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Grimsel Pass: A Scenic Drive from Valais to Bern

Last Updated on October 26, 2023 by Darla Uhl

Grimsel Pass, located at an elevation of 2,164 meters (7,100 feet) above sea level, serves as a mountain pass linking the Bernese area of Haslital with the upper Rhône Valley. It is 16 kilometers away from the legendary Furka Pass.

Image of Grimsel Pass by TouringSwitzerland.com

You can find Grimsel Pass in the barren, mountainous Grimsel Region. The road is famous for its winding paths, scenic vistas of Lake Grimsel, and the historic Grimsel Hotel. From the Grimsel Pass, you will be able to explore the natural wonders of the surrounding area.

Overview: Grimsel Pass

Image of Grimsel Pass Sign and Hotel by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grimsel Pass is a high mountain pass located in the Swiss Alps. It links the Haslital valley in the Bernese Oberland with the Obergoms region in Upper Valais.

The paved road is 38 kilometers long and stretches from Gletsch to Guttanen. It serves as the only direct mountain road pass connecting Bern and Valais, two of Switzerland’s key mountain tourism areas.

Grimsel Pass is the European watershed. To the south, the water flows to the young Rhône, later to the Mediterranean Sea. To the north, the water flows to the Aare, later into the Rhine River until it reaches the North Sea.

Throughout its history, the Grimsel Region has confronted formidable natural challenges, from avalanches to wildfires. It experiences a harsh climate, with extreme temperature fluctuations and heavy snowfall during the winter months.

However, despite its historical association with farming on arduous and less fertile terrain, this region now holds a central position in Switzerland’s energy landscape, thanks to hydroelectric power generation. Abundant precipitation and the melting ice from the glacier have made this area a valuable source of renewable energy, harnessing the forces of nature for sustainable power generation.


Historical Significance of Grimsel Pass

Grimsel Pass has been an important road since ancient times. In 1397, the Grimsel Route contract established standard rules for the residents and, since then, has been used to regulate the upkeep of the roads, trails, and bridges. Grimsel Pass has always been a major trade route connecting northern and southern Europe, in particular Italy and Vindonissa (now in Canton Aargau). The South’s tradesmen exchanged its food for the North’s goods.1

Grimsel’s Hospice served as a refuge for impoverished travelers. Cheese, wine, bread, and wood were available to the travelers here. In time, the hospice would also attract other guests such as academics, painters, and mountaineers. Additionally, it would also be known as a good place to conduct glacier research.2

Grimsel Pass was constructed with the help of the inhabitants of Guttannen and hundreds of Italian construction workers. Between 1891 and 1894, the workers completed the first road. Furthermore, the Marzoli Tunnel (in honor of the foreman Marzoli) opened in 1985, after the original road was threatened by falling rocks from the mountain.3


Grimsel Pass Road Conditions

Image of Grimsel Pass Road and Guard Rails by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grimsel Pass is a narrow and winding mountain pass with steep drops and hairpin turns. The roads are well-maintained and marked with signs. Furthermore, there are safety features such as guard rails.

From Valais, the mountain pass begins similarly to Furka Pass. But you have to turn left instead of heading straight for Furka Pass at the fork in the road. The road is well-maintained and offers a smooth driving experience, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

There are several places on the road where you can stop. In addition, there is a rest stop where you can get some local food and refreshments.

Nonetheless, drivers are advised to exercise caution when driving on the pass. At the top of the mountain pass, we saw several animals crossing the road, so be aware of that too. You can drive here with confidence and have a pleasant driving experience because of the well-maintained roads and infrastructure.


When is the Grimsel Pass Open?

Grimsel Pass is open to traffic from May until the end of October or the beginning of November. During winter months, the mountain pass is closed for safety reasons. Winter can be particularly hazardous due to heavy snowfall and avalanches.

Before beginning a journey, it is recommended that visitors consult the weather forecast, road availability schedule, and road conditions.


Best Tourist Attractions on Grimsel Pass

1. Mountain Peaks in the Bernese Alps

Image of Grimsel Pass by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grimsel Pass is located in the Bernese Alps, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Europe. The pass is surrounded by several peaks, including the following:

  • Sidelhorn (2,765 meters)
  • Finsteraarhorn (4,274 meters)
  • Oberaarhorn (3,629 meters)

2. Lakes in the Grimsel Region

Image of Totensee, a Lake on Grimsel Pass by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grimsel Pass is also home to several stunning lakes and rivers. The largest lake in the area is Lake Grimsel (or Grimselsee), which is located just north of the pass. Another lake near Lake Grimsel is Lake Räterichsboden (or Räterichsbodensee). Both lakes are in Guttannen and are known to be glacier-fed lakes with crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain peaks around them.

At the top of the mountain pass near Grimselpass Hotel is another smaller lake called Lake Toten (or Totensee). Near this lake is a marmot park called Murmeltierpark Grimselpass, as well as numerous hiking trails around the region.

Lake Oberaarsee is another notable lake, though not as close to the mountain pass as those mentioned above. This lake is also a glacier-fed lake and you can see it from its milky white waters.

Aside from the lakes, the Grimsel Region is also known for its rivers, including the Rhône River and the Aare River. While the Aare River flows from Grimsel Pass, the Rhône originates in the Furka Pass.


3. Hiking Trails

Image of Grimsel Pass Hiking Trails (Yellow Signs) by TouringSwitzerland.com

Due to its mountainous landscape, glaciers, lakes, and rivers, Grimsel Pass offers some of Switzerland’s most scenic hiking trails. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Alps while exploring the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Some popular hiking trails include the following:

Hiking TrailDistanceDescription
Grimsel Pass – Sidelhorn7.7 kmHike from Grimsel Pass bus station to Husegghütte and Sidelhorn at 2,764 meters above sea level. From here, you will see Finsteraarhorn, Lauteraarhorn, and Schreckhorn.
Grimsel Pass – Lake Oberaar – Oberaar Glacier19.7 kmHike from Grimsel Pass to the high plateau of Oberaar, passing by Lake Oberaar and the Oberaar Glacier.
Grimsel Hospiz – Oberaar5.7 kmThis hike begins by taking the Sidelhornbahn to the foot of Sidelhorn. From there, you will hike up to Husenegg, before heading over to Triebtessewli and Berghaus Oberaar.

4. Biking Trails

Image from Grimsel Pass Road by TouringSwitzerland.com

There are two main biking routes in Grimsel Pass that are enjoyable thanks to the surrounding mountains and valleys that provide breathtaking views of the Alps.

  • The Grimsel Bike Route (Route 772) allows you to follow the old path along Lake Toten (Totensee) in a southerly direction. It is an 11-kilometer bike trail that will bring you from Grimsel to Obergesteln.
  • The Gämschfax Bike Route (Route 770) from Oberwald to Ulrichen is another bike route in the Grimsel region. This is a challenging bike route that gives you fantastic scenic views of the Goms region.

5. Grimsel Hospiz and the Hydroelectric Power Station

Image of Grimsel Hospiz and Lake Grimsel by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Grimsel Hospiz is a historic hotel that overlooks Lake Grimsel from atop a hill. It is a fantastic choice for those seeking peace and quiet. In winter, this place is an absolute tranquil oasis, perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of life. The hotel opens its doors from June to October and from December to April.

Grimsel Hospiz is located in a wildlife reserve. Thus, winter sports equipment won’t be transported on the railways leading to the Grimsel Hospiz. While it is not a ski resort per se, you can still enjoy winter hikes in the area as well as a hot tub and sauna. And if you really wish to partake in winter sports, you can do so either in Meiringen-Hasliberg or in one of the ski resorts in Valais.

Furthermore, you can also visit the Grimsel 2 Hydroelectric Power Station nearby. There is also a crystal grotto starting at the Grimsel Hospiz.

You may also want to visit the power stations in Innertkirchen and Handeck in addition to Grimsel. Visiting these two power plants will take you 1 hour and 30 minutes each and they are open all year.


How to Get to Grimsel Pass

Image of Sign to Grimsel Pass by TouringSwitzerland.com

You can reach Grimsel Pass from Gletsch in Valais or Guttannen in Bern. You may also reach it by bus from Meiringen or Oberwald Valais.

AddressGrimsel Passhöhe
3999 Obergoms VS
BusGrimsel Passhöhe

Furthermore, the region has the following modes of transportation:

  • Sidelhornbahn – A gondola ride from Grimsel Hospiz across Lake Grimsel up to the foot of the Sidelhorn
  • Oberaarbahn – A gondola ride from the Grimsel Hospiz over Lake Grimsel to Lake Oberaar
  • Hospizbahn – A railway that takes visitors from the foot of Lake Grimsel to the Grimsel Hospiz
  • Gelmerbahn – A steep open funicular that takes visitors from Handeck to Lake Gelmer in twelve minutes
  • Gersteneggbahn (Winter) – Gersteneggbahn takes you from Handeck power plants to the ski tour area and winter hiking trails leading to Grimselpass.

Final Thoughts: Grimsel Pass

Image of Lake Grimsel and Lake Räterichsboden by TouringSwitzerland.com

Located in the Swiss Alps, Grimsel Pass offers a breathtaking journey through some of Switzerland’s most stunning landscapes. You can travel from Bern to Valais via this route and see majestic mountains, tranquil lakes, and awe-inspiring glaciers along the way. A must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and tourists seeking the tranquility of the Swiss Alps, this mountain pass is truly breathtaking.

On Grimsel Pass, safety is a priority, as the road is well-maintained and marked clearly, making the drive safe and enjoyable. Besides the road itself, the pass offers numerous opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. You can capture the beauty with your camera, take a scenic hike, or even ride your bicycle through the pass. Moreover, Grimsel Pass is easily accessible by public transport, with convenient bus routes connecting it to Meiringen and Oberwald VS.

In case you are done visiting Grimsel Pass, you might also want to stop by other interesting places such as the Reichenbach Falls, the Aare Gorge, the Trift Bridge, or the Gadmer Dolomites.

In summary, the Grimsel Pass makes for an unforgettable journey through Switzerland’s mountainous landscape. Whether you’re looking for a picturesque drive, a hiking adventure, or a quiet spot to connect with nature, Grimsel Pass has it all.


Resources

  • 1 Over the Pass with Wine and Cheese. Trade and Transformation in the Grimsel Region. UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.
  • 2 The Grimsel Hospice as a meeting place. Trade and Transformation in the Grimsel Region. UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.
  • 3 Marzoli’s Rock. Trade and Transformation in the Grimsel Region. UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.

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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.

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