(Photograph copyright LAAX/Philipp Ruggli)
The Runca trail is located in the town of Flims, a true hotspot for downhill mountain biking.
Like most of the annual sports activities in this area, Flims doesn't miss a beat. The Runca is 7.5 km long with 780 m vertical decent and was originally built for the Red Bull Trailfox competition held every year.
In the last few years, seeing the popularity grow, Flims has done a magnificent job upgrading and maintaining what they have. The Runca downhill trail is for everyone who has any sort of bike riding skills.
Flims has even added "chicken out" options alongside all the difficult areas. So relax, you don't need to get frustrated walking your bike around areas - there always is an easy way out. If you ever thought about spending a healthy chunk of change on a bike and you were unsure if you'd even like the sport, Flims is one of the least stressful places to go and try before you buy.
For one, there is always ample parking in the garage at Flims. Don’t have a bike or gear? No worries: There is a bike rental shop with all your riding needs and the nicest bike mechanics, right under the main lift. They will make sure your bike is going to be set properly for you and your family, so you can really enjoy the day.
Getting to the top of the Runca Downhill Trail in Flims
Now you look like you are a pro, and that's really 90 percent of the game. As you push your bike to the chair lift to Naraus, you will be handed a piece of red rope (this is to hang your bike to the chairlift). I get this wrong every time, so just look at the attendant running the chair and shrug your shoulders. He does this hundreds of times a day, and once you've seen it done, you'll get it. Enjoy the view on the way up! Flims and Graubünden are amazing...
Once you get to the top, follow the signs to the trail start. Take a good look at the valley, take a big, deep breath and taste the fresh air.
Then, pass through the gate to the beginning of the trail, a wide open gravel road that traverses across the mountain side. Stay to the right as hikers using this trail have been instructed to stick to the left. This road is very fast and quite beautiful as there are no trees to block your view of the valley below. As the trail comes to a "T", stay to the right and follow the signage. You are now at the first section!
Section 1: get ready for some gnar gnar
At this point, there is no holding back: you've committed. All of the things I told you about this trail being easy were really just lies. I call this the Gnar Gnar section.
Translation, continuous moments of Gnarly loose stones, roots and sharp rocks. But there is hope, it's not as hard as you may think! Hold firm to your handles and let the suspension on your bike suck it all up, it will get easier as you go.
This Gnar Gnar section only goes on for half a kilometer and then it starts to smooth out. If you pass this section, the rest of the trail will be a breeze. If you’re not the fastest biker on the mountain and you feel other riders bearing down on you, just find a good place to move to the side and let them pass. Unless you have a number on your bike and it says race, don't worry, no stress. Enjoy your day and take as many little breaks as you want!
(Photograph copyright outdoorblog.ch)
Section 2: a mixed bag o'treats
The second section is a mixed bag. It starts with a bit of fast single track with gnarly rocks and no trees. It then dips you back into the trees to a very up and down, hill and valley, roller coaster area with a few small bridges crossing some small water sources.
It then opens up to a beautiful flat section with big rolling jumps on your right hand side and cows feasting on fresh green alpine grass. Watch out for the cows as they can be a little unpredictable, but never aggressive.
After the open field you will dive back down into the trees for a little more semi-steep rocky trail. But only for a moment, as the trail quickly cleans up to some nice banked, high corners and smooth surfaces. This soon comes to a massive, beautiful wooden bridged boardwalk with some amazing views.
This bridge winds along the side of the mountain and is a nice break from the trail's rough surface. As the bridge ends, it again shoots you down into the forest to a long flat section of small bumps, jumps, and wall rides to play and ends with an explosion of wide open cow pasture.
Section 3: homage to Vancouver’s North Shore
The third section is really Flims' tribute to the North Shore of Vancouver. This section is manmade with built wood structures to allow flow and keep off sensitive, wet and “unrideable” ground. It's also deep in the woods so it's normally a little moist - unlike the previous sections.
(Photograph copyright outdoorblog.ch)
Being the official guy from North Vancouver, I can justly say that Flims has done a great job!
The section starts with some tight turns on steep boardwalk. When wet, you will need to pay extra attention to how hard you apply your breaks as not to have your back or front tire slide out from under you. Like the "Shore" in Vancouver you will be challenged by roots, mud and rock plus large trees centimeters from the end of your handlebars.
This is an impressive section of built boardwalk, sometimes meters off the ground - don't look down! Once the wood built section starts to disappear, you can really let off your breaks and let go as you zigzag along a perfectly prepared trail surface through the forest. Nothing too hard, just the Runca Trail's cool down section before you’re at the end on solid pavement with high fives for a job well done!
Take 'er home...
Follow the road to the right and traverse down some paved roads until you find yourself right back in front of the Flims lift station. Enjoy! Don't forget to stop at the coffee shop and chill out in the sun.
- Check the opening hours and make sure there are no restrictions due to hunting season. The trail is generally open daily from from June to October.
- Getting to Flims by public transportation or by car
- My article about downhill biking in Switzerland