Cycling the Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass – Switzerland

Andermatt – Meiringen 40km

Riding the Furka and Grimsel Passes is amazing. The picture postcard bends and stunning scenery showcase all that is awesome about riding in Switzerland.

Riding Notes

The first stage of this ride takes you up 890m vertical and over the Furka pass. Ride south-west from Andermatt along the route 19. After following the valley floor for 8km the route suddenly steepens and the road weaves back and forth gaining altitude. 5km up the hillside you pass the tiny village of Galenstock before the road straightens and hugs the side of a valley. This continues for around 6km until you reach the top of the Furka pass.

The ride down from the pass is electrifying with several hairpin bends cantilevered out from the slope. Coast along the valley floor to the small town of Gletsch at the base of the next major ascent.

The second stage of this ride is up 410m vertical and over the Grimsel pass. The road to the pass is short sharp and winding. If you are continuing on to Meiringen then you have 2,000m of vertical decent, and one surprise climb, ahead of you.

This route is popular other road users so stay vigilant. The alpine passes can be very cold so take a windbreaker to wear at the top and during your descent. Consider lights and reflective clothing if you are riding from Grimsel to Meiringen as you will pass through a poorly lit tunnel.

Planning Your Trip

The Furka Pass is located just west of Andermatt on the boarder of the Swiss Cantons of Valais and Uri.

There is excellent planning information on the Swiss  Mobility website covering access to and from the ride by public transport, accommodation and places of interest.  The Furka Pass is situated in Stage 1 of the Rhone Route; the Grimsel Pass is situated in Stage 1 of the Aare Route.

The ride is well signed and map is not essential. Kümmerly+Frey have a general cycling map that covers the entire of Switzerland at 1:301 000 scale:

This region is high in the alps and specific cycle maps do not cover this area well. A standard road atlas or Google Maps would also suffice for trip planning and navigation.

 

Our Experience

The Swiss town of Andermatt is a hub for cycle freaks with mountain passes lead out to the north, south, east and west. At high altitude Andermatt is no camping paradise so we decided not to linger. We selected the famous Furka Pass and rode it on Sunday along with a phenomenal number of other cyclists, motorbikes, and sports cars.

This was to be our first real hill climbing test and we were uncertain as to how we would fare on the total 1400m+ climb. On our side was an absence of luggage – we were not quite the cycling equivalent of a sports car but more a truck with the trailer uncoupled.

Departing Andermatt the valley floor rises with an ever increasing gradient to the Furka pass. Once over the Furka we dropped steeply into a small valley and paused at the small village of Gletsch before turning north-west and ascending over the slightly smaller Grimsel pass. After saying hello to the resident caged marmots we clicked on our chunky dynamos to get a bit of help breaking and coasted to Meringen. Some tunnel sections were hair raising with little or no lighting and plenty of speeding traffic. The last section was hard work with a surprise 91m ascent over an old terminal moraine to the campsite.

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