The Schellen-Ursli trail – a hiking experience for all the family
Every child in Switzerland almost certainly knows the story of “Schellen-Ursli” (A Bell for Ursli). By following the Schellen-Ursli trail in the village of Guarda, children and adults alike can experience the story for themselves first hand.
“And so off he went on his way, fearing neither forest nor bridge that day.” This is a line from the famous children’s book “Schellen-Ursl” (A Bell for Ursli), written by Selina Chönz and illustrated by Alois Carigiet.
We decided to follow in Ursli’s footsteps, and so we went on our way too: starting from the Engadine village of Guarda, we climbed up to the Maiensäss Alpine pasture, and back again.
We started in the village of Guarda, which boasts a stunning view and is also home to beautiful Engadine houses.
At the start of the Schellen-Ursli trail, there is a brochure that gives directions and describes each of the different stations along the trail’s circular route.
The hike is well signposted, and the children really enjoy following the path and the fence posts with a “Schellen-Ursli” picture and arrow on them.
The different stations
After an initial short climb, we reach the first station. We are told about the daily life of the character Schellen-Ursli in the form of a memory game.
We then continue our climb to the Maiensäss pasture and on to the next station. At the second station, the bells are on display in different sizes. Ursli is famously given the smallest bell when the bells are handed out, and this is where the story’s title comes from.
We carry on until we reach a rope bridge. You can cross this bridge, but you don’t have to, and it’s mainly an experience for the children.
We continue climbing.
Just as the story says, Ursli has to climb through thick snow up to the Maiensäss pasture. Naturally this section is a vital part of the hike, so the thick snow is recreated with an imaginary snowfield.
Reaching the Maiensäss pasture
Once you have successfully navigated the snowfield, you find yourself on the Maiensäss pasture. This Alpine pasture has been beautifully recreated, and there is of course a huge bell awaiting hikers. The kids were so excited, and gave the bell a ring.
The pasture is perfect for a little break. You can even find a barbecue here as well as places to sit. Sadly, the weather that day was not really on our side for the hike, so we didn’t use the barbecue.
After spending a short time there, we started to head back. We passed a number of stations as we went through the forest, where you can create animal figures and human figures using magic cubes. This is meant to symbolize the night when the whole village went out looking for the missing Ursli
The end of the hiking trail is marked with a traditional door to an Engadine house. It has been recreated using drawings from the book, and represents Ursli’s return home.
To sum up
I think the circular route is particularly nicely designed. Each of the different stations gives the hike a bit of variety, and the children love it. Things start off pretty steep though, and you quickly realize it really is a proper hike. The circular route should take around an hour and a quarter with no break. Minus the breaks we took, I’d say it definitely took us two hours. That said, we did take it fairly easy, and our children are still quite young (one is 4, one is 2 and the other is two and a half months).
I’d recommend including a visit to the “Schellen-Ursli” museum and a visit to Ursli’s home in the story. You can find both in the village of Guarda, and it’s really easy to get there.