Passo San Gottardo (St. Gotthard Pass) – both sidesBy Will • Aug 28th, 2009 • Category: Climbs, Cycling, Favorites
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.
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.
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: