Best time to visit Switzerland

Great St Bernard Pass in Switzerland

A scenic mountain pass that gdot famous thanks to its dogs

Best time: June–September

Great St Bernard Pass
Great St Bernard Pass
Great St Bernard Pass
Great St Bernard Pass

Great St Bernard Pass or Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard connects Martigny, Canton of Valais in Switzerland to Aosta, Italy. With an elevation of 2,469 m (8,100 ft), the road over the pass can be buried under 10 meters of snow in winter, and the temperatures drop below -20°C. Naturally, the road is closed to traffic roughly from mid-October to early June, so you can drive up there from June to September. For the traffic updates, please check the My Swiss Alps website.

Great St Bernard Pass is the third highest road pass in Switzerland attracting lots of transit from Geneva to Torino and back. The pass road has also been featured several times in the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia bicycle races. But most of all, the pass is known for the Saint Bernard dogs that had been bred here by the monks centuries ago.

People have been using the pass since the Bronze Age. Romans crossed it with Julius Caesar in 57 BC, and the French with Napoleon in 1800. The asphalted road was built here in 1905.

From Sembrancher, Switzerland, the climb takes about 30 km (18.5 mi) with an elevation gain of 1,752 m (5,748 ft) and a 5.7 % gradient. When driving from Aosta, the ascent is 32 km (20 mi) long with an elevation gain of 1,878 m (6,161 ft) and 5.9 % gradient.

The beautiful winding road over St Bernard Pass boasts panoramic alpine views. The summit features the lake that is frozen for about 265 days every year. There is also the Great St Bernard Hospice on top of the pass that dates back to 1049. The monks still live there and maintain the pass that has become an icon of the Alps thanks to the engagement of St Bernard dogs in rescue operations in the mountains during the 17th century. Visitors can still see those amazing dogs in summer or visit a dog museum in Martigny to learn their story.

You can also hike or cycle to the top of St Bernard Pass for a truly rewarding experience. Hikers can enjoy flower-filled meadows, ruins of one of Charlemagne's castles, and parts of the old Roman road on their way.

Practical info

When is the best time to drive through the Great St Bernard Pass?

From mid-October to early June, the Great St Bernard Pass road is closed due to heavy snowfall and low temperatures. Visitors can drive through the pass between June to September, which is the recommended period for favorable weather and clear views of the surrounding alps. The pleasant weather conditions make the drive through the pass enjoyable. Show more

Where can I find updates on traffic conditions in the Great St Bernard Pass area?

The My Swiss Alps website provides up-to-date details about traffic updates and closures in the Great St. Bernard Pass area. Visitors can access the website to stay informed about current road conditions, which is especially important during the winter season when heavy snowfall can increase road closures through the pass. Show more

What is the elevation gain like when driving from Sembrancher, Switzerland to the Great St Bernard Pass?

Driving from Sembrancher takes visitors 30 km from the summit, with a 5.7% gradient and 1,752m of elevation gain. Although this may be challenging, the scenic vistas of the surrounding alps make it worthwhile for tourists. The drive to the pass summit provides a chance to take in the beautiful alpine scenery and mountainous region. Show more

Can visitors tour the Great St Bernard Hospice?

Monks still occupy the Great St Bernard Hospice, built-in 1049 to house travelers making the journey through the pass. Visitors can tour the hospice, including the breeding of the famous St Bernard dogs. It is a historical site located at the summit of the pass, and tourists can learn about its history and ancient architecture, while enjoying scenic views of the surrounding area. Show more

What can hikers see while trekking to the top of St Bernard Pass?

Hikers trekking to the top of St Bernard Pass can enjoy scenic Alps' views, flower-filled meadows, and the ruins of Charlemagne's castle. They can also explore sections of the old Roman roads traversing the region. Hiking to the pass summit offers a chance to appreciate the stunning outdoor scenery and scenery, making it a memorable experience for family and friends. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Great St Bernard Pass (Map)

Last updated: