Switzerland Trail

Nederland, Colorado (Boulder County)

Last Updated: 05/16/2021
4.3 / 5 ( 46 reviews )
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Status:
Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 2-5
( EASY - DIFFICULT )
Length: 8.69 miles
Highest Elevation: 8570 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Nederland
Nearest Town w/ Services: Nederland
Official Road Name: 93
Management Agency: Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests
District: Boulder Ranger District

Highlights

Highlight: Switzerland Trail
Nestled a few miles west of Boulder Colorado, Switzerland Trail is an easy outing for an afternoon getaway. Nearly the entire route is a shelf road offering spectacular views of the nearby foothills and the snow-capped peaks to the west. The trail has only slight grades as it follows an old railroad route from Sugarloaf Mountain to the community of Gold Hill. Because Switzerland Trail is open year-round, It can be a popular spot for those who partake in snowy driving adventures.

Video

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Concerns:
Summary:
Switzerland Trail is a shelf road that is narrow in spots. There are a few rocky locations that can make the trip bumpy near Waypoint 2. The 5 rating is based on the optional obstacle, a five-foot rock climb, at Waypoint 2.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
2
EASY
OPTIONAL
5
DIFFICULT
Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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Description

Switzerland Trail is a dirt and rock road that follows an old railroad bed through the foothills west of Boulder. There are no obstacles necessary to complete the route and because the trail follows the railroad route, the road grade is very gradual with no steep climbs. The route is a shelf road for nearly its entire route; However, finding a place to pass on-coming vehicles is generally easy. There are some locations where passing others would be impossible. Although the trail is bumpy in spots because of the protruding granite, the rocky conditions can be conquered by most vehicles. There is one optional vertical rocky climb at Waypoint 2 that would be a challenge for stock high-clearance vehicles. Switzerland Trail is open year-round and is often a popular destination for snow wheeling. Remember the trail is a shelf road for nearly its entire length with limited ability to turn around on the trail if snow conditions become impassable.

Waypoints

1. Switzerland Trail - Trailhead (0 mi)
Switzerland Trail begins at its intersection with Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a large parking or air-down lot at the beginning. Drive through the lot and the trail begins on the north end.
2. Rock Corner - Veer Left (3.89 mi)
Veer left. FSR# 221 intersects at the rock corner. There is a small rock obstacle to climb as option at this intersection. The obstacle is a 5’ gnarly vertical rock climb that can pose some difficulty for stock vehicles.
3. Pennsylvania Gulch - Keep Right (3.9 mi)
Keep right. Pennsylvania Gulch takes off to the left and proceeds westbound. The area surrounding this waypoint is private property. Please remain on the trail.
4. Fourmile Canyon Drive - Keep Straight (0.01 mi)
Keep straight. This intersection can be confusing. Take the high road straight through. This grouping of residential houses is what was once the town of Sunset, Colorado. Identified as a semi-ghost town, some older buildings still remain and can been seen from Switzerland Trail. All of the buildings and properties here are private property.
5. Rock Cuts - Continue Straight (1.33 mi)
Continue straight. Switzerland Trail was once a railroad route. Throughout the trail, there are a handful of these rock cutouts to create a gradual path suitable for train travel. As a result, today the trail takes advantage of the gentle grade.
6. Mount Alto Picnic Ground - Keep Left (7.56 mi)
Keep left. After climbing a gentle switchback, Mount Alto Picnic Grounds is on the right. This established Forest Service picnic grounds was once a rest stop along the rails. A tall stone fireplace that was once part of Chautauqua Hall is all that is left of the original site. Today, there is a small parking lot and several sturdy picnic tables. There are no toilet facilities.
7. USFS 327 - Keep Left (8.15 mi)
Keep left. FSR # 327 is a short forest service road that ends on Gold Hill Road.
8. Trail Ends at Gold Hill Road (8.68 mi)
Switzerland trail ends at its intersection with Gold Hill Road, as known as Boulder County Road 52. A turn to the left will take you the Colorado Highway 72. A turn to the right will take you to the small mountain community of Gold Hill.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Boulder, Colorado

Take Canyon Blvd (Colorado Highway 119) west from Boulder approximately 5 miles to mile marker 66.5. Turn right on Sugarloaf Road and continue 4.7 miles to Sugarloaf Mountain Road. Turn right onto Sugarloaf Mountain Road .8 miles. Switzerland Trail begins on the right heading to the north.

Camping

Dispersed
Although dispersed primitive camping is authorized throughout the trail, camping along Switzerland is not ideal. This trail is heavily used by 4x4’s, motorcycles, and ATVs because of its proximity to the front range. There is a permanent fire ban in this area of the forest, so a campfire is not an option. Switzerland Trail is better suited as a day trip trail. There are several official US Forest Service campgrounds in the vicinity. The closest campgrounds are just a few miles away at Brainard Lake near Ward, Colorado.
Camping: Switzerland Trail

Trail Reviews (76)

Questions & Answers (5)

Q: Can any of this trail be done with a camper trailer? If so, how big? Mine is 9.5' tall, 7' wide, and 18' long.
–Jeff W (05/20/2021)
A: Absolutely no way! Like Tim said, there is no trailer camping available along this trail, and it is extremely narrow in sections with no pullout to pass oncoming traffic. And it is a very heavily used road with lots of traffic. Do not attempt to take a trailer on this road.
–Ryan Boudreau (05/23/2021)
A: Towing a trailer along Switzerland Trail is possible, but not advisable. There is no camping along that trail for a camper that size and some of the turns could be really tight. Towing a trailer that size would complicate the passing on oncoming traffic. Camping is not ideal along this trail for any camping method. I would not choose to tow a trailer like yours on this trail.
–Tim Palmer (05/21/2021)
Q: We did this on the 4th of July but we started from Left Hand Canyon and went through Gold Hill first (which was a mistake cause it was the 4th) in his stock Rubicon. Great trail but my question is what is the usual direction of travel? We passed several hikers and mountain bikers and one Subaru coming down. Luckily we were in an area that allowed easy passing. Would like to take some friends up there so just wondering if it's better to start at the topThanks!
–Jessica H (07/29/2019)
A: Good question!! Either direction is just fine, and is really up to you and your preference. The most important thing to remember when you come upon traffic going the opposite direction, is that uphill travel has the right of way. After that, it’s important to signal to the other drivers the number of other vehicles behind you. If it’s you and one other vehicle and you are in the lead, you would signal with one finger, (pointer finger please), to signal one vehicle behind you. If you’re the last vehicle, signal with a closed fist that you’re the last one. Beyond that, be sure to stay the trail, pack out all trash, even if it’s not yours, and ENJOY!!
–Chad Horning (07/31/2019)
Q: Are ATVS allowed on this trail. I'm getting conflicting information.
–Jered (04/07/2018)
A: Just went out there today, not 100% along this road but all the side trails had the ATV symbol on them
–chris (04/10/2018)
Q: Map to the trail
–Truman (03/10/2018)
A: You can call the Boulder Ranger district , 303-541-2500, and ask them for a MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map). They will send you one for free when you give them your address. I have done this with several locations in Colorado and they always seem to be pleased you are asking for one.
–Joshua M Wells (05/06/2018)
A: Hi Truman, We are not sure what your question or statement is, but you can download the GPX file for navigation.
–Todd (03/24/2018)
Q: Do you think a 2011 Subaru Forester XT would have any problem on this trail?
–Angelo (09/21/2017)
A: Was just on the trail this weekend and there was one area on sugarloaf (how we drive out or in to Switzerland that would need a little more careful tire placement but should still be passable. More of an FYI on trail conditions through thee year.
–Brad D. (05/03/2021)
A: This trail is stock Subaru friendly. The Offroading Subarus of Colorado adopted the trail late 2017. Plenty of trails and spurs to explore but please stay the trail.
–Joshua M Wells (05/06/2018)
A: I have seen Subarus up there before. It is a rocky and rough, so prepare to get bounced around, but other than that, you should be fine. Just stick to the main trail, some of the side trails can get a little rougher than I would try with a subaru.
–Chad Horning (09/24/2017)
A: I was on this trail last week and I ran across a Subaru Outback just north of sugarloaf station. It was a bit rocky there but he made it through. I believe the Forester has the same ground clearance as the Outback so if you take your time on the rocks you should be fine.
–Chad Kirkland (09/23/2017)

Writer Information

Tim Palmer

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Tim lives and works in Northern Colorado. He has owned and driven 4X4 vehicles his entire adult life including Jeeps, pick ups, ATVs and UTVs. After high school, Tim's first 4X4 was a 47 Willy's CJ-2A with a flat 4 and a 6-volt electrical system. Typically wheeling in Northern Colorado or Southern Wyoming, Tim loves being in the mountains and the back country. Because of a desire to enjoy and promote responsible off-roading and to keep it available for the future, he belongs to a local 4X4 off-road club. Being part of the Trailsoffroad.com community furthers that goal as well. A love for off-road adventures, camping, fishing, and hunting keeps Tim away from pavement and always exploring. While his wife likes the comfort of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Tim prefers the ruggedness of the Jeep Wrangler. Although most off-road time is spent in Colorado and Wyoming, an occasional trip to the Moab area is common. Tim will spend the summer going topless and enjoying the value of the great outdoors. Amateur Radio Technician license call sign: ke0npg
For individual use only, not to be shared.