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Swiss Gravel Escape by Eve Hoffmann

Eve is a Swiss/French cycling enthusiast & mountain lover, living, working and riding in London. You can find her on Instagram where she posts about it all: @cycling.eve


One of her favourite things to do is to go on bike-packing adventures to escape the busy city life. She’s ridden through the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland and each and every one of these trips have been absolutely amazing and unique experiences that she’s now sharing with the Moloko community.


Her most recent trip was a 3 day gravel adventure (with the Canyon Grail she rented and then bought from Moloko) through the region of Graubünden in Switzerland.



Day 1 - Ilanz to Filisur

64 km | 39.7 mi from Ilanz feat. Lake Cresta , Thusis & Tiefenkastel.


Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Hilly gravel paths, single tracks and some road segments

Elevation Gain > 1560 m | 5118ft


If you’re looking for Swiss mountains trails with amazing views, incredible clear lakes and local cheese - then this is the ride for you.


Jump on the train with your bike (buy a regular train ticket and an additional day pass - roughly £12 - for your bike and find your way to Ilanz (trains from Basel / Bern / Zurich to Chur and then direct to Ilanz).


The ride starts with a technical single track along the river followed by a lovely climb all the way up to the most incredible first stop after 18km: Lake Cresta. You can swim in the lake, buy some snacks from the coffee shop or (what I did) bring your picnic and enjoy your lunch with this fantastic view.



Enjoy the downhill, a really fun single track in the forest followed by a relatively easy path through the fields all the way to Thusis. From there I would highly recommend taking the train to Tiefenkastel. It’s just 1 train stop, 15mins on the train (with beautiful views from the train too) and it saves you having to ride 12km on a very busy road and going through two dangerous (not made for cyclists) tunnels.



From Tiefenkastel a beautiful gravel path along the river Albula leads all the way up to Filisur.

Once in Filisur I had a Rivella (a great traditional Swiss non alcoholic beverage) at Restaurant da Pietro. They also serve pizzas but if you want to keep it traditional you can buy local cheese, joghurt, jams and more from the vending machine in the lovely little village shop.


If you are looking for accommodation (I was lucky enough to stay with friends) Tga Clavo in Filisur has good reviews.



Ilanz - Filisur
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Day 2 - Filisur to Ardez

73 km | 45 mi from Filisur feat. Lake Palpuegna, Albula Pass & Guarda.


Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Hilly gravel trails with some road sections

Elevation Gain > 1930m | 6332ft


Get ready for lots of climbing, incredible views and another cristal clear lake on this second day of bike-packing.


From Filisur a 22km long climb leads all the way up to the top of Albula Pass. The long climb is on the main road, the scenery is breathtaking and after 16km you’ll have your first stop at Lake Palpuegna. After enjoying this amazing lake, the road carries on to the top where you’ll find a restaurant and most probably some fellow cyclists taking pictures after their achievement.



Enjoy the fantastic descent to La Punt where you can find a cafe and a supermarket to buy a picnic to refuel later on.


What follows is a great long gravel trail along the river Inn all the way to Lavin. The route goes through forests, crosses small bridges and from time to time you’ll pass a bench with a view which for me turned out to be a perfect lunch and nap spot.



In Lavin you’ll cross the river and start your climb up to Guarda. This beautiful small village has decorated houses with traditional painted facades and of course, like in every Swiss village, lots of fountains to fill up your bidons. Make sure to try the local ‘Engadiner Nusstorte’ - a traditional sweet made of caramelised nut-filled pastry from this area of Switzerland. You can find them in the Cafe of the tiny museum (cash only) or in the Crush Alba Restaurant.



The last part of the ride is a short downhill to Ardez, another pretty village with cobblestone streets, traditional houses and a lovely cafe La Carsuot where you can savour a delicious cheese platter or a sweet pastry with homemade lemonade (I went for both).



If you can, try and stay in a Maiensäss, a rustic and very traditional mountain hut up on the alp where you’ll enjoy the most spectacular panorama in complete tranquillity. https://www.graubuenden.ch/en/booking/accommodation/maiensaesse



Filisur - Ardez
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Day 3 - Ardez to Scuol

55 km | 34 mi from Ardez feat. Uina Gorge, Vnà, & Val Sinestra.


Rating > Difficult

Terrain > Hilly gravel paths with some mountain bikes trails & a few road sections

Elevation Gain > 1620m | 5315ft


On this third day you’ll go down the dramatic Uina Gorge, climb up to the lovely village of Vnà and enjoy another fantastic lunch spot with a view.


After a great downhill from Ardez to Ftan you’ll arrive in Scuol (12km in) - a larger town where you can buy a picnic in the big Coop on the main road and carry on to Surr En. This is the beginning of the Uina Gorge - a dramatic small path along the river that gets steeper and steeper as you go deeper into the Gorge. I only went about half way before turning back but enjoyed the impressive narrow paths through the rock formation. Most cyclists were on mountain bikes however as far as I went it was fine on the gravel bike (although I had to push at some parts when it got too steep).



Once you’ll come out of the Gorge you’ll start the climb up to Vnà. This part is on a road but as the area is so remote, barely any cars drive up there.

The village is cute, with again lots of fountains to fill up your bidons and a lovely spot to catch your breath after the climb and enjoy the view down to the valley.



From here a wonderful gravel trail leads all the way to Val Sinestra. Ride until you get to the very end where a little wooden bridge crosses the river. This is where I stopped for lunch and dipped my feet into the cold mountain water.



The return is similar: back to Vnà then up to Sent, another beautiful village (at 49km) ideal for a coffee and pastry. Stop at the Not Clalüna Bakery before finishing the ride in Scuol. Here you can jump back on the train to Chur or Zernez (again, don’t forget to buy the additional day pass for the bike on the train).


Ardez - Scuol via Val Sinestra
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I hope you enjoyed these 3 days through the Swiss mountains and will come back for more bike-packing adventures!

Eve




 

Disclaimer

All routes are illustrative only and users take full responsibility for their own safety when following any routes suggested on the Moloko Cycling website or app.

Only follow route if safe and legal to so, local traffic laws always take priority.

Take care to ride safely and respect other road users.




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