I’m always quick to say “I’m not a city girl”…and I think that is a true statement. Cities make me uncomfortable and I find them to be very overwhelming. They are complex with varied rules, confusing signs and hundreds of people to watch you flounder about. I get nervous and awkward in cities, there is no doubt about it. However, I still managed to happily spend 7 days in Zurich, Switzerland.
Having a friend in town helped but the most relaxing days in the city were days when I was alone, exploring at my pace and awkwardly putting my “but, I’m a country girl” excuse to good use, repeatedly. It turns out the city of Zurich also has a healthy network of trails that take you along the river, up the mountain side and through the cobblestone streets. As a group we did travel outside of the city for a few hikes but my favorite adventure was within city limits, along the tops of the hills that line the south side of the city.
**This is not a truly technical “mountain trail” but it does involve a lot of running/hiking on dirt. If you are in Zurich I highly recommend it. You get great views of the city and the country, you get out of the hustle + bustle of the city and you will get to stretch your legs on a trail littered with water spigots offering up fresh, cold water. Just do it…even if you don’t have the time for the full stretch, use the train + cable cars to check out this area!**
On a Friday morning I left the downtown apartment alone with my small running pack stuffed with a few snacks, an extra layer and my portable phone charger. Google told me there was a “Planet Trail” along the ridge where I could see the solar system over the course of 6km and I wanted to see what it was all about! I stopped by the train station up the block, realized a 15 minute train ride would cost me 8.60CHF/$9USD and promptly decided I was going to be hiking to the trailhead of my hike. Along the way I stopped by a grocery store for lunch fixings and maybe 20 minutes later I was on a dirt road heading toward the top of Uetliberg.
Near the base of Uetliberg there is a train that will take you up to the summit, but that train costs money if I had already spent 20 minutes walking in the name of saving money there was no way I was going to start paying for my views now! I plugged “Uetliberg” into my phone for a little guidance from the apartment…but I don’t think it did a very good job of getting me on an actual trail. I ended up wandering along a double track road that eventually narrowed into a nicely burmed single track full of bike tracks, not exactly where I wanted to be running!
When I realized I was headed down the hill rather than up it I scoped out a nice stump and settled in for a quick lunch. By now it was roughly noon and I had been out wandering for maybe an hour. Lunch wasn’t a necessity…but it looked like a nice place to plop my bottom while feeding my face so that is exactly what I did.
I returned to the trail and did a little backtracking before I found the gravel road I wanted. It twisted and wound its way up the hill toward the Uetliberg tower and restaurant. As the trail climbed I put my running legs to use. Over the past year or so I’ve let “trail runner” define me as an “uphill hiker” but if I let me legs go, even push them a little, they do a fantastic job of climbing hills far quicker than I could ever hike them. I need to remember this the next time I’m “leisurely” hiking up a trail mid-race!
On my way up to Uetliberg the trails were relatively empty but once I neared the top people starting popping up everywhere! I ducked off the main trail to follow single track and came upon a family hanging out near a fire ring. That’s one really cool thing about Switzerland, every where I’ve been has been set up for impromptu family adventures in the middle of the day. At the top of Uetliberg there is a restaurant right near the train stop with a sign post full of yellow hiking trail arrows. On my mission to check out the “Planet Trail” I sought out and followed the trail labeled “Planetenweg” up until I found the sun — a beach ball sized sphere perched on a pole. From there I simply headed east along the trail.
Before long the double track trail opened up to the Berggasthause Cafe + Tower where I found a lot of people checking out the panoramic view of the city. I headed up the tower only to realize there is a charge to get past the first flight of stairs. Just as I was about to turn around [I was on a money-saving mission!] another person came down the trail and handed me a coin to get access! Up I went. The view from the top of this tower was pretty spectacular. To the north was Zurichsee/Lake Zurich, the city wrapping around the west side. To the south were rolling hills, speckled with farms.
Back on the trail I continued east, now following the signs toward Felsenegg, stopping to check out the scaled model of planets as I came upon them. The “Planet Trail” part of this little adventure was lackluster. The trail itself was fantastic, but the actual planet models were not that interesting. Go for the views and the wide, rolling trail…that is definitely worth the trip!
About 6km/3.5mi later I arrived at Felsenegg, the top of the Adliswil cable car. There were bathrooms and a small shop as well as a play ground and another yellow sign post, this time with a map. From the top of the cable car there was a trail that took me to the base of the hills, free of charge. As you can guess…that’s where I headed! It was a steep trail down full of tight switchbacks. I had fun zipping along, trying to gain a little confidence with my downhill running on loose gravel. Spoiler: I did not fall!
Once I arrived at the bottom of the cable car…I did not really know where I was. I resorted to the GPS on my phone again, navigating to the star I had saved as my friend’s apartment [+5 points for thinking ahead!]. I was about 7km/4.5mi away from home…about a 1.5 hour walk, according to Google. Somehow my legs were still up for running, roughly 15 miles into their day, so off I went. Even in town, near major highways, I was able to find narrow single track looping in and out of the trees and parks.
I made it back to the apartment right around 6pm, nearly 7 hours after I left. I had spent my entire afternoon on foot — walking through town, running up foothills, climbing towers, sitting on benches looking at the world and taking in this new world of wonder I had found in a busy city. I am still not a city person, but I kind of love Zurich. Like, actual love. The next few days of day tripping to mountains, wandering along river paths and lounging in the cobblestoned old town may have secured this love. Just in case I need another excuse to forget to return home…I’m adding Zurich to the list!