Lago Ritom Lake Hike

We love hiking at Lago Ritom and have been multiple times, in different seasons. It’s exciting just getting there, riding up the super steep funicular (87.8% grade), more like an elevator. The lake itself is a gorgeous deep blue, surrounded by dramatic mountains, rolling hills and forest. You could simply enjoy a picnic lakeside, but we always hike up to the restaurant, which has a small but tasty menu of traditional Ticino dishes. The full loop trail is quite long for kids, but there is a stroller-friendly version so the parents can do all the work.

Location:   Ticino Switzerland
Address: Via Funicolare Ritom 1, 6776 Quinto
Car: 1hr45 from Zurich to
Parking GPS: 46°31’03.0″N 8°40’28.9″E
Train: 2hr15 from Zurich HB to Piotta, Funicolare
Trail: 1km to reach lake, 4.5 km to restaurant, 12 km loop around lake
Condition: dirt road and/or narrow footpath
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: mountain hut restaurant at far end of hike
More info: www.ritom.ch

Overview

A steep funicular brings you from the valley village Quinto up to the mountain village Piora. Then a 1km walk on a paved road to the dam and Lago Ritom lake. At the top of the dam, the trail splits.

To the left, you can walk on a dirt road on the north side of the lake, suitable for strollers. This road continues all the way to the Capanna Cadagno hut and restaurant, about 4.5 km from the dam, about 400m of elevation gain. You can simply walk back the way you came or continue on the loop to the south side of the lake. Going this direction, it took us about 1.5 hrs to reach the restaurant.

To the right, you can cross the dam, then continue on a narrow footpath through the forest on the south side of the lake, not suitable for strollers. There are many nice picnic spots along about 2 km of lake shore. At the east side of the lake, the path continues straight up a hill, about 600m elevation gain over 1.3 km. Then it gradually makes it’s way down to the Capanna Cadagno hut (another 1.5 km), where you join the dirt road that will lead back to your starting point. Going this direction, it took us about 2 hrs to reach the restaurant.

The full loop from the dam around the lake is about 10km and can be strenuous for children. We did it with our 6 and 10 yr olds. There was some serious complaining on the steep climb at the east side of the lake. But other than that, they were fine.

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.

Getting There

One downside of this hike is that on the south side of the Gotthard tunnel, which means you may get caught in traffic on the way there or on the way back. So don’t go on a holiday weekend.

By car: Drive to Piotta by driving south through the Gotthard 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.

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

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

Tickets & Opening Times

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 playground and field next to the valley station, so your kids can entertain themselves while you wait for your ride.

Funicular 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

Walk to lake

At the top of the funicular, follow the paved road to the east towards the lake, Lago Ritom. It’s about 1 km, took us about 20 mins with kids. When you reach the dam, walk up the path to the top of the dam.

At the top of the dam, the trail splits. To your left, you can walk on the dirt road along the north side of the lake, suitable for strollers. To your right, you can walk on the narrow footpath along the south side of the lake. Both paths eventually leading to the Capanna Cadagno hut and restaurant.

North side of the lake

If you took the dirt road on your left, the road starts by hugging the lake side.

At the east side of the lake, the trail starts to climb, rising about 400m over 2 km.

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.

The views are great as you climb higher, this pic taken in mid-August.

Also pretty in snowy October.

The road passes two other smaller lakes on the way to the restaurant.

Finally the Capanna Cadagno hut and restaurant. There is a lot of outdoor seating and last time we went, a sandpit with toys for the kids. The food was hearty traditional Ticino dishes like stew and polenta, very tasty. Last time we went, there weren’t kid-friendly menu options like hot dogs, pasta or fries. My kids were quite picky at the time, so we had a bit of hard time finding something they would eat. So be warned. Last time we went it was cash only.

The hut has been renovated since this picture was taken, but the view is the same and the menu was similar last time we went in 2013.

Now you can simply go back the way you came. Or you can connect with the footpath that will loop you around to the south side of the lake.

South side of the lake

If you turn right at the top of the dam, you will walk across the dam then take a narrow footpath into the forest. This is not suitable for strollers.

The views on the south side of the lake are totally different from the north side.

Lots of places to stop for a picnic.

At the east side of the lake, the trail steeply climbs up the mountain, about 600m ascent over 1.3 km.

My kids wanted to quit here. It doesn’t look that steep, but it was exhausting for all of us.

The views from the highest point are amazing!

The trail makes its way back to the dirt road. The trail splits before reaching the hut. We took the left split, which first followed a river lower than the hut, crossed a bridge and then walked back up to the hut. Kinda annoying because we were really hungry. If you take the split to the right, it’s a more direct route to the road, then turn left to walk down to the hut.

Here’s the beautiful bridge we crossed before heading back up to the hut.

After visiting the hut, you can continue down the dirt road to return to the lake and dam.

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