Fun for all
Those who enjoy spending time outdoors with their little ones soon learn that children and adults look at the same things with very different eyes. While Mum and Dad admire the view, children see the grey rocks as a great place to go climbing. To ensure that fun is had by all also on longer hikes, it's a good idea to plan mid-way destinations, ensure plenty of variety, and schedule enough breaks. This means that preparation is particularly important when planning a mountain hike with the whole family.
What aspects should be considered when hiking with children?
- The destination should correspond to the children’s ability and age and ideally take their preferences into account. Does one of the children like climbing? Or are they interested in alpine flowers? Where can they refresh their feet in cool water or swim in a mountain stream? Be sure to allow time for stops like these: either spontaneously or, where possible, after studying the map.
- The general guideline is to make a break with children around once an hour and multiply the hiking time by 1.5. It’s not only important to calculate enough time for the journey and ascent – but also the descent, when legs are tired and concentration is starting to fail.
- Besides hiking boots that cover the ankles and have good sole profiles, all hikers also need wind, rain and sun protection. Also important are a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as well as warm clothing, a rainproof jacket and trousers. The weather in the mountains can quickly take an unexpected turn.
- Other useful items in your rucksack include: pen knife, tissues, first aid pack, cash and a change of clothes.
Family-friendly SAC huts
As a hiking destination, the family-friendly SAC huts are ideal. They have good facilities and sometimes not only dormitories but also smaller rooms for families. In addition, information on how to get there, plus trails and activities, is readily available. In 2019, the Swiss Alpine Club published a guide specially for family trips to SAC huts which we highly recommend to everyone who enjoys hiking with children. Author Heidi Schwaiger’s recommendation: «It's the overnight stay in a hut that is a unique experience, and which everyone will remember for a long time.»
4 hiking tour suggestions
The Martinsmad hut is located in the UNESCO World Heritage area of Sardona at an altitude of 2,002 metres. The journey by public transport starts by taking the train to Schwanden, then the Sernftal bus to Elm. From there it's a 15-minute walk to the lower station of the Elm-Tschinglen-Alp cable car. Parking spaces are also available here. From Tschinglen-Alp the hiking route leads relatively steeply up to the hut. For this hike, both children and parents should be sure-footed and not prone to giddiness. Although sloping sections are secured with wire ropes, it's advisable to hold on to younger children with your own rope.
The fairly strenuous ascent takes about 1 hour 45 minutes and leads past thunderous waterfalls. Having reached the Martinsmad hut, adults can relax while the children have fun with the slack-line and zip-line, and in the glacial stream. Inside, the hut provides fresh and tempting Glarus specialities and a cosy children's lounge with books.
Located at 2,236 metres, this SAC hut was designed by renowned SAC architect Jakob Eschenmosen and delights visitors with 14 hours of sunshine a day. A two-day trip to the Carschina hut is also ideal for families with younger children.
To get there, first either drive by car to St. Antönen church; or take the train to Küblis railway station and then the post bus to St. Antönen church. A mountain bus will then take you on to Bärgli. From there, the hike takes about an hour up to the hut, passing Lake Carschina. At the hut, you will find what is probably the highest-located sandpit, a trampoline and lots of boulders for budding little hikers to have their first shot at climbing. If you're lucky, you'll also spot Felix, the hut marmot. For the next day’s programme, we recommend a hike to Lake Partnun, where – just like at Lake Carschina – rowing boats and barbecue spots are available. With older children, you can also venture onto the Sulzfluh via ferrata and benefit from the proximity of the Carschina hut by enjoying an early start and fewer crowds.
The Krönten hut is located at the far end of the Erstfelder valley and has been run by the Wyrsch family for over 30 years. To get there, start from Erstfeld and travel to Bodenberg, the starting point of the hike, by mountain bike, alpine taxi or private car. For the latter, you need to purchase a travel permit at the station kiosk in Erstfeld.
There are two routes for the ascent to the Krönten hut: the direct and shorter Geisspfad or the somewhat longer path via Alp Chüeplangg. The second option offers more variety and, especially for hot days, the possibility of a refreshing dip in the mountain stream and in Lake Fulen. This route is about 5.6 km long and rises about 910 metres in altitude. Ideally, both parents and children should have some experience and stamina in order to enjoy this trip.
.There are numerous climbing and bouldering opportunities around the Krönten hut, as well as animals to observe and rare plants to discover on the high moor. With a pleasant water temperature of 20 degrees, Lake Fulen is popular with warm water swimmers. By contrast, the turquoise Ober Lake, only five minutes' walk from the hut, has a maximum temperature of seven degrees, even in summer.
The SAC hut in Valais is located at 2,726 metres altitude and looks out across the highest four-thousand-metre peaks in Switzerland. Starting from Saas-Grund, hikers take the gondola lift up the mountain. If you get off at the Kreuzboden middle station, the walk up to the Weissmies hut takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can take the cable car up to the Hochsaas station at 3,000 metres and from there it's a short walk downhill to the hut.
Having reached your destination, you will be rewarded not only by the spectacular view, but also by the warm welcome from hut wardens Roberto and Carla. In the high season there is a lot going on at the hut during the day, but those who stay overnight will enjoy the peace and quiet of mornings and evenings. It is advisable to book early or come on weekdays if you want to get one of the family rooms. Besides hikes, there are several other activities to keep children busy. Particularly popular are the large playground, water park and pony rides at the Kreuzboden station. But around the Weissmies hut there is also plenty of space to let off steam as well as a separate climbing garden with a zip line. And they can spot marmots or ibexes on hikes in the nearby surroundings.
In my backpack I will pack...
For an overnight stay in the SAC hut, backpacks should include:
- comfortable clothes to wear inside the hut
- toiletries, plus a towel or wet wipes
- light indoor sleeping bag made of cotton, possibly a pillowcase
- headlamp or flashlight