Hiking over a rather grim and lonely pass, starting from Europe’s highest permament village.
Juf at 2126m is apparently the highest year-round settlement in Europe. An altitude which puts most ski resorts to shame.
Route: Juf – Stallerberg – Flüeseen – Stallerberg – Bivio
Length: 10.3km, +612m, -969m. Estimated time 4 hours.
Season: July – September. June and October might also work depending on the snow levels.
Arrival/Departure: Arrival is a little roundabout: train to Thusis, bus to “Andeer, Tgavugl”, then the bus to “Avers, Juf”. Return by Postbus from Bivio to Tiefencastel where you rejoin the train line.
Supplies: There is a little shop in Juf, but otherwise the route is empty until you reach Bivio where there are restaurants and shops.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: Skipping the lakes will shorten the route by an hour. Otherwise it is only forward to the end or backward to the start.
Exposure/Hazards: The path is rarely narrow or steep. The biggest hazard is the sun; until the last few hundred meters into Bivio you are totally exposed.
Notes along the route
Even getting off the first bus in Andeer you feel like it is a remote spot, and that isn’t even the start of the long valley up to Juf.
Going up to Juf is a long but beautiful bus ride up a very lonely valley. Starting as a steep forested gorge and slowly changing to open valley. Worth it for the views from the ride alone. The bus was packed with other walkers at first even though it started before 9am on a weekday (more buses run at weekends at least).
You actually pass roughly 5 meters from the border Italy thanks to a strange bit of geography. The neighbouring valley with the Lago di Lei is Italian (apart from the dam and access which is Swiss) and it is the only part of Italy which drains into the North Sea. There were endless beautiful little spots along the way, but I think Cresta looked the most impressive. To stress how high the village was there were marmots sat in the meadows by the road as we approached Juf.
Juf is at the very end of the valley as one would expect is small. There are a few guesthouses for refreshments/accommodation and surprisingly even a shop selling souvenirs. The hike itself is quite simple: up to the pass, fairly flat along the pass, then fairly steep down to Bivio.
Initially it is a gentle climb out of Juf through meadows, then it gets a bit steep when you enter a gully with water falls.
We diverted to the lakes at Flüeseen which added a few more km and meters of height, but was well worth it as a spot for lunch. There were frogs everywhere despite it being just under 2700m. I had to be careful not to step on them.
The pass itself was quite barren and lonely. It was a little bit like Scotland rather than Switzerland in some ways (like there were hardly even any cows and no huts).
Descending fom the pass the route followed a stream through an initially narrow gully and then into an increasingly wide valley. Once Bivio came into view the steep(ish) descent started. There was some traffic noise from the pass road but not as bad as I had feared it might have been. Mostly it was drowned out by cow bells.
Going down into a warm valley is always sad after a higher hike. Ice coffee and a drink at the Hotel Grischuna Bivio helped there whilst waiting for the next bus. Very friendly and personable waiter.
An hourly Postbus runs down from Bivio. This was very beautiful ride (as always in Graubünden). It would be worth riding up to Bivio and back (or even over the Julia Pass to St Moritz) just for the landscape. Sit on the left side for the better views.