HOW TO DO THE STUNNING PIZOL 5-LAKE HIKE
I am by no means a great or experienced hiker, but I have done some of the most scenic hikes in Switzerland.
I do not hike often, but when I do, I make sure to ask my local friends, read tons of reviews, and only pick the most scenic hikes. I do not like to waste my energy and hike when I am rewarded with mediocrity. So, I only hike when I am expecting to see some stunning scenery.
The 5-lake hike (also known as the Pizolhike) is one of the best known, and apparently one of the most stunning, hikes in Switzerland. And thus, I went. And yes, I loved it. I really loved it! Was it worth it? Yes, it was. Was it challenging? For me, it was.
Here is everything you need to know about this 5-lake hike in Bad Ragaz.
FACTS – PIZOL HIKE
Here are some facts about the Pizol hike.
WHICH LAKES WILL I SEE DURING THE PIZOL HIKE?
The name comes from the fact that you will see these 5 lakes along the hike. And they are (in order):
These are some of the most incredible lakes along the hike. In a country that is full of stunning lakes, this counts for something. There are also some more minor lakes, but it really is all about these 5 lakes – actually, it is really only about 2 lakes!
IS THE PIZOL HIKE DIFFICULT?
DIFFICULTY: This hike is classified as a T2 hike, which is an intermediate hike.
HOW LONG DOES THE PIZOL – 5-LAKE TAKE?
DURATION/LENGHT: It takes probably around 5-7 hours in total (a bit longer if you take longer breaks or just hike more slowly). It is about 11km long – the ascent is about 640 meters and the descent is about 1000 meters.
TIPS FOR PIZOL HIKE
- Because of its altitude, there is a lot of snow until July. Also, The hiking season ends here in October – so hiking here is only possible for a few months each year.
- Do not do the hike on a Sunday (or any national holiday) because it gets really crowded.
- Hiking poles are useful.
- Solid hiking shoes are a must.
- No water fountains along the way – just one stream before the first lake. So, bring enough water with you.
- Start early – I recommend being IN the cable car at around 9 am.
- Restaurants are at Laufböden, Pizolhütte, Gaffia, Furt, and Wangs.
- Toilets are at each cable car/lift station.
- Bring a little blanket/towel for your breaks.
- Check out my post with hiking tips in Switzerland.
TICKET PRICES/CABLE CAR FOR THE PIZOL HIKE
WHERE CAN I BUY TICKETS FOR THE PIZOL HIKE?
You can buy tickets just at the cable car stations at the cashier’s desk. You can pay by a card or in cash. The website also allows you to buy tickets, but I found it rather confusing and prefered getting my ticket at the stpot.
HOW MUCH IS A TICKET?
The prices for the cable car/lift are the same, regardless of whether you start in Bad Ragaz or Wangs.
- Ticket prices – CHF 46 for adults – return
- 50% off with a Swiss Travel Pass/GA
- The last lift ride down from Gaffia is at 4:30 pm, and the last ride from Furt is at 5:30 pm.
STARTING POINT /CABLE CAR
Where does the Pizol hike start? Well, you can decide because there are two cable car stations and you can decide from which one you will start.
- one in Bad Ragaz and
- one in Wangs
You could make it a loop hike or an A to B hike (meaning you start at one point and end at another one).
Bad Ragaz lies at 510 meters above sea level and Wangs at 509 meters. The first lake on his hike is at about 2200 meters above sea level and the highest is at 2500 meters above sea level.
So, you see that using the cable car/lift to some extent is definitely a must – unless you are a good, very fit, and experienced hiker. Then there is no need to use a cable car and you could just hike all the way up and down.
My tip: If you use public transportation, start in Bad Ragaz and end in Wangs. If you drive and have your car parked, start and end in Wangs.
I started and ended in Wangs because I had my car parked there. In hindsight, I would have started in Bad Ragaz and ended the hike in Wangs. Why? Because from Bad Ragaz, you can see the first lake, Wangsersee, without much effort – but more on that later.
The 5-lake hike from Bad Ragaz: Take a cable car from Bad Ragaz (510 meters above sea level) to Pardiel station at 1633 meters. Then change to a lift and go to Laufböden (2226 meters). From there, start your hike.
From Laufböden to Pizolhütte, it is about 3 km, and this part is quite easy because it is mostly flat. You will come across the first lake – Wangsersee – along the first part of this hike.
You will see the lake and also the photo stop of the Grand Tour – a popular photo motif.
The people who start at Wangs will also get out at Pizolhütte. So, here is where it might get a bit busier because everyone has to pass this place at some point of their hike.
1 – Take the cable car from Wangs (509 meters above sea level) to Furt (1522 meters).
2 -You have to get off there and then take a lift to Gaffia (1861 meters). At Gaiffa take another lift to Pizolhütte (2227 meters).
Then you have two options:
- Turn left and walk towards Laufböden. This way, you will see the first lake – Wangsersee (which is nice, but not spectacular). There is a “Grand Tour“ photo stop, but it takes about 10-15 minutes to get there.
- Skip the first lake and turn right at Pizolhütte. This way, you might miss the first of the five lakes, but it saves you some time. The lake is not that impressive, so you will not miss out on much.
5-LAKE HIKE PIZOL – STOPS
So, let´s talk about the main sights and stops.
Assuming we all see Wangsersee, let’s start from here. Lake Wangsersee is a small lake that lies at 2,206 meters above sea level. It is nothing spectacular, yet a pretty-ish lake that is good to see.
From there, walk towards Pizolhütte. After you pass it, follow the “5-Seen Wanderung“ sign. It starts easily – but that easy hiking part lasts only for about 15-20 minutes.
Then, the quite steep uphill hike starts, which takes about 30-45 minutes. You have to overcome about 250 meters and ascended in a zigzag pattern. I am not going to lie – I hated it! This uphill hiking thing was not my favorite part! But it paid off – it really paid off.
LAKE WILDSEE & PIZOL GLACIER
The first STUNNING lake will be your reward. Wildsee! It lies at 2,438 meters above sea level and the lake color is insane.
It is one of the craziest lakes I have ever seen. Of course, the watercolor always depends on the weather, too. On this sunny day, it was just fantastic and unreal. And I have seen quite a few mountain lakes. Actually, I call myself a lake expert – and I vouch for this lake!
The Pizol Glacier at 2844 meters above sea level in the background – stunning! The scenery – stunning! I was left speechless. It just looks spectacular.
However, there is no real way to get to the lake – and looking at it from afar is the best you can do. So, as pretty as it is, there is not much to do there. Thus, after a photo stop and a short break, continue your hike.
It is time for a downhill hike. The next incredible lake is waiting for you: Schottensee at 2,335 meters. This is a stunner, too.
This lake also has one big advantage: you can just go down and spend time IN the lake. Some brave people actually took a dip and so did my dog – but I did not.
After all, it is a glacier lake and very cold. There is plenty of space (if you do not get there on a weekend) and you can just sit down and relax. I suggest having a longer break here. The most difficult part might be over, but there is still some uphill hiking to come. When you continue hiking, make sure to look back – the lake looks beautiful from a distance, too.
Somehow, I was not prepared for more uphill hiking and it kind of killed me. But again, I am not a great hiker! It is probably another 120-150 meters uphill, followed by a short downhill hike to Schwarzsee (at 2368 meters).
Schwarzsee is a nice lake, but cannot compete with Wildsee or Schottensee – it is not spectacular, yet still lovely.
Apparently, you can sometimes see ibexes, chamois, and eagles here. I actually did not see any wild animals but also, but I was not specifically looking for it. Then, another uphill hike follows. But after that, you are mostly done with uphill hiking.
You have good views and the scenery is stunning, but there is no particular highlight at this part of the hike. Now the downhill hike starts, with very few uphill walks/hikes – these are also very short.
You are almost done. Lake number 5 is waiting: Baschalvasee lies at 2,174 meters. The last lake is really not interesting at this point – most of us, me as well as the other hikers I saw, were actually in a rush to get to the last cable car.
Also, my mobile battery died! I, unfortunately, do not have any images from this point anymore. My friend sent me some pictures but there are not many after this point.
Also, I am not sure if this is common, but at the last lake, a lot of cows gathered. Seriously, walking next to the cows was not fun. They can be quite intimidating! And they do stare. Some even follow you! Weird animals… However, I have not heard about any serious encounters, so just be aware that there might be many cows!
END YOUR HIKE
You could either
- hike all the way down to Wangs or you could
- head to the cable car station/lift at Gaffia or Furt and take the lifts/cable car to get to Wangs (and then a bus to Bad Ragaz).
Either way, some downhill hiking is next. The last cable car leaves at 4:30 pm (or 5:30 pm at Furt) – so we were in a rush to catch it! The idea of even more downhill hiking was quite scary, so we really rushed for the last hour or so. Please double-check the last time of the last cable car ride on the day of your hike.
There are no more lakes ahead – but another highlight is yet to come.
For the last part of the hike, you have the beautiful Churfürsten in sight. It is a mountain range and the southernmost range of the Appenzell Alps. They are uniquely shaped and it is a joy looking at them while hiking down.
Actually, it is a rather steep-ish downhill hike. If you are in a rush, steep downhill can be the worst. However, it is not dangerously steep or extreme, but keep in mind that it is not a flat area.
From Gaifa station, take the lift down to Wangs. You have to change lifts at Furt and then you are done! You have managed to do this incredible hike!
TIP: Mountain carting seems like a lot of fun. I did not try it but saw people renting mountain carts and then driving from Gaiffa to Furt, which is about 2200 meters in distance.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HIKING THE 5-LAKE PIZOLHIKE
The Pizolhike is one of the best hikes you can take in Switzerland. I am not going to lie: For me, this 5-lake hike was challenging but doable. Especially because the two lakes compensated me very well! If you avoid doing the hike on a Sunday (or any holiday) then I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!
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