Best time to visit Switzerland

Grimsel Pass in Switzerland

The road that crosses the continental divide between the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea

Best time: June–mid-October

Grimsel Pass
Grimsel Pass
Grimsel Pass

The Grimsel Pass is located in the Bernese Alps between the valley of the river Aare, the valley of the river Rhône, at an elevation 2,164 metres (7,100 ft). The pass is traversed by a 38-km (24-mi) paved road that connects Gletsch and Meiringen, Switzerland. The road is open only in the summer, roughly from June to mid-October (during some years also starting in May), because of heavy snowfalls in winter. Therefore, the best way to get to the ski resorts is by local trains. The pass road is a fast and efficient route to get from canton Bern to canton Valais, which also offers amazing views from the summit with an overlook of the Lake Grimsel, Grimsel Hospiz, the town of Gletsch, and Räterichsbodensee reservoir.

The steepest and the most scenic section of the road starts near Handeck where the road features breathtaking hairpin bends and an 850-m (2,790 ft) tunnel to the Räterichsbodensee reservoir. A few more climbs, and drivers get to the scenic Lake Grimsel and the Grimsel Hospiz. This historic hotel located at 1,980 m (6,500 feet) dates back to 1142. In 1932 it was the first electrically heated hotel in Europe. After Grimsel Hospiz, the final climb features a few more switchbacks and hairpin bends before you get to the top. On the way down, the road gets narrow with several blind spots.

When driving through Grimsel Pass, you may want to stop by the Gelmerbahn, the world’s second steepest funicular which ascends from Handeck to Lake Gelmer with a gradient of 106%. In winter it takes skiers to the top when the Grimsel Pass Road is closed. On the east from the town of Grimsel, you can continue along the scenic Furka Pass, one of the highest paved roads in Switzerland.

Grimsel Pass has been used since the Roman times. In 1211, it was crossed by troops of Berthold V, Duke of Zähringen, and has become the major trade route in the Middle Ages. The paved road was built here in 1894.

Practical info

When can you drive on the Grimsel Pass road?

During the summer months, the Grimsel Pass road is open for driving. The pass is usually accessible from June to mid-October, but it may open earlier. Winter snowfall causes the road to close, and the pass can only be accessed by local trains. The area is well-known for its ski resorts, which can only be reached using the alternative method of transportation during the winter months. Show more

What is the location of the Grimsel Pass?

The Grimsel Pass is sited in the Swiss Alps, specifically the Bernese Alps. It reaches an elevation of 2,164 metres (7,100ft) and connects the valleys of rivers Aare and Rhone. Found between the cantons of Bern and Valais, near Meiringen and Gletsch, it has been a significant travel and trade route since Roman times. Show more

What is the Gelmerbahn, and where is it situated?

The Gelmerbahn is a funicular railway located near Handeck in the Swiss Alps. It has a 106% incline, making it the world's second steepest funicular. It rises from the Handeck gorge to Lake Gelmer. During the winter and when the Grimsel Pass Road is inaccessible, it transports skiers to the summit. It is among the most popular attractions located near the Grimsel Pass. Show more

What is situated east of Grimsel Pass?

East of Grimsel Pass, you will find the Furka Pass, which is another picturesque passage that is among the highest paved routes in Switzerland. It joins the Urseren valley of the canton of Uri with the municipality of Goms in the canton of Valais. The Furka pass is open to travel roughly from June to October and offers awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Alps' majestic landscape. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin