Valais is ideal for scenic bike tours, with exemplary infrastructure and utterly spectacular mountain scenery. Whether relying on your own muscle power or with the support of an e-mountain bike, a bike tour in Valais is an unforgettable experience. And at the heart of this huge alpine playground lies the Moosalpregion.
On the move with Stefanie Zahno along a stage of the Valais Alpine Bike Tour.
From Crans-Montana to Brig, passing through the Leukerbad region, the Moosalp and Grächen as well as the Lötschental and Val d’Anniviers valleys, the regional Valais Alpine Bike route traverses the best alpine single trails in Valais. Challenging ascents, rapid single trail descents and impressive views are guaranteed. Here, we focus on the stage leading from Unterbäch to Grächen as we accompany avid mountain biker Stefanie Zahno along the trails in the region she calls home.
Valais Alpine Bike
The multi-day Valais Alpine Bike tour leads through the Moosalpregion. Divided into several stages, the route connects the most beautiful bike trails in the Upper Valais region. The cable cars, mountain railways and public transport connections along the route allow a number of difficult and strenuous ascents to be avoided.
Stefanie Zahno, elite mountain bike athlete from Bürchen
Stefanie Zahno is a passionate biker, and the Moosalpregion is her home. She knows the bike trails, and therefore also this stage of the Valais Alpine Bike tour, like the back of her hand. Stefanie prefers to train for national and international competitions in the great outdoors. Her personal highlight is the ascent to the Moosalp and the richly varied trails in the region.
It is early morning. The birds are chirping and the grass is still wet with dew. The chair lift at Brandalp has just started its morning operations and is taking its first passengers to the upper station. Stefanie Zahno and her friend are also on the lift. This way they can spare themselves a little leg work. This is a wise decision because the ascent from the upper station up to the Moosalp is a tough climb – and there are still a few kilometres to go to the day’s destination in Grächen.
Steadily uphill to the Moosalp
Arriving at the upper station, the two women put on their bicycle helmets, take one last sip of water and courageously swing themselves onto their bikes. The challenging trail leads over dirt roads and tracks, sloping further and further up through the forest. However, it doesn’t take Stefanie and her friend long to find their stride. In the clearings that punctuate the forest trail, the two catch sight of the awe-inspiring Bietschhorn. Shaped like an almost perfect pyramid, the imposing mountain towers over the Rhone Valley.
Located some 2048 metres above sea level, the Moosalp is the highest point of this stage. Although the pass is accessible by postal bus and car in the summer, it still boasts a real alpine atmosphere. Around the top of the pass, Stefanie and her friend spot a large herd of Herens cattle. At first glance, these cows look scary because of their black color and stocky stature, but they are generally peaceful creatures. But the real reason to stop on the Moosalp is not the cows, but the Moosalp Restaurant, which is known for its outstanding cuisine and legendary cream slices.
And of course a panoramic view par excellence!
Even more impressive than the cream slice is the view from the terrace: from here, you can see around eight peaks measuring four thousand metres. The Mischabel Group comprises the Lenzspitze, Nadelhorn, Stecknadelhorn, Hohberghorn, Dürrenhorn and the highest mountain that lies entirely in Switzerland – the Dom. Above the Saas Valley, the two bikers also catch sight of the Weissmies and the Lagginhorn.
Their strength renewed, the pair then embark on the rapid descent: from the Moosalp, an initially comfortable single trail leads downhill through the larch and stone pine forests. At the clearing at Breitmatte they enjoy a view into the Saas and Matter valleys, extending back into the Rhone valley. From this point on, they must focus their full concentration on the trail, as the downhill descent becomes more demanding. A narrow trail over roots and stones leads steeply downwards. A sharp turn changes the direction of travel, but the fun remains the same.
After about 7 kilometres, Stefanie and her friend reach Törbel, or Terbil as the locals pronounce it. With its wooden houses, blackened by the sun over the centuries, it is one of the rare unspoiled mountain villages of Valais. The two leave their bikes for a short while and go on foot through the narrow, steep laneways to immerse themselves in the past. The typical Valais barns, a mill and a bakehouse give an insight into former everyday life in a Valais mountain village.
The journey continues. From Törbel a narrow trail leads further and further down into the Mattertal valley. In Stalden the pair continue on the Matterhorn Valley Trail. Following the old mule track, the trail leads steadily up and down the Mattertal to St. Niklaus. This trail is listed in the Inventory of Switzerland’s Historical Traffic Routes (IVS). Along the way, the bikers repeatedly catch sight of the old, still well-preserved dry stone walls.
Change to postal bus in St. Niklaus
After almost 9 kilometres on the Matterhorn Valley Trail in the Mattertal, Stefanie and her friend reach the village of St. Niklaus. This up-and-coming mountain village in the heart of the Nikolaital, as the Mattertal is also called, is the final stop on today’s leg of the mountain bike tour. The yellow postal bus brings the friends up the last few metres of the ascent to Grächen.
Stage destination Grächen
A unique sun terrace awaits them – a true summer paradise at 1620 metres above sea level. The village is considered to have the lowest rainfall in Switzerland. With a high five to celebrate successfully completing the tour, the pair park their bikes in the village. Stefanie and her friend enjoy the warm summer evening and a fine Valais platter with local produce in one of the numerous restaurants.
Mountain Bike World Championship 2025
2025 will be the year of mountain biking in Valais. From 30 August to 14 September 2025, the World Championships will take place in about eight destinations in Valais, with world championship medals to be awarded in seven of them for one discipline. A true mountain bike festival – and not just for die-hard fans.
Photo rights: © Switzerland Tourism
Published: May 2023