Stage 13 - Switzerland

You could blame Switzerland for my E4 adventure.  The first time I did place to place unassisted walking was about 10 years ago, with Christine, when we went from Grindelwald to Gstaad and my enthusiasm for this style of walking has grown ever since.  Of course we were completely spoilt by the scenery, particularly the awesome views of the Eiger and the Jungfrau, but it was the excitement of a new walk everyday and the sense of achievement from looking back over ground covered that really got me hooked.

Switzerland really is a different country.  Intensely associated with the Alps (almost interchangeable) it has lots things going for it.  Famous for its long history of independence and neutrality it somehow combines an intensely decentralised form of government (all the way down to referendum) with really strong national institutions (a  conscript army based on national service).  Famous of course for its financial services (infamous to some (particularly Harold Wilson)) it actually has a broadly based economy with the highest per capita level of manufacturing in Europe (interesting counter factual - it also has the lowest proportion of graduates in its workforce).  Switzerland is a successful country and all this makes for easy hassle free visiting.

As it happens the E4 route through Switzerland does not take you through classic Alpine scenary (that comes in buckets in Austria) but through the less well known Jura Mountains and then along the southern shore of Lake Constance.

Through the Jura the route follows the Jura Crest Way (also known as the Jura Ridgeway or the Jura Hoehenwege in German).  The Crest Way is one of the oldest national trails in the world with original development starting in 1905.  It starts at Nyon, just north of Geneva, and finishes at Dielsdorf, just north of Zurich, joining up Switzerland's two largest cities.  As the name suggests the route follows an east west ridge overlooking the central plateau with its huge lakes with the Alps forming the horizon to the south.  The views should be amazing.

The walk along the southern edge Lake Constance (Bodansee in German) will be the first sustained bit of flat walking since the Costa Dorada and I should be arriving there at the perfect time for some lake swimming.

There are two really good sources for developing the itinerary.  The Swiss Hiking Federation website provides both an itinerary and a description of the stages and a site called Activity Workshop provides a KMZ file for the route which you can display in Google Earth (for the Jura Crest Way).  The KMZ file, by the way, seems to confirm the Google Earth effect and shortens the route.  The Jura Crest Way is said everywhere to be 310 kms long but it comes out in Google Earth at 270 - will need to keep that in mind when looking again at my proposed itinerary in France which was very Google Earth dependant.

Both itineraries are different and both go from west to east rather than east to west.  They are also designed to let travellers get to the start of each day on a bus and are less concerned about accommodation.  Consequently I've done my own which is both faster (worryingly) and assumes that I want to stay as near the trail as possible.  The net effect is that I plan to cross Switzerland in 16 days (see attached itinerary).

I've done my own estimates for how long each day's walking will take based on Naismith's rule with Tranters corrections and a neat calculator from Wotz Wot.  I've included the optional assumption that walking downhill (gently) covers more distance than on the flat and that by the time I get to Switzerland I will be somewhere between fit and very fit.  Both assumptions could be optimistic but it stays light for a long time in July!

There are no really large towns along the route until you get to Konstance, which looks like a good place for a stop-over (the other towns/villages don't look that inspiring).  My itinerary does have a couple of long days,  probably too long (Day 6 and 10), but both are driven by accommodation constraints and the desire to stay as close to the trail rather than just masochism.  You could easily break up the other long day, Day 10.

Rather than a day by day description I have grabbed some images (mainly from the Activity Workshop site) which give a taste as to what I can expect - looks great

Down to Geneva from Mont Dole

Highest Point Mont Tendre
The Alps from Vue des Alps

Limestone Cliffs at Creux de Van


  1. Dear John,

    According to "Auf Tour in Europa" the official E4 hits the Chemin des Crêtes de Jura on the top of La Dôle. From there it is 7 KM to the railway station of Saint-Cergue, but these were already included in your previous stage. This is part of section 16 of the CCJ.
    From Saint-Cergue E4 takes CCJ sections 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 23, 22, 29, 8a and 7 to Wäsmeli. Here CCJ changes its name to Jura-Höhenweg to continue over sections 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3 to Brügg.
    There is no need to develop this part from websites; famous Swiss map makers Kümmerley & Frey sell a tiny little but very practical guide in French (code 3411) or German (code 3410). Language-free sketches and symbols show you distance, height and lodgings. The text gives much additional information.


  2. From Brügg, E4 passes (according to "Auf Tour in Europa") through Gebenstorf, Baldegg, Baden, Lägeren, Dielsdorf, Niederglatt, Bülach, Freienstein, Irchel, Ober-Buch, Dorf, Großandelfingen, Truttikon and Oberstammheim to Stein am Rhein, where it indeed meets the river Rhine. It now follows the Rhine, always on the southern bank, but sometimes at a little distance (and height!). This part, until Sonthofen in Austria, is described in both a map and a booklet published by Kompass, referring to E% as it follows the same routing. It is also easy to develop your own plan as there are plenty pensions and hotels in every village and the terrain is easy rolling until after Bregenz. No need to collect advance information about lodgings, unless you want to make reservations. Another possibiliy is what I did, to walk here without luggage from a central point and to return "home" every evening by train (trains run every half hour until midnight). Switzerland is terribly expensive, but the Swiss Railways sell cheap season tickets to protect the environment.