Piotta-Ritom Lake Hike

This hike at Piotta-Ritom is one of my favorites. The super steep funicular ride (87.8% grade) is rather exciting and slightly terrifying. The lake is a gorgeous deep blue. The surrounding mountains are dramatic. The restaurant had delicious food. The trail is quite long for kids, but stroller-friendly so the parents can do all the work. One downside is that it’s just on the other side of the Gottard tunnel (south), which means you may get caught in traffic on the way there or on the way back. But let’s assume you are lucky, like we were. Plus I’ll tell you about a “secret” way back that bypasses most of the tunnel traffic.

Location:   Ticino
Address: Via Funicolare Ritom 1, 6776 Quinto
Car: 1hr45 from Zurich
Parking GPS: 46°31’03.0″N 8°40’28.9″E
Train: 2hr15 from Zurich HB
Bus Stop: Piotta, Funicolare
   
Trail: 1km to reach lake, optional 12km loop to restaurant
Condition: half dirt road, half alpine trail
Skill: moderate
Open: end of May thru mid October
Cost: Adult CHF 24, Child CHF 12
20% off for SBB GA and Half-fare cards
Services: restaurant at far end of hike
More info: www.ritom.ch

Overview

After riding up the funicular, it’s 1km on the road to the lake. Then about 4.5km on the north side of the lake to the restaurant, on a dirt road, suitable for strollers. You can optionally return on a narrow footpath to the south side of the lake. If you need a shorter walk, I recommend just walking along the lake shore on the south side and finding a pretty spot for picnic.

With slow kids walking, it took us about 20 mins to walk from the top of the funicular to the lake. Then another 1hr30 to reach the restaurant walking on the road on the north side of the lake. Taking the south side trail, it took us about 2hrs to reach the restaurant.

Getting There

Ba car: Drive to Piotta by driving south through the Gottard Tunnel, then taking the first exit after you leave the tunnel, Exit 41 Airolo. Follow the local road south to Piotta, turning left when you see signs for the Piotta-Ritom funicular. You can park right next to the funicular station. 

By train: Take a train to Airolo, then a bus to Piotta, Funicolare. The bus drops off directly at the funicular station.

Tickets

At the Piotta Funicular station, buy return tickets. In 2017, a return ticket cost 24 CHF/adult and 12 CHF/child 6 and over. Family pass for 2 adults and multiple children is 64 CHF. Cash only. There is a 20% discount for SBB GA or Half-fare cards.

The funicular runs from mid May through mid October, daily from about 8:30 to 18:30. Check the website for current times and prices.

The funicular only runs about every 40 to 60 minutes and the capacity is small. So it’s possible you might have to wait if there’s a crowd. But we’ve never had a problem. There’s a big playground and field next to the lower funicular station, so your kids can entertain themselves while you wait for your ride.

The funicular has a 87.8% grade, making it one of the steepest funiculars in the world open to the public. It feels more like an elevator ride and is a little unnerving. It’s in an enclosed car, so it feels safer than Gelmerbahn’s open car.

View from top of funicular

Trail Details

At the top, you’ll follow the road to your right (if you are looking at the mountain) towards Lago Ritom. It takes about 20 mins to reach the dam and lake.

At this point, the paved road turns into a dirt road but it’s wide not particularly bumpy, so still pretty stroller-friendly. The trail continues up about an hour past the lake to two other small lakes. It’s not a steep grade, but the trail definitely climbs upwards so small children probably can’t do it on their own and you will sweat a bit pushing up the stroller. Our 4.5 yr old walked most of it (with lots of encouragement) but made me carry him on my back for the last 20 minutes or so.

and finally the Capanna Cadagno restaurant. There is a lot of outdoor seating and a sandpit with toys for the kids. It’s not fancy but our food was hearty and very tasty.

I ate lentil stew with polenta – yum!

our boys had a great time playing in this tiny sandpit while the adults ate

one of the smaller lakes near the restaurant

When you drive back home, take the local road again and when you enter the freeway, you will have bypassed most of the backup before the tunnel.

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