There’s no better place to spend a hot day than the shady woodland on Zurich’s Uetliberg, the “home mountain” that towers above the western shore of the Zurichsee. You can enjoy a peaceful hike with panoramic views, and stop at a restaurant or picnic site along the way. And, while you’re at it, you can walk along the Planetary Way, and take a journey through the Solar System…
The Uetliberg and The Planetary Way
The Planetenweg (Planetary Way) is a unique feature of the Uetliberg. This is a 6 km walk between the railway station at Uetliberg and the cable car at Felsenegg. It is also a scale model of the Solar System, a walk from the Sun to Pluto. The path passes each of the planets in turn, the distances between them varying according to their distance from the Sun. The scale of the model is 1 billion to one; the information board at the start of the trail informs you that you will be travelling “at more than twice the speed of light”.
The Planetenweg is an excellent way of conceptualising the Solar System. It is a very short trek from the Sun to Mercury, but the distance between planets lengthens considerably as you approach the outer reaches of the Solar System. Each planet is marked with a scale model – sometimes very small – and a display board with information including its orbit, mass and temperature. The trail covers eight planets, plus their satellites, and two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres. Pluto actually features more than once in the trail because its eccentric orbit means that its distance from the sun varies considerably. (The far point of Pluto is some distance from the cable car station, and many people – including me – end their walk at Pluto’s second appearance.)
A Walk in the Woods
With miles of hiking and cycle trails, the Uetliberg is worth a visit even if you don’t want to follow the Planetenweg. You can ramble through woodland and grassy Alpine meadows; most of the walking is easy, although there is the occasional steep section. If you’re lucky you may spot some of the abundant wildlife that frequents the hills, although I saw nothing apart from a couple of raptors circling overhead.
The views along the way are spectacular. From the viewpoint at Uetliberg Station you can see some of the tallest peaks of the Alps in the far distance. Elsewhere you will catch glimpses of the Zurichsee and the lakeside towns far below. I sat on a bench at Felsenegg and ate my picnic looking down at the lake. I felt that I deserved my lunch and the view – after all, I had travelled almost 6 billion km that morning!