The Rhone Route – from glaciers to Lake Geneva

Bike Touring Collection by Tobias
4-7 days
3-5 h / day
213 mi
9,450 ft
12,975 ft

In 20th place, the Rhone may not be one of the top 10 longest rivers in Europe, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in beauty. Crossing diverse landscapes, this Collection follows the river as it winds through the Alps to Lake Geneva. Interested yet? Come along!

Following in the footsteps of James Bond, you first cycle to the source of the Rhone, the imposing Rhone Glacier. After a strenuous ascent, you'll hurtle downhill towards the sun-drenched landscape of the Goms. As the Rhone gradually widens, the vineyards along the Valais Wine Trail also become bigger. Next, turn 90° at the so-called knee of the Rhone and continue uphill towards Switzerland's largest lake. You can then discover Lausanne and the cosmopolitan city of Geneva.

Fun fact: on average, it takes 11.4 years for the waters of the Rhone to find their way to Lake Geneva. Luckily, you don’t need that long on a bike. Two to three days should be enough to cycle to the other end of the lake.

The Rhone Route starts in Andermatt and follows the Rhone River 343 kilometers (213 miles) to Geneva. The river doesn’t stop there, it flows into France and towards the Mediterranean. A cycle path traces the river all the way to its final destination under the name “ViaRhona”.

The official Swiss section of the Rhone Route ends in a small town on the French border. To make it easier for you to plan your adventure, I’ve ended this Collection in Geneva. One more thing: Don't be confused if during your journey the Rhone is sometimes called Rotten or Lake Geneva is sometimes called Lac Léman. These are simply somewhat older expressions, some of which are still in use, but they refer to the same thing.

Although the route always follows the course of the river whenever possible, the elevation profile of the Collection is still quite a challenge. The first stage is especially tough and around Lake Geneva is also quite hilly. So, take a close look at the stages beforehand and decide what is right for you. You can always travel parts of the route by bus or train (with your bike) to avoid some of the trickier parts. There’s even a ferry on Lake Geneva. Parts of the route are suitable for an ambitious family trip.

In some places I have adapted the official route for you (more details in the stage descriptions). Therefore, the total distance does not exactly correspond to the official kilometer indications of the Rhone Route. However, I have kept to the original stage classification.

There are always plenty of places to stay at the individual stage destinations. Nevertheless, please remember to book your accommodation in advance. Running short on snacks is also near impossible on this trip as there are plenty of shops and restaurants along the cycle path.

You can find details about how to reach and return from each route in the stage descriptions. Of course, you can also cycle the route in the opposite direction. It’s slightly more uphill, but you may be lucky enough to have the Valais tailwind.

Looking for even more adventure? This Collection offers you various possibilities to extend your journey. You can either continue from Geneva via the ViaRhôna to Lyon and then to the Mediterranean (komoot.de/collection/919849 and komoot.de/collection/453) or you can take on the full route, starting directly at the North Sea and following the Rhine to its source just before Andermatt (komoot.de/collection/210) where you switch onto the Rhone route. Unbelievably, on this route you can cross Europe with just one mountain to climb.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    02:55
    23.0 mi
    7.9 mph
    3,400 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Rhone route is part of EuroVelo 17 and starts in Andermatt, a true hub of the inter-European cycle route network. In addition to the Rhine route (EuroVelo 15), the north-south route also runs here as part of EuroVelo 5, also called Via Romea Francigena, the historic pilgrimage route from England to Rome.The journey to Andermatt works without any problems by train from all directions: coming from the north or south, via Göschenen, then with the Gotthard Panorama Express or the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn to Andermatt; from the west or east also by means of the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn or the Glacier Express. If you would like to shorten a few passages on the route, it may be advisable to purchase a Swiss Travel Pass, which is valid in Switzerland for travel by train, bus or boat. Those arriving by car should also have no difficulty in finding a parking space in Andermatt, even though the parking fees in Switzerland are not negligible.The first stage leads from Andermatt over the Furka pass, past the Rhone glacier, down to the Goms. The very words "pass" and "glacier" suggest that this is not the easiest of all routes. The height profile of this section of the route is relatively merciless and leads to an increase from about 900 meters to 2,429 meters above sea level. If you are not used to doing sports at such heights, one or the other break along the way will do you good. It is also advisable to pack a little provisions here in order to regularly replenish the energy reserves. If you are lucky, the Hotel Furkablick with its attached café will open at the top of the pass. You clearly earned a double snack or a sweet treat after this climb.Fortunately, the Furka Pass has reached the highest point of the day. Up to the stage finish in Oberwald, there is only a small hill, if any, in the way of the beautiful “letting go” down the mountain. A short stop at Gletsch is worthwhile, as is a look back towards the Furka Pass. The treeless slope clearly shows where the Rhone glacier used to slide into the valley.As an alternative to the hardships of the climb, you can also use one of the various bike loading services in Switzerland. From Andermatt you can have your bike and you transported comfortably up the pass and still benefit from the pleasant side of a high mountain. However, the number of places is limited. - Important information: The Furka Pass is usually only open from May to October. Info phone: 163

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    Difficult
    03:31
    32.7 mi
    9.3 mph
    1,775 ft
    3,975 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The second stage starts in Oberwald and leads through the sun-drenched Gomstal. The Rhone is not entirely innocent of its creation, since it was completely gouged out by the ice age Rhone glacier in prehistoric times. If you look at the wild but still young Rhone that flows in its middle, it is difficult to imagine today.On the way to Brig, it is worth paying attention to the architecture of the houses and churches here and there. It is thanks to this, among other things, that the Goms is now an important cultural asset in Switzerland.After about 28 kilometers, the route turns from the Rhone to the right towards Binnaschlucht and a small change of terrain awaits you. When it rains, the ground can get a bit muddy here, then it may be advisable to push the bike. If you are on a road bike, for example, you should even consider an alternative route along Furkastrasse, which runs on the right to the Rhone, but is very busy. For this you have to take the turnoff towards Lax in Ernen. Even if the route along the main road is shorter and seems less complicated, the scenic trip to the Binnaschlucht is definitely worth it.From Mörel, the official route runs along the expressway, which is admittedly not very attractive. However, there are few alternatives, except for another bicycle transport by bus or train from Mörel to Brig.A little tip if you want to do something good for your bones: The largest open-air and thermal bath in the Alps is located in Brigerbad, only about five kilometers behind Brig. Just the thing after a hard day's cycling. Practical: You can find a suitable place to stay, for example in the form of a bungalow, right next door at the campsite.

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  • Intermediate
    02:46
    27.9 mi
    10.1 mph
    650 ft
    1,125 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Gradually, the course of the Rhone and the Valais main valley are becoming wider. There can hardly be any talk of a wild glacier stream here. The Rhone is now more like a straightened canal in many places. In the Pfyn-Finges nature park between Leuk and Sierre, you can let them run free. There she lost playfully in dozen small arms and meandered through the valley.The section of the Rhone cycle path between Susten and Sierre runs along a busy federal road. In addition, a highway has been under construction there since 2015. We therefore turn off the bike path towards Leuk in Susten and prefer to look down on the Pfynwald instead of driving through it. At today's elevation profile, this ensures an increase of 130 meters uphill. The calm, the view and the good wine are more than worth it. In my opinion, three really good reasons for this little detour.As already mentioned, the Valais Wine Trail begins in Leuk. Around the small wine village of Varen, this can hardly be overlooked: wherever you look, they grow everywhere along the southern slope, the vines of the local winegrowers. You will now increasingly feel the typical Valais wind on your face, which blows uphill in fine weather. How nice that a relaxed descent down to Sierre awaits you at the end of the day.Most likely unnoticed you have now crossed the language border between the German-speaking Upper and French-speaking Lower Valais in the course of the last few kilometers. From Sierre at the latest, however, it is obvious: All place and street names are now mainly written in French.In addition to a visit to Mercier Castle and the associated park, a small detour to Lac de Geronde is also worthwhile in Sierre, which lies with its little companions, the "Petit-Lacs" in the middle of the city's unique hilly landscape.

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    Intermediate
    03:24
    34.8 mi
    10.2 mph
    525 ft
    775 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's stage combines the upper world with the lower world and castles with castles. But first it goes straight for a few kilometers along the Rhone embankment until the Lac de la Brèche with its turquoise blue water invites you to take a little break. Beware of the golf course on the other side of the lake. - Maybe you'd better leave your helmet on. ;)The underground lake of Saint-Léonard convinces that a lake can also fascinate underground. With a boat you can take a tour through the crystal clear water of the illuminated grotto.Sion, the capital of the canton, welcomes you with the view of the two castle hills that tower far above the city and thus contribute significantly to the local landscape. From the east, however, you don't see much of the buildings on it. So it is worth taking a little detour around the hills, if not a short trip up the hills: the Tourbillon Castle and its ruins should not be missed, nor should the view from the castle ruins has the basilica of the neighboring hill.If you feel like relaxing your tired bones in comfortably warm thermal water, it makes sense to let the stage end in Saillon. There are no fewer than 4 thermal baths to choose from, all fed by local springs. If you want to stay in Saillon, you should be prepared for a more expensive price segment. Fortunately, there is also an alternative campsite that also rents rooms.

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    Intermediate
    02:42
    29.9 mi
    11.1 mph
    275 ft
    550 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage number 5 largely describes the last stretch of the upper reaches of the Rhone before it finally flows into Lake Geneva. In keeping with this grand finale, the cycle path, like the river itself, makes a 90 ° U-turn in Martigny on the Rhoneknie. With that, the Valais wind should finally be stopped.The lower Rhone Valley, around Martigny, is dominated almost everywhere by the majestic mountain backdrop of the "Dents du Midi". Mont Blanc, France's highest mountain, is not far from here. Its base can be seen very well to the south, with its summit still hiding behind its foothills.However, we quickly turn away from these icy views and prefer to look forward to the mild climate of Lake Geneva. Before the Rhone reaches it, it has to pass through a small eye at the Château de Saint-Maurice, where the cycle path snuggles close to its course. A short time later, it flows into Le Bouveret in the largest of all Swiss lakes. The resulting alluvial plain is also called "Petite Camargue" by the locals for a reason. At the latest on the lookout tower near Villeneuve you can get a comprehensive picture of this impressive river delta and nature park. With the tranquility of the mountains, the rest of the Rhone route is unfortunately over. The hustle and bustle along the promenades at Lake Geneva in the next day is much more colorful.In Villeneuve we deviate again from the official Rhone route, which runs here again along a main road. The promenade to Montreux is much nicer anyway and the picturesque Chillon Castle, built on a rocky island, can be seen from afar. - Just a small reason to be careful, I would like to recommend you here: Please pay special attention to pedestrians on the entire promenade. Cycling is allowed here, but it would be nice if it stayed that way.

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    Intermediate
    02:47
    26.8 mi
    9.6 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,425 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Do you know the song "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple? Certainly. - Here's a little anecdote about how this world hit came about: During a concert in the Montreux casino on December evening 1971, a guest fired a flare gun. The casino then burned down completely. Deep Purple, who was in Montreux at the same time to record a few songs, saw the smoke of the fire spreading like fog on Lake Geneva. This scenario inspired her to “Smoke on the Water”. The text is also about the fire.In the footsteps of world-famous bands and comedians - Freddy Mercury was also memorialized in Montreux, not to forget Charlie Chaplin - so you drive from Montreux along the palm-fringed promenade to Vevey. Again we leave the official route in places, which also runs along a main road.From Vevey, the Rhone route makes a detour to the Lavaux wine region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gone are the days of relaxed driving on the plain. For the next 15 kilometers the bike path follows a constant up and down. You will be rewarded again with good views, good wine and a great descent to the suburbs of Lausanne.Lausanne itself is only touched by the bike path at the Ouchy waterfront. But more is not absolutely necessary, since Ouchy has since worked his way up to the tourist center of Lausanne since his days as a small fishing village. You would also have to work your way up, if you would like to pay a visit to downtown Lausanne: The city is built so steeply into the slope that, in my opinion, even the famous Filbert Street in San Francisco is easier to climb.Before today's stage ends in Morges, a short stop on the beach at Saint-Sulpice is worthwhile. Here you can escape the hustle and bustle of the promenades and let your feet dangle into the water in a moment of calm.Warning: short sections on busy main roads are between Clarens and La Tour-de-Peilz, Lutry and Lausanne (Ouchy), as well as Préverenges and Morges. Please be careful here. - By the way, if you want, you can find various options on the entire lake shore to shorten sections of the route by ferry.

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    Intermediate
    03:44
    38.4 mi
    10.3 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,425 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    At almost 62 kilometers, the final stage from Morges to Geneva is the longest on the Rhone route. Since the main road again leads along the lakeshore, the bike path often branches off into the vineyards. The height profile of the route is therefore rather jagged and driving on the lakeshore is also becoming a rarity. But you have a little more peace in the vineyards. It also pays off to profit from it: Shortly before Geneva it gets really hectic.Visiting a cosmopolitan city like Geneva is of course something very special, even if it is not entirely uncritical for cyclists: there is a lot of traffic in the city, so watch out. The last ten kilometers before the city limits also run along the main street. In Geneva, it is better to retreat to the port area after a short visit to the “Place des Nations” and watch the “Jet d'eau” throw 500 liters of water around it every second. If the wind direction is correct, you can even treat yourself to a small shower here. You deserve it after today's route.The best way to get back to Andermatt is by train. This runs from Geneva to Brig, there you have to change, then you continue to Andermatt. It is best to find out about the connections in advance. It is probably worth staying another night in Geneva, as the train journey can take around 5 hours. If you don't have to go back to Andermatt, the whole world is open to you in Geneva. But the Rhone also flows from here towards the Mediterranean ...

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    213 mi
  • Duration
    21:49 h
  • Elevation
    9,450 ft12,975 ft