The Lepontine Alps are a mountain range in the north-western part of the Alps above the Lugano Prealps. They are located in Switzerland (Valais, Ticino, Uri and Graubünden) and Italy (Piedmont and Lombardy). The most important transport arteries in Switzerland go through the Lepontine Alps: the engineering site - the Gotthard tunnels, the Bernardino road tunnel and the Simplon rail tunnel connect the north and the south of the country.
The area of the Gotthard Pass opening into the Val Leventina (the upper valley of Ticino) has been known from a remote antiquity as one of the easiest communication lines between northern and southern Europe. The Latin Val Leventina name is thought to have survived through the centuries with some alterations to give the name to the whole range.
The highest mountain in the Lepontine Alps is Monte Leone (3,552m) located not far from Simplon Pass on the extreme west of the range on the border between Switzerland and Italy. The highest mountain in Val Grande National Park is Monte Togano (2,301m) which is the most prominent mountain of the Lepontine Alps. With a prominence of 1,479m this mountain is “almost” Ultra, lacking just 21 meters to get the title!
While the Lepontine Alps can’t boast of staggering heights of its peaks, there are already numerous glaciers at such heights, and no less spectacular nature.
Major Trails and Hiking Areas
- Val Grande National Park is the largest wilderness area in Italy. There are many trails through the park, and many peaks to conquer. Monte Togano and Pizzo Ragno (literally, Spider Peak) are there to delight you with panoramic views.
- Val Formazza is a broad jutting peninsula of Italian territory surrounded by prominent Swiss-Italian border peaks: Blinnenhorn, Grieshorn, and Basodino which protect pristine nature from adverse human influence. Part of this area belongs to Alpe Veglia and Alpe Devero Natural Park. The valley is rich with high altitude alpine lakes reflecting majestic rock towers and roaring waterfalls.
- On the other side of the border to the north lies the Binntal Nature Park. Epic trails lead through the Alpine paradise to the tops of Monte Cervandone (The Scherbadung) and Punta d’Arbola (Ofenhorn).
- The Robiei area, between Basodino and its glacier and Pizzo Cristallina is another popular destination with numerous scenic trails.
- Piz Beverin dominates the scenery of Beverin Nature Park located in the eastern part of the Lepontine Alps. Despite a strenuous ascend the views along the trail as well as from the summit are totally worth the effort.
- Driving through Gotthard Pass just like James Bond did with a stop at its highest point with many lakes around is an exciting endeavour. From the Pass, there are many trails going in all directions which let you explore the area and other Alpine lakes. One of the most panoramic trails leads along Lago della Sella to the top of Giubin and Pizzo Centrale. These two peaks are for experienced hikers.
- Pizzo Taneda high above Ritom Lake and many other smaller alpine lakes give a perfect vantage point to embrace unique landscape of Val Piora.
- The Rheinwaldhorn or Adula at 3402 meters is the highest mountain of the Adula Alps (the eastern subrange of the Lepontine Alps). It is also the highest point of Ticino.
- Piz Uccello is overlooking the San Bernardino Pass and allows one of the best views in the area.
- While overlooking Splugen Pass Pizzo Tambo might be reachable only by hardcore climbers there are many other hiking destinations around it. By the way, this is the easternmost proximity of the Lepontine Alps.
- Cardada is reachable by a cable car from Locarno is the starting point for treks of various difficulty yet all of them are scenic and rewarding. From there you could take a chair lift to Cimetta and start an epic trail through the panoramic ridge dividing valleys of Maggia and Verzasca. The trail goes through Cima della Trosa, Madone, Pizzo di Corbella, Pizzo d’Orgnana, Mött di Pègor, Cima di Nimi, Madom da Sgiof.
- Monte Berlinghera and Sasso Canale are among the peaks to the northwest of Como Lake. Due to splendid views of the lake and Val Chiavenna valley they are popular among hikers of all ages and skill levels.
Cable Cars and Cog Railways
- Robiei Lakes
- Cardada / Cimetta
- Lago Ritom
Major Cities and Resorts
The area of the Lepontine Alps is relatively high and is slightly inhabited with vast areas of wilderness. There’s no big towns here, only Alpine villages. The nearest cities are:
- Locarno, Switzerland - in the south
- Bellinzona, Switzerland - the capital of Ticino, in the south
- Domodossola, Italy - in the southwest
- Brig, Switzerland - in the west
- Chur - Switzerland’s oldest city, in the northeast, inhabited since 3000BC.