The Via Alta Verzasca

Hiking the Ticino Via Alta Verzasca
Via Alta Verzasca

The Via Alta Verzasca

A six day ridge traverse high above Ticino's famous Valle Verzasca

START: Monti di Motti

FINISH: Sonogno

EFFORT: Difficult & Exposed



The Valle Verzasca is famous for the crystal clear river carving its way through granite at the bottom of the valley. While most people come for what's at the bottom of the valley, we found what is high above is far more impressive, but some work to experience.

This is the best trip in the Alps that you've never heard of. Until we were invited to do it, I had never heard of it either. And yet after 16 years in the Alps, and countless tours, this has to be one of my very favorites. However it does come with some qualifications... it's quite special.

The route is five days, three of which keep you on a ridge line, always spectacular, but sometimes exposed and exciting. The hiking grade for the route is T6, which is the hardest grade for trekking. It comes thanks to a few very exposed sections where you will be scrambling. The trail is equipped with huge iron rings for holding on to, and even cables a'la via ferrate, but for anyone prone to a fear of heights, this one may not be for you.

The other condition is that what makes the trail so good is what might not make it the ideal choice for first timers to the Alps. It is not your classic Alps tour amongst iconic peaks with overnights in staffed mountain huts. It is a wild and remote tour through peace, quiet, and big open mountain terrain. To me the tour feels ideal for those having already done one of the big classic tours and are seeking something different - something away from the crowds. Due to the nature of this tour, I believe it will never be crowded.

What makes this so good? Once you leave the first night's hut behind, the Capanna Borgna, you'll gain a ridge line where you will primarily stay on all day, with incredible views along the spine to both where you are going, and where you've been. Most people spend their days climbing to a summit, this tour is like being on a summit all day.

The nights are spent in small stone cabins, with no wardens, but with food (pasta, sauce mixes, risotto, coffee, tea) available for purchase. Also available are beverages including wine, beer and soft drinks - honor system. The cabins have full, modern kitchens.

The tour can be shortened by descending to Sonogno on day 5 from Capanna Cognora, or combining day 5 and 6 and not spending the night at Capanna Barone. After day 4, to Capanna Cognora, the ridge traversing is finished unless you opt for the variation Via Nicola Balestra (T6 but more sustained difficulty). Alternatively, keep to the program and spend the right at Capanna Barone that includes a climb of the Pizzo Barone (2864 meters).

Additional info about the Via Alta Verzasca may be found at Verzasca as well as our own Story from the trip.

For info about the Ticino region, visit Ascona-Locarno.

Ticino's Via Alta Verzasca

Day 1: Monti di Motti to Capanna Borgna. 1600 meters gain. 5-6 hours. Another start is in Vogorno, in the Valle Verzasca itself, which adds another few hundred meters of vertical to the first day.

Day 2: Capanna Borgna to Capanna Cornavosa. T6. 900 meter gain. 6-8 hours.

Day 3: Capanna Cornavosa to Capanna Efra. T5. 1100 meter gain. 8-9 hours. (Some sites list the Capanna Fumegna as the overnight, but this is no longer the case with the renovated Cornavosa)

Day 4: Capanna Efra to Capanna Cognora. T6. 1100 meter gain. 8-9 hours.

Day 5: Capanna Cognora to Capanna Barone. Hiking trails. 600 meter gain. 4 hours.

Day 6: Capanna Barone to Sonogno. Easy hiking downhill. 3-4 hours.

TIP: Know that you are okay in exposed terrain where there are serious consequences if you fall. The weather forecast needs to be good if you want to stick to the ridge. Fall may be the best time of year to do this tour. Be sure to save some time on your trip to explore the Valle Verzasca itself.

Via Alta Verzasca

Day 1, leaving the lowlands and trees behind while on the way to Capanna Borgna.

Via Alta Verzasca

Day 1, the Capanna Borgna

Via Alta Verzasca

How you spend your days, on the ridge, right on the ridge!

Via Alta Verzasca

Where there is climbing and/or exposure, there are these, huge, well placed iron holds.

Via Alta Verzasca

Day 2, scrambling just hard enough to be rated T6, the most difficult trekking grade, comes on day 2 and day 4.

Via Alta Verzasca

Day 2, on the way to Capanna Cornavosa.

Via Alta Verzasca

The paradise that awaits at Capanna Cornavosa.

Via Alta Verzasca

Capanna life along the Via Alta Verzasca.

Via Alta Verzasca

On day 4 comes the crux, a down climb in very exposed terrain while traversing from Pizzo Cramosino to Madam Gröss. Rings are in place for the airy descent.

Via Alta Verzasca

Day 5, on the way to Capanne Barone on standard trails instead of ridge lines.


Comments 5

  1. This looks like a fabulous hike. Wonderful story and pictures. I’m thinking of doing it in September this year.
    Does one need via ferrata or climbing gear to do this hike?

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  2. This looks fabulous! I am thinking of adding this on after my trip to the Pyrenees, so I could start about Oct 10. Are there alternative routes between huts if the weather is too wet or snowy? Would you expect this date will be too late in the fall? Alternatively, what date in the spring would you suggest this could work? I look forward to your comments! many thanks, Martha

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      Hi Martha, October 10 should be okay, but certainly getting late and things could shut down with an early snow fall. There are many ways down from the ridgeline as each hut has a trail coming up from the valley. You can always drop off those. But there really isn’t a lower trail. You’d have to fully adjust the trip by dropping off and then doing something less exposed. The route becomes possible in late June, but of course it depends on how big the winter was.
      Enjoy, it’s a classic. / Dan

  3. I’ve never heard of Via Alta Verzasca as I mostly hike in german part of Switzerland, but this will definitely going to get in my swiss hiking bucket list 🙂 Great article and amazing pictures – I really want to try it now 🙂

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