Riding Furka Pass: Exploring Switzerland’s “Big 3” Mountain Passes

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Riding Furka Pass should definitely be on your agenda if you’re visiting Switzerland’s mountain passes for the first time!

In our last post, we looked at Grimsel Pass.

In this installment, we move onto the Furka which is probably a more exhilarating ride, but also comes with its own unique challenges.

Our next post will take on Susten Pass. And along with a little mini route, will complete our summary of riding Switzerland’s Big 3 mountain passes.

susten pass overcast
Welcome to the Furka Pass (image via Cycloworld)

Riding Furka Pass: One Of Switzerland’s Iconic Mountain Passes

The Furka Pass is one of those roads that makes you work for the pleasure! The twists and turns can be challenging, the traffic can be insane and the surface can also catch you off-guard.

And as if that isn’t bad enough, the pass is in one of the snowiest parts of Alps. So don’t be surprised if you come across some of the cold stuff whilst you’re there.

I was last there in mid-July – in the height of summer – and there was still snow shovelled up on the side of the road!

It’s worth noting that whilst most of Switzerland’s mountain passes open in May (sometimes even April), the Furka is usually closed until June.

If you’re a James Bond fan, you may also recognise Furka Pass as the setting for Goldfinger in 1964. You can even visit James Bond Strasse on the east side of the Pass if that’s your thing.

In our opinion, riding Furka Pass is certainly more fun than driving it in an Aston Martin DB5. Although admittedly, that would be a close second!

furkastrasse and glacier
Keep your Aston, Bond… I’d rather be on my bike (image via Atellani)

Furka Pass: At A Glance

Switzerland's big 3 mountain passes on the map
Furka Pass on the map

Where is it? Switzerland

Where does it start/end? Uri / Valais

How far is it? 31 km (19 miles)

How high is it? 2431 m

When is it open? June to October (can change)

What’s the road surface like? Good – some narrow sections

riding furka pass on an overcast day
Snow-capped peaks and glaciers of the Furka (image via DriveTribe)

Location

The Furka traces the northern side of the Furkareuss valley between Grimsel Pass and Andermatt.

Hence it connects Andermatt in Uri with Gletsch in Valais.

History

As with many of Switzerland’s mountain passes, the original uses date back to the Romans.

And more recently, Furka Pass has been used for military purposes.

The 1982-built tunnel at around 2100 m gave access to the Pass and now invites bikers to the Alps to enjoy this incredible riding experience.

furkastrasse at sunrise
Furka Pass at sunrise (image via MySwitzerland)

Riding Furka Pass: The Details

The fun starts from the moment you reach the pass.

Riding Furka Pass from the west, the ascent is steep and challenging with a plethora of switchbacks.

Additionally, there isn’t really a warm-up to this road. The technicalities are instant and are a surefire way to get the adrenalin pumping!

But after the hairpins, the road tempts you into a smooth and sweeping riding rhythm as glorious views of the valley open up to the east.

Following the pass to Andermatt, the road narrows considerably so make sure you’re paying attention!

Consequently, the roads are steep. And as you perch on your saddle, you become acutely aware of the lack of barriers protecting you from steep drops off the roadside.

Once you’ve negotiated this tricky section, the pass opens up with a 2.5 km section of flat, straight tarmac. Open the throttle and take the opportunity to blow away that shitty smell that seems to be coming from between your legs!

Despite the tricky sections, don’t let that put you off if you’re a beginner. Take your time, and don’t try to keep up with the bravado of the other bikers on the pass.

Ride it at your own pace and you’ll love it!

riding furka pass light splashes
Riding the Furka Pass at your own pace is the most enjoyable way to ride it (image via ColCorsa)

Things To See

Riding Furka Pass from the Reuss Valley, you can enjoy the trip through the Schöllenen Gorge until you reach the village of Realp – the start of the Furka’s accent.

At the 2431 m summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Ursan Valley and the Gotthard Massif. The views from here are breath-taking and it’s really worth stopping to take a few photographs whilst enjoying your lunch.

Furthermore, you can find epic views of the Rhône Glacier just below the ridgeline. You can also hike to the Glacier and even take a trip inside the glacial ice grotto which is rebuilt from scratch every year.

If hiking is your thing, there are also numerous trails for you to explore along the Pass – especially at the foot of the Furka where you can find lovely little nature trails.

rhone glacier
Riding Furka Pass with the Rhône Glacier in the background (image via Pixy)

Next Up

In the final section of our mini series, we’ll discover the wonders of Susten Pass.

We’ll provide you with a route to enjoy riding Furka Pass in combination with Grimsel and Susten as well as some hints and tips – and some things to watch out for!

Planning your own trip to the Alps? You might enjoy these posts:

Top image via Drivetribe

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Riding Grimsel Pass: Exploring Switzerland’s “Big 3” Mountain Passes

Riding Susten Pass: Exploring Switzerland’s “Big 3” Mountain Passes

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