Tucked away in the Adula Alps, a fabulous but rather obscure attraction awaits adventurers in Europe. Known as Teufelsbrucke, the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland has existed in one form or another since the year 1230.
The first bridge was rickety and wooden and would have been terrifying to cross high above the raging Reuss River. It wasn’t dubbed the “Devil’s Bridge” until the 16th century, when a hardier stone bridge replaced the original. Repeatedly damaged by the turbulent river and the harsh conditions in the Schöllenen Gorge, subsequent engineering projects led to multiple bridges over the centuries. Now, the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland is actually three old stone bridges that criss-cross the Reuss River and each other. Behind them, red Swiss passenger trains and a large waterfall lend a stunning backdrop.
How do you get to Teufelsbrucke, the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland?
Not the way we went, that’s for sure!
According to a random tourism website I found about Teufelsbrücke, it’s only about an hour by car from the city of Lucerne. I’d turned The Big 3-7 in Lucerne on June 13th, then we spent a memorable night (but not in a good way) Camping at Lake Lucerne. The next day, we expected to be able to drive to the Devil’s Bridge in a jif.
Turns out, the website was totally wrong. We followed their directions to the exact position on the map to the little town of Amsteg, Switzerland. We parked, got out and looked around, and though we were in a gorgeous valley along the Reuss River with cascading waterfalls and steep mountains, the bridge was nowhere in sight.
We decided to explore up a side valley to see if that road would lead to the bridge. It didn’t.
But while we didn’t find the bridge, we did find one of the coolest roads we’ve driven in Switzerland. Climbing up into a forested canyon along the raging Kärstelen Creek, the road narrows to one lane in places with hairpin curves cut right into the mountainside in a series of curving tunnels. High above the canyon, we drove for some time before finally turning around and returning to the town of Amsteg to try again.
Once back in Amsteg, we found what looked to be the correct location for Teufelsbrücke on navigation, so we tried again.
We headed straight for the town of Andermatt.
Be prepared for road closures.
Now, on a good day, the town of Andermatt is only about an hour from the southern end of Lake Lucerne. Unfortunately, we hit a series of road closures with no clear detour to get to Andermatt.
What we didn’t know was that a landslide had blocked the main highway, and it was simply impassable. In lieu of any kind of electronic signage to inform drivers, officials had merely used orange tape to put a giant X over Andermatt where it appeared on signs, including the sign we’d seen back in Amsteg.
Had we known…
Well, we probably would have gone anyway, but we would have routed a different path!
As it was, Travis navigated us to a lovely – but lengthy – detour around the landslide.
Trying to stay on the curving road in monsoon rains, I felt only bemusement. Knowing that the Swiss can put a tramway up a vertical cliff and plop a restaurant on a pointy 14’er, I could only assume they were having a bit of a laugh when they built the road we found ourselves driving.
We knew our route was as crazy as we thought when we saw it on our navigation. The Motto Bartola Stüei might be a beautiful road, but it’s not the best way to get to the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland.
We were relieved to finally arrive in Andermatt. Not only did it mean we were getting close to the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland, but I immediately fell in love with the town! It was pretty deserted when we visited, mostly because of the gloomy, rainy weather, but it just made it more charming.
It’s just so perfectly Swiss. It looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. If you have some spare time, we recommend poking around town for a bit before heading off in search of Teufelsbrücke.
Be prepared for more road closures.
The good news is that Andermatt is super close to the Devil’s Bridge, so if you make it this far, you’re almost there.
The bad news for us was that just a kilometer from the bridge, we arrived at yet another road closure.
We were so close! Gah!
Luckily, a road employee was stationed in a small booth at the roundabout. Travis hopped out to ask her if there was any way to get to the bridge, and she gave him excellent directions on how to reach a construction area being used for parking. From there, we could walk the kilometer through the tunnel along the train tracks to the bridge. Only car traffic wasn’t allowed. We were in business!!
Travel Tip: For those visiting in the summer months, it might actually be better to park in Andermatt. Devil's Bridge has a small parking area, but it's limited.
Teufelsbrücke, the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland
Our first glimpse of Teufelsbrücke was not of the bridge, but of the torrential Reuss River crashing through the craggy Schöllenen Gorge just above the bridge. With spring melt water from the surrounding peaks, it was spectacular.
And at long last, Devil’s Bridge!
The Legend of the Devil’s Bridge
Legend says that the forces of nature were such in the gorge that no man could build a bridge to cross the chasm. Only the Devil himself had the power to achieve such a feat.
Extracting a promise from the local villagers that the first soul to cross the bridge would be his, the Devil made good on his end of the bargain and constructed the Devil’s Bridge. With none willing to sacrifice himself, the villagers tricked the Devil, sending a goat across the bridge instead.
The Devil became so enraged, he gathered up a 220-ton rock, intent on destroying the villagers. An elderly woman came upon the Devil with his massive stone and carved a cross on it in an act of faith. Though the Devil’s aim was true, the rock missed its target and landed harmlessly in the valley. The bridge was saved!
Known as the Teufelsstein (Devil’s Rock), the legendary stone was moved from its original position to make way for the construction of a motorway. It can still be visited near the town of Göschenen.
Suvorov Monument at Devil’s Bridge
In 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars, the Teufelsbrücke was badly damaged during a battle between Russian and French soldiers as they fought their way through the Alps. A large memorial carved into the adjacent canyon commemorates the troops who died fighting there.
One last attraction of interest at the Devil’s Bridge is the Soldier’s Tunnel.
For those wishing to cross over Gotthard Pass between the cantons of Uri and Ticino in southern Switzerland, locals long ago recognized the strategic importance of the bridge. In the 19th century, a military complex was built in the area to protect the bridge. Part of that involved the construction of a tunnel through the cliff face adjacent to the Reuss River.
The last part of the path crosses back over the river on bare metal grating. It was thrilling and a bit disorienting to see the roiling white water just below our feet. Those with a fear of heights or the thought of plunging into the river can easily backtrack the short section of trail through the Soldier’s Tunnel and cross Devil’s Bridge back to the main road and parking area.
Since we had hiked to the bridge from Andermatt, we set about looking for a different way to get back to town. Finding a seemingly random set of spiral stairs inside the rail tunnel, we climbed them to see if we could find a different way to hike back. We ended up on top of the highway and railroad tracks we’d followed to the bridge, which treated us to nice views of the river and crater-topped mountain behind Andermatt as we walked back.
Back at the parking area, an elderly couple stopped to chat with us while we were brewing coffee on our camp stove. With hot drinks to warm our hands and bellies, we set off once again. The last stop on my short birthday trip? Vaduz Castle in Liechtenstein!
Have you heard of Teufelsbrücke, the Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland? Have you been? What’d you think? Hit us up if you’re planning a trip and have questions!
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Know Before You Go
Check the weather conditions before you visit. Landslides and road closures aren’t uncommon, particularly in winter.
Devil’s Bridge, Suvorov Monument, and the Soldier’s Tunnel are all FREE to visit.
These attractions are dog friendly. If you have a small dog, you can easily carry them across the metal grated bridge above the waterfall. If you have a large dog, take note that they might not be able to cross the grating because of the large gaps. You can easily go back the way you came though.