father with child looking through a peak finder

“Der Riesenwald” Giant Forest – Theme Trail in Elm

Mädchen im Riesenwald elmThe “Riesenwald” in Elm – Giant Forest – is an adventure theme trail about the legend of Martin’s Hole, a 22 x 19 metre sun-rock window high above the valley.

The story is that the Shepherd Martin drove a giant away and threw him his stick. The stick made a huge hole in the rock wall through which the sun still shines on the church of Elm twice a year.

Find out more about the UNESCO-Sardona Magic line and the Martin’s hole.

On the trail there are five more stories which Giant Grandma Martina tells to Giant Martin. A nice way to connect the kids to the area, its history and beliefs.

Check out some other great hikes in Switzerland on our Hiking Map






girl looking through binoculars at the Riesenwald in Elm
Amazing instrument showing the names of the peaks and the Martin’s Hole from the Riesenwald in Elm

Where is the Riesenwald – Giant Forest?

The little village of Elm lies way up at the top of the Sernf Valley in the Kanton of Glarus.

This area is very well known for winter family holidays or summer activities.

In the village of Elm you need to follow the sign post for “Sportbahnen”. It is here you will find the cable car that bring you up to the “Ämpächli” a magical kids paradise in Elm. And also, the start of the theme trail, the Riesenwald – Giant Forest and downhill scooter fun.


What to expect from the “Riesenwald”

Firstly, let me tell you something very important. Be prepared that the Riesenwald trail will most certainly not be your kids’ priority when exiting the cable car at the Ämpächli mountain area. 🙂

This place is AMAZING, the play area is massive with many different activities. When we got there, I wished we had planned more time, because that’s what you need up there. TIME!

After having glided down the giant slide, jumped on the massive enclosed trampolines, climbed the giant block and marvelled at the mountain view from the large nest swing, we had to remind ourselves why we’re here.

And that was to do the Theme Trail – The Riesenwald – Giant Forest. But I must admit it was quite hard also for us adults, to leave the Ämpächli magical play area.

Ämpächli kids play area in Elm
Exiting the cable car, this is what awaits at the Ämpächli play area in Elm

Back to the theme trail…

I have to be honest with you, I had not investigated too much about the place and the trail. So this is why we did not really have many expectations.

But after having walked the Riesenwald trail we were impressed.

On the whole theme trail the kids are guided through 17 exciting, individually-designed stations where motor skills, senses and awareness of nature are promoted.
In addition, you will find cozy places which invite you to grill and linger.

And one of the best feature’s we found as parents is that they provide wood at every grill BBQ station.

We were also impressed with the whole set up from A-Z. Probably one of the best theme-trails we’ve visited. Not only was the whole giant story nice, I also felt everything was constructed with quality and care.

So, thank you Elm…

You will be given this map below at the cable car station in Elm. It also explains the different stories, so make sure to pick one up.

map for the theme trail Riesenwald in Elm
the whole hike with its features

On the Riesenwald Theme Trail

If you are able to get the kids away from the Ämpächli kids paradise, then you’re doing well 🙂

But only a few metres into the hike they will already be fully absorbed in the Giants story and activities.

start sign of the Riesenwald theme trail in elm
At the start of the theme trail “Riesenwald” in Elm

Let’s start the trail…

You enter the Giant forest by a gate where you climb through Martin’s large footprint.

Here you also have the opportunity to buy some alpine cheese. Just pick one, drop your money in the box and lunch is sorted.

self-service mountain cheese shop at the riesenwald
Self-service cheese shop along the Riesenwald trail

Whilst you choose your cheese the kids will already be by the Crystal shop. There are all kinds of different mountain crystals to purchase, sorted into different sizes and prices.
Of course, we let them choose a 1.- piece.

The 1st grill place has a competition obstacle course. One for dad and one for the kids. 1,2,3 go… who will be the winner….?

different photos from the Riesenwald Path in Elm
along the riesenwald Theme trail in Elm

Our kids ran from post to post as they were so excited so we had to call them back to make sure they really understood the story and interactions properly. I believe this to be an important part of a theme trail.
As you carry on you will get to the Upside-down house. Wow that was so cool.  The reason why it is upside down…

“The giant Sardona was named after the highest peak in the area. He got very angry one day as small giant Martin had played a joke on him. Sardona looked for Martin under every large rock and  even turned the house upside down to find him.”

On the top you will find a peak finder which gives you all the names from the mountain peaks across the valley.

Another post is the Ear tree, kids can climb up and put their ear onto one of the holes, they may hear Giant Grandma Martina telling a story. 😉

an upside down house on the riesenwald trail
the upside down house and the ear tree

Sometimes you need some imagination, but this is exactly what we loved about the whole trail, every sense is used.

After the herb garden, look down into the forest. Do you spot the Giants face… ? I found it pretty fast, my crew had a bit more difficulty. But check the photo below. Pretty clear don’t you think so? If you cannot find it let me know and I will reveal the secret.

a forest view with trees and rocks
spot the giant head

Half way on the Riesenwald Theme Trail ….

You are now half way and probably on the most interactive section. In this place is the school, but you also find a large BBQ grill place with, I believe,  4-5 grill stations. Or maybe just ask to pop your sausage on someone else’s fire.

A cute little house which is nicely furnished is the school for the little giants. There is also a xylophone made out of stone. Apparently the proper name is a Lithophone and the sound is just beautiful.

It is also here you will find a toilet, this time not for giants but for you and the family.

different photos children playing in the forest on the theme trail the Riesenwald
At the school on the Riesenwald theme trail. Also a large BBQ station

A bit further there is another great Grill BBQ station. Our favourite one. It’s called Grandma Martina’s Kitchen.

A super cute old kitchen with every detail you can imagine in a Giant grandma’s kitchen.
There are even some oversized tables and benches.
I really wanted to make a photo at this place but it by now it was raining so hard. This was one of the only 2 places along the hike with some shelter.

We had our cold lunch here and waited for the rain to stop, so the kids could at least use the zipline, which was also at this same spot, a few times without getting soaked.

outside bbq station on the riesenwald trail
Grandma Martina’s Kitchen along the “Riesenwald” trail

Nearly at the end of the Riesenwald Trail

You are getting to the end of the trail, but I am sure the kids are still full of energy. Which is great on this trail. The next post is Martin’s Riesen-hammock. Even as everything was wet from the rain the kids had to go through it.

kids walking through a giant hanging net
Martins Hammock along the Riesenwald Theme trail

The last of the great BBQ grill stations will be just before leaving the forest. Here the kids can write a message to Giant Martin in the Guestbook.

If you have not planned to BBQ whilst on the trail, the next stop is a nice Alpage Restaurant the Älpli.

And from there an amazing wooden water trail guides you all the way down to the Ämpächli Kids Paradise and cable car station.

Suggestions & Tips

  • My only advice would be make sure you have the whole day to spend up at the Ämpächli kids paradise.
    We were not aware of all the activities there are on offer, which was our mistake for not investigating the area more. We still had an amazing time but the kids would have loved to spend more time on the play-area.
  • If you have your bikes with you, you could bring them up to the Ämpächli and cycle down. Or do like we did and enjoy a Scooter (Trotinette) ride down. This was so much fun and the kids were able to stand in front of our scooters.
father with son on a downhill scooter in Elm
Take a scooter down from The Ämpächli after the Riesenwald trail

Hiking Map for the “Riesenwald” Giant Forest

How the map works: Click on “Learn More” to get to the full map layout with profile and interactive route indicator.

Hiking Facts

Location:: Ämpächli Mountain Station, Elm – Glarus. Reachable with the Cable Car
Length:: 2.5 km
Level:: easy – hiked with kids age 5.
Highest point:: 1490m
Ascent 78m / Descent 78m

Good to know

    • Should you get caught in the rain as we did, at point 10 there is shelter inside the giant school building. It is tiny but better than nothing. The 2nd  shelter is by point 14 Grandma’s kitchens.
    • Toilets are also at the school, points 7-12
    • Every BBQ station has wood, amazing!!
    • Refreshments on the trail at point 17. The Älpli Restaurant or back at the Ämpächli Kids Paradise.
    • They say trail is pushchair friendly but better with one that has bigger wheels.
    • Although the map says less than one hour, you will at spend at least 1.5 h on the trail.

You may also like some other  family hikes in Switzerland.

These hikes below have an age rating for kids between 3-5 years of age. This is simply a recommendation by us. On each hike I have stated the age of our twins at the day of the hike.

I hope that the information provided here will prove itself useful when visiting The “Riesenwald” Giant Forest Theme trail in Elm, Glarus  

If I have left anything out or you have a question, please ask your questions in the comments below so that other readers can join in the conversation and benefit from your queries also.

Thank you & Never Forget to Travel

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Hi, my name is Corina, a mum of twins, a wife and founder of Packed Again – a Swiss Family Travel & Adventure Blog. We live in the most amazing mountain valley in Switzerland, the Valais.

It is outdoors where we feel the most connected and happy with each other.

The Blog will give you lots of information on Swiss Adventures & Beyond.

Never Forget to Explore!

Thank you Corina

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