The San Gottard & Nufenen Pass In A Motorhome (Cycling & Hiking Too)

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Thursday 30 August 2018

The San Gottard & Nufenen Pass In A Motorhome (Cycling & Hiking Too)

After getting back on the road again after our breakdown in Italy, we weren't entirely sure which way to we headed back into Switzerland, driving through the rain over several passes as we made our way generally west, until we finally came to a rest in the town of Airolo, just at the bottom of the San Gottard Pass and with it's very own permitted motorhome area.

Now as passes go, the San Gottard has everything: a tunnel, a new road AND an old, cobbled road as well, so you really are spoilt for choice. For us, after a night in Airolo and a lovely, picturesque hike up to the cable car station at Sasso della Boggia (2065 m), we moved up to the top of the San Gottard Pass using the new road, which was very wide and very easy for motorhome driving. Once at the top of the pass (2106 m) we joined a few dozen other motorhomes also staying their for the night. As a permitted parking place this is clearly a very well known and popular stop off for people crossing the mountains to and from Italy.

For us, however, this wasn't just an overnight stay as we spent 3 wonderfully peaceful nights at San Gottard. There are so many hiking opportunities up here we probably could have stayed longer, plus there was a great open field close to the parking area where we could easily play and run with all 5 dogs (including some peculiar Scuba diver art which they loved). There was also lots of military installations and, we don't know, but at some point during our stay several hundred young soldiers arrived with a band, marched around for about twenty minutes and then left again. Maybe Switzerland is gearing up for something, although judging by how many were text-marching I'm not sure they were fully in the moment.

Our first hike from the San Gottard Pass was up to the summit of Giubin at 2776 metre altitude, a beautiful and remote walk which took just a few hours to ascend but which felt like we had left civilisation entirely behind. Then, the next day, we enjoyed the stunning 5 lakes loop on the other side of the pass, a 4 hours tour which takes in (you've guessed it) 5 impressive mountain lakes along with countless other little tarns. It was really very lovely.

After our three nights on San Gottard we felt it was time to move on so headed back into Airolo before driving up to the top of the Nufenen Pass which, at 2478 metres, is the highest mountain pass with a paved road in all of Switzerland. Of course, this meant Esther wanted to cycle up it, which is exactly what she did while the gang and I drove up a while later.

This eastern ascent of the Nufenen Pass is much longer but less also less steep than the other side, covering 24 km with an average gradient of 5.5% (the other side is 13 km at 8.5%), and is very beautiful with lots of sweeping views as the road climbs ever higher.

We spent the night at the top of Nufenen Pass as the weather and clouds swept in and cloaked us in mist. We had asked at the restaurant and they told us it was fine to stay in their car park (we always ask permission) and ended up having the top entirely to ourselves which was magical, before we headed off back to the Valais to meet a friend who is coming to visit.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to have more time to cycle the other side of the Nufenen or the cobbled road up the San Gottard pass (which is a very well known ascent), but that only means we have reasons to come back!

Hope you enjoy the pictures....

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