Trail Running Guide
A Collection of the Best Trail Runs in the Graubünden
Switzerland's Graubünden Region is the premier trail running destination that you may not have heard of. Home to the well-known mountain towns of St. Moritz and Davos, the country’s easternmost mountains are famous for skiing and posh resorts. Now, Graubünden is fast becoming a trail running hotspot.
Like the Valais region on the south western end of Switzerland, the geology often allows for the best sort of singletrack, smooth and flowing. However, where the Valais is typically steep and rugged, the Graubünden has more friendly terrain for trail runners who want to do more running and less slogging up endless climbs.
But more than anything, what makes the Graubünden special is an undeniable magical energy. It comes in the mix of languages and cultures, the Dr. Seuss-like architecture of the Romansch villages, the colors, and the crisp air. Nowhere in Switzerland is fall, and the color palette that comes with it, so intensely beautiful as in Graubünden, especially the Engadin Valley in and around Pontresina and St. Moritz.
This is a region well worth getting to know, and not just for running.
Our goal with this guide is to share the best of Graubünden's trail running, from quick hits to the Graubünden showpiece, the Via Grischuna. We’ll also detail options for where to base yourself, when to visit, and what not to miss.
GRAUBÜNDEN TRAIL RUNNING: WHAT TO EXPECT
Graubünden is Switzerland’s largest canton and the areas we highlight can be up to two hours of driving apart. When visiting, it’s important to decide where you’d like to be and for how long. A car is helpful to get to trailheads, but not necessary. Switzerland’s public transport can reach all of our starting points.
The region’s mountains are much less populated than other areas of the Alps, and while villages dot the hillsides, it is a very quiet place. More info about where to stay can be found in Orientation.
Graubünden is likely to confuse you about which country you are in. In one valley they’re speaking Swiss German, then the next it’s Italian, and suddenly you’re hearing something you are totally unfamiliar with, Romansch. Along with Swiss German, French and Italian, Graubünden is home to Switzerland’s fourth official language, Romansch. Romansch is an ancient language derived from Latin speaking soldiers of the Roman Empire. Today, it is spoken by about 50,000 inhabitants of Switzerland.
For trail running, the season starts sometime in June and finishes when the snow buries the trails, typically late October. Running some of the lower trails, like Chur, are possible earlier.
July through September is the high season. But, the absolute best time to run in Graubünden is the fall. The later the better up until early November. There is simply no better place to be in the Alps than the Graubünden for fall colors, especially the Engadin Valley.
The later you wait the higher the risk of getting shut down by snow or weather. If you live nearby and can tune into conditions, going in late October can be great. If not, it may be best to visit in September when colors are starting to shift from greens to gold.
If you nail the timing, there’s nothing more beautiful than running through golden larch trees under a blue sky with snow on the high peaks.
ORIENTATION: GRAUBÜNDEN GEOGRAPHY
Graubünden is not just one place to go, it is many. We suggest going through all the Graubünden runs and seeing which areas appeal to you.
This is the region that includes Pontresina, St. Moritz, Zuoz, and Bregaglia. It is the heart of the Graubünden Region. It’s also home to the famous lakes of the Engadin Valley and the Alps’ easternmost 4000-meter peak, Piz Bernina.
Upper Engadin has the most runs we present in the Graubünden guide, including the finish of the Via Grischuna. St. Moritz has a high altitude training center, there are countless overnight accommodations, and overall, it’s the busiest area.
Famous for skiing and as a high altitude training destination, Davos is also home to a massive network of trails. In recent years, they’ve attracted a younger, athletic audience seeking options for mountain biking and running. The area is densely laced with all kinds of trails above town, into side valleys, and to the high peaks.
Davos is a Swiss German speaking town with loads of overnight potential. The primary towns in the area are Davos and Klosters.
Another area famous for skiing, but rapidly and with much determination, headed for trail running greatness is Flims Laax. The high mountains north of Flims have all the right ingredients; smooth trails, runnable terrain, peak bagging, huts, and ridgelines with huge potential.
We have one run listed in Val Müstair, and it is one of our top picks in all of Switzerland. The Lai da Rims run is also part of the multi-day Biosfera Trail tour which takes in some of the more remote terrain in all of Switzerland. The area seems made for trail running, both on dreamy singletrack and on the unofficial trails of the high ridges.
The valley is also a special place to visit thanks to the Biosfera Val Müstair, a regional commitment to organic farming and maintaining traditions in harmony with the land and culture.
The area is fairly isolated thanks to being separated from the rest of Switzerland by the Ofenpass and the Swiss National Park. As a result, its remoteness provides a sense of being hidden away and allows for a personal experience in the mountains. The primary towns in which to stay are Santa Maria and Müstair. The language spoken is almost entirely Romansch.
Why go to the Graubünden Region? It’s certainly hard to compete with the Alps other trail running hubs; the Valais, Berner Oberland, and Chamonix. They each have icons like the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Eiger in Grindelwald, Mont Blanc, etc… But that’s exactly the point. Those places are busy, sometimes obnoxiously so.
In Graubünden, you’ll find peace and quiet, friendly locals with time to chat, and a sense of being some place that’s not overrun by tourists. And you will find trail running that’s as good as it gets.