Valais Cycling Guide: Top 5 Best Cycling Routes in Valais, Switzerland

For those who haven’t experienced Switzerland’s renowned cycling scene, it can seem like a mysterious paradise waiting to be explored. While familiar with the country’s majestic mountains with impeccably engineered roads, figuring out where to begin planning a cycling trip can be daunting. So, what are the top cycling routes in Switzerland to kickstart your adventure?

The sunniest locations in Switzerland see an average of 2,000 hours or more of sunshine per year. This includes regions within Ticino and the Valais. The Valais region of Switzerland is home to the country’s most famous passes and riding, but it remains one of cycling’s best-kept secrets. The region offers a diverse range of terrain, from rolling vineyards to towering alpine passes, catering to cyclists of all levels. Unlike some of Europe’s more popular cycling destinations, Valais has quieter roads, ensuring cyclists can enjoy breathtaking views, serene lakes, and challenging gradients. Situated on the border of France and Italy, Valais serves as the hub of Swiss cycling, providing easy access to two other cycling meccas in a single day.

When is it better to cycle in Valais, Switzerland?

Valais boasts its microclimate, making it Switzerland’s sunniest region and a fantastic cycling destination. Whether enjoying flat valley rides or tackling steep climbs through vineyards, forests, and alpine meadows, cyclists experience a paradise of diverse terrain, accompanied by the sound of cowbells and views of snow-capped peaks.

The region’s residents bask in an average of 300 sunny days annually, thanks to the dry, mild climate. Even during chilly winters, certain areas receive over eight hours of sunlight, eliminating concerns about fog and vitamin D deficiency. Here, the seasons unfold in a vibrant spectrum, from blooming springs to Mediterranean summers, dazzlingly colorful autumns, and snow-covered winters.

The likelihood of rain is high throughout the year, spanning from January to December. The coldest season, winter, occurs in January, February, March, November, and December. July stands out as the wettest month in the Canton of Valais, making it less favorable for those averse to rain. February claims the title of the driest month. July boasts the highest average maximum temperature of 15°C, marking it as the warmest month in the Canton of Valais. Conversely, January holds the coldest average maximum daytime temperature at -6°C. July shines as the sunniest month in the Canton of Valais.

Top Valais routes

Emosson Dam

Distance: 61 kilometers

Elevation gain: 2,854 meters

Ideal for those seeking to follow their Tour de France idols, this route features two formidable mountain passes: the Col de la Forclaz at 1,528m and the Col de la Gueulaz at 1,956m.

It spans 32 kilometers, starting from Martigny, passing through the Col de la Forclaz (13 kilometers at 7.9% gradient), and leading to the ascent to the Emosson dam. The Col de la Guelaz presents a challenging climb, covering 10.4 kilometers with an average gradient of 8.4%.

This route has a rich Tour de France history, as it was used as the finish line for a stage in the 2016 race. Starting from the ancient Roman town of Martigny, cyclists can choose between two routes. They can either take the traditional gradual road, following the path of the Tour de France, or tackle the steep road originally planned for the 2020 UCI World Road Cycling Championships, leading to the Col de la Forclaz. After a short descent, riders encounter the challenging ascent of the Col de la Gueulaz and eventually reach the Emosson Dam, famous for its dinosaur tracks in the rocks. As the landscape becomes more rugged, the climb to the Col becomes tougher. However, reaching the summit offers breathtaking panoramas, including views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles du Tour.

Cycling in the Alps Emosson Dam Cycling Climb | Inspiration & Motivation | Road Cycling Climb French Alps

Col de la Croix Loop

Distance: 64 kilometers

Elevation gain: 1,890 meters

Enjoy the captivating ascent of Col de la Croix, offering stunning views without overwhelming difficulty. Stretching 22 kilometers from the valley floor to its summit at 1,778 meters, this route boasts an elevation gain of 1,333 meters. Embark on a steady journey, with the toughest parts encountered while climbing steep sections amid picturesque vineyards. Pass through charming villages along the route, ideal for a scenic break. Upon reaching the ski resort of Villars, savor quieter roads and gentler slopes, providing moments of serenity amidst breathtaking scenery. The descent to Les Diablerets ensures an exhilarating ride, culminating in a swift return to the valley floor. With its captivating ascents and descents, this route promises an unforgettable cycling adventure.

The Col Collective Col de la Croix, Col du Pillon & Col des Mosses (Switzerland) – Cycling Inspiration & Education

Nufenen Pass, San Gottardo and Furka Pass Loop

Distance: 99 kilometers

Elevation gain: 3,100 meters

Embark on a thrilling 100 km cycling adventure in Europe, showcasing the essence of Swiss cycling. Start in Ulrichen, where the ascent begins immediately. Conquer the challenging Nufenen Pass, boasting an average gradient of 8.5% and a series of challenging hairpin turns leading to its summit. Prepare for high altitude and changing weather conditions. Descend towards Airolo, then ascend the iconic San Gottardo pass, famous for its cobbled sections. Enjoy the scenery before tackling Furka Pass, known for its appearance in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.” At the western peak of the pass lies Hotel Belvédère, with a brief stroll from it leading to the Rhône Glacier Ice Grotto. The glacier advances 30–40 meters annually, and visitors can explore the 100-meter-long tunnel and ice chamber starting in June when the road becomes accessible. Conclude your epic journey with a fascinating descent back to the starting point, reaping the rewards of your monumental climbs along the way.

The Col Collective Giants of Switzerland – Furka, Nufenen & St Gotthard – Cycling Inspiration & Education

Grosse Scheidegg Loop

Distance: 80 kilometers

Elevation gain: 1,751 meters

Experience the ultimate Alpine cycling adventure on the Grosse Scheidegg route, nestled in the Jungfrau region. Every pedal stroke reveals breathtaking panoramas of waterfalls, serene lakes, grazing cows, and majestic peaks. While the Jungfrau may not be a cycling hotspot, Grosse Scheidegg stands as its crown jewel—a climb that fulfills every cyclist’s dream. Ascend along a car-free road, accompanied only by the occasional Swiss yellow Post Horn bus, soaking in vistas of the iconic Eiger North Face and glaciers.

But beware, for this climb isn’t for the faint-hearted—it’s as steep as it is rewarding! 

Upon reaching the summit, enjoy a thrilling descent through Grindelwald’s ski slopes, winding your way back to the tranquil shores of Interlaken and Brienz. In Grindelwald, the Hotel Wetterhorn marks the end of the traffic-free road. Return to the town of Meiringen, renowned for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes meeting his death near the Reichenbach Falls and being purportedly the birthplace of meringue around 1600. Now you can cherish the memories of your unique Alpine cycling journey like no other.

SCOTT Sports The Escape – Grosse Scheidegg

Rhone Route 

Distance: 778 kilometers

Elevation gain: 1,696 meters

The Swiss National Bike route, also known as the Rhone Route, takes cyclists through the stunning mountain scenery of Valais, following peaceful paths along the Rhone River. It passes by the famous palm-lined promenades of Lac Léman, through the picturesque Lavaux vineyards, and ends in the lively city of Geneva. Starting in Valais, the route crosses treeless Alpine pastures, ascends Furka Pass, and descends past the impressive Rhone Glacier. Passing through Goms, a sunny valley filled with flowers, it almost reaches Brig, the main town of upper Valais. As the valley widens, sunlight illuminates the mountainsides, and the Rhone river becomes more lively, passing through Sierre and Sion. Along the way, notable sights include the Pfynwald nature reserve and the impressive Dents du Midi mountains. Lac Léman offers breathtaking views against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, vineyards, and charming towns like Vevey, Montreux, Lausanne, Nyon, and Geneva. The Rhone Route is the first part of EuroVelo 17, which spans over 1,050 kilometers along the Rhone River and ends at the French Mediterranean coast. For those seeking more adventure, the journey can continue from Lake Geneva to the lavender fields of Provence and beyond to the Camargue region.

The Cycling Europe Le Grand Tour – Part 3 – ViaRhôna (EuroVelo 17)

Best Bike-Friendly Hotels

HÔTEL VATEL MARTIGNY: Centre du Parc Rue Marconi 19 CH-1920 Martigny , CH Web | Instagram

HOTEL EUROPE ZINAL: Rue des Cinq 4000 20, 3961, Zinal, CH Web | Instagram

Riffelhaus 1853: Riffelberg 2,500m, 3920 Zermatt, Valais Web | Instagram

Bike Rentals in Switzerland

Altmann Sports: Rue de la Madeleine 22, 1800 Vevey, Switzerland Web | Instagram

Flying Wheels: Höheweg 133, 3800 Interlaken, Switzerland Web | Instagram

BCYCLET: Rue du champ Blanchod 4, 1228 Plan les Ouates (Geneva), Switzerland Web | Instagram

Rent a Bike: Steinmatt 1 | CH-6130 Willisau Web | Instagram

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