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Swiss Passes - Switzerland's mountain pass roads

Col de la Forclaz

Valais/French border

The pass was developed thanks to Thomas Cook and his tours from England.


Before the road was built, mule traders and smugglers zigzagged up the mountain face to Valais. Thomas Cook led his first tourists from England to Geneva and over the Forclaz in 1863. Building a road started in the 1800s but it wasn't until 1920 that vehicles could use it. In those days it was closed at night, and during the day the speed limit was 18kph.


At the summit, there is a cafe and parking for the popular hiking trails. The trails are part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc route as well as the Tour du Mont Blanc. Trient is a place to stop for glacier hikes. Tête-Noire has the 'mysterious gorges' through which Cook's tourists had to climb. During WWII, the pass to Châtelard was heavily fortified with 15 bunkers, and both roads and railways were protected by mines. The surrounding area was littered with anti-tank barriers, known as the Toblerone line after the redoubtable Swiss chocolate. Some of the defences remained in place during the Cold War, and the last was eventually decommissioned in 1989.


Summit coordinates 46°03’32.4”N, 7°00’07.9”E
Summit Altitude 1527 metres
Distance 22 kilometres
Start Martigny 1125 metres
End Châtelard 503 metres
Opens All year*
* All year donates the pass is cleared of snow but maybe closed on some days
Col de la Forclaz
The climb from Martigny