Circular route around Lake Melch and Tannen

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Circular route around Lake Melch and Tannen

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Melchsee-Frutt is a popular mountain village due to its wide range of accommodation and the great variety of summer and winter sports on offer. The entire high plateau, with its two lakes, Melchsee and Tannensee, surrounded by high mountains, perfectly combines the magnificence and austerity of the Alpine landscape with a variety of hiking options to suit all needs. However great your desire for adventure and whatever your level of endurance is, you are sure to find something to suit you here.

We love... Melchsee-Frutt!

Melchsee-Frutt is a popular mountain village due to its wide range of accommodation and the great variety of summer and winter sports on offer. It lies in the canton of Obwalden in central Switzerland at an altitude of 1920 metres above sea level. The plateau, characterised by the presence of two lakes, the Melchsee and the Tannensee, is surrounded by high mountain that give it a unique charm in all seasons of the year. It is mostly known by hikers for being the end of the famous Four Lakes Trail (in German Vier-Seen-Wanderung), which leads from Trübsee (Engelberg) over the Joch Pass and through Engstlenalp and Tannalp to Melchsee-Frutt. In total, this is a 14 km hike that we did in the summer of 2020 (more on this in a future article!). On that occasion, perhaps due to fatigue and the heat, we didn’t manage to fully appreciate the beauty of the Melchsee-Frutt plateau and, because of this, we promised ourselves that we would return. And so here we are!

Hike overview & map

The circular route that we propose develops around the Melchsee and the Tannensee, with a short passage on the peak at Bonistock, at 2168 m. It is a medium-difficult route, about 11.5 km long, that can be covered in more or less three and a half hours, offering several interesting viewpoints over the surrounding lakes and mountains. The trail is safe and well-maintained, never overly exposed, except for a short section shortly after Bonistock, which can be bypassed with a diversion. The hike starts at Melchsee-Frutt, which can be reached by cable car and also by car in summer.

Circular route Melchsee-Bonistock-Tannensee-altitude

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For a safe hike, it is important to have the support of maps and GPS. That’s why we plan and track all our hiking routes using Outdooractive, a platform for tracking outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and more. By subscribing for free to the website you can browse the entire route database, copy our routes, edit them and create your own and of course share them with friends.
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For a safe hike, it is important to have the support of maps and GPS. That’s why we plan and track all our hiking routes using Outdooractive, a platform for tracking outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and more. By subscribing for free to the website you can browse the entire route database, copy our routes, edit them and create your own and of course share them with friends. If instead you want to know why you should sign up for a PRO or PRO+ subscription and why we have already done it, we have told you about it here along with 5 other essential apps for hiking in Switzerland.

Hiking route

We had promised, and here we are again in Melchsee-Frutt to better explore the high plateau and the two lakes of Melchsee and Tannensee, which we had definitely neglected during last year’s Vier-Seen-Wanderung. As always, to get here we choose the convenience and punctuality of public transport, which takes about an hour and a half from Lucerne. The sun is shining today: it seems that the weather wants to give us a brief appendix of summer. So, as soon as we reach the top, we go through the usual ritual of long walks in the sun: putting away the light sweatshirt that has accompanied us so far, shortening our hiking trousers to knee height, protecting our skin with good sun cream and putting on our hats. From Melchsee-Frutt we hike up to the Berghotel Bonistock and back down to Tannalp. From here we walk along the left bank of the Tannensee lake and continue over the high plateau between the two lakes to Melchsee, where we again take the path on the left bank of the lake to return to our starting point.

From Melchsee-Frutt to Bonistock

The new cable car station (yes, there is also an old one, which has been converted into a tourist information point) is located slightly uphill from the lake and the coastal road. From here, an asphalted road leads to the Frutt Mountain Resort, from where the path to Bonistock begins and from where you can get a first panoramic view of the entire Melchsee. From here, follow the hiking signs to find the path. In this section, the path is on rocky ground but fairly easy to walk on and not too steep. However, due to the rainfall the day before, some sections felt rather slippery. As always, we recommend wearing good shoes and carrying trekking sticks, which are great for preventing slips and falls. After about 400 metres, we come to the first of many viewpoints on the route: the Edelweiss benches (in German Edelweiss Bänkli). These curiously shaped seats, reminiscent of airplane seats, are the result of a partnership between some of Switzerland’s most beautiful mountain resorts and the Edelweiss airline. Here is all the information and the different locations where you can find them. For us, however, after only 400 metres from the start, it’s a bit early for a break, so we just take a few photos and a selfie and continue on our way. A little further on, the Frutt Mountain Resort recedes behind us as the view opens up more and more beyond the lake and towards the valley between the two lakes. Don’t miss the view from the top of the Melchsee-Frutt church, which from its small peninsula on the lake shore makes an ideal subject for wonderful photos. From the Edelweiss Bänkli we continue on for around one and a half km. On the path to Bonistock, the view begins to open up on the opposite side of the lake, towards Stöckalp and Melchtal. On this side, the sea of clouds is on display. The last stretch to Bonistock, which is a little steeper than expected, is on firm ground and passes right under the cable car from Distelboden to Bonistock. Finally, we take a short break to catch our breath before setting off on the crest part of the route.

From Bonistock to Tannalp

If you need a break, something to eat or just to have a coffee, the Berghotel Bonistock certainly offers food and drinks. However, we have decided not to stop there, both because of the time of arrival and because we prefer to take our lunches with us and have a snack break in the afternoon, halfway or at the end of the route. So we continue on our way to Tannalp. This section of the hike first runs slightly along a crest for about 1 km and then descends along a rocky wall to the plateau. Shortly after Berghotel Bonistock, we walk for about 150 metres along a wide gravel road to the Bettenalp – Bonistock chairlift (closed at the time of our visit). From here, the path becomes winding again and follows the crest of the mountain on a narrow but charming path that is not too exposed, except for a short stretch of about 250 metres. This is a passage to the summit on a narrow, rocky and rather sloping path, especially in the downhill part. We, imagining that we would find a slippery surface due to the rain and not having brought trekking sticks with us, preferred to bypass this short stretch by taking the parallel path of equal length that runs a little further down. Maybe next time, because the view from up there is probably worth a visit! After about 250 metres, we are back on the main route. We have only been walking for three kilometres, but the clock and our stomachs remind us that it is also lunchtime! So we choose one of the large but very scenic stones along the route and take a seat there, enjoy our food while looking at the magnificent alpine landscape lit up by the sun and made even more fascinating by a few clouds and their play of shadows. After about 20 minutes we resume our walk. The route along the crest ends just a little further on. From here, a rocky path leads down into the valley. This section of the route runs along the face of the mountain and the rocky ground is rather narrow and uneven in places. However, it has a special charm. After around 700 metres, we return to a more comfortable gravel road, which we leave again after another 700 metres to return to the hiking trail to Tannalp. The ground here is soft and sometimes muddy, carved out in many places by rainwater. With the right caution, however, it is not difficult to walk along it and, in the final section, offers magnificent views of the Tannensee and the mountain village of Tannalp with its white church, which we reach after a walk of around 900 metres. Here it is finally time for a coffee and a piece of cake, to refresh ourselves and regain our strength for the final sprint back to our starting point.

From Tannalp to Melchsee and arrival

Tannalp is also home to one of the few Alpine cheese dairies at an altitude of over 1,900m which uses traditional methods to produce fresh products such as mountain cheese, Sbrinz cheese, butter and yoghurt. If you come here during the summer, you will find the dairy open to visitors and it is possible to buy all their products on site. Last year, during the Vier-Seen-Wanderung, we bought here a fresh strawberry milkshake that we still remember! In September, however, the dairy is unfortunately already closed. So we put our rucksacks on our shoulders and set off again towards Melchsee-Frutt. On the way back, we chose to take the path on the left-hand side of the lake, which is less frequented and not used by the Frutt-Zug, a tourist train that travels between Melchsee-Frutt and Tannalp during the summer. So, when you have covered the 500 metres of asphalt road from Tannalp to the Tannensee, once you have reached the crossroads, take the road towards the left bank. This is a flat stretch of about 1.5 km, but with the help of a few clouds, it gave us some of the most beautiful photos of the entire route! The lake acted as a mirror for the blue sky, a few clouds and the surrounding mountains, which in September begin to take on the autumn colour, is one of the strongest and most unforgettable images of this hike.
And with this image in our eyes, we reach the dam of the lake. Here we have a few moments of hesitation: the hiking signposts to Melchsee-Frutt would take us along the entire length of the dam and back to the right-hand side of the route. But we want to stay on the left-hand side of the two lakes. So we decide to continue on the path, which first runs for about 650 metres through beautiful fields of grass and heather in bloom and then, for about another kilometre, rejoins the busier road to Melchsee and the Berghotel Distelboden. A path leads from the Berghotel Distelboden along the left bank of the Melchsee. This is actually part of a path around the lake. However, we only walk half of it, the left-hand shore, which takes about 2.5 km to return to Melchsee-Frutt. This section of the hike is definitely the most popular of the entire route, probably because it offers attractions, information and educational panels for children and families in general. In any case, we walk this part of the route in its entirety, enjoying the beauty of its landscape, dominated by the Frutt Resort with a few clouds in the background. We arrive in Melchsee-Frutt just in time to catch the cable car and not miss the bus to Stöckalp. So we have to go straight for the old cable car station. Here, at the end of a long corridor carved into the rock, a lift takes us back up to the new station, from where we take the cable car and start our journey home.

How to get there

Arriving by public transport

The starting point of this hiking proposal is easily accessible by public transport. From Lucerne, the route takes about an hour and a half. A train will take you from Lucerne station to Sarnen station. From here, the postal bus number 343 will take you to Stöckalp, where you can take the cable car to Melchsee-Frutt. The entire route, including the gondola, can be purchased via the SBB website or SBB app and, as always, we suggest you use the same website or app to check timetables and different travel options in advance.

Arriving by car

If you plan to arrive here by car, you will have to drive to Stöckalp. There is a large car park here (which is free of charge in summer), just a short walk from the cable car station. In summer, it is also possible to drive to Melchsee-Frutt by car, (but we don’t recommend it!) via a narrow single-lane road, which can be used in alternating one-way traffic depending on the time of day. Here you can find all the information on accessibility and parking costs for the tourist area.



If you want to make the route lighter, shorten the duration or cut out part of the initial climb, you can start directly from Bonistock. To get there, take the cable car in Distelboden, right along the Melchsee shore.


Alternatively, you can cut out all or part of the return journey from Tannalp to Melchsee-Frutt by taking the Frutt-Zug, the tourist train that runs between Melchsee-Frutt and Tannalp in summer.


Because of the slippery ground and the fact that we didn’t have our trekking sticks with us, we preferred to circumvent the 250 metre route to the summit shortly after Bonistock, but we are sure that the view from up there is well worth a visit! So if you decide to walk it, be careful! But most importantly, let us know by leaving a comment below or, if you like, write an article about it to be published on our blog!

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