Hello everyone! A few weeks ago I went to a mountain in Heidiland – Piozl. I’m afraid I’ll post more than 200 pictures in this post because there are so many things to do and to see there. Considering the summer season is finished (till 30th. October, 2016) and if you still wanna go there for hiking without everything totally covered in snow, I’m afraid you will have to do it next year. I actually wrote this post one or two days after my trip and it’s before 30th October, 2016, but I kept modifying it so I delayed the publishing of this post. That’s why if you see something like hurry up, go before the 30th etc, please just ignore them because unfortunately the summer season is finished.
During this time when I was there, the lower hiking trails were partially covered with snow while the mountain top hiking trails were already totally covered in snow. Even the famous 5-lake hiking trail was affected because of the snow and cold weather. Some of the lakes were frozen and covered in snow so unfortunately, you won’t be able to enjoy the beauty of them as in summer. That’s why I went to Riffelsee (Gornergrat) in Zermatt before the first snow. However, alternatively, you can still choose the 2-lake walk. The best thing in this mountain compared to Säntis is that it’s relatively empty and peaceful. You just need to scan your ticket, board a cable car and chairlift and you’re on the way. You definitely don’t need to wait for 250 people ahead of you to go and wait for your turn. There’s basically no waiting time for boarding the cable cars or chairlifts here in Pizol.
1. The hiking trails and activities in the mountain
First of all, you need to know the trail category. The yellow arrow means it’s an easy path. The yellow arrow with a red strip in the middle at the end means it’s a kind of difficult route and the arrow with blue and white means it’s a difficult trail.
The Pizol mountain area is famous for various hiking trails, from easy to difficult, from short to long, whether you’re old or young, single or with kids, you will find a trail suitable for you. The most famous trails include:
- The 5-lake hiking trail from Gaffia station or Pizolhütte station (4-5 hours, quite difficult, you should wear professional hiking shoes and take with you hiking equipments)
- The Heidipfad – Alp Schwarzbüel from Pardiel station (1.5 hours round trip, suitable for kids and push chair friendly. You can even rent a trolley in Pardiel station and put your small kids in and push it through the Heidi trail)
- The 2-lake hiking trail from Pizolhütte or Laufböden station or from the Heidipfad – Alp Schwarzbüel hiking trail (2.5 hours with close look of the alpine flowers in summer)
- Pizol Panorama high-altitude hiking trail, a hiking trail between the two top stations Pizolhütte and Laufböden (1 hour if you walk the whole trail. If you just wanna go from one station to the other, the net walking time is around 20-25 mins. With view of the UNESCO World Heritage Sardona and a view point on the peak)
- Garmil high round trail from Furt or Gaffia station (2.5 hours. GEO tour Garmil)
Of course there are other hiking trails and if you are interested you can have a look at the map from the Pizol website below, so you can have a better idea of which trails you want take and where you should start or go back. (Do remember these are hiking trails for summer, in winter season some of the trails might be closed. If you wanna know about the winter hiking or skiing routes you can contact me, I took the brochure from the mountain so I can send a copy to you.)
For more info about the hiking trails and the trail category please click here.
Of course there are other activities you can participate in, for example:
- For more info about paragliding please click here.
- For more info about mountain climbing please click here.
- For more info about finishing in the lakes please click here.
- For more info about mountain biking please click here.
There are basically restaurants at each station and you should check at the lower terminals which of the restaurants are open and which are closed. There are hotels at Pardiel, Gaffia, Furt and Maienberg so if you wanna stay overnight you know where you can find them.
The SOS number is 144
I took the Pizol Panorama top hiking trail, a hiking trail between the two top stations Pizolhütte and Laufböden and the Heidipfad – Alp Schwarzbüel from Pardiel station. I’ll introduce and explain more about these two routes later in my post.
2. General information
2.1 How to get there
There is a round route in this area and there are two lower terminal stations to take the gondola cable car – Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz and Pizolbahn Wangs. You can take a train to Sargans train station and then take bus No. 429 or 430 to Pizolbahn Wangs. If you wanna go to Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz, you should take a train to Bad Ragaz train station and then take bus No. 456. You are see from the hiking trails map above that the two upper terminals are Pizolhütte (2227m) and Laufböden (2226m) and you can reach them respectively from Pizolbahn Wangs and Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz.
2.2 Timetables of the Gondola cable car and chairlifts
2.2.1 Summer schedule
Weekend operation of Gondola cable car Bad Ragaz: 11./12. June 2016, 18./19. June 2016, 25./26. June 2016
Everyday operation 1. July – 30. Oct 2016 (extended).
- Gondelbahn Bad Ragaz: Mon-Fri 09.00 – 12.00 & 13.00 – 17.00. Sat/Son/Holiday 08.15 – 17.30 Uhr
- Sesselbahn Laufböden: Mon-Fri 09.15 – 12.20 & 13.20 – 16.00. Sat/Son/Holiday 08.30 – 12.20 & 13.20 – 16.00
- Gondelbahn Wangs: Mon-Fri 08.15 – 12.00 & 13.00 – 17.30. Sat/Son/Holiday 08.15 – 17.30
- Sesselbahn Furt-Gaffia: Everyday 08.30 – 12.20 & 13.20 – 16.30
- Sesselbahn Gaffia-Pizolhütte: Everyday 08.45 – 12.35 & 13.35 – 16.00
This is just info from the brochures I got from the lower terminal, if you want real-time operating hours of the lifts please click here (website only available in german at this moment).
2.2.2 Winter schedule
Everyday operation of Wangs Gondola cable car, Furt-Pizolhütte chairlifts and Testing lifts: from 10. Dec 2016.
Everyday operation of all lifts: from 17. Dec 2016.
Season end: all lifts operate till 2. Apr 2017.
- Gondola cable cars: 08:15-16:45
- Chairlifts: 08:30-16.15
- Ski lifts: 08:30-16:00
- Every Friday night ski and sleigh: 23. Dec 2016 – 3. Mar 2017, 18:00-22:30.
- Saturday evening journey Bad Ragaz gondola cable car: 7. Jan 2017 – 1. Apr 2017, 18:00-22:30.
This is just info from the brochures I got from the lower terminal, if you want real-time operating hours of the lifts please click here (website only available in german at this moment).
Don’t forget to check the last cable car or chairlift going up or down.
2.3 Ticket prices
You can buy your tickets in advance and online, it’s usually a little bit cheaper than buying them at the counter. Please click here if you wanna buy your tickets online.
2.3.1 Summer season
The good thing about this area is that you can go from one lower terminal (for example, Pizolbahn Wangs) to one upper terminal (for example, Pizolhütte) and after a short, easy but beautiful walk, you can reach the other upper terminal (Laudböden) and you can go down to the lower terminal Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz. You can combine these two routes in the round trip and in this way you don’t need to take the same route up and down.
The normal price for a round trip from Pizolbahn Wangs to the upper terminal Pizolhütte, or from Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz to Laudböden or you combine these two routes as I mentioned above, is 44 CHF. With GA or Half-price card you only need to pay 22 CHF.
If you wanna know about the exact price for specific hiking trails or to go to different in-between stations, group tickets and special tickets please click here.
2.3.2 Winter season
For winter, the prices for the lifts are the same, but what’s more, there are day tickets, seasonal tickets, ski tickets, sleigh tickets, family tickets, and other special tickets. If you are interested please click here to check the info on the official website when the summer season ends.
The winter tickets are not available online yet. I also got a brochure from the lower terminal so if you are interested you can also email me and I’ll send you photos of the exact prices.
From this winter, new chairlifts which can carry up to 6 people will be in use.
3. My journey
As I mentioned before, I took the route from Pizolbahn Wangs –> Maienberg (no change) –> Furt (change to chairlift) –> Gaffia (change to another chairlift) –> Pizolhütte (take a top mountains panorama hiking trail) –> Laufböden –> Pardiel (change to gondola cable car) –> Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz.
The highlights during this journey are Furt (Water Forest, Bird’s house museum), Pizolhütte to Laufböden (the panorama hiking trail which gives a view of the UNESCO World Heritage Sardona), and Pardiel (Heidi themed walking trail, especially interesting for children). I’ll introduce to you these highlight with the pictures I took, but be careful, it’s gonna be a lot of pictures. 😛
3.1 On the way from Pizolbahn Wangs to Furt
3.2 Furt (Water forest and Bird’s house museum)
When you get off at Furt station, you just need to look for the signs, follow the arrows and the water park and Bird’s house museum are only 5 mins away. Considering it’s already autumn and it’s quite cold in the mountains, there are no people playing in the forest water park anymore. However, I tried some “equipments” and they are quite fun. I can imagine how popular this place was among children in summer. You need to quickly push and pull the handles at the beginning of the “equipments” and the water will flow out. You also need to change the wooden barriers in the way of the flowing water so you can accumulate more water and let it go at once. With enough water and strong currents the water will be able to move the wheels or pedals at the lower level. The bird’s house museum is also not a real indoor museum. There are colorful birds’ house hanging on the trees and I read about it that sometimes children can make their own bird’s house and put them on exhibition. I’m not sure whether there are really birds living in them or not but they look really warm and nice.
3.3 On the way from Furt to Gaffia and to Pizolhütte
This is actually my first time taking chairlifts and it’s really exciting. Basically you only sit on a chair and it’s open air all around you. The first part of the chairlift journey stops at Gaffia and you will need to walk to the other chairlift station which is around 5 mins away. Just follow the signs and you can find it easily. However, if you wanna take the 5-lake hiking trail or the Garmil high round trail, you can start from here. On your way, you can see snow canons and mountain houses. Except for the starting points for the hiking trails and a hotel and a restaurant, there are not particular important things to visit here. you can continue your journey to the top station Pizolhütte directly.
3.4 At Pizolhütte
When you are at Pizolhütte, I guess you will feel quite cold because of the open air chairlifts. You can go to the Pizolhütte restaurant to have some warm soup or tea. You can also have meals there but as expected, they are over-priced. I think it’s understandable because after all the restaurant in on the top of the mountain. However, I have to complain that the soup was really salty……It’s called vegetable soup but all I saw was some cheese, bread and dried herb leaves (as you can see from the picture above). Anyway, if you don’t feel hungry or you brought some sandwiches with you you an keep on with your journey. It’s not some fancy or special restaurant that you have a visit. Oh! but if you do wanna go in to warm yourself up, remember they don’t accept cards. Always have some cash with you.
Before starting the Pizol Panorama mountain top hiking trail, a hiking trail between the two top stations Pizolhütte and Laufböden, you can have a walk around Pizolhütte and check the billboards there. On of them is for the information of mountain animals and the other one is about UNESCO World Heritage Tectonic Sardona (I’ll talk more about this in the next section).
3.5 Pizol Panorama High-altitude Trail
Partially covered in snow, this is one of the most beautiful hiking trails I’ve ever taken. The highlights in this hiking trail that you should never miss are Wangsersee, view of the UNESCO World Heritage Tectonic Sardona, and a viewing platform at the peak. On your way as well as at the peak, if you’re a fan of geology, don’t forget to look at the billboards, which give detailed information about the surrounding mountains.In general, this hiking trail gives you not only wonderful views but also history and knowledge.
The lake was already partially frozen but you can still see how green it is in contrast to the white snow around it. Through a special device with special glasses by the lake, you can watch the green water, white snow and transparent ice in an interesting way (like the last picture below)
3.5.2 UNESCO World Heritage Tectonic Sardona
As it says on the billboard on the way:
The World Heritage Sardona is a roughly 300 square kilometer large, unique and pristine mountain landscape. Thrusts, folds, faults, nowhere else in the world are these witnesses of mountain building so monumental and clearly visible as in this natural World Heritage site Sardona.
Scientists here have been doing research for over 200 years, which helps us human beings get a better understanding of mountain building.
As it says on the website of unesco-sardona,
Unique visibility of natural mountain-building phenomena, exemplary history of research, and continuing importance for geological research in this cross-cantonal area contributed to its receiving, in 2008, status as a World Heritage Site. As such, the Sardona is in the same league as the Grand Canyon, the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and the volcanic islands of Hawai’i. A great honor – but also a great obligation for the three cantons and the thirteen World Heritage communities to care for the area long-term.
On your way to the viewing platform you will see a billboard with a telescope, which guides you to see the famous line of Glarus Thrust and explains to you a unique phenomenon “old on top of young, how is that possible”. Because of the snow, I couldn’t see the line clearly and I was just guessing whether it’s that line or not.
3.5.3 The viewing platform at the peak
From here you can not only enjoy the wonderful views but also enrich knowledge of geology. Researchers have been exploring and trying to understand the geological phenomenon here in this World Heritage Site for more than 200 years and the research is still going on today. From here you can see the old rock Verrucano, which formed 250 to 300 million years ago in a hot desert, a young rock, which formed 35 to 50 million years ago and emerged from the sea and you will come to realize Africa was once on top of Europe.
3.6 From Laufböden to Pardiel
From Laufböden you can choose a chairlift with cover so you don’t need to be exposed in the wind, but the view might be affected because of the cover.
3.7 Pardiel (Themed Heidi Trail. Heidipfad – Alp Schwarzbüel)
This trail is designed based on the children’s fiction – Heidi. This is a round trail and when you finish you should have visited 12 goats and some other interesting sites, including the barefoot walking trail, the wooden house, the fire place, the book houses, the panorama viewing platform etc. This trail is mostly a forest and is especially interesting for children. I believe adults will love it as well.
There are several thing you should notice though.
You can rent a trolley if you have small kids and the whole Heidi trail is push chair friendly.
Be careful if there is already snow, the path can be quite slippery sometimes.
If you are with children, ask at the lower terminal where you can get a voucher, on which you can stamp when you visit the goats. Put the voucher in the mouth and press down the horns. Some holes, which appear to be letters will appear on your voucher. At the lower terminal of Bad Ragaz, you can write your name and address down and put your voucher in a box. You might win something if you are lucky.
3.8 On the way from Pardiel to Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz
On our way down from Pardiel to Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz we by accident took a children’s cable car. There are curtains and a basket full of toys. I have to say this mountain is very children friendly. Maybe because it’s in Heidiland. The square fields and the autumn forest (green–>yellow–>orange) are really amazing on your way down. You can pull the windows on your left side down and have a better view of the forest.
3.9 Bad Ragaz
If you get off the mountain from Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz, I suggest you go to Bad Ragaz train station and take a train from there to your home. There are shuttle buses between Pizolbahn Wangs and Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz but it’s not that frequent and if you want take the shuttle bus you should ask at the ticket counter the schedule of them.
You can take bus No. 456 to go to Bad Ragaz train station from Pizolbahn Bad Ragaz. However, we wanted to have dinner in this small town so we got off at the city center and had a walk there.
The small village looks quite nice but the dinner experience was not really pleasant.
The restaurant looks quite nice but I don’t think it’s a fancy restaurant as a pizza is between 15-25 CHF. You might think it’s expensive but remember, it’s Switzerland, this price is normal for a restaurant. However, when we were paying the bill, I was so surprised that we ordered two bottles of water for two people and they cost us 12 CHF. You can see from the picture how big the bottle is and I’m not sure whether it’s some fancy brand or not. I don’t think so because the bottle was so crappy. The other strange thing is they don’t have drinks, thus no prices in the menu and the amount is 1 mineral (as you can see from the receipt). I felt suspicious because my friend ordered Rivella (a popular swiss soft drink) and it’s only 4.5 CHF. Since when did Rivella become more expensive than water? Let’s say this is a fancy restaurant, but how can a Rivella be 4.5 CHF and a bottle of mineral water be 6 CHF? If the receipt shows that, Mineral, amount 2, price 12 CHF, I can also accept, but the thing is the amount is one. I felt really suspicious that they just charged the price of some more expensive drink for the amount of one knowing that we are just tourists and are not likely to go back or bering them troubles. I was disappointed and wanted to ask her, but my friend felt embarrassed and stopped me. I don’f feel comfortable with this not because I can’t afford the 12 CHF but because I feel they trick tourists because they can’t speak german or they won’t come back and bring them trouble. I can imagine if I ask in English they will just say they don’t understand English or even worse, just say they don’t have menu for drinks. What can a tourist do? Go to the police? Call the customer committee and sue them? They know for sure tourists won’t do any of this so they simply take advantage of them. Take me as an example, even if I live here in Switzerland I wouldn’t bring them any trouble because this is not something that serious. You can imagine how many tourists there are in Bad Ragaz and how many have already been take advantage of. The only thing that I feel good or balanced about this case is that I always hear stories about Chinese people tricking foreigners for money and next time when someone tells me something like that again and refer to the specific person as Chinese I can just say:”Hmmmmm, human beings are human beings, they are individuals regardless of their race or nationality. Please don’t say Chinese people blah blah blah, say their names.”
Sorry for the trash talk again. Well, actually this is just my suspicion and imagination. I didn’t show the name of the restaurant or some photos, with which you might identify the restaurant because I don’t wanna ruin its reputation because of my misunderstanding. Maybe it’s clearly stated on the drinks menu that mineral water: 6 CHF/ bottle, and maybe the rivella is cheaper because the amount is less than our bottles of water. I have no evidence or proof that they tricked us and if someone thinks I’m wrong please write me and let me know. On one hand, it restores the reputation of this restaurant in my mind and on the other hand, it makes me feel better. I didn’t mention the name of the restaurant because this is not some “revenge”. It’s simply because that after I speak things out I feel much better. Right or wrong, maybe only the waitress in that restaurant knows.
I guess every journey has its own ups and downs. I hope that after reading my post you can skip the potential troubles and have a smooth and pleasant trip. Again, if you still wanna see Pizol mountain before it’s totally covered in snow, I’m afraid you will have to wait till next year when spring comes.