Super Alpine

Great Saint-Bernard Pass

Valais - Swiss/Italian border

English French Italian German
Great St Bernard Pass Col du Grand St-Bernard Colle del Gran San Bernardo Grosser Sankt Bernhard

The Great Saint-Bernard pass is one of the most famous alpine routes. Travellers have crossed it since the 11th century, thankful to Saint Bernard for building the hospice at its summit as a refuge for those accosted by bandits or storms.

We climb steeply northwards out of the bustling streets of Aosta back into the quiet mountains and towards the most famous of the transalpine routes, the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard, or Colle del Gran San Bernardo from the Italian side. For centuries, this was one of Europe’s most important and strategic transit points. When Augustus was planning the conquest of Britannia, he ordered the track to be widened, making it passable for carts, and so useful for the military and trade.

Great Saint Bernard Pass
Summit of the pass

It was Bernard of Menthon in the eleventh century who came to the rescue of many a traveller by founding the hospice at the summit of the pass. It became a refuge for those accosted by bandits or battered by storms, and Bernard later became a saint and the road his namesake. At 2,469 metres, the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard is the third-highest road in the Alps. The pass was replaced for most traffic by a toll tunnel in 1964, but the old pass road remains and can be accessed before the tunnel.

The old road is high and open only from June to September. Late in May the snowploughs are still at work near the top, creating snowbanks and clearing the road. Come October the snow will retake the pass, leaving the tunnel as the only link between the two countries...

45°52’08.0”N, 7°10’14.0”E
Martigny > Great St-Bernard > Aosta
Distance (km) 82
Altitude (m) 2469
Start Altitude (m) 503
End Altitude (m) 586
Minimum Altitude (m) 503
Maximum Altitude (m) 2478
Ascent (m) 2641
Descent (m) 2568

If you enjoyed this story

The full version is available in Issue 03 of the Super Alpine magazine - Tour International.

Learn More

Other passes