Alpine Pass Route

The Alpine Pass Route is a 340 kilometre (211 miles) hiking trail that spans the breadth of Switzerland. Starting in Sargans on the border with Liechtenstein, it passes up and over sixteen mountain passes before reaching its western terminus at Montreux, situated on Lake Geneva.

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Alpine Pass Route Overview Map (Cicerone Guide)

I completed the Alpine Pass Route in August, 1997. Nineteen years and many hiking miles later, it remains one of my favourite European trails. A memorable combination of gorgeous mountain scenery, picturesque villages, great hospitality and some very cool side trips (attention Sherlock Holmes and James Bond fans – see below for details).

All information has been updated as of November, 2016………..unfortunately the photos are still from 1997!

Details 

Distance :   211 miles (340 km) approx.

Avg.Time :   15 – 17 days

Start / Finish :

  • Sargans – Montreux
  • Both termini are easily accessible by public transport. Use the Google for more information.
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Sargans train station | Starting point for the Alpine Pass Route.

Season :  Late June to early October.

Maps / Information  :

  • A more current option is the Alpine Pass Route Guide Book, published by Cicerone Press (2010; 2nd edition). From a navigational perspective, the maps contained in this book should suffice. The APR is a very well marked trail from start to finish.
Lake Oeschinen | Switzerland, 1997

Lake Oeschinen | Switzerland, 1997

  • As of 2016, the best online source for information is the ActivityWorkshop.net. This excellent site includes trekking notes, elevation profiles, waypoints, transport options and accommodation recommendations. In fact, who am I kidding, you should probably go there right now.
  • Another very useful resource is Wanderland.ch. This site contains much of the same information as ActivityWorkshop, in addition to a bunch of other information on anything and everything to do with hiking in Switzerland.

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  • Resupply:  You can pick up provisions at all villages and towns. Even if you are camping, there is no need to carry more than a day or two’s food at any stage of the hike. Sometimes it’s also possible to purchase cheese and milk at the small farms along the way.
  • Water sources are plentiful throughout the walk. Treat any water taken downstream of human settlement, grazing animals or agriculture (see Intestinal Disorders in HEALTH & SAFETY). Spigots on mountain ridges are ok to drink from, though you may need to wait your turn.

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Route / Conditions :

  • The Alpine Pass Route crosses sixteen mountain passes. There isn’t much in the way of flat terrain. According to the ActivityWorkshop.net, during the hike there is 19,600 metres (12.1 miles) of elevation gain and 19,500 metres (12.1 miles) of elevation loss. The equivalent of 2.2 Mt.Everest’s; just with lots more opportunities to load up on Lindt chocolate and fondue along the way. Speaking of which, if you happen to be on one of those non-dairy diets, this is probably not the hike for you.
  • The way is marked by regular yellow and black signposts, which provide estimated hiking times to the next pass and/or village.
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Yours truly on pass #7.

  • In the year 2000, the Alpine Pass Route was amalgamated into a larger trans Alpine system of trails known as the Via Alpina. As a result, green signposts bearing the white number “1” and the title ‘Via Alpina’ now appear along much of the route.

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Side Trips:

  • Fans of Sherlock Holmes should not miss the side trip to Reichanbach falls. Situated close to the village of Meiringin, this is the place where Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty had their final showdown. As a lifelong fan of Conan Doyle’s short stories, it represented one of the highlights of my walk!

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  • James Bond aficionados (I’m one of those too!) should walk or take the cable car from the village of Murren up to the Schilthorn (see photo below). This was Blofeld’s home base in On her Majesty’s Secrtet Service. Incredible views!

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Sleeping :

  • Wide array of options including mountain huts, hostels, hotels, organized campgrounds and guesthouse-type accommodation. If you choose to do so, you could definitely get by without a tent on this hike. See the ActivityWorkshop.net for detailed accommodation information.
  • Although officially discouraged, “wild” camping is tolerated as long as discretion and no trace principles are practiced. In other words, set up your shelter at dusk, head off early the next morning and avoid camping too close to huts, villages or towns.

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Overview :

  • Hiking in Switzerland is like rambling through a big postcard come to life. Beautiful mountain scenery and charming centuries-old villages combine in a wonderful fusion of natural and cultural elements.
  • This walk is not for those seeking long periods of solitude. Switzerland is a small country, and understandably many of its residents love to hike. In addition, you will most likely meet more than a few foreign hikers in the beautiful Bernese Oberland region.
  • If you’re looking for some alone time, my advice is to bring your own shelter and do at least some of your hiking in the very early mornings and/or late afternoons. By doing so, you gift yourself the opportunity to experience one of Europe’s most beautiful alpine regions all to yourself.

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Comments

Alpine Pass Route — 7 Comments

  1. Thanks Cam
    I spent 3 weeks in Switzerland in August /Sept walking in Bernese Oberland and Zermatt – it’s a hikers dream and while not cheap wasn’t too bad on the wallet – ( maybe living in Western Austalia colours my opinion). Apart from in the vicinity of funicular stations and tourist attractions didn’t bump into too many other walkers. Flew from there to join my wife on the Camino – there definitely were a lot of walkers on that and Sarrio to Santiago was a procession.
    Thanks again for a great website- it’s an inspiration
    Mike Ainley

  2. Great info. I’m hoping to do this hike and work from the internet along the way. Do you know if you can get cellphone/internet along the route?

    • I did the hike in 1997, so I can’t say from personal experience. However, I’d be surprised if there weren’t plenty of places along the route where you would have cell reception.

      Cheers,

      Cam

    • If you choose the correct provider you’ll have cellphone/internet connection about 85-90% of the way. Maybe not always the fastest, but it’ll be there. You can forget wifi up in the mountains. For that you’ll have to go down in the valleys.

  3. Amazing Idea! Were in zermatt area this summer and i love the hikes. So now i think i find my way back to that country 👍

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