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Switzerland

Your Linesman

Jan Eckert

The depth and density of the European Alps always attracted me and exploring the endless valleys and peaks on skis, by climbing or motorcycle is my passion that stretches back long before I moved to Switzerland around 12 years ago.

Since navigation and wayfinding are a central part of moving around the alpine backcountry, both became also part of my professional life. In 2010-12, together with the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) we developed the first prototype of a mobile tour planning application for Swiss backcountry skiers and touring guides. Currently, I work as a design educator at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – a perfect starting point for many of the trails included in TET Switzerland.

As you might know, dirt riding in Switzerland is very restricted and it is really hard to find legal off-pavement trails without invading anybody’s private land, farmland, forests or wildlife reserves. With a respectful approach though, it becomes a great challenge to scout legal unpaved trails and I’m proud to contribute to TET by gathering these options and taking care of the trail as your Linesman. I’m also thankful to all the other people who have already contributed to TET Switzerland by submitting their tracks and I’m looking forward to receiving any suggestions which might become part of the trail in the future.

For now, I hope you enjoy the first release and with open eyes and an open heart, even the road sections will pay-off with beautiful surroundings and a peek into the reality some people are facing every day when living and working in some of Switzerland’s remote areas.

DOWNLOAD THE GPX TRACK

ROUTE INFO

June to October is best.
Check for seasonal road closures while planning your trip. Passes and roads at higher altitude might be closed until mid-June or beginning in late October. Due to our numerous microclimates in the alps snowfall might occur at any time of the year. You can find useful information about current road conditions and closures in the following link: https://www.alpen-paesse.ch/en/
TET Switzerland‘s entry point for riders coming from north is in Lucelle at the Swiss-French border.
German, French, Italian, Romansh
Swiss Francs (CHF).

Most shops, petrol stations, restaurants or campgrounds will accept Euros – often they return change in Swiss Francs though.
National emergency numbers are:

144 (Ambulance)
117 (Police)
140 (bike assistance / towing service)
163 (road/traffic information)
1414 (air rescue)

112 as an international emergency is being adapted in Switzerland.

Please note: In most cases, air rescue by helicopter is the fastest way to get immediate help in Switzerland (especially in remote mountain areas). Consider though that it might come with immense costs if your insurance doesn't cover such a service. An easy way to get full coverage is by making a donation to the Swiss Air Rescue called REGA.

You can find more information here.
Generally, wild camping is not forbidden in Switzerland. However, in some cantons or regions local restrictions might apply to Swiss National Parks, Swiss game or wildlife reserves, nature reserves or designated wildlife areas during the protection period.

An overview of areas banned from wild camping is listed here.

A very useful guide to wild camping in Switzerland is available here.

Campfires: During Summer or Winter when precipitation is rather low, making an open fire might be temporarily prohibited in order to prevent wildfires. Please check the current situation on the Meteo Suisse web page where all hazards and warnings are released on a daily basis.
According to the so-called “Forest Law” it is forbidden to ride in Swiss forests even - if there is no explicit sign. Unfortunately, in Switzerland anything except forests happens to be mountains, natural reserves, farmland, lakes, inhabited or industrial areas or simply paved roads.

There are exceptions of which some are included in TET Switzerland. Some of them require a day-permit which can be purchased at the local tourist office or simply at pay machines located at the trailheads (check POIs included in the GPX file).
Ace Cafe Lucerne has gatherings and events every weekend. If you happen to stay in the region (Section 2) a visit is totally worth it.

Also check the POIs included in the GPX file: there are a number of restaurants and lodges along the trail. Many of these are well-known bike-meets and you'll probably bump into fellow riders there.

ROUTE OVERVIEW

While many people choose a straight line to ride through Switzerland, TET Switzerland aims to provide an alternative route using mostly minor backcountry roads, off-pavement trails and a couple of classic alpine passes as well. Since finding legal off-pavement trails in the country is not easy, we have started mapping these. All are 100% legal and can be combined to form a route through Switzerland that relates to the idea of TET – celebrating lightweight motorcycle adventure and the rich experience of exploring off the beaten track routes, hidden valleys, scenic landscapes as well as Switzerland's plurilingual cultures and borders.

It's a work in progress and thanks to everybody's help by the time we hope to add more off-pavement trails to TET Switzerland. If you know any legal trails that should be included in TET Switzerland, please contact me at: transeurotrail.ch@gmail.com

Section 1:
When entering the country from north you will first cross the Jura mountains – one of Switzerland's less populated areas. Situated on the French border the local language is French and you might also find that from a cultural and culinary angle this region also relates alot to its neighbouring country. As soon as you pass Lake Neuchatel and Lake Biel, the population grows and so does urbanisation. There are quite a few towns and villages along this stretch before entering the Bernese backcountry where you also enter Switzerland’s German-speaking part. Here the Gurnigel Pass welcomes you with scenic rides and stunning views.

Section 2:
Starting close to the city of Thun, Section 2 leads you straight into the Emmental valley – best known for its huge Emmental cheeses – check out the POIs for the opportunity to buy some of this genuine product. The next part on TET Switzerland is called Entlebuch. Being part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, it's an area with plenty of minor roads and passes – one of these leading you to the lake of Sarnen where you enter Switzerland's most central region. In fact, Switzerland's geographic centre is one of the POIs included in TET Switzerland and even though it’s mainly a paved road, the ride up there is totally worthwhile for its endless views and the Aelggialp Lodge located at the top of the trail. From here the trail leads you on a short gravel stretch to the top of the historic Brünig Pass and on to one of our classic alpine passes: Susten Pass. At its end, Section 2 reaches Andermatt, located just at the bottom of Oberalp Pass and Gotthard Pass (currently, there are a couple of construction sites around Andermatt – be patient & careful when riding).

Section 3:
Starting at the Tourist Office in Andermatt, Section 3 is waiting with two fantastic off-pavement trails: the Unteralp Vallley and the Tätschstrasse. Both trails require the purchase of a day-permit (please check the POIs included in the GPX file):
- Unteralptal near Andermatt: Permit (12,- CHF) can be purchased at the Tourist Office in front of the railway station in Andermatt
- Tätschstrasse above Realp at the Furkaroad: Permit (7,-) can be purchased at a vending machine standing at the trailhead (coins only!)

Due to the exposed topographical location of both trails, regular maintenance by the local rangers is required – so the fee is a fair solution to contribute to their work and is absolutely worth it for the surrounding alpine landscape and views over the Gotthard region. At the top of Unteralp Valley the Vermigels-lodge offers a nice opportunity to spend a night in the mountains. Another option is the campground in Andermatt (check POIs) or wild camping along the Tätschstrasse (be careful riding the last part of this trail since it becomes quite washed out towards its end, check POI). Once you've arrived at the top of Furkapass – another Swiss alpine classic – you take the road down to the Rhone valley and the Simplon Pass connecting TET Switzerland to TET Italy. This last bit is another stretch that is quite dense in terms of population and traffic. I'll be working on this part in order to find some alternatives that avoid staying too much on the main road in the middle of the valley.

Technically speaking and from a trail riding point of view, TET Switzerland is rather "light" trail compared to TETs in other countries. However, all sections include routes that climb to high altitudes (some over 2000m) and even if all the trails included are fairly easy to ride in dry weather conditions this might drastically change when rain or snowfall is encountered. So keep an eye on the weather forecast and check with the local tourist offices or lodges for more information.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Along with the breathtaking views you will experience when riding TET Switzerland there are a number of mountain lodges on the trail (tagged as POIs in the GPX file). A night in one of these lodges is a fantastic experience and besides being surrounded by peaks, lakes and waterfalls usually, the caretaker will prepare you a warm and regional meal.

As an alternative to lodges and given the fact that wild camping is widely accepted in Switzerland (especially above the tree line in the mountains) a night out watching the stars is an absolute must!

RESOURCES