Charles Kuonen | Walking on air
Switzerland is home to the most amazing mountains and some top hiking highlights. In addition, you can also find the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, the Charles Kuonen suspension bridge. This trip to the bridge was the first one of our recent holiday in Zermatt. We left Belgium early in the evening and arrived in Randa the next day approximately at 5h30 in the morning. That’s also exactly when our hike started, at 5h30 in the morning. We still don’t know if this was our best idea after such a long drive.
The walk starts in the center of Randa. I guess it’s not really worth calling a city ‘center’, but it’s an extremely adorable town. We parked somewhere at random because we didn’t have any clue where we were exactly. To be honest, we didn’t even plan this trip very well before we started, we just found out about the bridge in the car on our way to Zermatt. Good enough preparation though… These impulsive ideas most of the time turn out to be our best, so we gave it a shot. Anyway, when we arrived in Randa, we parked our car in the first small parking space we found. When we came back, we noticed there are no big parking spaces near the village, so this was the way to go.
Randa | Starting point
First, we wanted to wander a bit around the village, but because it was still dark when we left, we decided to start our walk and visit the village on our way back. We started looking for the direction indicators for the walk, and pretty soon we found out we just had to walk up the village.
Our first stop was unplanned but necessary because of the “woollies”, officially called ‘Valais black nose sheep’. They are so cute! They also represent the mascot of Zermatt and it was our first encounter with these sheep. They were definitely not shy and Koen was a great attraction for these little fellas.
The walk up to Charles Kuonen
After the first stop, we pursued our way to the Charles Kuonen suspension bridge. The walk started pretty steeply. As a matter of fact, this didn’t change along the way. The whole route to the bridge is abrupt and it took a while to get to our target. Nevertheless, the walk up was marvellous. Because we left so early, we were the first people to ascend to the bridge. That’s the reason why we saw quite a lot of wildlife on our way up.
First of all, we came across the black nose sheep (which were not really wild of course), but we also saw some alpine marmots hopping around on the rocks in the forest (we like to call them Murmels -their German name-, which sounds so much cuter). Higher up the mountain, we saw even more, because of the fact the terrain is perfectly suited for them with a lot of loose rocks covering the ground. While walking in the forest, we also same some Chamois jumping around. They were a little too far away and too quick to make decent pictures, but we gave it our best shot.
The walk | Part II
The end of the walk is the prettiest part. You are finally able to fully enjoy the walk because the steep part is over, and the last meters you’ll just walk straight ahead to the bridge. Off course, as in nearly every beautiful place, there is somebody who had the great idea to build his cabin there, and in this case, we loved it. It’s placed between the rocks and the green meadows and the cabin gives an extra dimension to the scenic view. A good thing about arriving at this cabin means that you’ve made it, because a few meters ahead, you’ll see the bridge.
Once we arrived at the bridge we were so happy we left early. Arriving around 7.30 at the bridge, after a 2-hour walk up. We had like an hour of time where we were all alone on the bridge, which made it look even more spectacular than if there would be dozens of people on it. And that’s exactly the reason I would always get up early to come and visit this bridge.
Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge
The Charles Kuonen suspension bridge itself is amazing, it is nearly 500m long (494 metres to be precise) and has a see-through bottom. It’s a new version of the old Europabrücke, and in place since 2017, when the old bridge was destroyed by an avalanche. This bridge is a part of the Europaweg hike tour, which is a 2-day hike tour in the area. It’s also a connection between the two villages of Zermatt and Grachen. At the end of the bridge, you will find the Europahütte which is definitely worth a visit.
When you’ll pass on to the other side of the bridge, you’ll get another view on the mountains and the valley, so please do cross the bridge! We would like to point this out because Koen was so excited about filming and photographing the bridge that he totally forgot to cross the bridge himself. And he only noticed this while editing the pictures for this post… Only at 9 o’clock, we saw the first people coming up the mountain, and they came in great numbers. When we see other people coming, that is usually our signal to head back down. I guess if you want to be alone up there as we were, there is no other choice than to leave very early (or sleep in the hut).
The way down was far easier, but strenuous for the upper legs and knees. Because the trail is so steep, some walking sticks are useful to relieve the strain on your legs. In spite of the fact that our legs were fully cramped after a 12h car ride and this walk, the climb was definitely worth the effort.
How to get there
When entering the village of Randa, there is a small roundabout where you turn uphill. The next village you see is where you should park your car.
You can park around: Dorfstrasse 98, 3928 Randa
The facts in brief:
- Bridge length: 494 m
- Highest point: 85 m
- Width: 65 cm
- Access to the bridge
- By foot from Randa: 2-2.5 hours hiking time
- From Grächen: 6-7 hours hiking time
- From Zermatt: 6-7 hours hiking time
- Open May until October. Crossing the bridge should be avoided during storms (lightning bolts). The bridge may NOT be crossed in winter and will open again in spring.
- It is an advantage to not be afraid of heights for the crossing.
Tip: there is also a spectacular circle hike around the bridge, more information is found here.
For more blog posts about our hikes in Switzerland, click here.