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Backpack to Richetlipass in the Glarus Alps

Glarus Süd, Switzerland



14.3 miles

Elevation Gain

4593.2 ft

Route Type



Added by Justin Dong

Camp in a lush, secluded, high alpine valley in the Swiss Alps. Located within 2 hours of Zürich by public transport.

This is a point-to-point hike in the Glarus Alps of Switzerland, beginning in the town of Elm and ending in the town of Linthal. Elm can be reached in 1.5 hours by car from Zürich, or two hours by public transport. Take note that because this is a thru hike, it may be better to take advantage of Switzerland's excellent public transport system.

The trail ascends 1400 m (4600 ft) and descends 1700 m (5600 ft) of elevation over the course of 23 km (14 mi). It is part of the Via Alpina/Alpine Pass Route, a 370 km (230 mi) long-distance trail that traverses the alps from east to west, passing through scenic mountain villages each day. The section from Elm to Linthal is much less-traveled than the popular trails in the Bernese Oberland. Add to it the fact that not many people camp in the backcountry of Switzerland, and you're likely to have this entire area to yourself for the night.

In Elm, follow the yellow signs for the Via Alpina trail. The Via Alpina is well-known, well-maintained, and well-graded, so navigation is straightforward. The trail initially parallels the main road through town, heading southwest. After about an hour, the trail meets up with the main road and the ascent begins.

Ski haus Obererbs is reached after about 1.5 hours of ascent, and is the last point of civilization until Linthal, at the end of the hike. There is a water fountain at the ski haus to replenish supplies, as well as a small restaurant. Note: there is a public bus that goes from Elm to the ski haus daily, but infrequently (about every 2 hours), should you wish to cut out the initial part of the hike.

From the ski haus, it is a steep ascent up to Erbser Pass, the first of two mountain passes on the route. From Erbser Pass, there is an excellent panoramic view back towards Elm Valley behind you. In front, there is a spectacular view down into the small valley below, which the trail descends to before climbing again to Richetli Pass.

The valley is where you should aim to camp, as it is the only feasible camping spot on the trail. Wild camping is legal on the trail above the treeline, as long as you are not trespassing on private property (i.e. farms). In the valley below, there is a small alpine farm and pasture. Pass through the pasture and head towards Richetli Pass. The pasture is well demarcated by an electric fence, with clearly noted entry and exit points for hikers. Do not camp within the boundaries of the pasture, as it is private property. Heading further down the valley, the trail passes a network of small streams. The entire valley beyond the pasture is ideal for camping.

Note: be sure to filter/purify any water obtained from the streams along the trail since there are many pastures in the vicinity.

From the valley, the trail climbs steeply up to Richetli Pass, the highest point on the trail at 2261 m (7418 ft). Take caution towards the top of the pass, as it is quite steep with some loose rock underfoot. The descent from Richetli Pass is both long and steep, heading down into the valley below and then traversing along a gravel road. As you approach the town, the trail descends steeply through dense forest.

Finally, in Linthal there is a drinking fountain, a small grocery store, accommodations, as well as a train station. The town is well connected by public transport to the rest of Switzerland.

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