KLAUSEN PASS, SWITZERLAND 🇨🇭
The Klausen Pass is an incredibly scenic drive in the Central Swiss Alps connecting Altdorf in the canton of Uri with Linthal in the canton of Glarus. With only one hour drive from Zurich you can reach the Klausen as the first real alpine pass in Switzerland with an an elevation up to 1948 metres (6,391ft) above the sea level. Over 46 kilometres (29 miles) and 136 curves the stunning pass is spoiling us with incredible views.
DRIVING THE KLAUSEN PASS
The Klausen Pass might not be among the highest alpine passes, but don't be deluded the Klausen can be challenging. It is a bit of a thrill driving the Klausen Pass.
Coming from the north (Zurich) the road features a forest section, runs partly through alpine meadows, followed by the more than 100 curves and serpentines. The first section of the pass road is laid out in historic cobblestone pavement, that gives travellers an idea how difficult it was to do the passage in the past.
Several small tunnels are en route with more forest and a rather narrow road layout.
At Urnerboden it opens up again to a 5 kilometres long plateau with a wall of granite on one side. Driving here in a convertible is really an experience and no other alpine passes offers that kind of view.
Towards the end of the plateau you can park up on the side and take some pictures of the beautiful waterfalls running down the cliff. Especially after rain the falls get stronger and even more impressive.
After the waterfalls the Klausen is literally carved into the granite walls all the way to the top. Next to the Restaurant Klausenpasshöhe you will find enough parking to enjoy the views for a while. Sometimes you find yourself above the clouds in beautiful sunshine, while they valley gets none.
Coming down the other side of the pass we recommend to take it with caution and keep a good distance to cars in front of you. Here and there you will certainly also have to stop to give way to oncoming traffic. It's a bit of an adrenaline kick looking down the sheer drop offs.
At the end at Burglen the birthplace and museum of Wilhelm Tell, the Swiss national hero is an option to be visited.
HISTORY OF THE KLAUSEN PASS
Unlike most other alpine passes, the Klausen Pass was not used as a trading route. It was originally a cattle track during Roman or Medieval times.
Until 1625 the maintenance of the pass was shared between the cantons of Uri and Glarus and then given to a private individual. A chapel was built in 1717 and dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra.
Between 1870 and 1899 the road was extended and the 1717-built chapel was in the way. Only 1938 it was replaced by the current Bruder-Klaus-Kapelle. Later in 1893 the Swiss army gained interest in the alpine pass for strategically reasons and extended the road to what we find there today.
In 1900 the first horse-drawn post coach went over the pass and with it the first tourists. 22 years later the alpine bus route was opened. Motorised vehicles have been banned for a year between 1916 and 1917.
With the bus route in 1922 came also the annual "KLAUSEN RENNEN" a 21.5 kilometer pre-war hill climb. The first ever car race organised in Switzerland! This legendary international race over the Klausen Pass was even created a year before the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Until 1934 the canton Uri had a good income generated by fees for the race. Thousands of spectators used to line the pass road to watch this spectacular road race.
Since 1993, a vintage event is run every 4-5 years with hundreds of old-timer cars and motor bikes taking part. In 2006 the race was labelled by far the craziest mountain motor race in Europe with over 40’000 spectators and was honoured in Stoneleigh Park with the prestigious “Speed Event of the Year" award.
ACCESS THE KLAUSEN PASS
Apart from the race held every few years , you can say the Klausen Pass is in general a rather quiet alpine pass as a major motorway alternative exists. But as for most other scenic roads in Europe you should avoid the Klausen during bank holidays and on weekends.
Between November till late May the pass usually remains closed.