The ridge hike of your life

A ridge hike around the Vallemaggia: the high-level Alta Vallemaggia route is a trip into nature, but also into oneself. Its 19 stages and 200 km (incl. trekking the Laghetti) of breathtaking alpine scenery lead from Lake Maggiore to the far end of the valley and back to the valley entrance on the other side – an experience for anyone seeking adventure or a fresh experience in the midst of the Ticino mountains.

The ridge hike of your life
  • “Nature. Space. Walking – three ordinary elements with magical powers that can prolong life”. T

  • These three words go a long way to summing up the Via Alta experience. An adventure that takes you to amazing places in pristine nature high above the valley floor. Crystal-clear mountain lakes, lush herbs, flower meadows, scree, imposing mountainscapes and cosy huts to spend the night.

  • Matteo Zanoli is a true convert. He’s in charge of the footpaths in the Ascona-Locarno destination and president of the Via Alta Vallemaggia – a nature-loving person with an immense passion for the mountains.

In 2004, the dream of creating a link between Cardada and Fusio was put into words for the first time and came to fruition in 2009 in the shape of the Via Alta Vallemaggia, a route more than 50 km in length; the first milestone. This high-level path for enthusiastic mountain hikers and nature lovers enhances the Alps and honours the work done by previous generations with a great deal of hard work and skill. Twelve years on, the ultimate dream has now been realised with the inauguration of the route between Fusio and Ponte Brolla, which completes the circumnavigation of the Maggia valley. Its implementation is a source of pride and inspiration, says Matteo. He was present for the preview and accompanied a 20 or so strong group of hikers on the 170 km tour for the TV documentary In cammino sul crinale (broadcast on RSI in December 2020). Two weeks of sweat, friendship and breathtaking nature. “The programme conveys the excitement of doing this journey for yourself.” Anyone venturing on the Via Alta will be enriched with experiences for life. The beauty and diversity of the surroundings compensate for the exertions, while the elation you experience when you overcome your fears or fatigue let you see things from a new perspective. “You have to observe nature and be receptive to it.” 

The effort you make is always amply rewarded; it’s a law of nature at height.” The Via Alta Vallemaggia stands out for its length and its unquestionable beauty. It passes through an impressive variety of terrains and connects all the bordering areas that have so much in common and yet are so very different: landscapes dotted with lakes, barren as well as vegetation-rich areas, busy as well as extremely remote places.

  • Not everyone enjoys hiking from refuge to refuge via exposed mountain ridges for a fortnight

  • And yet the Via Alta Vallemaggia is different from other high-level trails. Technically demanding passages are secured with chains and provided with steps, and great emphasis is placed on waymarking so as to make the tour accessible to as many people as possible. “Anyone who knows what they’re doing and has a head for heights can do this route – in one go or in stages.”

  • Much of the route follows paths that that come under Ascona-Locarno Tourism and are maintained by Matteo’s team. This is an important consideration: mountains are exposed to wind, storms and rock falls that can and do cause damage. As with so many other things, the challenge is not so much in the implementation, but in ensuring enduring quality.

  • Activities aimed at different target groups and involving local hospitality businesses also contribute to this. Merchandising is also being planned with a focus on sustainability and innovation. Matteo’s mission is clear going forward: I hope that this project will become a model for the coexistence of man and nature. Only by knowing and respecting nature can we ensure a future for humanity on this planet.”

Respect for nature in the mountains, then, is key, but so is camaraderie. If you’re sociable, interesting encounters are always part of the experience when hiking. Whether you’re on your own or with a companion is up to you.

“Personally, I sometimes prefer going off on my own, but I think that sharing is essential in the mountains: everyone should be hospitable in that setting. Friendships are formed through mutual support, and magical moments are shared with strangers – that’s the power of the mountains.”

But walking the Via Alta with others and sharing the experience is a priceless experience and does a lot to create bonds of lasting friendship. Not just friendship, but also the sensation of being in nature or snapshots that leave their mark. The first stage of the Via Alta has a very special meaning for Matteo: he spent a large part of his youth on the Alpe Nimi. “I feel emotional every time I come up here. I have a very strong connection to this place.” He also finds the parts of the route on the border with Italy particularly appealing due to the beauty of the area and the cultural contrast and warmth of the locals. Irrespective of the number of stages you undertake on the trip and regardless of the number of people accompanying you, the Via Alta Vallemaggia guarantees emotions as well as moments destined to endure.

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