Taking a train from Zurich's main station to Uetliberg, I shared my car with families and kids toting sleds. The wide open slopes as well as steeper terrain attracts everyone from young kids taking their first gentle sled run to thrill seeking teens.
My plan was a two- to three-hour afternoon hike. One family I met on the train left me with a warning, though: "Every year people get lost because they left the path. Don't leave the trail." Give the expansiveness of this urban wilderness and the vast network of trails snaking through forestland, I had no intention of leaving the path.
Sticking with the wide paths, I found myself immersed in a true winter wonderland with snow clinging to tree limbs, needles and bushes, and coating rocks and grassy fields. Picnic tables clustered among evergreens, and benches were strategically positioned to provide postcard perfect viewpoints of Lake Zurich and the Alps beyond. Dense woodland alternates with wide open, undulating landscape that's sliced with sled tracks.
Though I didn't bring food for my trek, I found plenty of places to sample Swiss cuisine: whether the cafeteria at the train station where I disembark or other restaurants in the hills, including the glassed-in and uber scenic restaurant of the Uto Kulm Hotel set beside the observation tower (closed in winter) with panoramic views of the city and, on a clear day, Germany. The restaurant's outdoor deck is also where I would be sequestered in the summer.
From this vantage point it's an extremely steep and ice-laden staircase leading to the main walking trail along the ridge. (I only found out much later that this hair-raising situation could've been avoided by bypassing the observation tower and taking a trail that veered to the right.)
At the bottom, I was rewarded with some much needed cheese fondue at Uto Staffel, a restaurant looking out to the snow draped valley and mountains. Down the path, drinking water flows from a fountain made from a hollowed out log.
I shared the path with joggers, mountain bikers, families, couples with walking sticks, and children pulling sleds.Occasionally I'd spot the sign for my destination:
Felsenegg, the location of the cable car that would bring me back down to catch a train from the Adliswil station back to Zurich's main station.
Near the end of my 2.5 hour journey, the landscape transforms into an even more magical land with the brush at the base of the trees glazed with ice, resembling sparkling dust.
A five-minute walk from the cable car boarding area is a cozy restaurant that serves some yummy mac and cheese, Swiss pancakes with prunes and, of course, the de rigueur apple strudel.
This is a hike that's a must for anyone who wants to experience perhaps one of the most wonderful urban wilderness options around, winter or summer. These photos are a sample of what I found: