Hikes

Hikes

The Gries Pass mule trail

A scenic climb along an ancient mule trail from the Rhône valley up to a remote pass on the Italian border. The thrilling adventure combines history, wilderness and a pioneering eco-project.

  • Difficulty

    difficult

  • Length

    20.8 km

  • Duration

    8:00 h

  • Show on map

This hike at the heart of the Alps is also a trip in time. A historical mule trail through wild scenery leads to a trio of high alpine passes, ancient and modern, that tell of centuries of encounter and exchange. The uppermost stretch of the Rhône valley has welcomed traders and travellers from both sides of the Alps since at least Roman times. One of the most important crossings led via the passes of Grimsel and Gries – the shortest link between central Switzerland and Italy. Our hike begins on the floor of the Rhône valley in the picturesque village of Ulrichen, which once saw up to 100 pack animals pass through a day. From here, the route leads along the historical mule trail up the wild Ägenetal. Among the main goods traded in Italy was the hard Sbrinz cheese from central Switzerland, which has given its name to the long-distance ViaSbrinz cultural route of which this trail now forms part. Another, more modern route, also leads up this valley: the road to the Nufenen Pass, which links Valais with Ticino to the east. Our itinerary, however, continues south, climbing to the head of the valley and a 21st-century sight: a cluster of wind turbines that form the highest wind park in Europe at 2,500 m. The Windpark Gries is designed to generate enough power for nearly 3,000 households – an important pillar of Valais’ new energy strategy focusing on renewables. Our trail skirts above the sparkling Griessee reservoir to reach the Gries Pass on the Italian border – now a wonderfully tranquil spot revealing gorgeous views of the Valle di Morasco. The route then turns back to skirt via the Corno Pass – another car-free pass, this time linking Valais with Ticino – to reach the modern Nufenen Pass and superb views of the Valais and Bernese Alps.   Highlights:  Historical mule trail used by traders, pilgrims, smugglers and mercenaries Variety, from lush Rhone valley up to glacial landscapes Futuristic energy project – wind park Gries

Turn-by-turn directions

The trail from Ulrichen railway station up to the Gries Pass is clearly marked throughout.

The hike can easily be shortened by skipping the Gries and/or Corno Pass: various short cuts lead straight up to the Nufenen Pass.

At the Nufenen Pass summit, a restaurant offers a handy stop for refreshments. The postal bus stop is just outside.

The full ViaSbrinz leads in 5 day-stages totalling 110 km from Stansstad on the shores of Lake Lucerne to Ponte in the Val Formazza in Italy. Our hike forms part of the final stage 5, from Obergesteln via Ulrichen and the Gries Pass to Ponte.

Start: Ulrichen (1346 m)
Destination: Nufenen pass (2478 m)

Author's recommendation

For a different experience of the iconic passes of Valais, take one of the dedicated postal bus tours. Circuits offered include 3 passes (Nufenen-Furka plus Gotthard) and 4 passes (Grimsel-Nufenen plus Gotthard and Susten).

Technical information

  • Altitude

    2556 m 1347 m

  • Ascent

    1789 m

  • Descent

    657 m

  • Technique

    Bewertung: 4.0 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Stamina

    Bewertung: 5.0 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Experience

    Bewertung: 6 von 5.0 Punkten

  • Landscape

    Bewertung: 6.0 von 5.0 Punkten

Public transport

Frequent CFF train connections to Brig, then MGB (Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn) train to Ulrichen (1h 15). You can travel to the Goms valley coming from Zurich or Lucerne as well. Return to Ulrichen from Nufenen Pass summit by postal bus. Find full timetable information at sbb.ch.

Approach

From Brig, follow the cantonal route 19 for 35 km until you arrive in Ulrichen. You can travel to the Goms valley coming from Zurich or Lucerne as well. At end of walk, take postal bus from Nufenen Pass summit back down to Ulrichen.

Parking

Parking available in Ulrichen. Follow the local car park routeing.

Equipment

We recommend: 

  • good footwear
  • clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
  • hat or cap
  • sunscreen
  • bottle for water
  • picnic
  • camera
  • binoculars (optional)
  • hiking poles (optional)
  • printout of this hike (click «Print» icon, to download)  

For certain walks:

  • Swimwear

Safety information

Use of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. Valais/Wallis Promotion accepts no liability for the accuracy and completeness of information on this website.

For all hikes: 

  • Bring a map. Download full description of this route including large-scale map by clicking on «Print» icon, top right of this page.
  • Use marked trails only, and observe all signposting – for your own safety, to safeguard grazing animals and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
  • Close gates after passing through.
  • Please be considerate to other trail users, and to the plants and animals.
  • Do not leave any waste in nature. 

For mountain hikes:

  • Take extra care protecting yourself from the sun at altitude. UV radiation can be exceptionally strong, even in cloudy weather.
  • Plan hike carefully: take into consideration fitness level of each participant, weather forecast and season.
  • Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, without warning. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time. 

For high-altitude hikes:

  • Inform others of the route you plan to take. Whenever possible, avoid going alone.
  • Do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
  • Take note of the warning signs that point out the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs: water levels may rise rapidly without warning.

Additional information

More information about the destination: 

Literature

The tourist office in Ulrichen has got brochures and information material about hiking and the energy production in the region.

Maps

SwissTopo maps 1:25’000:  1250 Ulrichen / 1270 Binntal / 1271 Basodino / 1251 Val Bedretto