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Valais: Challenging valley and mountain rides

In association with
26 Jul 2021

With over 2,000 hours of annual sunshine and one of the most diverse landscapes in the Swiss Alps, Valais is the perfect destination for adventurers. The numerous cycling routes in the region offer something for everyone, from challenging mountain climbs to picturesque valley rides.

Here, we detail some of the most beautiful and rewarding routes in the region, including tours of the Trophy of the Dams region and legendary mountain passes.

Emosson – Trophy of the Dams

The Emosson route starts in the charming, historic town of Martigny. Martigny is known for its Roman ruins, warm climate and regional produce, which you can sample in many of the local restaurants. La Fromathèque serves wine from the surrounding vineyards and the famous Raclette cheese as part of a Valais platter.

This is a scenic, 32-kilometre route, which takes you through some of the most diverse landscapes in Valais, from rich vineyards to dense Alpine forests. You’ll want to bring your climbing legs, with a total elevation gain of 1,932m to tackle along the way.

The impressive Emosson Dam is the climax of the ride. Emosson hosted a stage finish of the 2016 Tour de France, and the stage from Martigny to Emosson was awarded the prestigious Tour de France label “Route du Tour” in 2018. The dam region is also known for the dinosaur tracks still visible in some of the rocks.

Col de la Croix de Cœur – Legendary Mountain Passes

This is a challenging but rewarding route, which takes you 35 kilometres from Aproz to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Cœur, passing the ski resort of La Tzoumaz on the way. The mountain peaks of the Dent de Nendaz, Mont Gond and Mont Gelé make up the stunning backdrop for the first few kilometres of your climb.

A steep, winding ascent – which includes some unpaved sections towards the end – brings you to an altitude of more than 2,100 metres. The final stretch will reward you with some of the most spectacular views in the Swiss Alps, including the Val de Bagnes, Val d'Entremont, and the Alpine village of Verbier below.

As you ride you’ll be following in the path of tour legends such as Alberto Contador, who won the 2009 Tour de France stage hosted by Verbier. If you’re feeling inspired and want to continue your cycling adventure, you can also enjoy other routes in the area, such as the demanding Col du Lein climb. Alternatively, the top of the Col des Planches offers a scenic forest option on the way to Martigny – as well as some of the steepest climbs in the region, with some sections reaching a gradient of 15%.

Col du Sanetsch – Legendary Mountain Passes

This route may not be as well known as the others, but it is one of the most demanding and diverse rides in the Valais region. The Sanetsch pass takes you 24.2km from Conthey up to an impressive altitude of 2,200 metres, covering every stage of Alpine landscape on the way. You’ll climb a total of 1,814m, but there are some welcome flat sections that allow you to catch your breath and take in the beautiful scenery.

As you ride, you’ll travel through picturesque vineyards in the Savièse area, then experience a very different landscape ascending through the larch and spruce forests of the Conthey region. Peaceful alpine pastures make up the next section of the route, where you may spot alpine marmots in the grass if you’re lucky.

The most dramatic reveal of the route is the breath-taking Tsanfleuron glacier, which is separated from the rest of the ride by a long mountain tunnel. You will be rewarded with a close-up view of the limestone pavements of the Tsanfleuron glacier. 

The road to Sanetsch is closed from October to May, so make sure you plan to enjoy this ride over the summer months. Experienced cyclists and adventure lovers may want to continue to the end of the road, making a grand loop back to the central Valais. From the Col du Sanetsch, head to Gsteig via a short cable car journey that makes for a unique and thrilling experience, then return to central Valais via the Col du Pillon with the wind at your back.

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