The Verzasca Valley: a fascinating river valley in the Swiss Alps

  • Elena Lukashova elena -
  • November 14, 2020 -
  • -
  • Last Update: December 28, 2020 5 minute read
Elena Lukashova

elena - November 14, 2020 - Hiking Trails

Last Update: December 28, 2020

5 minute read

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If you are here, then you have probably already heard that the Verzasca Valley is a truly enchanting place.

A unique destination for swimming and rafting, hiking and diving, climbing and mountain biking, canyoning and bungee jumping… And just a very picturesque place for a weekend getaway. In other words, whatever your interests are, there’s an adventure for you.

Emerald-colored river of the Verzasca Valley and a mountain town in the background
Lavertezzo, Verzasca Valley | @famaxphotography

In this article I will focus on hiking, but you can find here a lot of information that will help you organize other kinds of adventures as well.

Some words about the Verzasca Valley

The Verzasca Valley (Valle Verzasca) is a charming river valley in the south of Switzerland, in the Canton of Ticino.

It is famous especially because of the old Roman stone bridge, also known as “Ponte dei Salti” (or bridge of jumps), located in Lavertezzo. If you follow some travel blogs on Instagram, it may look familiar to you.

An old Roman stone bridge over the river of the Valley Verzasca
Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo, Verzasca Valley |

Due to its popularity on Instagram and its promotion as “the Maldives two hours away from Milan”, this place is having enormous success among tourists especially during the hottest summer months, July and August.

However, if you want, you can avoid this chaos by choosing a different period and itinerary.

Trail options

The Verzasca Valley has a long hiking trail (called Sentierone) that goes along the river. It can start either at the Verzasca Dam (also known as The Contra Dam) or in Mergoscia and ends in Sonogno, passing by other 7 small towns.

Map of the Verzasca Valley
Find the interactive map here

interesting fact:
According to Wikipedia, the Verzasca Dam became a well-known bungee jumping venue because a James Bond stuntman jumped off it in the opening scene of the 1995 film GoldenEye.

The entire Sentierone is about 24 km /15 mi long and requires more or less 9 hours of walking. The trail itself doesn’t represent any technical difficulty and it is child-friendly. However, taking into consideration all its ups and downs, it might be physically hard to conclude it in one day, even though you are in good physical shape.

good to know:
The best trail part for families with children is from Brione to Lavertezzo, since there are several wooden-made plays and playgrounds.

Hiking trail of the Verzasca Valley covered by autumn leaves
The Verzasca Valley hiking trail | © Bielo into the Wild

That’s why I suggest you choose one of the following options:

  • going on a multiday hike, splitting the itinerary in 2 or 3 parts and staying overnight in one of the small towns;
  • going on a day hike by choosing a part of a trail. In this case, it can be a one-way hike, since you can easily go back to the starting point by public transport. We opted for a day hike from Sonogno to Lavertezzo.

Whatever option you choose, you will enjoy it a lot. The entire trail is full of ancient rural buildings, waterfalls, bridges and picturesque views.

good to know:
Besides the Sentierone, there are other hiking trails you can explore. You can find a detailed list on this website.

Parking and transport in the Verzasca Valley

All the villages of the valley are situated along the road called ‘Via Valle Verzasca’ (Verzasca Valley Road).

good to know:
Remember that you need the Swiss motorway vignette to use the motorways in Switzerland. You can learn more about it on this website.

You can find parkings spots nearby every small town. We parked in Sonogno and the tariffs were the following (prices below are listed in Swiss francs, but euros are also accepted):

  • standard (min. 40 min): CHF 1.50/h*
  • parkingcard (1 day, 8:00 – 19:00): CHF 10.00
  • trekking (hiking): CHF 10.00 for the 1st day, CHF 4.00 from 2nd to 7th day (for each day)
*The exchange rate CHF/EUR at the time of writing this article (in 2020) is nearly 1:1.

As I mentioned before, the entire Verzasca Valley Road is served by public transport, the bus line 321. It is very convenient, and you can easily buy the ticket at any bus stop. Yet, it’s very important to check the updated bus timetable in advance. You can check it here by typing “62.321” in the search box.

We didn’t check the timetable in advance, so we had to wait 1.5 h to get back to our car 🙂

good to know:
To give you an idea about ticket prices, one ticket for zones 325-326 (from Lavertezzo to Sonogno) is CHF 4.60 / EUR 4.50 and is valid for two hours from the time of purchase.
If you travel to a village situated between Lavertezzo and Locarno, you can check the zone number on a map that you can find at every bus stop.

Best time to visit the Verzasca Valley

Even though the recommended period is from late spring to late autumn, you can visit the Verzasca Valley at any time of the year.

The old Roman bridge over the emerald-green river of of the Verzasca Valley covered by snow
Verzasca Valley in winter | @ale_speziali

When choosing the season, take into consideration the following:

  • winter: some parts of the trail can be slippery;
  • spring: in early spring the river is filled by melting water, making it difficult to cross the streams;
  • summer: it can be too hot for hiking due to the low altitude – the highest town is situated at 919 m (3,015 ft). On the other hand, July and August are the two best months for swimming. Just remember that you will not be the only person to have this idea, but you can avoid the crowd by choosing a spot different from Lavertezzo, for example Brione.

important to know:
The Verzasca river is wild, and you should be careful when entering it. In some points the current is stronger than in others, so pick up your swimming spot carefully.

People swimming in the emerald-colored waters of the Verzasca valley river
Swimming in the Verzasca river | @cesvalenti

Personally, I’ve been to the Verzasca Valley twice, and both times I went was at the end of October. I consider autumn the best season for hiking in that area for three reasons:

  • perfect temperature: 15°-20° C / 59° – 68° F;
  • not crowded at all: we met only a dozen of hikers during a 4-hour hike;
  • incredible nature colors: autumn shades mixed with the river’s emerald-colored waters will leave you breathless.
View from drone above the Verzasca river and autumn trees
Verzasca Valley in autumn | @paolo.nini

What to take with you to the Verzasca Valley

As I said before, the trail doesn’t represent any technical difficulty and is accessible to any hiker. Still, there are some aspects to keep in mind:

  • Wear a pair of waterproof hiking shoes or boots: you may need to cross small water streams.
  • Keep your hiking poles (?) at hand, especially if you have opted for a longer part of the trail.
  • A packed lunch may be a good idea, since there are a lot of benches and panoramic points along the trail. Otherwise, there are a couple of restaurants in the villages.

good to know:
There are also a couple of barbeque spots along the trail, for example nearby Brione and Gerra. Please, don’t leave any trash behind.

Bench in the autumn forest of the Verzasca Valley
A resting point in the Verzasca Valley | © Bielo into the Wild

It’s time to plan your Verzasca adventure

As you can see, the Verzasca Valley is an extremely versatile location. Whatever season, part of the trail and activity you choose, the trip will become unforgettable thanks to its marvelous nature and breathtaking views.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information to plan your trip.

See you on the trail!


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