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Bike – Up the Eriztal and over to Schangnau

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau

    Photo: Gliding down into Schangnau.

    Climbing up through the Emmental from the Aare valley, through gentle hills, and up to the start of the Emmentaler Alps.

    The real joy of this route is the section from Schwarzenegg through to Schangnau. Going up the road in Eriztal is both beautiful and very quiet thanks to the asphalt running out before the pass.

    It was also actually better for picking up cheese than the Emmental cheese route.

    Key Information

    Route: Thun – Steffisburg – Schwarzenegg – Innereriz – Schangnau.

    Length: 28 km, +855m, -525m.

    Date: 2023-September-02.

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau Route

    Practical Information

    Season: Most of the roads apart from the pass will be open year round (if maybe not so much fun to ride in January). The highest point is 1200m so this will be rideable relatively early in Spring and late into the Autumn.

    Arrival/Departure: Train to Thun / Various options for where to go after Schangnau.

    Supplies: Thun is a fairly big city (by Swiss standards) so has plenty of shops and restaurants. There are various villages with shops and numerous restaurants scattered along the route.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: Following stage 5 of Route 4 from Thun to Schwarzenegg would provide a quieter option with only a bit more height and a few extra km (this post is essentially an alternate route to that route, which joins the main road after Schwarzenegg).

    Exposure/Hazards: This is partly on roads which whilst not especially busy or full of heavy vehicles, are still worth treating with care.

    Technical: This includes a section of almost 4km on a gravel road to get over the Rotmoos between Innereriz and Schangnau. It is very smooth as far as such roads go. Anything more robust than a road bike won’t have a problem, and even roadies can probably manage it with some tolerance for going a bit slow and being shaken about.

    Notes along the route

    Starting out in Thun is always lovely for the brief ride through the old town and past the rather whimsical looking castle.

    Thun old town and castle.

    The most practical way to reach the start of the Eriztal (without excessive height gain and/or roundabout routing) is on the road up from Steffisburg to Schwarzenegg. The views are good but this does mean putting up with traffic going past. The road climbs out of the valley at Kreuzweg and there is a chance to ride the signposted Route 4 on a much quieter parallel side road for a section. After passing through Schwarzenengg the road up to Eriz is a dead-end to most traffic so is much quieter.

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    Looking back from Schwarzenegg.
    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    Heavily wooded valleys and distant snowy peaks.

    From the turn off just after Schwarzenegg (917m) to the end of the paved road at Innereriz (1050m) there is very little absolute height gain. However the road is constantly swooping and curving along the hillside. Never so much that the climbs feel like a chore, but enough to keep the ride entertaining. The views along this section are fantastic with the towering cliffs at the end of the valley, the deep wooded valley dotted with farmhouses, and a few glimpses to higher peaks in the distance.

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    The windy road up the Eriztal.

    At Innereiz there is a restaurant, a few cottages, a car park for hikers/skiiers, and the end of the paved road. The road surface changes and climbs up into what is starting to feel like a proper alpine area.

    The road joins the sign posted mountain bike route at Alp Drüschhubel. I stopped here to pick up some cheese and it was a rather special experience. Rather than just grabbing a prepacked chunk from a fridge you ring a cowbell for service and are then invited into the cheese cellar (complete with shelves full of cheese wheels) to select what you want.

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    The start of the Alps.
    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    Alp Drüschhubel.

    After the farm there isn’t much climb left, but it includes the steepest part of the route which starts just after the entrance to the Ferienwohnung. That doesn’t last long and other than a few small bumps it is easy riding across the meadows/mooreland with patches of forest.

    Rejoining the paved road it turns into a perfect fun gliding road. This section dragged on at the end of a long hike when I first visited the area, but with a bike it is pure effortless bliss with wonderful views (as I found out doing the Hohgant loop). Initially the views are of the same valley with a few lonely farm houses scattered around, then after passing through a thicket of trees the view changes to the lusher Emme valley around Schangnau with cows and farm houses everywhere.

    The last section into the valley is quite steep with a number of blind corners. At the bottom where the road crosses the river Emme there is a nicely done rest area with the chance to dip your feet in the water.

    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    Gliding down to Schangnau.
    Cycling Eriztal Schangau
    Looking up the Emme valley.

    Rejoining the main road just below Schangnau there are a range of possibilities for onward travel. Every option involves gaining some height, either to go over a pass to Escholzmatt (13km, +175m, with trains and roads to Bern and Lucerne), back to Thun (26km, +400m), or even following the valley towards Eggiwil and Signau (21km, + 190m, trains to Bern and Thun) involves a climb up the hillside thanks to the Emme plunging into a deep ravine here. In my case I followed the Emme all the way to its mouth near my home in Solothurn.

    The one thing that should be done in any case is going across the road into the Hohgant Käserei (dairy) to pick up some more cheese – including one of my favourites; the Wilde Bergfee. There is a fountain in Schangnau to fill up on water.

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