Passwang – on foot!

August 24, 2013

I’ve ridden my motorcycle over Passwang a number of times and always enjoyed the roads and the views. But I sure didn’t expect to end up there on foot the other day.

Dan had suggested a short local hike but didn’t tell me where we would go. Oo! I like surprises! We got on the train and at the town of Laufen and transferred to a bus whose signage read “Passwang”. Ah ha! It was the end of the line for the bus, so it had been waiting for the train and a fresh load of passengers. As the driver started up the engine and closed the door he said a cheerful “Gute Morgen” to us over the loudspeaker. Much to my surprise, about half of the passengers replied! It reminded me of grade school and I found it charming. It was a good way to start my day.

We took the bus to the stop nearest to the pass and got off at the side of the road. There was nothing around us other than forests and fields. We headed up a narrow paved road but had to stop briefly to put our rain jackets on – there were thunderstorms in the forecast and it looked like they were moving in quickly. We reached a parking area near a wide meadow and based on the wanderweg signs, we had a variety of choices for today’s hike.

Clouds moving in from the west

Dan thought that since we were near Passwang Pass, we should go to the summit of Passwang. Why not? A thunderstorm is moving in so let’s go to the highest point! It was a nice walk along a narrow road, cow fields on both sides and the wind blowing through the trees. The rain was still light, but we could hear the thunder behind us.

I had asked Dan about a thin wire that lined the road. It seemed impossible that such a frail-looking line could keep the large cows at bay. He speculated that there was a wire filament wrapped around poly twine and that the slight shock it would give would be enough to deter a mildly curious cow. While we had stopped to studying the wire we noticed the effects of recent burrowing activity below the line. I reached down to scrape away the dirt and that’s when my shoulder brushed the wire. I jumped back quickly and Dan thought that I had brushed up against something weird in the burrow because of the way I reacted. But it turned out that the “frail-looking line” really did provide a bit of a shock. Lesson learned!

The road ahead

View to the south on the way up

Clouds are moving in fast!

The top of Passwang wasn’t exactly a “summit”. The path didn’t hit the actual top and was just another open field with view to the west. And of course, cows. They were grazing happily while their bells clanged and the wind blew; they didn’t seem to mind the rain. We also had another chance to check on our routing options.

The road passed by a farm where a friendly gaggle of cats had run out to the road to greet a family of hikers. I watched as an excessively happy dog tried to bite the tires of the tractor as the farmer pulled out of the yard. The farmer gave me a “My dog is a nutcase” look as I laughed at its actions. It looked like a happy, prosperous place. The road also ended there, with the trail continuing as a gravel track up the hill.

This was steeper than it looks

As we went up the hill past the farm the rain had reached us in earnest. My shorts were soaked and the jacket I was wearing was beginning to fail. But the temperature was still pleasant and it was nice to have the trails to ourselves.

The view on the other side of Passwang

We climbed the side of the hill in the forest, a brief respite from the heavy rains. The track was rough and rocky and we saw a young Reh deer stop on the track before slipping into the forest.

Another wanderweg signpost indicated that there was a waterfall (and cable car) off in one direction so we decided to check it out. I wasn’t expecting much, as it was a bad time of year for waterfalls in general and I couldn’t imagine a fall of any size would be found in this area. We climbed over slippery rocks and crossed an open field, well below the trail we had just taken minutes before. Wet, fluffy sheep spotted the hillside, oblivious to our passing. A few cows watched us attentively and by now, my soaks were squishing in my shoes.

Much to our surprise we came across a ropes course and the top of the Reigoldswil Waterfall gondola. The course looked challenging on a good day and almost impossible in the wet conditions. We thought that we should come back another time and try it out. We chose to walk the 1 1/2 hours to the bottom of the mountain instead of taking the descending gondola. We were already soaked so what difference would another hour or so in the rain make?

(Looking down from a bridge) Not much water in the waterfall today

Yep, we’re wet

We finally reached the town of Reigoldswil and the bus stop there. This is the reason we take public transit when we hike: we never know where we’ll end up, and trying to get back to wherever we parked our bikes would be nearly impossible! The bus was there in about 10 minutes – as usual, Swiss transit is awesome. We chose to stand during our return trip, as our clothes were dripping and we didn’t think that soaking the transit seats would be polite.

One of the gondolas heading up the mountain in the rainy, misty valley

Dry cloths and hot chocolate were high on the list when we returned to our apartment.


  1. Ray says:

    You probably realise now that most people only touch an electric cow-fence once. However there is a small group of us who always wonder ‘Is the power on’?

  2. Roy First says:

    Yes, Colleen, I showed your latest trip to Mom and we both enjoyed your travellog. Keep them coming. Love, Mom and Dad

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