Images: Christof Sonderegger, Glattalphütte
Internationally recognized as Europe’s first trans alp thru-hike, the Via Alpina long distance hiking path travels through 8 countries: Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Monaco, and covers a distance of more than 3,000 miles. Three hundred forty-two stages in total, and crossing international borders 44 times, this "grande traversée des alpes" stitches together the entire alpine range between Trieste, Italy and the Principality of Monaco. From hidden villages and tucked away farms, to rustic vineyards and lofty peaks, the Via Alpina offers a lengthy menu of alpine delights.
Ryder Walker offered guided treks covering the high alpine sections of this route beginning in the mid-1980’s, and we're excited to offer the itinerary again for the summer of 2012. Since the Via Alpina is a long trek and cannot be hiked by most mortals in one outing, we're offering the high alpine sections in four different segments over four consecutive summers. Like all of all our tours, we'll dine on local delicacies and rest at comfortable accommodations along the way.
The first segment begins on the border of Liechtenstein and Switzerland, in the tiny hamlet of Weisstannen, and finishes on the eastern edge of the Berner Oberland in Meiringen.
- See how the Alps were formed. Gaze upon the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, also known as the Glarus Overthrust, Switzerland's most recently designated UNESCO World Heritiage Site.
- Traverse some of the wildest, remote and seldom-traveled passes and valleys in Switzerland.
- Hike through five Swiss Cantons, St. Gallen, Glarus, Obwalden, Uri, and Bern, each boasting their own unique culture and traditions.
- Start a revolution! Visit the stomping grounds of Wilhelm Tell, the popular Swiss hero that, according to legend, sparked a rebellion leading to the formation of the Swiss Confederation.
Day 1 Arrive Zurich. Transfer independently by rail to the remote and peaceful Weisstannental. The human habitation of this narrow valley dates as far back as the Bronze Age. Meet the guides and group for a brief orientation and dinner at our historic hotel in Weistannen.
Day 2 Today we'll hike from the canton St. Gallen to the canton Glarus as we cross over the remote and lovely Foo Pass. We'll continue to the quiet village of Elm, a peaceful hamlet lying at the head of the lush Sernftal. Elm is the furthest village in the valley, surrounded by the spectacular peaks of the Glarus Overthrust, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Glarus Overthrust is one of the most significant geological regions in the alps, offering a spectacular look at mountain building by plate tectonics and ultimately revealing the creation of the Alps themselves.
Day 3 Hike beneath the region's tallest peaks and continue over the spectacular Richetlipass to the Linthal valley. The Tödi, the highest mountain in Glarus at 3614 m, towers nearly 10,000 ft. above the valley floor, making the Linthal one of the deepest valleys in Switzerland. A cog rail sweeps us from the town of Linthal to Braunwald, a fairy tale village perched among sunny meadows on a high bench above the valley.
Day 4 We enter the high peaks of Glarnerland today with the imposing flanks of the Tödi dominating the view. A lift will help us to the high alps above Braunwald where we cross into the canton Uri, one of the three original Swiss Confederation cantons founded in 1291. Tonight we'll park our hiking boots and treat ourselves to hearty mountain fare at the remote and atmospheric Glattalphütte (no luggage access tonight).
Day 5 Altdorf is our destination today, the famous village where Wilhelm Tell defied the tyranny of the Habsburgs and inspired a rebellion that eventually led to the formation of the Swiss Confederation. We'll descend into the wild Muotathal and then to the base of the Klausenpass for transfer to this lively town.
Day 6 A tiny cable car helps us begin the ascent to the Surenenpass. This is a spectacular viewpoint where we'll enjoy our first glimpses of the high peaks of the central Berner Oberland. A long and gentle descent leads us through the beautiful Surenental and passes beneath the Grosse Spannort and the Titlis before arriving in Engelberg, a charming resort town above Luzern.
Day 7 An optional cable car takes the sting out of this morning's ascent. We'll pass by a lovely high alpine tarn called the Truebsee before ascending to the Jochpass, our high point for the day. The Jochpass offers magnificent views into the massive ice and rock world of the Jungfrau region. Descend the Gental and into yet another canton, Bern, where charming Meiringen and our final dinner celebration await.
Day 8 Depart. Meiringen offers a perfect jumping point for exploring the Jungfrau and the greater Berner Oberland region. We recommend that our guests take a few additional days to find adventure in this enchanted land.
Click here to request an expanded itinerary (including distance and elevation gains).