The upper stretches of Valais and the Rhône valley reach to the heart of the Alps. The historical passes that have linked northern and southern Europe for centuries bridge the continental divide here. Tunnels under the Alps now carry the bulk of the traffic, but the historical villages of the region bear witness to its former importance for trade.
The journey up to the starting point of this hike – the Grimsel Pass – is an adventure in itself. The road climbs from the village of Oberwald first to Gletsch – gateway to the Furka Pass – before tackling a spectacular sequence of hairpin bends up to the Grimsel Pass, at an altitude of 2,164 m. The pass was long the key trade route between central Switzerland and Lombardy: Swiss cheese and cattle travelled south, while mules carried wine, corn, rice and olive oil to the north.
From the pass, the trail leads up the ridge to the west. The views are sensational. To the north lie the lakes, hydroelectric reservoirs and glaciers of the Bernese Oberland: a raindrop falling on this side joins the Aare – the longest river entirely in Switzerland – ultimately to flow into the North Sea. To the left of the path, walkers look out over the iconic 4,000-metre peaks of Valais, and down into the lush valley of the young Rhône, at the very start of its journey past the vineyards of Valais – the largest in Switzerland – to Lake Geneva and ultimately the Mediterranean Sea.
This ridge hike between two worlds culminates at the highest point of the route, the Sidelhorn (2,764 m). Soon after, the trail leaves the ridge and drops down into the Rhône valley. At first the path leads downhill to the sparkling waters of the Jostsee, before turning north-east to return to the Grimsel Pass.
- Thrilling walk along a high ridge on the European continental divide
- Experience of the heart of the Swiss Alps: historical passes, powerhouse of green energy
- Glorious views of glaciers, lakes, snow-capped peaks and the villages of the lush Rhône valley
Use of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. Valais/Wallis Promotion accepts no liability for the accuracy and completeness of information on this website.
For all hikes:
- Bring a map. Download full description of this route including large-scale map by clicking on “Print” icon, top right of this page.
- Use marked trails only, and observe all signposting – for your own safety, to safeguard grazing animals and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
- Close gates after passing through.
- Please be considerate to other trail users, and to the plants and animals.
- Do not leave any waste in nature.
For mountain hikes:
- Take extra care protecting yourself from the sun at altitude. UV radiation can be exceptionally strong, even in cloudy weather.
- Plan hike carefully: take into consideration fitness level of each participant, weather forecast and season.
- Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, without warning. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time.
For high-altitude hikes:
- Inform others of the route you plan to take. Whenever possible, avoid going alone.
- Do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
- Take note of the warning signs that point out the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs: water levels may rise rapidly without warning.
Tips, hints and links
More information about the destinations:
Getting thereA9 motorway and main road up the Rhône valley as far as Oberwald, then follow signs for the Grimsel Pass («Grimselpass» / «Col du Grimsel»).
ParkingGrimsel Pass, summit
Book recommendation by the author
Author’s map recommendations
- good footwear
- clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
- hat or cap
- bottle for water
- binoculars (optional)
- hiking poles (optional)
- printout of this hike (click “Print” icon, to download)
For certain walks: