When a valley engraves itself into the heart of a mountainbiker
Last summer Ben and I decided to finally cross of some trails in the Valais that have been too long on our bucket list. We both already know the Valais and its trails relatively well from a lot of weekend trips over the years.
However, this time we want to spend 10 days in a row to get to know even more trails without having to drive forth and back between our home in Lucerne and a destination in the Valais. This way we also have some more time to discover more what this beautiful valley has to offer besides its amazing mountainbike trails.
First step: Get a camper
Our trip starts in Bern where we meet Thomas from yellowcamper. He hands us one of his fully equipped, yellow-grey campers and wishes us a lot of fun on our little discovery mission. The small camper offers all we need on our roadtrip. Even an independent vehicle heater in case it gets cold during the night (yes, we needed it).
First stop: Crans Montana
A bit later on the same day we reach our first destination; Crans-Montana. The La Moubra campground is located in the center of the village, next to a small lake and close to the Crans-Montana bikepark as well as at the start of trails that get you down towards Sierre.
We plan to stay for two nights and will meet two friends, Martina and Roman that know the MTB trails around Crans-Montana much better than we do. Both have been coming biking in this region for years and are looking forward to show us their favorite trails.
The view of the Rhone valley, the sun exposed location, the glacier and the five lakes make Crans-Montana the perfect place for mountain bikers
Crans-Montana offers numerous marked cross-country and enduro routes suitable to all levels. Plus, the view of the Rhone Valley, the sun exposure, the glacier and the five lakes make Crans-Montana the perfect place for mountain bikers.
It has rained all night long and it is still raining when we leave in the morning. To warm up we decided to do a few laps in the bike park. The red, as well as the black bikepark track, offer lots of fun features to ride. The red is more kind of a flowtrail with some optional jumps, the black track is a bit rougher and gets more difficult with speed. Also there are some scenic points along the way, which we have to imagine today, the heavy fog makes it impossible to see the panorama.
Drifting or rather sliding around in the mud is fun and it was just the right decision to start the day with some laps in the park. What we did not expect while trying to stay on our bike on muddy, offcamber roots was, that we would soon end up on dusty trails.
After lunch we decided to try some of the trails from Crans-Montana down to Sierre. Only a few meters below Crans Montana, the usually super dry and dusty trails sogged up all the rain and were for once tacky. But, as already mentioned, they were already starting to get dusty again. So much variety in such a small space – its impossible to not like this place!
A snowy end to our plans
The plan for the second day was to take the gondola up to Pleine Morte and take from there an endless trail with around 2500m of denivelation down into the valley. Unfortunately, the low hanging clouds and the fresh snow that had fallen in the night made this impossible. Roman quickly found a suitable alternative option and suggests to head over to the other side of the Rhone valley, where the climate is completely different, the targeted mountain not as high and therefore nor snow, neither rain has fallen.
Roman wants to show us one of his favorite tours in the regions – the Illhorn. For that we need to take a postal bus (important, you need to reserve your bike spots on weekends – here: http://www.resabike.ch) in Sierre. To get to the bus station we can simply take one of the many trails from Crans-Montana down to Sierre. This time we took the official bike trail – which starts just behind the campground.
The bus from Sierre to Chandolin is alreay waiting and we load our bikes onto the bike rack in the back of the bus. If there are many reservations, they will add a bike trailer capable of transporting around 20 bikes.
In Chandolin awaits us another shuttle, this time in form of a chairlift that takes us up to Tsapé where a short uphill starts up to the Illhorn at 2716 m.a.s.l. The panorama up there is unique and the summit perfect to have a bite to eat before we approach a long and sometimes quite technical descent.
There are a couple of trails that we could access from the Illhorn down into the Rhone valley. This time we have chosen the trail that descents just next to the Illsee, which starts flowy but has some technical high alpine sections. The descent in the midst of the wildest nature is worthwhile, even if one has to walk a few meters.
When we arrive in Leuk, we take the train and cablecar to get back to Crans-Montana together with our bikes. What a day! We are gratefull for the Swiss Public transportation which saved us today most of the climbing as well as the long ride back in the valley!
Great wine to end a great day!
Since we made it back from the Illhorn in the early evening, we could even integrate some wine tasting on one of the many wineries of the region – What a day!
We love good wine and so does Jaques Cordonier. Jaques has been running the family business „Cordonier & Lamon“ in Flanthey, founded in 1945, for fifteen years and grows over 20 different old and new grape varieties on 25 hectares.
What we experienced in the following three hours was a wine tasting of a very special kind. Jaques gave us glass after glass of fantastic wine to taste, while he immersed us in his world as wine lovers and winegrowers. Chatting with Jaques was very enriching and we learned a lot! We will definitely come back again, because he still has so many exciting stories and wines in stock that we haven’t tried yet.
For me, Verbier is one of the best places in Switzerland to bike.
Ben and I met Ludo and Nancy a year ago at the Swiss Epic. When they found out that we were roadtripping and biking in Valais, Ludo immediately invited us to Verbier. Biking in Verbier – of course we had no second thoughts about that!
For me, Verbier is one of the best places in Switzerland for biking. The bike park with its five different routes covers everything I enjoy in biking. Additionally, numerous other trails outside the park can be combined with the park tracks, which leads to an absolute Bike Eldorado.
Ludo and Nancy show us the other side of Verbier and take us on a tour up to 2471 m.a.s.l. to the Col de Mille. The ascent via Bruson takes a while, but as soon as you arrive at the top of Cabane Col de Mille, you are rewarded with a spacious sun terrace, deckchairs and delicious stews.
Every meter pedaling, carrying and pushing the bike was worth it, because again a seemingly endless descent awaits us. A flowing single trail winds along the mountain ridge past the Six Blanc to Alp Larzai where the path leads into the forest and offers pure techflow. After about 1600 meters of single trails we reach Le Châble tired but happy.
And how do you end a perfect day in Verbier? Of course, with a delicious raclette. The municipality of Le Châble in the Valais is unofficially regarded as the capital and birthplace of this Swiss national dish.
We load up our bikes and drive to the wildly romantic „end of the world“ to the campsite Forêt des Mélèzes et village Sioux. A place that couldn’t be more perfect for a small road trip adventure.
Need some more adrenaline besides the bike? We tried paragliding in Verbier, depending on how well you cope with nothing under your feet, this could get you into more adrenaline as the DH track. So if you want to get off the ground for a bit longer than on the jumps in the Verbier bikepark, Flyverbier offers tandem paragliding flights.
After the eventful days in Verbier we are moving on with our yellowcamper – two more destinations in Upper Valais are waiting for us.
The variety of trails in Grächen knows no boundaries and we feel that bikers are welcome guests here.
Grächen is located in the Mattertal and as the name suggests, the Matterhorn and Zermatt are not far away. Zermatt is currently investing heavily in mountain biking and will soon host the first EWS Enduro race in Switzerland during their Traillove Festival. But Grächen is not second to his big brother. At least that’s what we think.
We stay the night at Nils and Caro’s place in St. Niklaus near Grächen. The campground in Grächen is currently closed. However, there are a few nice and affordable hotel options – we listed a few options at the end of this article.
We got to know Nils and Caro, two Alsatians, a year ago on a ski tour. She is a former professional downhill biker and he is a passionate photographer and physiotherapist and have been living in Valais for over 5 years now. They know every trail around Grächen inside out.
On the next morning, before we get on our bikes, a very special experience awaits us. It is still dark when we meet the local ranger from Grächen at the valley station of the Hannigalp cable car. This morning he and his colleague lead us to exclusive spots where we can spot chamois, ibex and marmots from a close range and all of that during sunrise. To start the day this way is unique and will be remembered forever.
Nils and Caro take us both days on two completely different tours. The focus is clearly on the descents. We spent a day in Grächen on the fast, dusty and rough trails between the Suonen. On the second day we change the valley side and ride a breathtaking tour from Moosalp to Jungen where we sleep in a small hut next to a flock of sheeps. The next morning greets us with a great trail down to St. Niklaus.
Gondolas and Postbuses transport us everywhere. The latter transform boring asphalt ascents into relaxed rides. Perfect when the focus is on the descents and/or climbs further up in the mountains and don’t want to loose too much energy and time on the access roads.
Not only Zermatt will host an international race in the future, the XC Marathon World Championships 2019 will take place in Grächen.
Grächen is a bike destination with endless potential. Both the local population and tourism support the sport and see the future in mountain bike tourism. We also feel that all types of bikers are welcome.
After a few days in Grächen we make our short way up to Zermatt. Or well, to Täsch where we stay at a campsite just next to a stream.
Zermatt scores with a breathtaking scenery. Almost respectfully we get on our bikes and ride the first few meters in the middle of this breathtaking mountain and glacier scenery.
Zermatt is already the last stop of our roadtrip. We are accompanied by Daniela and Niklaus who arrived the next morning with their van – they chose to stay the campsite in Täsch, as well. Both passionate mountain bikers and absolute Zermatt fans take numerous guests to the trail paradise at the foot of the Matterhorn every year with their guiding company Trailstar MTB.
Zermatt scores with a breathtaking mountain scenery, as the village is surrounded by 38 mountain peaks over 4’000m. It also scores with its natural, technically more demanding trails, its traditional restaurant culture and its almost unlimited transport possibilities. In addition, Zermatt is currently building a total of five flow trails around the village to offer bike trails suited for families or less experienced bikers. All this guarantees an unforgettable mountain bike experience for any mountainbiker.
The trip up to the Gornergrat takes about 45 minutes. This must be mountain bike heaven at 3133 m.a.s.l. Almost respectfully we get on our bikes and ride the first few meters in the middle of this breathtaking mountain- and glacier scenery. Immediately, the highest concentration is required, because the descent is rather technical. Most of the trails down from Gornergrat to Zermatt have at least one of the following traits; technically challenging, exposed, stony and/or steep.
But Zermatt also has a gentler side. The newly built flowtrails around the village offer maximum riding fun for every level.
The days in Zermatt are long, so it is already late when we arrive at the campsite in Täsch. We cook something small, pour ourselves a good glass of Valais wine and sit together comfortably with Daniela and Niklaus, chat until well into the night and already make plans for further great adventures with our bikes.
Tomorrow we go back home again. What remains for us are countless memories of a valley that has carved itself even deeper into our hearts and that we will certainly visit again.
Yellowcamper from CHF 49.- / Day – www.yellowcamper.ch
Crans-Montana: La Moubra – www.campingmoubra.ch
Verbier: Camping Forêt des Mélèzes et village Sioux – www.bonatchiesse.ch
Zermatt: Täsch – www.campingtaesch.ch
Aktiv Hotel & Spa Hannigalp ***S – www.hannigalp.ch
Hotel Grächerhof Gourmet & Spa ***S – www.graecherhof.ch
Family Hotel & Spa Desirée ***S – www.hoteldesiree.ch
Hotel & Spa La Vallée – www.vallee.ch