Central Switzerland has some of the highest, most beautiful paved passes I know. The most famous are big roads, well surfaced. One can make brilliant loops with combinations of Nufenen Pass (2478m), Grimsel Pass (2165m), Furka Pass (2436m), Susten Pass (2224m), Gotthard Pass (2108m), and others.
See here for details of the 20 highest paved climbs in Switzerland.
This ride I wanted to revisit the amazing hairpins of Grimsel and Furka. But more importantly, to visit for the first time a not-well-known little road that extends for almost 6 kilometres above Grimsel Pass to the Oberaarsee dam/lake. It’s the 5th highest paved road in Switzerland (note, the Grimsel profile at left excludes this extension).
A 3D Video:
I started in Ulrichen, in the Canton of Valais/Wallis. Note, at the start there is a long tunnel section before the climb begins. But as the map below shows, there is a perfectly paved little path beside that avoids the tunnels.
Both Grimsel and Furka share the first few kilometres up with the road splitting at Gletsch (1759m). There is always a little traffic here – motorcyclists love these roads. But they are wide and well engineered – it’s not too bad. I would first head to Grimsel Pass up a series of fantastic hairpins. Just short of the pass is one of the great cycling views I know. That is Furka Pass in the far distance. I’d be heading there later.
The pass itself is beside the Totensee, one of several dams/lakes around the pass. My German is not great but I think that translates to the Lake of the Dead.
Here is a big loop climbing the north (tougher) side of Grimsel, then Furka, then the giant Susten pass as part of the Alpen Brevet Cyclosportive.
The pass is a big place, with restaurants, hotels, etc. Somewhere in the middle is a tiny road that heads higher. There was a locked gate preventing cars using it. Perfect.
I found this little road quite extraordinary. It’s not too steep, but rises to 2390 metres before descending to the Oberaarsee dam/lake. Initially, there are incredible views of the north road to Grimselpass
Then it runs along side, but well above, the huge Grimselsee/dam.
Finally, it reaches the Oberaarsee:
All-in-all, it’s less than 6 extra kilometres. But it’s so worth taking the time for this detour to the 5th highest paved road in Switzerland.
I was having one of those days with no energy, but I pushed myself to slowly descend Grimsel and visit Furka Pass. At 2436 metres, it’s the 4th highest paved road in Switzerland. I’ve written about it several times before. Here is a 2014 post that climbs/details both sides and talks about James Bond visiting here during Goldfinger – the sniper scene(!), etc.
I was struggling, so I stopped for ice cream at the Rhône-Glacier restaurant. Just above is the source of the Rhône river that runs through Switzerland and France to the Mediterranean.
Finally, I just descended back to the start. A beautiful, beautiful ride.
Grimsel and Furka are two of the more beautiful high passes in the Swiss Alps. But remember to include the little extension to Oberaarsee for a special treat.
Quiet / No Traffic
Love your rides and posts.
Today i did the Beatenberg and above, what a blast. This week i also did Hongrin and Jaun/saanen loop.
Tomorrow i might do the Nufenen that you have here, last days of vacations.
Thanks a lot.
I rode the Susten, Grimsel and Furka loop from Andermatt on the 21st of June (having done the ride clockwise the previous Saturday). Agreed, this loop is superlative in all respects. That week was blisteringly hot in Switzerland, but the heat did not impede my appreciation one bit. This area is on par with anything that the Dolomites, French Alps etc has to offer in my opinion. If only Switzerland wasn’t so darn expensive! Missed the little extension to Oberaarsee though – next time perhaps!
Many thanks for your superlative website by the way – it has helped me so much in my cycling explorations –
it is plain to see that it is a labour of love. Long may it continue!!
Will, thanks for the amazing effort you put into this blog – it’s a fantastic resource, one that I’ve enjoyed for quite a few years now.
I’m glad to be back in the Alps after missing 2020 due to Covid. I’ve been here about a week, and am taking it easy, just doing one Col a day until I get a lot fitter than I am now! I started with Semnoz, then Col de la Forclaz, then Nufenen, then Furka, and today Grimsel. The reason for my note is to thank you for the recommendation to continue to Oberaarsee – in my opinion, it’s a must-see. It was spectacularly beautiful, especially with the vestiges of the snow that still remain.
One minor point – the gate is now open, and motorists who pay for a parking tag can drive up, using staggered time slots. The traffic is very light, though, and not too many of the ever-present motorbikes. Quite a few pedestrians and mountain bikers who used the cable car.
Hi Brian, Very well done and thanks for the update. Enjoy your visit.