Passo San Gottardo (St. Gotthard Pass) – both sides

17

How good is that? Leave the road bike at home as these hairpins below are 100% cobble-stone heaven.

If you like cobblestones then I have the road for you.

The St Gothard Pass (2108m, 6915 feet) is in central Switzerland and an important link between the German and Italian parts of the country.

There is an autoroute through a tunnel and another paved road over the pass to handle all the considerable motor traffic.

And for cyclists, the old/ancient cobblestone road has been perfectly preserved. This is truly cobblestone heaven.

The last 3 kms of the north side is cobbled, but it’s the south side that is truly amazing. Almost traffic-free, well maintained, hairpin paradise – and cobbled for most of the 14 kilometres and 1000 metres descent to Airolo.

Hairpin Heaven Cool statue Cobblestones Descending Gothard the fun way San Gottardo Passo San Gottardo

I started in Andermatt – the north side is nice enough but nothing special. It’s worth avoiding on weekends in the summer as traffic can be pretty bad as many use it as an alternate to the weekly traffic jams of the Gotthard tunnel. Three kms from the pass cyclists can leave the main road and take the old cobble road. Nearing the top on the right is a large dam and Lago delle Piazza.

The north side can start much lower in Wassen or even lower in Amsteg – but these lower parts while at times spectacular can involve major traffic and include lots of tunnels – no fun in my view. I descended this stretch during the Alpen Brevet race.

At the pass make sure you stay on the cobbles and take the old road down to Airolo. This south side is truly special. The Swiss understand how to preserve their heritage and the cobbles are painstakingly maintained. The hairpins, views, waterfalls, etc. are just fantastic. Lots of cyclists and virtually no cars. As good as it gets.

Cobblestones

At the bottom in Airolo, remember to speak Italian when buying refreshments.

For the best photos of the hairpins, you need to detour a little at the pass on the “new road” for a cliff look-out. Zoom the map below and you’ll see my wanderings.

At the top a short hike leads to a statue of Saint Gotthard:

Me, St Gothard, and ???


Bike route 297502 – powered by Bikemap 
Share.

About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

17 Comments

  1. Nice work! I started that ride on a weekend a few weeks ago in the hot sun and 1000’s of motorists and motorcyclists (not knowing about the cobbled bit) and abanoned the ride after a short while…. next time i’ll take your advice.

    I’m over at Bourg St Maurice after just leaving the swiss/german border a few weeks ago!!!!

  2. Will,
    The Tremola, with its cobblestones is amazing, isn’t it?! I did it with the road bike, as part of a two days / seven 2000+ meter pass tour earlier this month. At the top of Gotthard, you could have added two more passes, though: on the eastside of the road, directly starting at the pass, there is indeed a little paved road, that leads to the Sella Lake (and pass) and, if one goes towards the south 100m below the Lake altitude, one can cycle up to Scimfuss Pass. Good reasons to do it again in the future, isn’t it? Cheers,
    Nicholas

  3. Hi Nicholas,

    Thanks for the great info.

    I saw the dam and thought long and hard about visiting, but was a little tired. But agreed, I’ll need to return next summer and include your ideas … many thanks

  4. Pingback: Speedlinking 28 February 2010 :: Treadly and Me

  5. Pingback: The Saint Gotthard Pass « Puglia2010

  6. Pingback: Bikerumor | All The Best Cycling News, Tech, Rumors and Reviews!

  7. Just came back from riding it (just one way though from Andermatt to Airolo). I would recommend to at least do it from Goeschenen as otherwise it’s too short if you just do one side

    Did it on a road bike with 23*700 tires, no issue at all. On a thursday there was nobody around, so you could use the full width of the road to dive into the hairpins.

    Only thing to watch out, at some point the coubbles stop and there is good asphalt surface, so you think you can nail it, but the coubbles come again, a bit unpleasant at high speed.

  8. Pingback: Switzerland: Bellinzona to Zermatt « Another Header

  9. Pingback: Book Review: “Mountain High – Europe’s Greatest Cycle Climbs” : Cycling Challenge

  10. Did this pass on a long ride from Lake Como area and joked about the cobblestone road to friends who were starting closer to the climb. I thought we’d end up on the smooth road, but ended up on the cobblestone road. Beauty climb and a bit jarring on our road bikes, but keep a steady effort and find the smoothest line and it’s great. Stopped to take some great shots, with my friends in the pic on lower switchbacks. Cool at the top and some rain, so descended thru the rain to lower levels before heading toward the Furkapass and back to a farmstay. Beauty 3700m ascent day in 190km and over 8 hours on the bike.

    Love the website and valuable info! Keep it up!

  11. Pingback: Interlaken, Schweiz | Airbourne

  12. Neil Brennan on

    I am 61 years old and planning to do this in Sept ..pretty good cyclist but not that good on hills. Can get by. Training hard for the event. What should I expect. Go midweek, early/late. Road or hybrid or mtn bike.
    Food and rest locations etc.
    Maybe doing it with a groupmtomraise funds for our club
    Regards

  13. Hi Neil,

    To climb the south side of Gotthard?

    You can use a road bike without problem going up. If descending, the (very good quality) cobbles are a bit of pain with road bike, but it is do-able.

    I happily used a hybrid.

    It is fairly quiet I think at any time as cars have tow other options. the very long, car-only tunnel, and a paved road that goes over the Pass beside the old cobbled road.

    One separate piece of advice: If driving to the start of south side from the north side, there are often massive traffic jams on Friday evening, Saturday morning to get through the tunnel.

    Enjoy

Leave A Reply

Translate »