola and Trübsee-Jochpass chair lift and for the end, Melchsee-Frutt to Stöckalp gondola. Hopefully they will sell you all three here. But you can also buy the Melchsee-Frutt tickets when you get there.

The gondola drops you at the Trübsee, the first lake. Exit the gondola station and walk down to the lake. Follow the path on the left to the chair lift straight ahead.

Take your time enjoying this lake and taking pictures. It’s particularly lovely in the morning light.

If you are with kids, budget a little time to play at this fantastic playground on the shores of the Trübsee.

When you are ready to hike, ride the chair lift up to Jochpass, where the hike starts. 

If you want extra fitness, you can skip this chairlift and hike up, about 2.2k and 440m ascent. You can see that trail a bit on the right side of the photo. But I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Looking back at the Trübsee lake as we ride up.

Hiking down to Engstlensee

You get off the chair lift at the Jochpass. There are toilets at the Jochpass restaurant if you want to go before getting on the trail.

Start by following signs to Engstlenalp and the green 574 Vier-Seen-Wanderung.

The trail is a narrow dirt footpath down to the Engstlensee lake shown here. The mountain bikes follow different trails to your left. There’s also a chair lift that takes you down most of the way to the Engstlensee. If you have little kids, maybe use that lift.

When you get close to the lake, I suggest taking the trail that hugs the water so you can enjoy this lake a bit more before leaving.

Near the west side of the lake, there is a picnic area with toilets. Even though we had only been hiking an hour, we did a quick swim in the cold lake to cool off. Definitely recommended.

Hiking up to Tannalp

Near the end of the lake, follow the path towards the parking and bus stop. You’ll pass a cheese shop, hotel and mountain restaurant. 

Now follow signs to Tannalp, still on the green Route 574. The path leads through some cow pastures to the trail snaking up the mountain as shown in the below picture.

Looking back to Engstlenalp. This uphill section lasts about 45 mins, not too difficult.

This short section, called Spycherflüö, has a steep slope to one side and a rope to hold for safety. The path is pretty wide and well built, so it’s not particularly dangerous. But use caution and be courteous to passing hikers.

The climb ends at Tannalp, the start of the Melchsee Frutt resort. Here you’ll find a restaurant and toilets. If it’s too early for lunch, just continue to Melchsee Frutt, about another hour, and eat there instead. That little blue/yellow shuttle takes non-hikers back to the cable car.

   

Around Tannensee to Melchsee

Just past Tannalp, you’ll reach the third lake on this hike: Tannensee. It’s an easy walk around the lake on wide flat dirt path. 

After the lake, the official trail has you cross the dam over to the paved road and follow that to Melchsee-Frutt. But I think it’s much nicer to follow the dirt path shown here. Either way, it leads to the Melchsee lake. 

Following the dirt path with Melchsee lake coming into view.

Ending at Melchsee-Frutt

The trail leads you to the water, near the little church in the picture below. Along the lakeside, there are a couple restaurants and picnic areas and places to swim and lounge.

On the lakeside, you’ll find this little “Bärgbeiz” café for a quick and relatively inexpensive meal. There are also free toilets here.

Instead of hiking up to the cable car, you can ride this free elevator.

From the top of the elevator, you get a nice aerial view of the lake. 

From the elevator, it was a short walk to the Melchsee-Frutt cable car station, see on map.

If you want a nicer meal, I suggest the Frutt Mountain Resort hotel, which has a nice restaurant with a panorama terrace overlooking the lake. The food is more expensive here, but also more delicious. 

FAQ

Can I bring dogs on this trail?

Yes, dogs are welcome on the trail. You should have the dog on a leash around cows and other hikers. The mountain railways may charge a fee for larger dogs. 

Can I bike on this trail?

This area is popular with mountain bikes and there are bike trails connecting Engelberg and Melchsee. In some cases, you need to bike on trails separate to the foot traffic. See the bike version of the 4 Lake Trail.

Where to eat

There are several restaurants along the way. If you start in Engelberg, it makes sense with the timing to eat at Melchsee Frutt.

  • Trübsee – The Alpstubli am Trübsee restaurant near the chair lift has a nice view of the lake and mountains. See on map.
  • Jochpass – We really like the Bärghuis Jochpass restaurant near the top of the chair lift. But it’s too early in the hike if you start in Engelberg. If you hike in reverse, I would definitely have lunch here. See on map.
  • Engstlensee – We would prefer to picnic on the lakeshore. But Alphütte Rossboden is only a couple minutes walk from the lake and serves traditional mountain food. See on map.
  • Tannenalp – The Berggasthaus Tannalp restaurant is very popular and could be hard to get into on a weekend. See on map.
  • Melchsee Frutt – There are a few nice picnic areas along the lake. The Bärgbeiz cafe has simple inexpensive and fast meals. For something nicer, try the Frutt Mountain Resort with a lovely panorama terrace.

Accessibility

This full trail is not accessible. But the paths around the Trübsee and Tannensee lakes are possible with strollers and wheelchairs. 

What to wear

This hike is best done with sturdy hiking shoes with good tread. I didn’t find hiking sticks necessary most of the path is quite smooth. But the downhill section from Jochpass to Engstlensee is quite bumpy and might be better with sticks.

This is a mountain hike, so weather and temperatures can change quickly. Dress appropriate to the weather forecast, bringing layers like a fleece and windbreaker/rain jacket as needed. There are no forests or tall grass, so it’s ok to wear shorts.

For sunny days, make sure to bring sunscreen, sun hat, and sunglasses. Even if you aren’t sure you want to swim, I suggest bringing your swimming suit and towel just in case. 

Although there are several mountain restaurants along the way, I still suggest bringing 1 L of water per person and snacks. 

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