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Rhine Gorge – The Swiss Grand Canyon

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Darla

It is no secret that Switzerland is home to some of the most scenic natural scenery in the world. Apart from lakes, glaciers, and mountain peaks, Switzerland also has gorges. One of the most popular gorges is called the Rhine Gorge.

In this article, we’ll talk about the Rhine Gorge and how to get there.

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

Overview: Rhine Gorge

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com
Gorge:Rhine Gorge (English)
Rheinschlucht (German)
Rinualta (Romansh)
Length:13 kilometers
Depth:400 meters
Location:Between Ilanz and Reichenau, Grisons
Bodies of Water:Anterior Rhine
Mountains:Glarus Alps
Lepontine Alps

History of Rhine Gorge

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

A Romansh name, Rinualta, combines Ruina, which means scree slope, with aulta, which means high. This name refers to a steep mountain slope of rock fragments and other debris. 10,000 years ago, the Rhine Gorge was formed by massive cubic meters of rock breaking off from the Flims landslide.

The Flims landslide was the biggest in the Alps with over seven cubic kilometers of rock falling. In the years that passed, the river carved a deep rift in the massive rock. This resulted in the Rhine Gorge’s cliffs and imposing shapes.

After this landslide, we now have a beautiful region filled with activities. You will find rare birds, spruces, beeches, firs, gravel banks, orchids, butterflies, hiking trails, walking paths, etc.

Rhine Gorge is part of Geopark Sardona, a tectonic area that includes the Glarner Overthurst UNESCO World Heritage site. By focusing on geology, geological history, and mining (visitor mines), the Geopark itself offers adventures and educational experiences. Other places in the Geopark include Seerenbach Falls, Tamina Gorge, Berglistüber Waterfall, and more.

The Rhine Gorge is incredibly picturesque with its craggy rocks, dense forests, and flowing river. 


How to Get to Rhine Gorge

You can get magnificent views of the Rhine Gorge on many different paths. There are several ways to get there: hiking, walking, biking, river rafting, or taking the train.

I recommend one of two things: 1) Hiking from Flims – Il Spir Viewpoint – Versam-Safien or 2) taking the Rhine Gorge Adventure Train.


How to Get to Rhine Gorge by Hiking

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

Rhine Gorge can be reached via a variety of trails. Here is a fantastic resource regarding all the hiking trails with fantastic views of the Rhine Gorge: Graubünden Hiking Trails and WegWandern.ch. I recommend the following hikes:

  • Flims-Caumasee-Conn-Versam-SafienFlims, Waldhaus is the starting point for this trail. The hiking trail leads to Caumasee after that. Continuing along the beautiful lake, you’ll reach the Il Spir platform. Once you’ve viewed the Rhine Gorge from the viewing platform, you can descend into the valley through the dense forest until you reach the bottom. After you cross the bridge, you can walk along the Rhine River until you reach Versam-Safien station. From there, you can wait for your train back home. 
  • Tuora (656.3) – Although this hike is similar to the Flims-Caumasee-Conn-Versam-Safien trail, it goes via Salums. It also returns to Flims Waldhaus rather than ending at Versam-Safien Train Station.
  • Senda Rinualta (659) – Starting in Laax, Staderas, this hike also takes you to Caumasee and Il Spir.
  • Plangga (656.9) – This is a short trail from Versam-Safien until Versamer Tobel.

Make sure that you check the Flims Laax website to find out if any hiking trails are closed before visiting.


How to Get to Rhine Gorge by Train

Image of a Train passing by Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

If you can, I recommend hiking around Rhine Gorge, because I think the views are much better from up there. Alternatively, you can take the train if you aren’t keen or able or don’t have the right gear.

Train rides to the Rhine Gorge are enjoyable on the Rhine Gorge Adventure Train (Erlebniszug Rheinschlucht in German). It’s available on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-May to mid-October. In summer, the Rhine Gorge Adventure Train runs even more often (usually from the end of June to the end of August). Similar to the Historical Trains that travel from Davos to Filisur, this train has open observation cars.

It’s also possible to view the gorge from inside the train. Trains from Chur take you directly to the Rhine Gorge, so no hiking is required.

Depending on which part of Rhine Gorge you want to see, you can go to the following train stops: Trin, Versam-Safien, and Valendas-Sagogn.

Train StopDuration of the train journey from Chur
Trin15 minutes
Versam-Safien20 minutes
Valendas-Sagogn25 minutes

How to Get to Rhine Gorge by Biking

Cycling is also an option if that’s what you prefer. Trail 260 is known as the Rhine Gorge Tour (Rheinschluchttour). The bike trail leads from Laax to Flims, Trin, Tamins, Bonaduz, Versam, Valendas, Ilanz, Sagogn, and back. It’s advisable to do it over multiple days.

Those cycling with electric bikes can find various charging stations in the region.


Viewing Platforms of Rhine Gorge

Image of Il Spir Viewing Platform by TouringSwitzerland.com

There are many other viewing platforms from which to see the Rhine Gorge. The most famous viewpoint is called Il Spir near Flims and Caumasee.

Viewing PlatformLocationDescription
Il SpirConnThe viewing platform with the most impressive views of the Rhine Gorge, in my opinion. This panoramic view shows the gorge from 180 degrees. There is a wonderful restaurant called Restaurant Conn near the platform.
IslabordVersamFrom Versam Village, you can reach a viewing platform within minutes. In addition, there is a bus station nearby.
ZaultTrinThe spiral viewing platform can be reached by hiking from Trin Station. You get fantastic views of the Rhine Gorge from here.
WackenauBonaduzThis viewing platform lies slightly above the Wackenau Ruins (Burg Wackenau). You can reach it by hiking from Trin Station or Bonaduz.
AlixValendasFrom the platform, the visitor enjoys an impressive view of the confluence of the Carrera stream. The viewing platform is accessible via the hiking trail from Valendas village.
Punt RinualtaTrinDespite not being a viewing platform, this timber bridge provides a magnificent view of the Rhine River and is close to many other viewpoints. The bridge spans the Rhine and is supported by steel girders.

I highly recommend heading over to Il Spir from Flims, Waldhaus. This viewing platform has the best views of the Rhine Gorge. Here is the location of Il Spir should you wish to visit it:


Final Thoughts: Rhine Gorge

Image of Rhine Gorge by TouringSwitzerland.com

Rhine Gorge is much wider than other gorges in Switzerland, requiring more than an hour to explore. It is much larger than the others like Aare Gorge near Interlaken or Gorner Gorge in Zermatt, as trains can even pass through it.

Despite its name, the Swiss Grand Canyon cannot be compared to the Grand Canyon of the United States. One difference is that rather than orange hues, the rocks are more whiteish-gray. The gorge is also dotted with more trees and the Rhine River. In addition, the Rhine Gorge is considerably smaller than the Grand Canyon, around only 3% of its size.

So, if you enjoyed the Grand Canyon, the Rhine Gorge should be right up your alley if you’re looking for Switzerland’s version. Despite not exactly being the same, it is still special in its way.

The Rhine Gorge is easily accessible by foot or public transportation. For a more relaxing experience, you can also ride the Rhine Gorge Adventure train in the summer. Rhine Gorge is a wonderful place to visit, and I highly recommend it.

Resources

  • Rheinschlucht – www.rheinschlucht.ch
  • RhB. Im Naturwunder: Eindrucksvolle Rheinschlucht. Contura, Herbst/Winter 2022/23.

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Darla 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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