Melchsee-Frutt to Engelberg Route 574

There is still time to enjoy this classic, four lakes, high mountain hike with discounted travel from SBB

Melchsee-Frutt to Engelberg  Route 574

Two trains, a post bus and the Melchsee-Frutt cable car got us to the start of our four lakes hike. The journey itself was entertaining, sharing the train with a multitude of tourists on their way to Sarren and a gaggle of school children on the Post bus.  Overbalanced by their stuffed ruck sacks I didn’t envy their teachers.

Photo credit: Jan Livesey
I love Engelberg in the winter.  The scenery is dramatic. The slopes are steep and the weather often challenging. I was intrigued to see those same steep slopes bereft of their winter cloak.  You can do the four lakes hike either way but for us, the route home at the end of the hike was more straightforward from Engelberg.

We started at the top of the Melchsee –Frutt gondola following the signs for route 574. It is not long before the functional looking buildings of an out of season ski resort are left behind and you reach the first of the lakes – the Melchsee.  All of the clear, mirrored lakes on this walk are popular with fishermen, tirelessly casting their lines in the hope of catching one of the many different types of trout to be found.

The Tannensee is the next lake and the highest at 1976m. Created in the 1950’s by building an earth filled dam the lake is used to generate electricity. Rumour has it marmottes hang out here but I think they were sleeping in the heat of the day as we passed through.

Leaving behind the relative bustle of the Melchsee valley we follow route 574 along and down around the edge of the mountain. The path narrows here but there is a strong wire to hold onto. The views are magnificent both up and down the valley so it is worth braving this route.  There is an alternative easier route.

In the distance there is a gathering of horses and boys – the latter cooling the horses with buckets of  water. We pass them later on the climb up to Jochpass– the horses laden down with their load of gravel to repair the pathways after the winter snows. The image is that of a bygone era – the boys leading their horses down the mountain paths. Constable couldn’t have captured it better.

Mounds of winter snow still remain creating the damp ground so loved by the alpine snowbell (Soldanella alpina):bell shaped flowers with pale lilac fringes: nodding heads on slender stems.

The Engstlensee is the most beautiful of the lakes – the steep sides of the Gross Wendestock rising up on the far side to 3042 m.  Scree falls and water falls cascading down the steep sides. Time was not on our side so there was no time to dive into the cool, clear waters. The 400m climb up from the lake to Jochpass was steep but we were not tempted by the option of the chair lift. The route is noted as taking 5 hours but the temptation to admire the view, drink a beer or dangle the toes in the icy cold waters of the lakes adds to the time. Without noticing, the departure of the last gondola from Trübsee down to Engelberg becomes imminent and we quicken our pace – though the Hotel Engstlenap looked like the perfect place to spend a night were we to miss it!

Arriving at Jochpass the familiar surroundings look foreign without their winter snow. Building work is underway in preparation for a new season of skiers. There is more snow than we imagined up here at 2207m. The route down follows the steep off-piste field down to the lake at Trübsee – the last of the four lakes. From here you are only 5 minutes away from the cable car station where you can catch a lift down to Engelberg, exhausted and exhilarated after your day in the mountains.


SBB are running a 20% discount on transport for this hike which includes the mountain gondalas at Engelberg-Trübsee and Stöckalp – Melchsee –Frutt.  The offer runs until 15 October 2017.

For details and booking go to:

For full details of the hike and a map go to:

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