Schöllenen Gorge is a wild, yet beautiful natural gorge located between Göschenen and Andermatt. The Schöllenen Gorge is a narrow and winding passage characterized by the powerful flow of the Reuss River cascading over rocky terrain. On one side of the gorge, towering cliffs add to its dramatic and rugged beauty. In this article, we will have a look at the Schöllenen Gorge and the famous Devil’s Bridge near Andermatt, Switzerland.
The Schöllenen Gorge is known for its stunning scenery, which includes rushing waterfalls, clear turquoise waters, and steep, jagged walls.
Overview: Schöllenen Gorge
Schöllenen Gorge is a narrow canyon located in Canton Uri between Göschenen and Andermatt. The gorge is approximately 1.5 kilometers long and is carved out of the Gotthard Massif, a large mountain range that borders Valais, Ticino, Uri, and Graubünden. The region of Gotthard in itself is fascinating being the water castle of Europe where the rivers Reuss, Rhine, and Ticino get their source from.
Schöllenen Gorge is located in what was once one of the major trade routes between the North and South. In Switzerland’s case, it provided means to get from Germany to the north to Italy to the south (or the other way around).
Nowadays, it is one of the most popular places to visit around Andermatt. The Schöllenen Gorge can be accessed by foot or bicycle, offering a closer, firsthand experience of its captivating beauty. In fact, I would highly recommend that you discover it this way. But you may also admire the gorge from the comfort of a train or car, providing alternative perspectives of its awe-inspiring landscapes.
History of Schöllenen Gorge
Although it is hard to find ample recorded history surrounding the Schöllenen Gorge, its true significance lies in its role as a vital trade route. To navigate this treacherous terrain, building a bridge was an essential requirement. And this was likely done with the help of the Walser people, known for their expertise in living and navigating mountainous landscapes.
With determination and perseverance, they managed to forge a link between the two sides, connecting distant lands and fostering trade between the North and South. The Devil’s Bridge near Schöllenen Gorge opened in the year 1200.
As time progressed and the people recognized the need for safer accessibility, the construction of the Urnerloch came into existence. This remarkable feat of engineering joined the southern, mountain-side end of the Schöllenen Gorge with the Urseren Valley, forming a vital part of the route over the legendary Gotthard Pass.
Nowadays, there are better ways to get from the north to the south, including the newly built Gotthard Base Tunnel. Nonetheless, Schöllenen Gorge remains a popular tourist destination, known for its historical significance and natural beauty.
Exploring Schöllenen Gorge truly prompts reflection on its captivating history and the remarkable feats of the past. Its history is as fascinating as its natural beauty.
Hiking from Andermatt to Göschenen
The journey from Andermatt to Göschenen takes you through the Schöllenen Gorge, characterized by a descent into its captivating depths. Along the way, you’ll encounter a steep cliff on one side, adorned with numerous stones.
NOTE: It’s important to note that some of these stones pose a risk of falling, so it is advised to maintain a brisk pace through this section rather than lingering to take pictures.
In fact, while walking here, you will see evidence of past landslides. There are large boulders scattered throughout Schöllenen Gorge. These are the direct result of the unstable rocks in the region, which are constantly shifting and moving.
The mesmerizing turquoise-colored waters of the Reuss River flow through the gorge, evoking similarities to the scenic Verzasca River and the picturesque Valle Verzasca.
Fresh water creates wonderful cascades and miniature waterfalls at certain points throughout the hike. The soothing sounds and the fluid movements of the water add to the serene ambiance of the surroundings. I have to admit that the danger of falling rocks kept me preoccupied as well, but not one single piece fell while I was walking.
Towards the end of the gorge, you’ll reach an ancient bridge called Häderlisbrücke that serves as the gateway to Göschenen. Crossing this bridge allows you to follow in the footsteps of those who traversed this path in the past, symbolizing a connection to history and exploration.
The Schöllenen Gorge presents a combination of fascinating elements, from the perilous stones lining the steep cliff to the striking turquoise waters reminiscent of other scenic locations in Switzerland. It is a sight to behold and a highly recommended experience.
Attractions around Schöllenen Gorge
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Schöllenen Gorge is what’s called Teufelsbrücke (translated to Devil’s Bridge). This historic bridge opened in the year 1200, and was constructed with the help of the devil himself according to the local legend.
Before the Devil’s Bridge was built, the Schöllenen Gorge was considered impassable.
The Devil’s Bridge spans the Reuss River and offers stunning views of the surrounding valley. At one end of the bridge, there is a notable painted image of a red devil. The image serves as a distinctive feature of this historic and famous bridge. This striking bridge is also an important cultural landmark, as it was an important trade route in the past and a testament to the engineering skills of that time.
Russian Monument (Suworow Monument)
A prominent monument called Suworow Monument stands on the rock face in the vicinity of Schöllenen Gorge. This monument commemorates the courageous Russian soldiers led by General Alexander Wassiljewitsch Suworow. On the 25th of September 1799, these soldiers valiantly fought against French troops in the Schöllenen region.
During those years, the local inhabitants around Andermatt faced a tumultuous period as the valley became a recurring target for occupation by Austrian, French, and Russian forces. The presence of up to 10,000 soldiers in the area placed significant strain on the local population, who made commendable efforts to assist and support the troops.
It would take years for the region to recover from the hardships endured during this challenging period. Nowadays, visitors to the Schöllenen Gorge can still witness the imposing monument perched upon the rock face, serving as a powerful reminder of the conflicts that unfolded in the region.
Franzosen-Platz (French Place)
In the context of Switzerland’s commitment to neutrality, another noteworthy feature in the vicinity of the Schöllenen Gorge is the commemoration of the battle against the Russian troops, aptly named the French Place (Franzosen-Platz). Located near the Russian Monument, this designated area showcases a beautiful painting depicting the historic conflict that took place on the Devil’s Bridge, where the French forces clashed with the Russian army.
It is worth noting that the French place was inaugurated exactly 200 years after the event, marking its official unveiling on September 25, 1999. This commemorative site serves as a poignant reminder of the tumultuous past and the sacrifices made during the intense battles that once unfolded in this very location.
By recognizing both sides of the historical conflict, the Swiss display a commitment to preserving the memory of these significant events while upholding their stance of neutrality. Visitors to the Schöllenen Gorge can witness these poignant tributes and reflect upon the complex history that shaped the region.
Switzerland, known for its long-standing policy of armed neutrality, has made significant investments in fortifications to protect its borders and ensure the defense of its territory. During the late 19th century, the Gotthard area underwent fortification measures, including the construction of fortresses, barracks, and bunkers.
As part of this military infrastructure, the Schöllenen Gorge played a significant role. In extreme circumstances, the Swiss were prepared to demolish the Devil’s Bridge if it meant protecting their country. Tunnel passages were carved through the mountains to provide alternate routes through the gorge.
Military installations like these can be found in various regions across the country, but they are particularly relevant along important routes, such as mountain passes and key transportation corridors. You will be able to see it here in Schöllenen Gorge when you visit. Structures like these would ensure the defense within Switzerland against potential outside attacks.
Rock Climbing, Hiking, and Biking
For those who love the outdoors, the Schöllenen Gorge offers a variety of activities that you can do. From short circular hiking trails that showcase the history and natural beauty of the area to longer hiking trails going all the way to Göschenen. If you would like to do the short circular trail, simply follow the sign called Rundweg Schöllenen.
Those who are into rock climbing can also do it in this region. Called Via Ferrata Diavolo, this climbing route has 350 step pins, 700 meters of steel cable, 185 anchors, and two ladders. It starts right at the Suvorov memorial.
There is also a Bike Route 3 (North-South Route) through Schöllenen Gorge that begins in Flüelen and ends in Andermatt. The route begins in Altdorf before heading through Attinghausen, Erstfeld, Amsteg, Intschi, Gurtnellen, Wassen UR, and Göschenen. In the vicinity of Schöllenen Gorge, the bike route crosses the lower Devil’s Bridge dating from 1830, before finally reaching the mountain resort Andermatt.
Final Thoughts: Schöllenen Gorge and Devil’s Bridge
The Schöllenen Gorge offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and historical significance. As one of the most remarkable natural landmarks in Switzerland, the gorge attracts visitors from around the world. Its history dates back centuries, with the famous Devil’s Bridge serving as a testament to the engineering prowess of the past.
Hiking from Andermatt to Göschenen allows adventurous travelers to immerse themselves in the breathtaking surroundings of the Schöllenen Gorge. The route offers stunning views of the rugged cliffs and rushing waters, providing an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts. Along the way, visitors can encounter several attractions, such as the Suworow Monument and Franzosen-Platz, each adding its own unique touch to the area’s historical narrative.
However, the true gem of the Schöllenen Gorge remains the legendary Devil’s Bridge. With its intriguing folklore and awe-inspiring architecture, the bridge stands as a testament to human ingenuity and determination. It’s a place where history and natural beauty intersect, leaving visitors in awe of its grandeur.
The Schöllenen Gorge in Switzerland is a fantastic destination near Andermatt. With its rich history, stunning beauty, and impressive engineering, it offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or an engineering enthusiast, this destination has it all.
I highly recommend dropping by!
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.