At the head of the valley outside Gletsch, the Furka road crosses the narrow-gauge Furka railroad (now closed), of the line from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance by way of the Rhône and Rhine valleys ("Glacier express" from Zermatt to St Moritz). The line reopened as far as Tiefenbach in 1992, Gletsch in 1994 and Oberwald in 1998. Since 1982 a tunnel (15.4km/9.5mi) has replaced this section of the line. The road then crosses the Muttbach bridge and climbs steeply (five hairpin bends) up the north side of the valley, with beautiful views of the Rhône glacier and of Gletsch far below. In 7km/4mi the park lot of the Belvedere restaurant (2,272 m/7,454ft), is reached. From here it is only a few minutes' walk to the Rhône glacier, between the Grosses Furkahorn (3,217 m/10,555ft) and the Gerstenhörner (3,184 m/10,447ft), which hangs over the side of the valley in a formidable cataract of ice (charge for access: interesting artificial cave hewn from the glacier).
Furka road climbs from the Rhône glacier (two steep bends), with a magnificent view of the glacier to the rear, and to the right, above the Gratschlucht glacier, of the Grosses Muttenhorn (3,103 m/10,181ft). In 2.5km/2mi the road reaches the Furka pass (2,431 m/7,976ft). The Furka ("Fork") is a saddle, falling steeply away on each side, between the Kleines Furkahorn (3,026 m/9,928ft; two hours north) and the Blauberg (2,757 m/9,046ft; 1.5 hours south), both offering easy and rewarding climbs. It forms the boundary between the cantons of Valais and Uri and affords magnificent views, extending northeast to the Urseren valley and the Oberalp pass and west to the Bernese Alps (Finsteraarhorn) and the Valais Alps (Weisshorn). Rewarding climb, to the north, of the Galenstock (3,583 m/11,756ft; five hours, with guide), which commands extensive views.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Since 1983 the Swiss art exhibitor Marc Hostettler has invited artists to show their "Furka art" on the Furka pass every spring. Nature determines the end of the event, the first snow being the signal to dismantle the exhibition. Among the artists who have shown work here are Rémy Zaugg, Gianni Colombo, Per Kirkeby, Stanley Brown, Caniel Buren and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Pizzo Rotondo, Realp, Switzerland
500 m/1,641ft from the Furka Pass is the Hotel Furkablick (30b.). Furka road then continues downhill, high up on the bare north face of the Garschental, a valley constantly threatened by avalanches, with the Furka-Reuss flowing down below. Views of the Siedeln glacier and the sharp pinnacles of the Bielenhorn (2,947 m/9,669ft). Then by way of the Tiefentobel gorge (to the left a waterfall) to the Hotel Tiefenbach (2,109 m/6,920ft; 20 b.). 1.5km/1mi farther on at the Ebnetenalp (2,010 m/6,595ft), where the road takes a sharp bend to the right, there are magnificent views of the Urseren valley and the Wyttenwasser valley, which now opens up to the south, with Piz Lucendro (2,964 m/9,725ft). Now down the rounded slopes of Fuchsegg (nine sharp bends) to the valley bottom and the little village of Realp (1,547 m/5,076ft), the name of which is derived from "riva alpa" (riva,"stream"; alpa,"mountain pasture"). To the southeast is Pizzo Rotondo (3,192 m/10,473ft; eight hours, with guide), the highest peak in the St Gotthard group. The road now follows a level and almost straight course down the wide Urseren valley, between the river Furka-Reuss and the Furka railroad, which is crossed in another 3km/2mi. From this point the road becomes narrower. Ahead can be seen the square tower of Hospental castle. 6km/4mi from Realp is Hospental (1,484 m/4,869ft; bypass), an old village (from hospitum, "hospice") situated at the point where the Furka-Reuss and Gotthard-Reuss join to form the Reuss, a popular health and winter sports resort. It is dominated by a church (1705-11) and 13th C. castle tower. From here follow road 2 to Andermatt.