Check out the world’s (third) longest suspension bridge in the Swiss Alps
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The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge (494 metres) is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Swiss Alps, and it used to be #1 – the longest in the world until the Baglung Parbat Footbridge (567 meters) was built in Nepal in 2020, and 516 Arouca Bridge (516 metres) was also opened in Portugal this year (2021).
It therefore holds the third bronze position now, but it remains as impressive as always! ⬇️
🌉 The Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, an impressive place to be
Built in 2017, this half-a-kilometre mass of metal can hold up to 250 people at the same time, although I am not sure I would try to cross it with so many people on it!
It’s indeed an impressive walk and those scared of heights may feel challenged. But be reassured, its structure impedes too much swinging. Also, the maximum height from the floor is only 85 metres, but the feeling when crossing is pure adrenaline and the views leave you with your mouth open until you reach the other end.
While you cross the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, you will have an impressive look at the Weisshorn, the fourth highest peak of Switzerland with its 4’505 metres of altitude, and you will appreciate two glaciers as you can see on the image below, Bisgletscher and Hohlichgletscher.
By the names you may have already deduced by now, that this piece of civil and mountain engineering is located in the German-speaking area of Switzerland. It is close to the famous town of Zermatt, from which you can admire and approach THE peak of Switzerland, the Matterhorn. This peak, also known as Cervino and Cervin in Italian and French respectively, is the symbol of Toblerone chocolates and many other things in Switzerland.
The good news about this bridge is that it is part of a popular two-day hike – the Europaweg – and therefore, its access is completely free, no ticket nor booking required. You just need to get your hiking shoes on and make sure the weather conditions are favorable. Also, check before going that the routes and bridge are open, as during the winter the bridge remains closed and it usually opens between May and October.
This year, for instance, by the end of June the bridge was still closed due to the amount of snow remaining at that altitude (about 2000 metres). If you stay in a mountain hut for the night as we did and will recommend below, you can ask there about the conditions. Otherwise, the Europaweg website also indicates whether the bridge and main trail is open or not.
🏔 Getting to the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge
But how do you get there as part of a hike? If you only have a weekend, there are three main options. We will describe the one we did first because it was a bit entrepreneurial and requires more description. The other alternatives, including the Europaweg, are the typical options and you will find more information about these elsewhere.
Option 1️⃣ Two-day loop from Randa
This option starts from the town of Randa, which is accessible either by car or train (I am highlighting this as on the other hand, Zermatt is only accessible by train). The hike also ends in Randa, and includes staying overnight at the Europahütte – a beautiful mountain hut offering accommodation, dinner and breakfast in the middle of nature!
Why did we choose this option instead of the classic Europaweg two-day hike? The Europaweg entails about 7h of walking each day and therefore requires two full days to complete it, while in our case, we were arriving in this region at noon and we also needed to leave on the next day fairly early. Therefore, this option is ideal if you want to do the suspension bridge in a weekend although you don’t have two full days.
Another reason for choosing this option was that we wanted to end our hike in the same place we would start (Randa) as we went by car. However, you can always return to your starting point by train if you decide to do the Europaweg – it will just take longer and you will depend on a train for your way back. But this is Switzerland, you can get almost anywhere by train!
So in a nutshell, this option includes going to the suspension bridge by Randa, staying the night at the Europahütte, and returning to Randa by doing a longer walk the next day. This is the itinerary you can do on a map:
When you kick off your hike from Randa, you just need to follow indications towards Hängebrücke (suspension bridge) until point 1 where you will take the direction towards the south until point 2. There, you need to go towards point 3 crossing the bridge from south to north (directions towards the bridge will be always indicated by signposts, no worries). You can then reach the Europahütte (point 4), which is also clearly indicated.
This hike has about 900 metres of elevation gain and can be completed in between 2 to 3 hours. It’s perfect if you start it early in the afternoon, so that you arrive at the hut before dinner, to enjoy some drinks on its beautiful terrace overlooking the glaciers.
On the next day, you can continue your hike down to Randa doing a detour by going back to the suspension bridge, this time crossing it from north to south (duh… this seems like an obvious observation, but you will see how views seem different from crossing the bridge from the other end, so worth crossing it twice!).
Then, follow directions towards Zermatt, going to point 5 through Grüngarten, and continue until points 6 and 7 always following directions towards Zermatt. In point 7, you will see a signpost that indicates a path downhill to go to Randa, this is your way back to Randa, don’t miss it!
The reason we wanted to get to point 7 is because from there we had views of the Matterhorn. Although for us, the clouds did not allow us to see the peak well this time… 😒 that said, views of the Monte Rosa massif were worth the walk, and the elevation gain we did the second day was of about 300 metres, very reasonable!
Something we really liked about this walk were the views obviously, but also how much flora there was along the way, not always the case in areas above 2000 metres of altitude.
⚠️ BEWARE: This trail sometimes shows falls that are quite steep. You have ropes to hold yourself to, just always stay on the track. This area is known for frequent rock slides. The Europaweg original route was permanently modified recently due to damages by constant rock falls; and the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge was built in 2017 to replace another shorter (and I guess lower) one built in 2010 that was destroyed by rock slides…
This is not to scare you but just to flag that it’s important to follow the signposts and trail marks!
Option 2️⃣ One-day loop from Randa
This is basically doing point 1, 2 and 3, and back to point 1 (or vice versa), for a one-day round hike from Randa.
This is a great alternative if you do not want to spend the night out. You can find a detailed description for this route here.
Option 3️⃣ The Europaweg: two-day point-to-point hike
The Europaweg, known as the most beautiful two-day hike in Switzerland, is a much more challenging two-day hike than our option 1 (a total of 2500 metres of elevation gain versus the ~1200 metres for option 1). It starts in Grächen and ends in Sunnegga (Zermatt), stopping at Europahütte for the night. It takes about 7h each day to complete.
In 2018, a section of this hike had to be closed due to rock falls and it has been permanently diverted, crossing now the town of Herbriggen, from which you can also start this hike to avoid the descent between Grächen and Herbriggen.
For the return, in case you go to Grächen or Herbriggen by car, you can always do Zermatt-Grächen/Herbriggen by train to recuperate your vehicle.
Train schedules and tickets can be checked on the SBB website. There are direct trains to Herbriggen, and for Grächen, you will have to change at St Niklaus.
🏡 Staying at the Europahütte
The Europahütte is a mountain hut located at 2220 metres of altitude. It has everything you need to spend a night between hikes. You will only need to bring your own sleeping bag sheets, and picnic for the next day, unless you wish to pre-order one with them.
Half board, including dinner and breakfast, costs 75 CHF/night (about 70 EUR). If you prefer to just stay there, you can pay 38 CHF/night without meals (about 35 EUR). Note they don’t accept TWINT as many other huts in Switzerland, and if you pay with credit card, they have to charge you an additional 12%, so bring some cash if you can.
Once we arrived there, we spent a beautiful late afternoon on the hut’s terrace watching the sunset until dinner, which was served around 18:30. As in many huts, everyone eats the same menu at the same time! And we had some impressive visitors…
A 100% recommended experience!
📍 Map of key places for hiking to Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge
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This is our first post about a hike and we are very excited about it!! 🏔 We wanted to share this amazing place, Lac de Louvie, with you… 🤩 After completing the “Sentier des Chamois” where you can encounter wild animals, such as marmots, ibexes and chamois 🐐, you can also spend the night at the Cabane de Louvie by the lake.