If you're after a big adventure on two wheels, look no further than Valais and these excellent mountain biking routes
When it comes to high-altitude playgrounds for adventurous biker riders, it doesn’t really get much better than Valais. Well-marked routes, epic climbs, mountain passes that will sear themselves into your brain and downhill sections with a thrill-factor dialled all the way up to 11; this glorious canton in southern Switzerland has got the lot.
To help give you a flavour of what awaits mountain bikers here, we’ve put together this (hopefully) handy guide to some of the best mountain biking routes in Valais.
This stunning 24.3km loop will take you about four hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll feast your eyes on some of the most spectacular panoramas imaginable and weave your way through beautiful hamlets, forests, and alpine meadows.
Thanks to this circuit that links Haute-Nendaz to Tracouet, you’ll be able to discovery for yourself the centuries-old larches of Balavaux. More beautiful trees in Europe, nay – the world, you’ll be very hard pressed to find. If you can ride past them without stopping to get multiple shots for Instagram, we truly admire your willpower.
“More beautiful trees… you’ll be very hard pressed to find”
The route starts and ends at the Centre Sportif de Haute-Nendaz. In order to ride up to Tracouet, you’ll need to follow the VTT 132 signs. One of the main highlights of the ascent, apart from the larch trees, is Lac Noir (black lake). Looking down on it from above, with the made-for-postcards backdrop behind it, will, if the weather’s behaving itself, be a standout memory of the ride up.
Once you’ve arrived at the summit of Tracouet, be sure to take a moment to enjoy the view. Perhaps stop off for a bite to eat and a refreshing beverage at the restaurant, before getting fully stuck into the sporty descent (indicated by the VTT 133 signs).
If the 927m ascent sounds a bit too much like hard work, by the way, feel free to hire yourself an e-bike. The route’s well suited to them. Alternatively, skip the uphill riding altogether and take the telecabine to the top. You’ll miss some stuff for sure but, on the plus side, you’ll have much more energy left to attack the super fun downhill section.
How does a 127km ride and 4,700 metres of elevation gain, among glaciers and spectacular 4,000 metre peaks sound? Throw some very charming, extremely Swiss, mountain villages into the mix and you’ve got yourself a mountain biking experience like no other. What you’ve got, if we’re being even more specific, is the Stoneman Glaciara route in Valais.
“You’ll be working your legs hard here”
The Stoneman route is made up of three balanced stages, taking riders up into Aletsch Arena and back to Mörel. The most challenging section of the route, from an ascent point of view, is probably the old military road that leads up to Breithorn pass at 2,451 metres above sea level. You’ll be working your legs hard here. However, you can push forth confidently knowing that the view after all the hard work is something very special.
If you’re an adventurous mountain biker looking to test yourself in amongst some of Europe’s most incredible terrain, look no further than this properly epic Valais route right here.
The Mattmark Bike Tour is just over 22km long and will take just under three hours to complete – depending on your ability, stamina, breaks and overindulgence in photography. Starting and finishing in Saas-Almagell (1,670 m), this circular trails leads up to the Mattmark dam.
The high point of the tour is 2,248 metres above sea level. This loop will take you past a number of interesting sights and sounds – including some of the most breathtaking alpine scenery as you wind your way up to the Mattmark Dam.
Once you have made it to the dam, take some time to enjoy the view of the many 4,000 metre peaks that surround you – you’ve earnt it. Enjoy the ride through small, alpine, villages. Enjoy cycling your bike along an idyllic lake. Enjoy this extremely enjoyable route. It’s great.
With its total length of 7.6km, and sub-two hour duration, the Hannig Loop might not stretch out anywhere near as much as some of the big routes on this list. However, what it does do is more than make up for that with some of the best mountain views you’ll find anywhere on earth.
Covering an altitude difference of 500 metres on the Wannehorn, the Hannig circuit tour, which takes you up to a hight point of 2,633 metres, includes unforgettable panoramic views of the surrounding mountains – including the iconic Matterhorn (yes, that’s the one from the Toblerone bars).
“It’s well worth hiking up the extra 50 metres on foot to the summit of the Wannehorn”
The tour climbs steeply via Chleini Furgge and on to Küchenwang. Here, it’s well worth hiking up the extra 50 metres on foot to the summit of the Wannehorn. It’s the perfect opportunity to let the magnificence of southern Valais and the Bernese Alps merge themselves completely and utterly with your soul. From Küchenwang, you’ll then ride on a slightly broader trail to another designated view point – Heidnische Tossu. Be sure to take some photos.
All that riding made you tired and hungry? Stop off for a bite to eat, and a moment of rest and reflection, at the Hannighüsli mountain restaurant.
Get yourself a look at the phenomenal Cleuson dam on this 31km-long route (it’ll take about five hours to complete the whole thing). Built between 1946 and 1951, Cleuson can hold 20 million cubic metres of water. 87 metres high and 420 metres wide, at its widest point, the dam’s famous for its blue waters. Riding alongside this feat of mountain-based engineering definitely won’t be an experience you forget in a hurry.
“Built between 1946 and 1951, Cleuson can hold 20 million cubic metres of water”
Starting off at the Centre Sportif de Haute-Nendaz before making your way to Siviez and then the Cleuson dam, this looped route will see you reach a high point of 2,188 metres. Keep an eye out for the alpine huts of Sofleu en-route. The panoramic views will, of course, take up most of your attention span but there’s loads other of gems dotted here and there.
If you’re riding with the family, or are just feeling a bit lazy, you can shorten the route by parking directly at Siviez and making your way to the Cleuson dam from there. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll have a nice time.
For the more technical, and downhill focused, riders out there, few mountain bike destinations around the world are known quite as well as Champéry – Morgins. While there isn’t a continuous 150 kilometre trail, like many of the other descents featured in this article, we’ve chosen to include Champéry – Morgins due to its wide variety of trails.
From flowing beginner trails, such as Le Géant (Morgins’ dedicated beginner trail), to steep and technical downhill descents like the legendary World Cup trail, where Danny Hart stunned the world with his epic winning run in the wet, this alpine town has, quite rightly, earned its place as a ‘must-visit’ spot for all mountain bikers.
Striking that ideal combination of shockingly easy access with seemingly endless amounts of marked trails, Champéry – Morgins will easily be able to keep you pedalling day in, day out, without even scratching the surface of what’s possible from this alpine town. Accessing this range of trails couldn’t be easier, either. 21 ski lifts have been equipped for bike transport and, when combined with the neighbouring French resorts, you’re rewarded with over 600 kilometres of marked trails to get stuck into.
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