Rhine Cycle Route – Day 9 – Niedergösgen to Muttenz

Having taken a train out of Bad Säckingen the previous day to meet some friends, we actually began day 9 far away from the Rhine in the town of Niedergösgen. Though we had originally planned to take the train back to Bad Säckingen to resume the route, our host (who was an avid cyclist himself) suggest instead that we skip the train and cycle back instead.

Cycle instead of take a train? Yes please.

With the sky closing in, we loaded up and began a lengthy climb out of Niedergösgen and high into the hills. As we climbed, memories of our first day climbing out of Andermatt immediately came to mind. I was already missing the earlier stages of the route when climbing was a regular feature of the day.

After climbing for roughly an hour, we reached the summit and began an epic downhill that seemed to last forever. Because Niedergösgen is above the Rhine itself, and we had climbed further still, we had the rare privilege of descending much further than we had climbed.

Cheating? A bit. Totally worth it though.

As we descended through great farmland and lovely country towns, I decided that I would unquestionably need to return to Switzerland and just ride the hills outside of the cities. Though the Rhine route had been unbelievably good thus far, my favourite parts had exclusively taken place in rural areas. I knew that later that day we would be rolling into Basel and that I would miss the clattering bells of Swiss cows once more. As the kilometres rolled past I took every moment in; a last hurrah as our time in Switzerland thinned.

Emerging from the descent, per our host’s superb directions, we found ourselves exactly where we had boarded the train the day before. To fully reset the moment, we backtracked into Bad Säckingen, leaned our bikes against the cathedral and had a spot of lunch before pressing on.

Leaving Bad Säckingen, we again crossed the long wooden bridge into Stein and followed the route as it trailed next to a highway. It was at that point that the cloudy skies began to open up their taps and lay a drenching on us. It even hailed a bit. Lovely.

Fortunately it was not particularly cold, so spirits remained high, and were heightened further still as the route ceased to follow the highway and plunged into the Unterforst.

Large trees and forest to either side of a dirt road.
Much of the route leading into the city of Basel takes place on forest trails as pictured. As a final chance to enjoy some of Switzerland’s epic natural beauty, these forested segments are a real treat. Officially called the Unterforst, this natural preservation area spans many kilometres and is abundant in natural beauty. Unterforst, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.

Full of huge trees and richly vegetated, the Unterforst hosts the route for many kilometres and makes for a highly enjoyable segment of riding. Well signposted and with a trail that is generally in superb shape, I found this segment of the day to be profoundly relaxing. I selected a good gear, had a gulp of water, and settled in for several great kilometres while the rain soldiered on.

Nearing the edge of the forest, the rain let up, and we emerged into a more agricultural area fringed with some housing and industrial estates. It was here that we passed one of the many iconic sights along the Rhine route; the salt mine towers outside of Riburg. Due to their distinctive design and colour, the towers are impossible to miss and make for a great place to stop and take a memorable picture.

Two green wooden towers standing in a field with a gravel road to the right.
Unique to this segment of the Rhine cycle route, these salt mine towers make great landmarks. By passing these, any Rhine cyclist can confidently say that they are beyond one third done the entire route. Though inaccessible, it is possible to peer through the windows and catch a glimpse of what’s inside. Riburg, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.
A green grain field and gravel road. Cloudy skies above. Houses in the distance.
Grain fields near the Swiss town of Riburg. Having left the forest for a short while, the route traverses several agricultural areas before re-entering a forest leading into Rheinfelden. Riburg, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.

Beyond the salt mines, the route re-entered the forest for a short while before entering the town of Rheinfelden. Home to a great market street, it was also the last place in Switzerland that we stumbled on a public fountain with fantastic water. Water bottles refilled, and with a new threat of rain looming, we didn’t linger long pausing just to snap a few photos of the town and the Rhine from the bridge.

A large river photographed from a bridge with ornate buildings lining the bank.
The Rhine as seen from the bridge between the Swiss and German sides of Rheinfelden. Rheinfelden, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.

Beyond Rheinfelden the route passed mainly through urban areas and industrial estates with the Rhine itself generally in view. Approaching Augst, we made a lengthy stop to visit the Roman ruins of Augusta Raurica. This ancient amphitheatre is in remarkable shape (thanks in part to some restorative maintenance) despite having been founded in 44BC. In need of a rest, we spent nearly an hour in the area snacking and enjoying the view. Across the street from the amphitheatre we found additional Roman ruins, some with informative placards.

A brickwork Roman amphitheatre photographed from inside the amphitheatre floor.
Founded in 44BC, Augusta Raurica is a notable Roman ruin that is available to visit on the Rhine route. A great place to take photographs, it is also features several informative placards to educate and inform. Further Roman architectural ruins are available across the street and are freely accessible. Augst, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.

Leaving Augst, the route continued to pass through urban and industrial areas. The countryside of Switzerland was now permanently behind us, and I had a mental funeral for the excellent times we had there. From there onward, our view of Switzerland would be exclusively the city of Basel and its connected cities.

As it was getting late in the day and not wanting to combat the full chaos of a big city like Basel, we stopped just short of Basel proper and pulled up for the day in the city of Muttenz. Close enough to Basel that it includes Basel’s local tram service, Muttenz turned out to be a great place to make an overnight halt. Having quickly found a hotel, we freshened up and continued into the centre of Basel by tram and on foot to take in what we could as the daylight dwindled.

A bright red ornate building on the edge of a large city market square.
Among the most uniquely coloured buildings available for visit on the Rhine route, the Basel town hall is certainly worth a stop. Sitting on one side of Basel’s Marktplatz it makes a great starting point for further exploration of the city, particularly if you arrive via the Basel tram. Basel, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.
A huge cathedral sitting in a town square with large trees in the foreground.
An attraction of Basel that simply can’t be missed, the Basel Cathedral (or more correctly, Basler Münster) is among the largest and most beautiful that can be visited on the Rhine. Sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Rhine (now a huge river) it is also makes for an excellent place to take some pictures. Basel, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.
A wide river with high density housing along its banks. A bridge is visible in the distance and clouds fill the skies above.
The Rhine as seen from the lookout behind the Basel cathedral. At this point the Rhine is navigable by ships and barges and has completely matured beyond the small river it was in the early stages of our ride. Looking at this scene, I pondered the many things we had seen as the Rhine grew and grew. Once a water source for small country towns, it was now the major waterway for a huge city, beautiful still, but in an entirely new way. Basel, Switzerland – May 12, 2014.

Looking over the Rhine that night from the lookout behind Basel’s cathedral, I pondered the thousands of great moments Switzerland had given us. Though I didn’t know it yet, Switzerland had offered up what would become the vast majority of my all time favourite days of the entire tour. Looking out over the Rhine, now a massive river fully navigable by large barges, I missed places like Disentis and Altstätten. I’ll go back and see them again.


Day’s Stats

Distance ridden: 73.64 km
Max speed: 50.3 km/h
Average speed: 15.8 km/h
Seat time: 4:38
Total distance: 601 km

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