Wednesday 29 May 2013

Zurich Uetliberg Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 12.7 km (7.9 miles), terrain has constant rise and fall, total gain of 187 meters

Zürich Routes List:
East shore out-and-back  
West shore out-and-back  
Zürich old-town loop  

Uetliberg hilltop trail

For more running routes, see the Route List

Zurich is lined by tall hills to the east and west, and they offer a wooded challenge to any trail runner. So this time in Zurich, I decided to tackle the tallest hill, the Uetliberg, but to save the long run up- and downhill by taking the train to the peak.

The Uetliberg is 869m high, and lies to the west of the city center. It stretches towards the south, lining Lake Zurich along its west side. The hill has a network of hiking trails stretching along its whole length, and -- as I mentioned -- you can take a train to the top. The S10 train line (costs CHF 16) ends just before the peak.  
Sometimes it's narrow along the Uetliberg ridge
NOTE: If you really want to run up the hill, you can get out of the S10 at the Triemli station at the foot of the mountain, and choose from several trails of various lengths and steepness that go to the peak, rising 400 meters to the top.

But even with the train ride, this run still has almost 200 meters total rise in it, and it's a great workout, especially the last four kilometers, which have lots of uphill stretches. It is essentially an out-an-back, which follows the ridge of the hill along the "Gratweg" to the Felsenegg restaurant, then back to the Uetliberg train stop. Of course, you can also shorten the route by turning around at any time you please.

The Uetliberg Route
When you get out of the train, you have to continue uphill for a half-kilometer to reach the real peak. The peak has a pair of towers: a red/white TV tower and a triangular outlook tower. There is a restaurant and outlook point, too. The whole peak was once enclosed in an iron-age earthen fort, which you can see just before the restaurant.
Uetliberg final station: head up to that red/white TV tower
NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
After reaching the top, continue southwards either by taking the stairs down (follow the yellow sign for "Balderen") or run back the way you came for 100 meters, and then take the first left turn, also following the yellow signs towards Balderen.
At the Uetliberg peak lookout
You can follow any of the yellow signs for "Wanderweg", "Gratweg" or "Planetenweg": they all mean the same gravel road that follows the ridge. The "Planetenweg" begins near the train station and has markers for the sun and all the planets proportional to their distances from the 1.5-meter-wide sun along the ridge.
The Gratweg trail
You are now running downhill towards the south. Sometimes, you'll be in woods, sometimes in meadows with vistas to the east or west. Mountain-bike- and nordic-walking-trails also use parts of the hiking trail.
Saturn along the Planetenweg
The Gratweg also passes a couple of hilltop farms, one of which sells its fresh produce to passersby. There are also spots where fresh water springs provide fresh drinking water out of faucets, which are a big help in summer weather.

After 4.5-km, you'll come to Balderen, at one of the lowest points on the trail, where trails cross from either side. This ex-castle site has an abandoned yellow restaurant that doesn't look like it will re-open soon. The nordic-walking path splits off from the main gravel road here and rejoins with it later, so you can take it, if you prefer.
The Balderen spring
After 5-km, the hiking trail splits off from the gravel road, rising above it along the left. Some parts can be muddy, but it's more scenic.

At 6-km, you'll pass another radio tower and then the peak station for the Felsenegg gondola lift from the lakeside.
The Felsenegg gondola lift
And just 200 meters further, you reach the turn-around point at the red Felsenegg restaurant, with its outside terrace providing a beautiful view of the lake and the snow-covered mountains to the south. I decided to use the opportunity, and sat down to a beer before heading back again (hey, it was really warm out, what do you want!).
Felsenegg lookout
Now, you turn around and head back. I took the gravel road back, just for a bit different scenery: first running downhill through the meadow from the restaurant to the west, then turning right onto the gravel road again.

The last 4 kilometers contain a lot of uphill, as you head back up to the Uetliberg peak before running back down to the train stop again.
View back towards Uetliberg from Felsenegg

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