The Best Walks, Rides, and Drives in Switzerland

Exploring Switzerland’s jaw-dropping scenery is a must for any visitor; the only question is whether you walk the secluded paths, ride the mountains, or drive the snaking Swiss Alpine roads. For a relaxed, one-with-nature experience, walk through the meadow trails in the Bavona Valley on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Speed junkies should try out a drive around the Great St. Bernard Pass, or ride down the mountainside on a monster scooter at Saas-Grund.

Foroglio, 6690 Cevio, Switzerland
The Bavona Valley, in the Swiss-Italian region, is a true exhibition of nature’s power. There are many walking paths through meadows, and trails alongside rivers are interwoven between fascinating rock formations. Make sure you see the 80-meter waterfall, which is located in the delightful Foroglio valley. In the Swiss-French valley of Solalex, paths wind their way up the mountains to breath-taking viewpoints at its peaks. The views are reminiscent of the North American Rockies and you can often see eagles circling. Trails leading through conifer woods are popular, especially under the stars in winter with snow shoes.
Verbier, 1936 Bagnes, Switzerland
The charming Swiss village of Verbier is a breeding ground for fearless, thrill-seeking mountain bikers. Be warned, though: Even a rockstar mountain biker from Colorado or Utah will feel like he needs training wheels when he tackles these mountains. In town, local bike shops outfit cyclists with bikes and Transformer-like protective gear. A gondola whisks cyclists to the top of the mountain where they can tackle trails of varying degrees of difficulty in La Tzoumaz Bikepark. Less death-defying trails wind around the mountain past quirky sculptures such as a giant penguin and a huge skeleton of a wooly mammoth. Apparently, a mountain-biking battle wound is an essential Swiss souvenir. I took home a double-fractured finger after launching over my handlebars (A note: Men who get injured apparently get stitched up by a hot Swiss nurse. I got a scholarly Swiss doctor, but I also didn’t get a bill). For something a bit more low-key, rent an electric mountain bike and cruise around town past the fancy hotels (Verbier W opened in 2014) and charming homes. Just a touch of pressure on the pedal makes you feel like Lance Armstrong ascending the hills.
3910 Saas-Grund, Switzerland
If mountain biking sounds a bit too extreme take to the trails on a monster scooter. The scooter version of a Big Wheels, it has extra large tires that provides stability but still allows you to pick up speed and brake like a mountain bike. From Saas-Grund, we took the gondola up to Hahsaas mountain station, which overlooks the Saas Valley. A nearly four-mile trail leads back down to the village (In the winter you can rent rodels, or sleds, and sleigh down). The views can be very distracting but we had to keep our eyes on the trail so we didn’t collide with any mountain goats.
The canton of Neuchâtel is delightful territory for keen walkers, the best of which is a quite spectacular natural basin (cirque). Creux-du-Van can be approached by car from the Val de Travers, a spot of wondrous beauty where Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau walked regularly preparing theories. Then, on foot, head left at Noiraigue and on the ‘path with 14 bends’ to find the immense nature reserve measuring approximately 1,400 meters wide and 150 meters in depth. The walk is not for the faint hearted especially if you try the ascent through the basin and up the side path, the Sentier du Single. Those who do, however, can prepare themselves for most magnificent views across Lake Neuchâtel to the Alps.
1946 Bourg-Saint-Pierre, Switzerland
Up until 2004, Switzerland’s iconic furry friends—St. Bernard dogs—were bred at this monastery and hospice. While the canines have been relocated, the Great St. Bernard Hospice, which sits on a barren, treeless plane at 8,100 feet, is still an active monastery run by Augustinian monks. The steep four-mile ascent from the valley is a killer on foot, but still doable—on groomed trails in summer and on snowshoes in winter. Inside, monks greet you and show you to communal tables in the stone dining hall where vegetable soups are served with hunks of Bagnes cheese, thick slices of brown bread, and honey-sweetened tea (or a carafe of red Dôle wine produced in the Valais region just below, which seems to be the more popular option). Don’t miss the odd museum, displaying local taxidermy, ancient coins, and maps once used for Alpine crossings; the 800-year-old crypt is allegedly stuffed with the bodies of ancient travelers who didn’t survive the journey. A register of “Les passants célèbres” includes Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Alexandré Dumas but omits Charles Dickens, who lived nearby for a summer.
Furka Pass, 3999 Obergoms, Switzerland
Leave it to James Bond to imprint his image (and his Aston Martin) on one of the most memorable hairpin-turn scenic drives in the world. Sean Connery’s pursuit of Bond baddie Goldfinger in the film of the same name took place on the Furka Pass. You can follow this iconic drive (only in the summer, please) around the same turns passing through grassy mountainsides and in the shadow of ice-covered peaks in the distance by starting at Obervald and driving to Andermatt. The drive will take about an hour and you can stop at the Aurora Hotel which was (until recently) the site of the gas station that was the backdrop for a memorable moment in Bond’s erstwhile connection with Bond girl (of the moment) Tilly Masterson. Every July BMW superbike rally drivers come here for the Alpine Rally but the road is regularly ruled by Bond’s followers who can’t seem to get enough of this magnificent ride—great on its own but even better after watching Bond!
Rte de la Croix-de-Coeur 28, 1918 Riddes, Switzerland
While Switzerland’s luxurious, modern cities exemplify its affluence, it’s high up in the mountains where the country’s traditions lie. To experience authentic Alpine life, travel up to La Tzoumaz in Valais and hike the senses trail in the Maison de la Fôret. You can walk the 1.6-mile path, which winds through forests and meadows, smelling the Swiss pine bark, listening for the squawk of the nutcracker, and tasting wild blueberries. Afterward, drop in to the Maison de la Fôret museum, which holds fascinating information about the area’s wildlife. It’s only open from May 28 through September 28, however, so plan your visit accordingly.
For blissful trails sounded only by the dongs of cow bells and surrounded by imposing iconic mountains, head to Villars-sur-Ollon in the Vaud Alps. This typical Swiss town, a bustling ski resort during the winter, offers several stunning summer walking trails and a charming glass-roofed train through Gryon and Bex. At the top of the cable car, located in the town center, you can saunter 300km of signposted alpine paths, bustle through wooded mountainsides and gawp at the vast valleys. It’s worthwhile taking a good map to identify the Dents-Du-Midi and, of course, the Mont Blanc massif. The views can become even more spectacular with a paraglyding lesson, many of which are offered in the area and set off near the cable car station.
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