ElevationAscent: 4,510' 1,375 m
Descent: -4,511' -1,375 m
High: 4,016' 1,224 m
Low: 1,079' 329 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 50% (27°)
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“A big ride with a long singletrack ascent followed by a roaring, technical descent.”— Lost Justpastnowhere
Electric Mountain Bikes Unknown
This is a challenging ride though. Once you've climbed seemingly forever on a combination of roads and trails to the village of Muggio, the real climbing begins. A nice long, and unfortunately steep, singletrack switchbacks its way through the forest up to the high plains above Lago di Lugano (lake). Here there are a couple of agriturismi offering local fare and accommodation.
An easy ride across the high plain takes you to Bellavista station, also reachable by cogwheel railroad for those who don't have the stamina for the climb. From Bellavista station, there is a beautiful view of Lago di Lugano. (Bellavista literally means beautiful view in Italian). After that, you're in for a real treat on the Valle dell'Alpe descent. This steep, rocky mule track has a number of switchbacks and will reward those with good bike handling skills with a quick ride to the bottom.
Need to Know
- You'll want to download the GPX or take the MTB Project mobile app for this one, as it is a long ride and there are intersections too numerous to mention.
- The track for this ride starts at a parking area close to a psychiatric hospital. That's not a commentary on the ride, but it is a public lot where you can park all day for a few Franks. The route passes right by the train station in Mendrisio as well if you want to arrive by train. Remember you'll need a separate ticket for the bike.
- If you're taking the cogwheel railway to Bellavista station for the descent only, the lower station is Capolago, about 4.0 km (2.5 mi) north of Mendrisio station at the mouth of Lago di Lugano. Capolago station is served by both the cogwheel railway and the main regional trains. The cogwheel trains leave about once per hour and bikes are only allowed as far as Bellavista station.
After a short distance on quiet village roads, you'll reach the first singletrack section Parco delle Gole della Breggia. This is a short 1.3 km (0.8 mi) singletrack that crosses the gorge formed by the Breggia River. There is a washed-out section of the trail that will require a short hike.
At the end of Parco delle Gole della Breggia, you begin a 300 m (1,000 ft) climb over 4.0 km (2.5 mi). Much of this is on roads through the town of Morbio Superiore but the climb continues a short distance into the next segment Forestale di Lattecaldo. The Forestale di Lattecaldo is reached at the 9.5 km (6.0 mi) mark after a sharp right turn from the main road. The Forestale di Lattecaldo starts as a gravel/dirt forest road through the "Forest of Hot Milk." Parts of the Forestale di Lattecaldo have given way to singletrack, including a particularly difficult creek crossing just before you pop back out onto the main road through the valley south of the next charming little village of Bruzella.
From Bruzella, the route follows the main cantonal road all the way to the village of Muggio with the exception of a short detour to use the old highway bridge over the Breggia.
In Muggio, you'll veer to the right from the main cantonal road and then under the cantonal road following Cappella san Giovanni (it's easy to get lost here). You've got a quick descent down to a bridge over the Breggia River and then you've got a steep climb up to a small chapel of San Giovanni in a clearing. There is a nice view of the val Muggio (valley) from the chapel. After the chapel, continue climbing the gravel road veering left at the first intersection after the chapel. This takes you to a grouping of buildings where the Tur Switchbacks begins.
The Tur Switchbacks is a wonderful, earthen singletrack through the dense forest. It is however, also a long, steep climb. From the end of the Cappella san Giovanni doubletrack, you quickly cross a small stream and then you enjoy about 1.0 km (0.6 mi) of easy flat riding before the climbing begins. After that, you've got 4.0 km (2.5 mi) of continuous climbing at just over 10% grade. The singletrack ends at the Agriturismo Dosso dell'Ora. The agriturismo is a good place for a break where you can enjoy local farm products and refreshments.
After the switchbacks and refreshments at the agriturismo, an easy road (Dossi Mendrisiotto) crosses the high plain above Lago di Lugano (lake) passing several farms. This section is named for the numerous "dossi" (bumps) in the area. These are local high-points in the topology. We would probably call them pre-Alps in English.
The Dossi Mendrisiotto ends at a four-way intersection just below the Bellavista station of the cogwheel railway. The Stazione Bellavista Spur leads to the station with its overlook of Lago di Lugano and a small restaurant.
After visiting the station, return to the four-way intersection and proceed onto Valle dell'Alpe. This descent is definitely the highlight of the route. A steep, rowdy mule track crashes down through a thick forest through the Valle dell'Alpe (valley). There are a number of switchbacks, especially near the top, and the path is filled with loose rocks and bumps to add to the melee. Good technical ability and equipment are essential on this segment.
Assuming you've survived the ride, keep in mind a second run is only a short ride away on the cogwheel railway.