Along the River – Biking the Rhone

April 6, 2023

Words by Marc Petterson; Images by Pascal Gertschen for Valais Wallis Promotion

The Rhone river, one of the main rivers in Europe, starts as small torrents from the Rhone glacier deep in Valais. Streams from the monstrous glaciers in Valais join forces to form a formidable river by the time the masses of water reach Sion. From there the flow passes Martigny and marks the border between Vaud and Valais. The river reaches Lac Leman, then reemerges again at the far end of the lake, in Geneva, and continues to discharge into the Mediterranean sea. 

We embarked on the challenge of following the river upstream by bike. We could easily have started pedaling in Lausanne, but we chose to avoid cycling in traffic by taking the train to Villeneuve. From here the paths are mostly off-limits to traffic. The Route de Rhône has a whopping 300km of paths, much of it on nice, flat, and paved roads, running parallel to the river. This gives us a humongous bike and rollerblade track suitable for any level. You can bike 10 km from Villeneuve to Aigle, or the full distance, hundreds of kilometers of cycling, from Andermatt to Lausanne. Follow the red signposts with a bike and rollerblade indicating the way to take.   

After a solid breakfast, we began our journey with a late start; it was wise to let the morning winds fade and let the afternoon wind that blows up the valley give us a helping hand. The help of the wind is much appreciated, as we are going to bike close to 100km in one day. Usually, the wind blows down the valley in the mornings, and up the valley when the day starts warming up, so keeping an eye on the forecast will save a lot of effort.


Around St Maurice the valley narrows and the cliffs become insurmountable: it is here that carefully constructed bunkers and fortifications become visible. Numerous military outposts line the valley; Chillon, St Maurice, Vernayanaz, Dorenaz, and others. Hidden in the rock faces are hatches, military cable carts, and gun outposts. Some are open for visitors, revealing their secrets from the inside. Read more about it in The Hollow Mountains article here.

The path from Villeneuve to St Maurice is perfectly flat and curves softly along the river. At around Lavey le Bains, we briefly divert away from the river, following the cantonal road for a while before rejoining our path parallel to the river. From here we have smooth sailing on uninterrupted, straight paths. This works just fine, but if just cruising seems boring, there are several castles along the valley, open to the public. From Chillon to Stockalper, you can spend days daydreaming about the local Romeos and Juliets who once lived in these medieval strongholds. Along the way, we also pass the main, alpine rivers merging into Le Rhone. These alpine torrents are keeping Lac Leman topped up with fresh, clean water.  

The path also passes some of the best vineyards in the country, the opportunity to stop for some nectar of the gods is irresistible. When we finally arrive in Sion, the end of our journey, and hop on the train back to Lausanne, from the windows we admire the path we just biked.

Ps. To travel light, and save the planet, bring a refillable water bottle and top it up at a water fountain along the route. This site is convenient for finding fountains on the way.

The Hollow Mountains

Join us for a trip inside Switzerland's (not-so) secret military bunkers

May 15-21, 2023