Walking in Ticino
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A two-week walking Tour of Ticino explores the finest valleys and most remote landscapes in the upper part of the canton. The granite massifs of the Lepontine Alps, as these mountains are known, are among the least visited of any in Switzerland. You can wander for hours on end, even in the height of summer, and see no one, even while the lower valleys and the lakes of Maggiore and Lugano are thronged with holiday-makers. The scenery is charming: clear streams tumble through the valleys, numerous tarns flecked among the high plateaux add a sparkle to the crags, and deep green pools in hidden corners invite walkers to pause for a well-deserved midsummer bathe. Accommodation is sometimes sparse in the small villages of the upper valleys, but there are plenty of mountain huts (capanne). As ever, it’s easy to pick out shorter walks if you prefer something less taxing: from the Valle Santa Maria through Val Piora to Airolo, for instance, or from Bignasco to Fusio. Maps to pack are the LS 265, 266, 275 and 276 (all 1:50,000), and Walking in the Alps and Walking in Ticino, both by Kev Reynolds (see "books"), are essential reading.

The tour begins either in Torre or Dangio, two adjacent villages in the upper Valle di Blenio 4km south of Olivone. The route heads through Val Soi on a path which climbs to Capanna Adula (091/872 15 32) at the southern end of Val Carassina. Day two takes the walker through Val Carassina to a small dammed lake, then descends to Olivone before following a mule track through a defile into Val Camadra. On the western hillside the path leads to Capanna Boverina (091/872 15 29). Next day you continue up to Passo di Gana Negra, cross Valle Santa Maria and make a steady ascent to Passo Colombe. An enjoyable descent from there takes the route into the gentle tarn-glistening Val Piora where overnight accommodation is found in Capanna Cadagno (091/868 13 23). Day five is a short one, but there’s plenty of opportunity to divert to mountain lakes and big views. The route crosses Bochetta di Cadlimo to Pian Bornengo at the head of Val Canaria, then descends this glen to Airolo at the foot of the Gottardo Pass. On the south side of Valle Leventina the way resumes on a belvedere trail known as the Strada degli alpi Bedretto, but on reaching the alp hutments of Piano di Pesciüm it cuts into Val Torta and climbs to Capanna Cristallina (091/869 23 30). The following stage makes a crossing of the Cristallina massif to Capanna Basòdino (091/753 27 97) by one of two routes, both of which notch up several tarns, crossing rocky passes amid wild country.

On day eight, an easy downhill walk leaves the big mountains and descends through the woods and pastures of Val Bavona to Bignasco at the head of the Valle Maggia. It’s a glorious walk leading past tiny hamlets and feathery waterfalls to a confluence of valleys. Leaving Bignasco on day ten the suggested route goes through Val Cocco and over Passo del Cocco at its head, before dropping to the remote and simple Capanna Alpe d’Osola. Although open from April to November this hut is unstaffed, so you’ll need to carry food (cooking facilities are provided). The way now negotiates Bochetta di Mugaia in the south ridge of Monte Zucchero, before descending 1600m to Sonogno. Day eleven crosses Passo di Redorta (2181m) to Val di Pertüs whose stark walls plunge into the depths of a gorge. Val di Pertüs feeds into Val di Prato, and this in turn spills into Val Lavizzara where you spend the night in Prato-Sornico. The tour heads north to Fusio, a short journey on linking trails that avoids most of the road between the two villages. On such a short stage it would be worth diverting up to Lago di Mognola high on the eastern hillside, at the northern end of which an airy path makes a traverse before plunging steeply to the valley near Fusio. The final (thirteenth) day’s walk leads back to Valle Leventina via Passo Campolungo. The pass is more than 1000m above Fusio, while the descent to Rodi-Fiesso, 10km south of Airolo, is a steep 1300m, but the path is mostly good and there are consistently fine views on both sides to make this a fitting conclusion to the route.

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