This was one of our longer 4-5 hour hikes, starting at the bottom of the Ticino valley, across a vertiginous bridge connecting two hillsides and 1350 meters up to a hilltop restaurant looking down into the town of Bellinzona. Fortunately, there was a convenient cable car at the top to bring us back down!
As is often the case, the train into Ticino was full of fellow hikers wanting to escape the cold in northern Switzerland. We got off at Bellinzona train station where, as our weather app had promised, the sun was shining! We then took a local bus for about 15 minutes to the start point of our hike. The first few minutes took us down the main road but once we crossed a small river we immediately went right and headed up into the hills through many small buildings and stone walls following the yellow Swiss signposts. We were soon up into the vineyards and the dry forests on the slopes above the plain around Bellinzona.
Once we got past the buildings and the vineyards, always keeping right at the forks, it was a steady 300 meters hike up through the forest with occasional glimpses of the view as you get higher. An hour into our hike we started to get views of the Tibetan Bridge through the trees as we came around a corner. Stretching about 270 meters across the ravine below, it wasn’t particularly busy when we got there but there were a few people crossing it and taking the traditional photos and selfies. Crossing the bridge was fun. It did swing a bit with several people on it – so for those of you with vertigo it may seem a bit hairy! From the middle of the bridge you can see out to the castles in Bellinzona and to the snow-capped mountains in the distance and of course it’s a big 130-meter drop into the valley below!
Whilst writing this post I asked myself why in the world do they have a seemingly random but pretty neat bridge up there? So, I turned to Mr. Google for some answers. It seems that the bridge connects two communities on either side of the hill. One of the communities is an old village known as Curzútt, about 600m above Monte Carrasso, and the other is a scattering of small buildings and a hiking path known as Via delle Vigne (The Vineyard Path’) above the town of Sementina. Our hike didn’t directly take us past any of those villages but it looks like the village of Curzútt would definitely be worth a visit next time we are in the area. It seems to have recently been restored and is an old stone village up in the hills where people used to prefer living instead of the valley plain lower down in Bellinzona. That way they avoided frequent floodings of the River Ticino and the various armies fighting over control of Bellinzona which was and still is an important access route to the Alps. So, there we go – a little history lesson here!
But back to our hike and the impressive bridge, which is actually higher at one end than the other. So, you either walk up or down the bridge depending on which side of the valley you start from. Once we crossed the bridge we carried on up for a bit, then briefly down and then back up again always following signs to the cable car station of Mornera. From here the path kept criss-crossing under the cable car line. Keep an eye out during this up and down part as we spotted this cute little minion carving somewhere along this path. We think we spotted it after crossing the bridge but we’re not 100% sure. In any case it was a nice surprise and some impressive carving.
Most of the rest of the path to Mornera was in the forest but there were open areas with small villages or isolated houses with stone walls and roofs – great for outdoor photography. Since we were hiking early in the season there was even a little bit of snow left at the top of the hike. At the cable car station Mornera there was a restaurant called Grotto Mornera which had a big open terrace facing the mountains across the valley. Despite it being early March, the restaurant was open and we stopped for a drink in the afternoon sunshine. After all, we did come all the way to Ticino for some warmth :D.
The restaurant’s owners were friendly and if I remember correctly seemed to have migrated to Switzerland and fallen in love with the area. I can imagine this spot being very popular in the summer but when we were there we had the entire terrace to ourselves to relax and enjoy the view. A little while later we hopped into the tiny unmanned cable car which runs every 15 – 30 mins taking us back to the valley below.
There was no ticket counter at the top, something that’s common in Switzerland, so we paid for our ride at the bottom station using an automatic ticket machine. Back on the road we waited for the bus to take us into Bellinzona. Instead of heading directly back to Zurich we decided to wander around the castles a bit and grab some pizza (and a tiramisu – yummmmm) as a treat before heading home. ☺
Practical Information for this Hike
Start: Monte Carasso, Cunvént Bus Stop
End: Mornera, Cable Car Station
Time: 4-5 hours
Altitude: ± 1350m ↑ 250m ↓
Peak: Top of the Mornera Cable Car 1350m
Interesting Spots: Tibetan Bridge (Ponte Tibetano) 700 m
Alternative Routes & Transport
This is a hike with many options. The hike we described above was a largish 1350-meter up hike but we’ve outlined a couple of shorter alternatives below.
2-hour Alternative: Instead of hiking all the way up you could take the cable car from the bottom of the valley at ‘Monte Carasso (funivia)’ to the village of Curzútt / St. Barnard. Explore the village and follow the walking signs to the Tibetan bridge via the ‘San Bernardo’ church. Here you can cross the bridge and then make your way back to the village of Curzútt. This version is about 2 hours long and is a total of 370 meters up and down.
3-4-hour Alternative: Head up by foot directly from the cable car station at ‘Monte Carasso (funivia)’ towards the village of Curzútt. Follow the signs to the Tibetan Bridge from here on. This takes about two hours and is about 600 meters worth of climbing up. Once you’ve crossed the bridge there are two routes to head down. If you head down to Pedemonte it’s about 1hr 10 min down the hillside with a few steep bits but nothing too dangerous to Sementina, Via Locarno Bus Stop. Or you can take a gentler 1hr 40 min route via San Defendente to Sementina, Motto Bus Stop.
Car Options: If you have a car all of the above routes are accessible to you and you could consider parking at the cable car station at the bottom. Be warned though it may be full on popular sunny days. ☺