You only need to spend a short period of time in Valais to understand how and why it’s a mecca for serious road biking in Switzerland. The region offers an enormous network of remarkable cycling routes, featuring everything from cascading terraced vineyards, picturesque villages, iconic mountain passes and spectacular high alpine lakes.
Words: Ashleigh Maxwell
The Grimsel, Furka, Nufenen and Grand St Bernard passes all call Valais home, along with a host of other beautiful mountain passes over 2000m. But it’s not solely these fearsome climbs that have made the region a cycling hotspot in Switzerland.
In the centre of the region, (between Sion and Riddes), easy spins along the valley floor offer far reaching views to 4000m peaks, while quiet climbs to the region’s many breathtaking damns and high alpine landscapes create a world of contrasts for cyclists. Valais has become a regular feature on the biggest tours, including Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France, but still maintains a special old-world charm that has been lost in many other popular cycling destinations.
From secret, rambling rides traversing the valleys of the Valais, to the punchiest tours of the region’s most spectacular terrain, we’ve brought together a list of the must-do rides in this special corner of the Swiss Alps.
Starting in the lovely village of Bramois, this special climb takes you from Valais’ famous terraced vineyards and up high above Crans-Montana to a stark alpine landscape you won’t soon forget. The road narrows as you climb the side of a steep gorge, through forested switchbacks and ancient tunnels. The gradient is never too steep and the biggest drama is saved for the very end, where the final stretch of road caved into the cliffside spits you directly out onto the top of the dam wall.
The Vineyard Trail traverses the wide Rhone valley, from Sion to Susten, showcasing the beauty of the region’s stunning terraced vineyards. The route is a local classic for a fun, rolling ride, plus offers plenty of opportunities to sample Valais’ excellent local wines directly from the source.
The Valais region is not short of stunning valley climbs. These quiet roads shoot off both sides of the wide Rhone Valley, giving cyclists myriad options for epic rides. The Val d’Anniviers is one of the best. Starting from Sierre, the climb snakes south, winding through tight switchbacks, hugging the sides of dramatic gorges and offering views of the Valais’ incredible peaks including the Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Dent Blanche and of course, the Matterhorn.
Enjoy the stunning panorama from Crans-Montana, before the diving deep into the Rhone Valley to Sierre to start this climb. A spectacular road carved into the Dalatal Valley takes you to the thermal mountain resort of Leukerbad.
As the location of the 2021 Haute Route Crans-Montana event, this is the perfect opportunity to explore more of the central Valais region. Find out more about cycling in Crans-Montana at the city website and contact Haute Route for more information about the event or extending your adventure.