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.


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!


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.

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 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 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.


  • 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.


Route / Conditions :

  • The Alpine Pass Route crosses sixteen mountain passes. There isn’t much in the way of flat terrain. According to the, 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.

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.


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!


  • 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!


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 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.



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.




Alpine Pass Route — 25 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.



    • 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 👍

  4. Thanks for the review. Thinking of going there in July but start from the Geneva Area.Which section do you think is the best for 8 days ? Thanka

    • Depending on the snow, late June to early October. September is ideal; good weather and not so many people on the trails as school holidays are over.

  5. This hike looks terrific! I’m planning a 5-6 day hike at the beginning of September and thought part of this would be great to do (other option is half of the tour mont rosa). I think it’d be nice to finish around Grindelwald/Eiger area, so would you recommend coming from the east or west? We are looking for a challenging, beautiful hike and will be carrying all our gear (tent, etc.). In general what would your recommendation be for just some of this hike? We will be spending some days in the Lausanne area, so I’m not worried about not seeing Montreux and Lac Léman.

    • Either direction would be great, and by going in early September you will miss the school holiday crowds. You really can’t go wrong hiking in the Bernese Oberland – it’s a beautiful region! Best of luck on your trip.

  6. Did this route in long sections this summer, just still have to go from Gstaad to Montreux (38 miles). Were the cow swamps also a problem 20 years ago? Mountain farmers seem to have geared up with their cows (heavier species), many pastures were really swampy and a mix from manure and deep holes in the ground. The ascent from Grindelwald to Jungfrau is near completely on asphalt and the tourist towns have a lot of new attractions for their obviously bored guests.

  7. I’m looking at doing this September 2018. Everyone seems to mention going from East to West on Via Alpina. Is there a reason for this, or any problem going from Montreux to Sargans instead?

  8. Hi Mike, I a will hopefully be doing the Alpina Pass this August 2018. I used to live in Vaduz, Liechtenstein which is very close to Sargans. I have done tons of local unknown to tourist day hikes throughout Liechtenstein and the Sargans valley. Your post has brought back so many nice memories I had while living there. Hopefully, I can relive some of these memories while visiting again this year.
    Portland, ME

      • Hi Cam aka Mike (haha),
        I noticed you haven’t hiked in Romania. I just got back from Romania and there seems to be alot of hike trails. The areas I was looking into were the Bucegi Mtns and the Piatra Craiului National Park, and Poiana Brasov. However, Romania has lots of bears.. like Alaska but no grizzlies. So, people have cautioned me to hiking alone in these trails without having lots of bear protection… I have really liked the Brasov area which is in Transylvania… still old world charm, 14th century fortressed walls, gothic churches, forts, clock towers, etc….a little pagan and wild, and not too touristy..yet…
        If it does pique your interests, let me know your feedback.

        • Hey Karen,

          Romania certainly does pique my interest. It is a place I have thought about going for many years. I remember picking up a copy of a “Hiking Guide to Romania” by Bradt publications in a bookstore in Brisbane almost two decades ago. I still have the book, though I suspect some of the logistical info may be a little bit outdated. Hopefully I’ll make it there sometime in the not too distant future.

          Thanks very much for the message!



    • Hi Karen,

      I’m going to be on the Alpine Pass at roughly the same time as you August/September 2018. I’m looking at continuing on into Liechtenstein and then going to Munich (likely by train/bus). Would love to hear more about the area, learn anything useful, share experience. If you want, or anyone else who’s interested, feel free to connect with me at

  9. Hi Cameron!

    Fred the sepo tank here. Came across your site. What a treasure!
    :-)…hope all is well! I’d love to get back to the AP route and actually do the whole thing before time gets too far by.

    • Hey Fred,

      Talk about a blast from the past……great to hear from you! I can’t believe it’s been almost 22 years since we hiked together in Switzerland. Hope all is well with you in the States. I also hope you make it back to the Alps one of these days to finish off the rest of the Alpine Pass Route.

      Thanks a lot for dropping me a line. You just made my morning!



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