Alpen Aspirations – Mountain Biking Around Switzerland
Happy cows dressed with clanging bells, brimming pots of fondue cheese, the world’s best milk chocolate, idyllic towns set against lofty peaks—Switzerland lives up to all its dazzling stereotypes. But these striking mountains aren’t just for the cows. This small country is quietly building a new claim to fame: mountain biking.
Changing with the Land
A fast-shifting climate means Switzerland’s iconic, snow-capped peaks are more often bare, leaving this famed wintersports capital to grapple with what to do as winter seasons grow shorter. Capitalizing on the mountain biking boom, ski regions are retrofitting chairlifts and cable cars to transport bikes and riders up mountains to newly carved singletrack trails. But is the riding worth the hype?
As a newer mountain biker, I traveled from Salt Lake City to Switzerland’s southeastern Graubünden region to see if any rider could truly take on these trails, and to learn if this country is truly the next best place to ride a mountain bike.
Riding the Rails
Bound from Zurich, our vibrant red locomotive chugged past turquoise lakes where families splashed and settled on the shore, across storybook bridges, and through 22 mountain tunnels numbered by tall white banners. Landlocked by France and Italy, Switzerland is a tiny nation the size of New Jersey but feels bigger when traveling by train. We disembarked in the Graubünden town of Celerina, a gateway to the flourishing mountain biking scene. Here we explored the towns of Engadin, Lenzerheide, and Flims—all famous ski destinations now going big with biking.
Biking in Switzerland
In Switzerland, cable cars shuttle bikers up the Alps, mountain huts welcome those eager for a lunch break, and riders sip on tiny mugs of strong espresso at the end of every lap. While this makes the riding here a dream, what I loved best is Switzerland’s trail diversity. Both expert and easier options are found at each destination, even many families can ride together. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged. Tough, singletrack trails rival Utah’s big mountains and have bonus amenities like huts with fancy eats and bike-friendly basecamps for stashing your ride.
4 Must-ride Swiss Mountain Bike Trails
When in southeastern Switzerland, don’t miss these epic rides.
1. Corviglia Flow Trail, Engadin-St. Moritz
Where to Stay: Cresta Palace Hotel– Safely store, repair, and clean your bike in this hotel’s bike garage. Delicious Swiss breakfast is included and features homemade jams, local cheese, and plenty of museli.
The most iconically Swiss trail, this wide-bermed lap is the stuff downhillers dream about. Golden brown dairy cows graze on the hillside as you exit the cable car to begin the ride. Drop into the smooth, flowing path, speeding past mountain peaks and turquoise-hued Lake St. Moritz to end at Alto Bar—a cable car turned modern mountain eatery on the ski resort’s slopes. With a pitch that isn’t too intense for rookies and lappable for pros, it’s a ride your whole crew can take on.
2. Crap La Tretscha Viewpoint, Lenzerheide
Where to Stay: Hotel Schweizerho– Wellness oasis with outdoor saltwater pool and the Alpine region’s largest hotel hammam (Middle Eastern spa ritual). Located right in Lenzerheide with direct access to biking trails.
Set deep in the forest, this woodland path climbs and winds up to 180-degree valley and mountain views over 4.2 miles to Crap La Tretscha. It’s one of Lenzerheide’s best lookouts, and this cross-country ride works up a serious sweat. Rest on the benches before racing downhill and looping back to town.
3. Flims Forest, Flims
Where to Stay: Hotel Cresta– Indoor-outdoor spa Switzerland’s first clay sauna, multiple pools, and a relaxation patio for unwinding post-ride.
Drawn from a fairy tale, this entrancing path showcases lakes that mysteriously drain and refill, and leads to one of Switzerland’s best swimming lakes—a sparkling blue-green beauty called Lake Cauma. Bike around Cauma and back through dense, verdant trees to a trailside oasis, Restaurant Conn.
Stop for from-scratch pear ravioli on the patio then pedal to Il Spir, a 1,300-foot tall viewing platform that highlights a natural wonder, the Swiss Grand Canyon. The 180-degree platform overlooks the raging river as ruby red trains go by.
4. Runca Trail, Flims
Billed as one of Europe’s longest flow trails, this downhill funfest features banked turns, humps, and jumps spread over 4.7 miles. A mix of natural dirt, rock, and winding wooden boardwalk trails keep things interesting as you bomb through forests back to the base.
Beginners can skip the big drops and obstacles and take on easy rollers and less-steep berms instead. Lap it a few times, and don’t worry if it rains. A new trail surface provides good grip even when wet.
Mountain Hut Hiking
When you need a break from biking, hike a lush, forested path up to Lenzerheide’s Alp Fops, a 140-year-old crooked, wooden mountain hut that’s been serving hungry skiers, bikers, and hikers for generations. Take a patio seat and pair the grazing cow views with the Malär Family’s heaping plates of Fopserbrettli, a Graubünden specialty of local meat, cheese, and bread.
Direct flights to Zurich are not available (yet) from the Beehive State, but airfare deals mean it’s cheaper to reach this biking mecca than you’d think. Take a connecting flight to Zurich for under $1,000—even in the summer season. Once landed, board a train to Celerina to access the town of Engadin. Ride Switzerland’s PostAuto buses to quickly reach Lenzerheide and Flims. Biking season ends mid-October. Learn More.