These gorgeous waterfalls were a bit mysterious before we went and we weren’t sure what we would find. I’m so glad we took a chance; these falls were amazing, another hidden gem in this small land. The lower Piumogna falls (shown above) are the main attraction, easily accessed by a short walk from the train station or parking. Nearby is a large grassy picnic area with grill pits and a big playground with slides, swings and a zip line. The upper falls require a cable car ride and uphill hike, but totally worth the extra effort in our opinion. At the top, you cross the river that feeds the falls and get a fantastic view of the snow capped mountains above, great spot for a picnic. On your way back down, you pass another great playground with a view, before strolling along the river again before riding back down the cable car. What a lovely day out!
|Address:||Via Gerra 13, 6760 Faido, Switzerland
GPS: 46.477092, 8.797931
|Car:||1hr50 from Zurich|
|Train:||2hr15 from Zurich|
|Trail:||6 km loop, about 2 hours|
|Condition:||dirt, obstacle-free options|
|Skill:||moderate, 284 m climb and descent|
|Open:||May through October|
|More info:||www.faido.ch, webcam|
There are two big waterfalls on this river. The lower falls are in the valley, a short stroll from the cable car and parking. It’s near a big picnic area with grill pits and a big playground, as shown below. Super easy. Strollers are fine on this section.
To access the upper falls, you need to ride up the cable car and hike about 3 km to the falls, then another 3 km back. Part of the hike is a gentle climb and part is quite steep, ascending about 150 m over 500m. No strollers here. But we did see other families with small children walking.
Looking at the map below, the green flag is the cable car. I recommend walk clockwise on this trail, so you hit the playground on your way back as a reward instead of on your way up.
Don’t miss the detour to the waterfall lookout, which has a small sign off the main trail. I show a picture of it below. You will not see the upper falls unless you take this detour.
At the far west side of the loop, marked “Picnic” above, the trail joins the river that feeds the waterfall, with views of the snow capped mountain peaks above. This is a great place for a picnic before heading back down through the forest. There’s plenty of wood to gather in the forest to make a fire.
We did this hike in mid May, when the river and waterfall were full of water, the grass green, but the trees were still a little bare.
A few Italian words that might be helpful.
- “senterio” means hiking trail, so you can ask where the trail is if you get confused.
- “funivia” means cable car, in case you get lost
- “a che ora chiudete” means “what time do you close?” so you won’t miss the last cable car down
- “cascate” means “waterfall”, “cascata bassa” means lower falls
More info about these falls and other hikes in the area:
This hike is a few km south of the Gotthard tunnel. That’s a long drive from Zurich with potential tunnel traffic. So I recommend taking the train, as we did, which is a pretty ride and very convenient. There is a direct train from Zurich, that stops only a handful of times. The train drops off in Faido, then it’s about a 15 minute walk along the road and river to the first waterfall and cable car station. The train runs about once an hour, so pay attention to the schedule.
By car, drive to Faido using the map below and follow signs to Cascate Piumogna, the waterfall, or Funivia Pianaselva, the cable car. The closest address you could put in your GPS is Via Gerra 13 Faido, GPS coordinates 46.477002, 8.798005.
If you go by train, here is the path to the lower falls and cable car. This route takes you by the river, instead of walking through town. I’ll show some pictures of this path below. Follow signs to Cascate Piumogna.
If you go by car, there are a few parking spots next to the cable car. From there, follow the path I’ve marked out below to the lower falls.
Walk from Train to Lower Falls
It’s a short walk from the train station to the lower falls (map above). Basically follow signs to “Cascata bassa” or “Cascate Piumogna” or “Funivia Pianaselva”.
We walked south of the train station to the main road, then turned right after this bridge and followed this stream down to the main river.
Walking down to the main river.
Crossing a bridge over the river, then turning left and following signs to Cascata bassa, aka lower falls.
There is a story about the falls with pictures posted along this path. But the text was all in Italian.
Just before the falls, there is a big park with picnic tables and grills. I suspect that in summer, this is a popular place for picnics.
Here are the lower falls, which fill a shallow pool at the bottom, which flows into the main river farther down. I didn’t see anyone splashing around but I think on hot days in summer, people must get in the water. Looks pretty safe and not too deep, but there are flash flood warning signs.
There are plenty of grassy areas around the falls for lounging.
Looking toward the picnic area on the other side of the falls.
Some overview pics of the falls. In the below picture, you can see a little bridge over the falls. There is a short trail, labeled “Cascata alta,” that takes you up to the bridge, “Ponte Medievale.”
Here is the trail map for the Cascata alta trail (marked in orange), on a sign near the lower falls. I wanted do this trail too, but we ran out of time and energy. This is not the upper falls trail, keep scrolling down for that.
More pics of the lower falls and river in the afternoon when the light was better for pictures.
Pianaselva Cable Car to Upper Falls
To reach the upper falls, you first ride a cable car, then hike a 6km loop. The cable car is called Funivia Pianaselva. It is a small operation, run on demand, not a schedule. You get in the cable car, push a yellow button, which rings the guy who lives at the farm house at the top of cable car. Eventually he’ll call you on the phone inside the cable car and say some stuff in Italian.
You could say “Vogliamo salire prega,” which means something like “We want to go up, please.”
Just close the doors and he’ll make cable car go up the mountain. You can pay in cash at the top.
Just FYI, there is no door handle inside the cable car. Instead, there is a little tool hanging next to the door that fits onto the door to open it. We were stuck inside wondering how to get out. Now this won’t happen to you.
In 2016, an adult return ticket (“Andata Ritorno” – remember this to tell the guy when you pay) cost 12 CHF, child 8 CHF, children under 6 free. SBB Halbtax and Junior cards not accepted. Cash only. Current info at www.pianaselva.ch.
There is a small pool next to the cable car, not a huge attraction but maybe something the locals use on hot days. If you pay to use the pool, you get a 50% discount on the cable car fee.
After your hike, you push button on the box next to the cable car at the upper station (shown below). It will ring a loud bell. We had to ring a few times and wait about 10 minutes before the guy showed up to make the cable car go back down. We didn’t have a receipt for our return trip. The guy just recognized us.
The Funivia Pianaselva website has info about opening times and prices. The “Dove Siamo” shows opening times, which in 2016, said open 8:00 to 20:00, from 1 May open weekends and holidays, from 31 May open every day. I suspect they run through mid October but best to check the website before heading out.
Hike to Upper Falls
I’m repeating the map here so you don’t have to scroll up to see it. The cable car is at the green flag.
After exiting the cable car, walk out to the dirt road in front of the farmhouse adjacent to the cable car. Turn right on this road and start walking.
A few minutes after the cable station, you’ll reach this important split as you enter the forest. We made a mistake here, which I will help you avoid. First, do not take the road straight ahead of you, which we did. That will get you where you are going, but the footpaths are nicer.
Instead take the footpath that splits to the right – see the little yellow diamond next to the green sign. This path takes you to the river and walks up along the pretty river for awhile before joining back up with road to Dalpe.
If you want to save the playground for after the upper falls, take the split to the left (“Piumogna, 1 ora” on the sign below), which heads up through the forest directly to the river above the upper falls. You will then continue the loop down to the waterfall lookout, then loop back here.
Here is the sign at this junction.
We headed straight on the road to Dalpe, doing the trail counterclockwise. So I’ll show the pictures in that order. But you can walk in the opposite direction if you like. We are on the road in this picture and the footpath is below next to the river.
Here we are crossing the river, where the footpath joins up with the road.
There was a little picnic area at the river, with fire pits and a fountain. Nice spot by the river, but no view.
Heading up the road to the town of Dalpe.
Turn left on the road that leads to the playground. This bypasses some of the town of Dalpe. This picture was taken looking up toward the upper falls and the mountains behind them.
No grill in the playground but lots of nice play equipment.
View from playground.
In general follow signs to Piumogna.
The trail cuts through Dalpe with some cute old buildings and a fountain to fill up your water bottle.
Near the edge of town, the trail takes a hard right, then immediately a hard left in front of that building below and continues on a small footpath up the mountain. From this point, it took us about 25 mins to reach the upper falls.
Very pretty part of the trail.
Make sure you are on the right side of this fence or you can’t reach the falls.
Don’t miss this little white sign pointing to the falls. Take this short detour to a lookout to the upper falls, about 5 mins. You’ll come back on the same path and rejoin the main trail. There is no way to cross the river until you get to the top of the falls, about another 15 mins for us.
The short path to the upper falls lookout.
Here are the upper falls, way bigger than I expected. Really nice! I didn’t see any pics of these before coming here, so this was a real treat.
Follow the path back to the main trail and keep heading up the mountain. Rocky and steep.
You’ll pass this fountain after the falls. I saw people drinking out of it, but it looked a little mossy to me.
The trail joins a dirt road and flattens out.
The trail back down continues over this bridge to the right. But this is a good place to stop and explore the river a bit before heading back down.
Great place for lunch. There was tons of dry wood in the forest for fire building.
What a fun river! Our boys loved jumping around on the rocks, happily avoiding injury.
There are other trails that head up the river as shown on this map. Maybe next time. You can actually drive all the way up to this point and we saw a couple cars here. But I don’t know what kind of road it is.
The trail heads back down the mountain on the east side of the river. You won’t see the river or the waterfall from this side. You will be mostly on a steep, rocky dirt “road” and footpaths through the forest. We crossed lots of mini streams and in some places it got a little muddy.
Follow signs back to Piana Selva, where you can catch the cable car back down.
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