Photo: Jura landscape around Waldenburg.
A very scenic route and very typical of the folding Jura with plenty of steep forested hills, cliffs, and meadows. Most of the time is spent on the ridgeline or hugging just below it. The view changes from extensive panoramas to the north, glimpses up and down the Jura, to over the flatland and the Alps, before finally closing in through the Tüfels gorge.
3 and a bit months into 2022 I am finally hitting a new Jura Red. It has taken a few months to get rolling (the landscape looks nicer in the warmer months in fairness) but this is a beautiful route which I might well never have done without the motivation of ticking off the red section – so I am going to call that a success even if I don’t do any others.
Ohrwurm: Got back into these guys at last
Route: Waldenburg – Belchenflue – Allerheiligenberg – Tüfelsschlucht – Hägendorf.
Length: 14.5km, +840m, -920m.
For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.
Season: Year round snow allowing (snow will stay on the north facing sections above the castle for much longer).
Arrival/Departure: Tram/bus to Waldenburg / Regional train from Hägendorf towards Olten or Solothurn.
Supplies: The only option for food along the route is near the end at Allerheiligenberg. Otherwise there is nothing until the stores and restaurants in Hägendorf.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: Langenbruck could be used as a start/end point instead. There are also limited buses to/from Allerheiligenberg.
Exposure/Hazards: Much of the route is in the forest so the sun isn’t a big concern. Some of the sections above the castle ruin are narrow/steep, but would mostly just be a long slide rather than a fall off a cliff.
Most of the route was very quiet. I was basically alone until Belchenflue which was rammed, despite the fact the paths before and after were quiet – maybe I just got unlucky with the timing and many people just happened to get there at the same time. The Tüfelsschluct had plenty of families out for a Sunday afternoon walk, but it never felt too busy.
I had hoped for clear views and sunshine. I got decent views, but there were plenty of clouds and even some snowflakes coming down.
Doing this so in early spring meant the views were more extensive without leaves on the trees to block them. But I reckon this would be best on a clear day in late May when everything is green and lush, what you lose in views blocked by the leaves would be more than made up for with the added beauty of the landscape – and there are plenty of points where you pop out into the open.
Notes along the route
Arrival by bus in Waldenburg. I passed through here a few months ago taking the red hiking path up the ridge on the other side of the village. Being the start of spring rather than the end of autumn it came across a bit better, but it still feels like somewhere that should be more special than it is. Maybe going back in summer will fix that.
Right away there is a steep climb to even get out of the village. You can start the climb up the ridge from the north or south side of the village, I choose the south because it would be a bit brighter and more advanced into spring.
The first section of climb brings you up to Ruine Schloss Waldenburg. The ruined castle is open and you are free to explore around it. There isn’t much to see but you can climb the tower which offers some fantastic views up and down the valley. It always amazes me that so many castles here are just free to wander in, climb up, and use as a BBQ site – in the UK even the saddest ruin seems to come with a £10 entry fee.
The Red section starts right after the castle. At times very narrow with a steepish drop off to the side and/or requiring the use of a hand to balance over an awkward step. It deserves the upgrade from footpath. It might just be that I was still weak from an illness a few weeks back, but I found it to be a fairly tough climb.
After the Red the route hits a plateau and from then on it is mostly easy going with a constant but gentle rise and dip.
The route stayed entirely in the forest until Lauch where a higher bit of ridge sticks up and offers a fantastic wide view over the Jura to the north and off to Germany. This it turns out is actually a military watch post, so (as is often the case in Switzerland) you are greeted by gun ports. In this case you can enter the little complex and stick your head up into the observation dome (you could hide in there and scare passing hikers).
From Lauch the path stays near the cliffs with more ridge and more military structures (especially around Spitzenflueli). It is not surprising that they put so many fortifications here, a high cliff looking over a wide sweep of land and with 2 pass roads close by provides a pretty impressive defensive position. For anyone familiar with the A2 Autobahn these are the cliffs you see on the north side of the Belchentunnel.
At Belchenflue there is a side path leading to a viewing platform which is the most prominent viewpoint on the route offering uninterrupted views to the north, east, and south. On a clear day the view to the Alps and up into the Black Forest must be really impressive. There isn’t a clear sign to the viewpoint so it might be easy to miss. The top of the Belchenflue was by far the busiest point of the route – but given that the paths around it were quiet I assume it must just be have been a chance case of everyone turning up at once.
Following the paths towards Allerheiligen there was a tempting diversion to go down to Fasiswald by a route which came with warnings about the difficulty of the route.
At Allerheiligenberg the view opens up to the south and the Alps (or would do on a less cloudy day at least). Allerheiligenberg is most notable for the giant alien sculptures which make a strange surreal sight on the hill line. There is a Restaurant doing either proper sit-down service, or a stand with drinks and snacks.
From Allerheiligen it is a short and gentle descent into the Tüfelsschlucht. This really impressed me. It is not as long or grand as the Gorge de Aaruse, but is a strong contender for 2nd place gorge in the Jura. It was very varied; sometimes gentle and wide, sometimes narrow rocky walls with walkways, sometimes glacier mill like. The Autobahn bridge going overhead at one point is obvious when you come across it, but not loud. My expectation of this area had been that it would just be ‘boring villages and Autobahn’ did change a bit.
The gorge puts you out into Hägendorf where another 15-20 mins gets you to the station with regional trains to Solothurn/Biel and Olten. Hägendorf feels like it was all built 20 years ago to function as a commuter suburb. Probably a pleasant place to raise a family, but it is of zero interest otherwise.