Photo: Just before Mühlehorn.
I have passed along the lake many times on the way to Graubünden, but have never seen it in more than passing. I was headed to the area for a (rather disappointing) visit to the Greisinger Museum and was taking the bike for the Kunkels Pass and a few alpine passes afterwards, so this seemed like a very scenic and fun way to arrive.
The north side of the Walensee is basically a sheer cliff along the feet of the Churfisten, so everything has to move along the south (which is only partly sheer cliff). A major train line, the Autobahn, and the normal road all squeeze along here. Meaning you are often in hearing range of, and sometimes riding directly alongside, the Autobahn.
The name apparently means dividing rather than whale, this was at one time the border between German and Romansch speaking areas.
Route: Ziegelbrücke – Mühlehorn – Unterterzen – Walenstadt.
Length: 23km, +/- 200m.
Season: The whole route is below 500m so is mostly going to rideable year round, but being under a steep north face it is very likely to be icy during the winter. Even in summer the road was partly in the shade of the cliffs at midday.
Arrival/Departure: Train to Ziegelbrücke / train from Walenstadt. Both stations are on the (inter) regional line.
Supplies: There are a constant series of little villages with shops and places to eat/drink along the way.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: The villages along the way have stations and ferry stops.
Exposure/Hazards: The signed route is mostly on separated low-car or car-free paths. Only the final few km are on the road.
- There are sections of gravel and rough asphalt along the first half of the lake. Roadies will need to take a detour to the south and then climb up.
- The north side of the Walensee is basically a sheer cliff, so everything has to move along the south (which is only partly sheer cliff). A major train line, the Autobahn, and the normal road all squeeze along here. Meaning you are often in hearing range of, and sometimes riding directly alongside, the Autobahn.
- Near the start of the lake are a pair of car-free tunnels where a light isn’t essential but would be advisable. The first is a large straight gallery with high ceilings, but the second is a tight and winding little corridor.
Notes along the route
Starting at Ziegelbrücke station I rode 5 minutes into town to find something for lunch. There isn’t much to say aboutZiegelbrücke, it seemed to be just a bland industrial town. It did at least have a bakery which was all I wanted from it.
Doubling back to the station and following Route 9 started pleasantly leaving the main road and following the Limmat. Then in true Swiss bike route fashion it swung around through an industrial area, onto a busy road, and then off onto a quiet gravel path.
The lakeside section starts with a segregated foot/bike path which hugs the cliff. This section is never far from the westbound lane of the Autobahn, so the dramatic views are mixed with the rumble of traffic (sometimes with the cars close enough to touch).
After leaving the tight windy tunnel the route passes behind an abandoned restaurant and hits by far the steepest climb of the route. It only climbs 30m in total, but most of that is in the first 70m with a gradient well over 15%.
Leaving Murg the route shown online joins the main road, but the signs on the ground direct you onto a small car-free path directly on the lakefront. I suggest taking the lakefront option.
At Unterterzen the signed bike path joins the main road and stays on it almost all the way to Walenstadt. A quieter alternative is to take the rollerblading route which follows the lakefront on a small path, this is technically closed to all traffic but the signs state that bikes are allowed on workdays (and Saturday afternoons if I recall correctly). This way is much nicer – following a smooth paved path directly along the lakefront. However the last few km from Mols to Walenstadt are on the road regardless.
Walenstadt doesn’t sit on the lake itself (presumably the area would have historically been marshey and prone to flooding). The seemingly high value land near to the lake seems to be mostly given over to a military firing range, but there is a nice beach and swimming area to relax at. The town itself is fine enough but forgettable (much better than Ziegelbrücke).
Walenstadt has a station for connections onwards by train – otherwise carrying on to Sargens offers more and quicker trains, or the option to go up or down the Rhine. The route to Sargens is mostly on a quiet road.
I carried on to Sargens then followed the Rhine downstream for a few km before hopping over the border into Liechtenstein (just for the novelty of it), and doubling back over the little Luzisteig pass to Bad Ragaz. Being Switzerland this of course meant bunkers and other defensive structures everywhere, including a fortress which the road narrows and passes through.