After a night’s stay at a beautiful chalet in Reuti on the first night of our Swiss Alps adventure, we set off along the Via Alpina Stage 10 to climb to a different type of lodging for night number two. Our second evening would be spent in a hut perched on the side of the Engelhorner, appropriately named Engelhornhütte.
There are mountain huts all throughout the Swiss Alps where you can stay for dinner and a sleep for relatively cheap. Many don’t have showers or running water, but for what they lack in modern plumbing capabilities, they more than make up for that slight inconvenience with beautiful mountain views.
Engelhornhütte actually did have running water and was a lovely introduction to our first hütte experience. The climb up to the hütte was easy enough that half those staying at the hütte with us were under the age of 10. We had a great stay at this unique mountain hut!
The Hike Up to Engelhornhutte
A couple hours into our hike from Meiringen along Stage 10 of the Via Alpina we reached Gschwantenmad. There we turned off the Via Alpina to follow the trail up to Engelhornhütte. We approached the hütte from the north. There is also a trail that leads up to the hutte from Rosenlaui, which is the route many of our fellow guests took. We descended via that southern route, picking the Via Alpina back up in Rosenlaui.
Like the Via Alpina, this trail was very well-maintained and well signed. Like Stage 10 to this point, the path is very wooded. It opens at points to fields where you can hear cowbells ringing and see cattle grazing.
As we approached the tree line, the landscape became much more interesting. Huge rock formations sat alongside the trail, like a giant had come and placed them there.
The last bit of the trail before reaching the hütte contains parts that are exposed. Each of these bits has a steel cable to hold onto. As someone who is terrified of heights, I was fine doing these brief sections.
In the beautiful sunshine with incredible views all around, the exposed sections were thrilling. We instituted a rule on these sections of trail, which was no view gazing or pictures or phone use while moving. To take in the view or capture it on camera or consult our trusty map app, we both would have to stop walking per our rule.
We approached Engelhornhütte at 1:15pm, a fair bit faster than we were anticipating. Those stair master workouts really paid off on this leg of our trip!
The most amazing thing to me about Engelhornhütte was that it sits just below what I had nicknamed the “Piggies” (like piggy toes). See below:
This was inspired by my two-year-old twin nephews, who had referred to things resembling fingers or toes “piggies” when I was home in June. I will note that Oliver did love saying “fiiiing-gerrrrr!!!” while making a hook shape with his pointer finger, so they have been taught the appropriate terms. They were very excited to show me their words. In naming them the piggies for myself, I spent a fair amount of trail time pondering the naming of things. Where had Engelhorner come from? How did the Swiss collectively decide on just that name? Why not Piggies? Anyway… I digress (and also the Swiss are probably happy someone like me was not around to help them name their Alps as the Piggies is not nearly as epic and beautiful sounding as Engelhorner).
The Piggies had looked so far and so rugged and out there from our balcony in Reuti, it was amazing to discover that from there it had only taken us a few hours to reach them. It was a powerful feeling to know we’d covered so much ground and so cool to be staying the night perched at the base of the Piggies.
We arrived at Engelhornhütte, passing by the toilets first, and came around the side of the hutte to see the gorgeous patio out front. Engelhornhütte is small as far as Swiss Alpine hüttes go, and unlike many of the others, it is independently run. Most hüttes in the Swiss Alps are managed by one organization (SAC), but Engelhornhutte is managed by AACD. The hütte itself is well-maintained and very quaint, with a stunning patio.
We were greeted by Bruno, the hutte’s manager, and his staff. Bruno seemed a real man of the mountain and was very friendly. Andrew had called the hutte several times to get everything ready for our stay, but the language barrier had been tricky to navigate, in particular addressing my gluten allergy for that evening’s dinner. This led to this rather amusing bunk reservation:
It was a relief to take off our hiking boots after a climb in the hot sun. Lucky for us the hütte offered sandals in every size for hikers to change into. After laying out our sleep sacks at our bunks and stashing our bags, we ordered lunch on the patio.
During the day, a lot of people walk by the hütte and stop in for a drink or snack while on day hikes. The hutte was particularly popular with rock climbers, who to go rock climbing just beyond the hutte (on the Piggies!). At least twenty of them passed through at some point, with ropes and climbing shoes hooked to their backpacks.
After lunch, we went for a walk to check out the Piggies up close. Walking away, we could see clearly how the hütte sits perched on the side of the mountain. It is pretty darn cool.
The way there was very rocky, with lots of scree. From the basin we could only see two or so groups of climbers making their way up the rock face, but as we learned, there were dozens of them up there scrambling up along the rocks.
This is where we had our only near death experience of a week out in the mountain wilderness (not counting my irrational fear of the cows). While we were wandering around the basin, a climber knocked rocks off the cliff he was scaling. This sent a bunch of big rocks flying down the mountainside, headed in our direction. We could hear the rumbling of their descent down the mountain and the climber shouted down to alert us. Andrew had a better visual on them and got us moving in the right direction to get away from their path and literally just in the nick of time. We ducked under a ledge as rocks bigger than softballs came whizzing off the side of the mountain next to us, landing a several yards away, rolling further down the mountain with the scree.
So, that was terrifying. We booked it into the middle of the basin at that point, abandoning our original path down along the bottom of the cliffs lest anymore climbers send us a treat. We battled the scree as made our way down to the trail and back to Engelhornhütte.
We spent most of the rest of our time at Engelhornhütte on the lovely patio. After a bit of confusion around my gluten allergy, we had a fantastic hearty dinner out there watching the sunset with a glass of Swiss Pinot Noir.
It was such a lovely, lovely way to spend the evening. The best part was watching as the mountains changed colors along with the sunset.
At 10pm, we all got into our bunks to sleep. Online it says Englehornhütte can sleep 50 but it felt full at 25ish. The kids were still pretty worked up, so we were thankful for our ear plugs! Most of our fellow guests were families with young children spending a summer weekend up in the mountains. It was so nice to see kids playing outside, no screens to be found anywhere!
In the morning, we had a quick breakfast and got ready to hit the trail again for our longest day of walking.
Descending from Engelhornhütte
We descended from Engelhornhütte to Rosenlaui, via a path on the other side of the hütte from where we approached. This trail is more rocky with lots of scree, which I found challenging at points since we were going downhill.
The trail was beautiful, taking us through wooded areas and offering views of waterfalls and glaciers. The closer we got to rejoining the Via Alpina Stage 10, the more beautiful the views became.
The moment the trail gave way to views of Rosenlouwischlucht was enchanting. It is beautiful.
Soon after, we turned onto the Via Alpina for our eventful second day of hiking, which you can read more about here.