Swiss White Water Trail: Valle Verzasca River

This hike along the Verzasca river is one of the “Top 12 Hikes” (now expanded to Top-32) designated by the Swiss Tourism Board as one of the most beautiful hikes in Switzerland and well deserved in my opinion. The path follows the river the entire way, dipping in and out of the forest, crossing through fields and tiny villages of rustic farm houses. There are a few wooden sculptures on the trail to entertain the kids. Small weary hikers can can always take a break to throw rocks in the river or dip your toes in the icy water. If your kids get too tired, you can easily cut your hike short, since the bus runs parallel to the trail. The hike ends in Lavertezzo and the popular “Valle Verzasca” swimming area, a nice reward for your hard work. We really enjoyed this one and hope to go back soon.

Location:   Ticino, Switzerland
Address: Trailhead in Sonogno: Nucleo Storico, 6637 Sonogno TI-CH
GPS: 46°20’60.0″N 8°47’15.3″E
Bus and parking in Lavertezzo: Paese 2, 6633 Lavertezzo CH
GPS: 46°15’32.2″N 8°50’18.2″E
Car: 2hr30 from Zurich, 30 mins from Locarno
All day parking CHF 10: 46°15’44.1″N 8°49’52.5″E
Train: 2hr50 from Zurich,
To Lavertezzo – Adult with half-fare CHF 72.40
   
Trail: options from 4 to 13km one way
Condition: narrow dirt trail
Skill: moderate
Open: March through October
More info:  wanderland.ch

Overview

The full trail is 13km from Sonogno to Lavertezzo, posted hiking time 3h45. After about 3 hours, our kids (aged 4 and 7 at the time) only made it 6.5 km to Brione, so we took the bus the rest of the way. What we had hiked was so nice, I didn’t mind missing the second half of the trail. It just leaves something to explore for next time.

The path is narrow, lumpy but not particularly difficult, mostly gradually downhill following the river. The water is icy cold, even on the hottest days of summer. So if you want to swim, got on a hot day in August, so it’s warm enough to justify the cold water.

Your hike ends at the famous Valle Verzasca bridge and swimming area. More about that my Valle Verzasca post.

Getting There

This valley is far from Zurich, so it’s better as a weekend getaway than a day trip from Zurich, perhaps staying overnight in Locarno. There are several camping areas on Lake Locarno; we’ve camped at Camping Tamaro, which was pleasant enough.

The hike starts in Sonogno and hikes down river to Lavertezzo. Since you’re hiking one way, you’ll probably want to use the bus for part or all of your journey. We drove to Lavertezzo (the end of the hike) and parked in the longer term lot a couple hundred meters north of Lavertezzo.

Then we rode the bus to Sonogno (about 30 mins further up the valley) and hiked back to Lavertezzo. Buses run from Locarno as well if you want to use public transportation for the whole trip. The bus runs about once an hour, so note the times before heading out.

Here is a map all the way to Sonogno.

Trail Details

Below are a few photos of Sonogno, which is small but charming. There are a couple cafes and shops, but don’t plan on getting all your supplies here. Of course, you can picnic on the trail, but I don’t remember seeing any official picnic spots or fire pits.

Once in Sonogno, follow the yellow trail signs to Lavertezzo. Below you’ll see the “Top 12-Wanderungen” sign, a special honor for trails like this one.

A few of the wooden sculptures near the beginning of the trail.

Cross this first bridge to start the trail.

The river is small and quiet at first, but it quickly grows.

The path is not difficult, but too bumpy for strollers.

One of the many traditional “rustico” houses along the way. Some of these are for rent, typically with minimal amenities, but promoted as “romantic.” We teased our boys that we were staying over night in one and they were not amused.

Taking a break to soak sore feet in the river. It was too icy to leave them in for long.

Sometimes the trail left the river’s edge to wander through the fields and houses.

The trail was quite varied, sometimes lush, sometime rocky, sometimes wet, sometimes a bit barren.

Here’s the bridge we took at about 6.5km to access the Alnasca bus stop. These stairs led directly to the road and the bus stop. It only runs once an hour, so plan accordingly so you don’t have to wait on the road for a long time.

Arriving in Lavertezzo and the fantastic swimming area. More details about this in my Valle Verzasca post.

I hope you enjoy it!!!

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