The first resource most people will find when looking into hiking in Switzerland is the SwitzerlandMobility (Schweiz Mobil) website. Anyone can access the website and it does seem fantastic at first. Showing you the map of the entire country with layers for the hiking/biking/MTB/rollerblading/canoe routes.
The Plus version which adds more features costs 35 CHF per year (with a discount for GA holders). I have been using this for as long as I can remember just because it was the first thing I came across and I am used to it. But in the current state it doesn’t offer that much value compared to the various competitors.
What Plus offers
There are two advantages to having the Plus abo.
Download the map for offline use in the App.
Anyone can download the SwitzerlandMobility app for free and use it to access the map and info on the numbered routes. But you need an active internet connection to view the map – something which isn’t always so practical when out and about in the mountains. The Plus version allows you to download as much of the map as you want for offline use.
This is in theory a very useful benefit. However, it is also rather pointless given that the SwissTopo app allows you to do this for free too with all the same information and details.
Using SwitzerlandMobility Plus you can plot routes and save them for reference in the app or as GPS files for other devices.
This does have some nice features:
- You can plan with the grades of the hiking routes clearly visible. Knowing that a section is a ‘blue’ Alpine path is rather useful. Though I have explained why I don’t give much attention to whether something is a ‘yellow’ footpath or ‘red’ mountain path.
- You can have multiple layers turned on at once. You can turn layers for different activity types on and off without changing the existing plan. This is great for planning a mixed bike ride jumping back and forth between the cycling and MTB networks.
There are also some disadvantages:
- The level of information is very basic. You get given the distance, height change, estimated time, and a height profile of the planned route. But no breakdown of what sort of surfaces you are on, what the gradient at any given point is, the type of road, or other such useful information.
- There isn’t any way to filter your planning. Want to avoid certain types of surface, road size, or gradients when cycling? Then you will need to look elsewhere or painstakingly check every part of the route yourself. This will be especially annoying for Roadies who simply want a ‘tarmac only’ option.
- The edit function is awful. Once you have saved the route you can drag way points around, but it won’t even let you carry on adding a new destination.
- It really is only Switzerland. As soon as you select a point over the border the planning falls apart. Click in a spot outside of the country and the route will just follow a straight line rather than the road, or if there is a short stretch of another country in the way between 2 markers in Switzerland it will take a long detour around it rather than go through it. Obviously you don’t expect a Swiss planner to plot you a route to Paris or Berlin, but for a small country with open borders it should really extend the function at least a km or two into the neighbours. Especially given that the path and topography information required is already there on the map.
- The app doesn’t have a dedicated planner. Select to plot a route in the app and it will open the SwitzerlandMobility website in your browser instead. This works well enough, but it could be better.
There is an update going on (the website was given a new look in 2023). So maybe they will also address some of these issues.
Again you can use the SwissTopo app to plan routes with the hiking/cycling/etc layers turned on. However this is only on the app (not the website sadly) and rather clunky.
What other options are there?
As I have already mentioned this already offers much of the same content for free. The route planning is rather slow and clunky compared to SwitzerlandMobility, but it is worth having the app on your phone just for the free offline map feature.
I also prefer the SwissTopo website for browsing around the map because it seems to always load faster.
Komoot, Outdoor Active etc
The various route planning websites require some sort of payment to unlock all the features such as downloading GPX files/offline maps/activity types, but generally offer more than SwitzerlandMobility for the same price or less. The only thing they don’t do in comparison is show the numbers of the routes and difficulty grades of the footpaths.
Schwarzwald Tour Planner
The tour planner website for the Black Forest in Germany is a free to use version of the Pro feature from OutDoorActive (you just need to sign up with an email address). It isn’t geo-locked, so you can use it to plan routes anywhere in and around Switzerland.
I find this to be much better than the Swiss websites for planning cycling routes. You get all the path type and gradient information, and you can actually see the cycling network beyond the numbered routes which the SwitzerlandMobility map doesn’t show.
There are some cases where a path won’t register for cycling, but will for hiking or mountain biking, or even that it won’t work for any of them, but I very rarely find this to be a problem.
The mountain biking layer is a bit hit and miss. The big solid lines for the official routes are fine, but the finer markings are seemingly often just done at random with disconnected nonsensical (and sometimes outright suicidal) paths chosen. So I wouldn’t advise blindly following those.
This can be useful to quickly get a rough idea of how long a bike ride would be, but the routing for cycling makes some horrible choices so I really would not recommend this for detailed planning outside of cities or very gentle landscapes.