5 family-friendly summer hikes in the Alps

Family travel

You don’t have to be a family of seasoned hikers to enjoy a summer walking holiday in the Alps. This picture-perfect region is home to plenty of trails covering a range of terrain suitable for all levels of hikers. Young hikers can immerse themselves in the wild and stay entertained thanks to an abundance of attractions like white-knuckle toboggan rides or irresistible cuddles with llamas. Fill your lungs with the fresh mountain air and get your heart rate up exploring these top family-friendly hiking destinations in the Alps.

Oeschinensee, Switzerland

Surrounded by hiking trails, Oeschinensee is widely regarded as the most beautiful Alpine lake in Switzerland

Surrounded by hiking trails, Oeschinensee is widely regarded as the most beautiful Alpine lake in Switzerland

Hiking trails hug the shoreline of the Oeschinensee, which is widely regarded as the most beautiful Alpine lake in Switzerland. Fed by the Fründen Glacier, the lake glimmers blue under the summertime sun as a labyrinth of peaceful hiking trails lead you around the postcard-pretty Swiss landscape. Many of these trails are mapped on the Oeschinen Lake website, so hikers of all levels can decide which routes will suit them best.

To get to the start of the routes, take the gondola from the small town of Kandersteg to the lake. Then, it’s a 25-minute walk to the lake on a well-trodden dirt path. Make sure to have your camera handy because seeing the turquoise water surrounded by the rocky ridges of the Doldenhorn is a memorable moment you’ll want to capture. A dip in the lake can be cold – even in the summertime – but this doesn't stop the locals from cannonballing in. If swimming isn't on the agenda, set about exploring the area’s rolling meadows, mountain passes, waterfalls and gentle creeks – the latter of which are excellent for wading into.

Head back to the gondola for what may turn out to be the highlight of the day – the Rodelbahn Oeschinensee. This summertime toboggan run promises adrenaline racing fun for both children and adults as it winds 750 metres down the steep mountainside. Hold on tight as you twist around hairpin bends and whizz past the lake scenery – thankfully, you’re always in control of the speed. When you’re done, calm your heart rate at the Landgasthof Ruedihus, a traditional Alpine chalet in Kandersteg with a sun terrace and manicured garden.

Chamonix, France

Ramble through wildflower meadows with Mont Blanc as the backdrop near Chamonix

Ramble through wildflower meadows with Mont Blanc as the backdrop near Chamonix

This one is for the family with a little more hiking proficiency and enthusiasm. Countless hikes around the Mont Blanc region start in the village of Chamonix, located in the French Alps. Cast in the shadow of the mighty Mont Blanc, the challenging routes here promise to keep you on your toes while providing unparalleled views of the iconic mountain range. If you're a family of especially seasoned hikers and campers, consider doing the 11-day trek across the 105-mile radius of the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc route. The famous route allows you to circle the highest summit in Western Europe while basking in the summertime sun.

You can also get a taste of the route by breaking it down into more manageable chunks or doing just parts of it. You could, for example, spend a couple of days on the first two sections of the walk or just spend a day trailing the first leg of the route from Chamonix to Les Houches, staying at family-friendly accommodation along the way. Live out your Sound of Music dreams with a ramble through wildflower meadows and scented pine forests – make sure to say hello to the mountain goats along the way. The area is dotted with picturesque campsites, but if you prefer creature comforts, consider staying in a typical French mountain refuge like Refuge du Montenvers. It provides a full Alpine experience.

Engelberg, Switzerland

Follow the easy Engelberg Trübsee Lake Walk with an interactive map for kids

Follow the easy Engelberg Trübsee Lake Walk with an interactive map for kids

Located 1,050m above Lake Lucerne, the Swiss town of Engelberg is surrounded by beautiful family-friendly hiking trails. Lace up your hiking shoes for an easy hour-and-a-half saunter along the Engelberg Trübsee Lake Walk. This popular and well-marked trail starts with a cable car ride that soars above the serene lake straight into the mountainous landscape. There's a playground at the end of the ride where little ones can warm up for the hike ahead.

If you're in the mood for a decent hike, grab a map of the Four Lakes hike from the Tourist Information Luzern. This winding trail starts at the milky blue Trübsee, passes by the dreamy Engstlensee, which is perfect for picnicking, and takes you along the dark and dramatic waters of the Tannensee, before ending at the biggest of the Four Lakes – the Melchsee.

Lasting approximately seven hours, this all-day adventure is guaranteed to wear out even the most energetic of young hikers. However, the route can be sped up at parts by hopping on a couple of cable cars that drop you off near charming towns to rest and refuel. Stay 1,800 metres above sea level at the lakeside Berghotel Trübsee or amid Engelberg's sublime, snow-capped peaks at Hotel Garni Hostatt.

Lugano, Switzerland

Walk alongside cuddly llamas near the effortlessly pretty town of Lugano

Walk alongside cuddly llamas near the effortlessly pretty town of Lugano

The effortlessly pretty town of Lugano, built on the banks of the eponymous lake, is located in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region. This popular summer destination is alive with adventure of all kinds, ranging from aquatic sports and endless hiking trails to plenty of retail therapy in the town's many boutiques.

Lugano is perfect for families that want to balance a luxurious holiday with a rugged Alpine experience. Hop on a guided tour of the town when you arrive or take the rare opportunity to go on an llama trek. These gentle and well-cared-for llamas are led by a guide and carry the load, while children can potter alongside and pet their soft, fleecy wool. Kids can take turns leading the llamas along easy paths under the watchful eyes of the guide – the real challenge here will be peeling them away from their furry friends at the end of the hike.

You’ll be traversing Alpine-Mediterranean landscapes akin to Lombardy in northern Italy, with glacial lakes lined by palms, citrus and cypress trees – and a similarly balmy climate, so dress accordingly. Half-day, full-day and multi-day treks are available, with the possibility of combining an overnight stay at the llama farm on multi-day treks. From May to October, these treks start in Monte Comino in Centovalli, and from October to May, they begin in Monte Novella. Add a touch of historical decadence to your stay in Lugano by booking the 16th-century Guesthouse Castagnola, located right on Lake Lugano.

Zernez, Switzerland

Enjoy a digitally guided and interactive hike on the Champlönch Children's Trail

Enjoy a digitally guided and interactive hike on the Champlönch Children's Trail

If you're planning a family-friendly hiking holiday for the first time and looking to play it safe, then the Champlönch Children's Trail is your ideal option. Located at the eastern edge of Switzerland, close to the Italian border, the climate here is as easy going as the trails.

The Swiss National Park's website gives you all the information you need to get started, including instructions on how to rent a digital guide with a GPS at the Swiss National Park Centre in Zernez. This device includes an interactive map that comes alive with animal avatars appearing when you reach specific locations. These cute critters will explain the geography of the area in a fun and easy-to-understand way, making for an educational family day out in the Alps.

The whole route spans just five kilometres, making it easy to cover in just a few hours at a pace that's manageable for little legs. Continue your forest adventure by staying in a wood-panelled suite at Hotel Crusch Alba Swiss Lodge Zernez, or enjoy the spa at the peach-hued Hotel Baer & Post Zernez – both located just a five-minute walk from the Swiss National Park Centre.

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