One of the milestones that most mountain bikers want to achieve (at least) once in their lives is an Alpine crossing. Many of the most popular routes lead from the southernmost point of Germany Oberstdorf to Lake Garda in Italy. One of them is the Joe route, a challenging classic with many meters of altitude.
The original route contains over 45,931 feet (14,000 meters) of elevation gain across 260 sweaty miles (420 km) in seven stages. This is no small feat, even for experienced bikers. As some sections are at such a high altitude, the route can only be ridden in the summer between July and September. Part of the route also leads through high alpine Switzerland.
On the Joe Route, an epic adventure awaits: you will not only be taken to the edge of your physical abilities, but you will also be overwhelmed with endorphins when you finish a tough ascent, gaze up the region's wild beauty or when you finally see Lake Garda glistening in the distance after days in the saddle.
Completing a Transalp is no small thing, so come prepared. First of all, you need a good fitness level. You have to cycle up and down over 6,561 feet (2,000 meters) of altitude several days in a row. The high alpine single trails and steep forest roads will also test your technical ability.
You should also be able to carry your bike and bags over longer distances as you may have to hike-a-bike at times. Therefore, an E-MTB will not necessarily make this route easier, on the contrary: they are heavier and it is harder to repair them if something breaks.
It is also worth investing in light functional clothing, a hut sleeping bag and a decent pair of cycling shoes. The hunt for basics like a microfiber towel, an ultra light water bottle or a water bladder and the perfect backpack will keep you busy for a few weeks.
Also essential: cement the rough route in your head. We have already prepared the Joe route for you in this collection, but make sure you take a detailed look at it first. The stages are demanding, but feasible. If this is your first Alpine crossing, plan a few extra days if the weather, your physical condition or your bike don't play along. It is also essential to find out where you have to book accommodation in advance so that you have a safe and comfortable place to sleep.
The Joe route starts in Oberstdorf which you can easily reach by train from Munich. We recommend that you plan your journey by public transport, otherwise you would have to return to Oberstdorf when you finish your adventure. You can easily get home by train from Lake Garda as the area has excellent tourist infrastructure. You can book your train online on the Trenitalia website. And now enough of the long preface – have fun riding!
On the first part of the Joe Route, you first drive through the Allgäu Alps and cross the first national border of your Alpine Cross to Austria on the Schrofen Pass. Although this first stage is one of the moderately moderate of this Transalp route, it still demands a lot from you technically. To get to the pass you will need to carry your bike for a longer period of time. The descent from Schrofenpass is rated S3 and requires a lot of driving technique from you - or the willingness to push.After a break in Lech am Arlberg then it goes on the second climb of the day to the Freiburger hut. This is not as demanding as the Schrofenpass, but also not to be underestimated. At the end of the day, you either stay overnight at the top of the cabin and start the challenging downhill to Dalaas the next morning, or drive off to Dalaas and relax in a lodge.For all the hardships you will already be rewarded on this stage with beautiful alpine landscapes, great trails and idyllic refreshments. Especially the Schrofenpass is worth the effort - you can expect an endorphin kick at its best when you have finally overcome the last meters and the pass is like the gateway to your next big adventure in front of you.
The second leg of the Joe route begins with a hefty climb up the Kristbergsattel. After that, you are warm right away, awake and have already been able to enjoy the first beautiful panoramic views. There will be more than enough of them today: the Fellimannle Street stretches 17 kilometers through pure alpine idyll and spares you mostly with ramps and other unpleasant uphill challenges - and as many rewards as many kilometers are downhill again.A small calf delicacy, of course, has today's stage in store (after all, you are driving over 2000 meters today): The driveway to Heidelberger hut is still easy to drive at the beginning, but then becomes a (moderate) sliding passage. For the descent to Galtür and today's stage goal is a relaxed S1 trail, which offers a lot of panoramic and driving pleasure.On Zeinissee there are various accommodation options: from camping to the four-star inn, everything is possible. Either you sleep right on Zeinissee or drive a bit further to Wirl.
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What saved you the second leg of the Joe route in altitude, you get served for today. With 2700 vertical meters and 67 kilometers, the stage from Zeinisjoch to Schlinig is the hardest. Nobody will blame you if you want to take a rest day after this stage.First, there is a beautiful descent to Ischgl, which will lull you first in safety. Then it starts: kilometer after kilometer you crank in the direction of Heidelberger hut (a break is worth it!) And the Fimberpass, which is also the border with Switzerland. This climb is long and steep, including sliding and carrying passages. Please make enough breaks on the way, so that you - have arrived at the top - still enough energy for the rest of the tour. You will definitely need it for the descent on a fantastic, technical singletrack.If you feel like it, then you should stay in the farm Zuort advised. If you want to continue to follow the Joe route true to the original, waiting with the Uina gorge right next sweaty, but beautiful highlight on you. The stage ends with a stop at the Sesvenna Hut or you drive directly to Vinschgau.
The fourth leg of the Joe route seems almost restful compared to the third. Just 1500 meters of altitude difference and only 42 kilometers of track will be tackled today - almost for the last time, breath-taking in front of the overwhelming Stelvio Pass, which is scheduled for the fifth stage.After leaving the Sesvennahütte (or your overnight stay in the valley), we recommend that you stop for at least one cappuccino in Glurns and look at the old town. Going for a while and loosening your limbs is a good idea before the driveway arrives at the Furkelhütte. Although this takes place mostly on gravel roads, but extends over 21 kilometers. But the pace is very comfortable and the views are again gigantic.On the Furkelhütte you can reward yourself with an extended break and the Ortlerblick, before you leave for Trafoi, which is already on the Stelvio Pass road and let you guess what awaits you tomorrow.
On the fifth leg of the Joe Route, one of the absolute highlights awaits you: the Stelvio Pass with its 42 switchbacks that take you to dizzying heights while revealing an epic panorama. 1300 vertical meters in a row, the first thing you should expect in the morning is enough snacks and water (and maybe a tiny reward for the summit).At the peak of the three languages, you'll probably miss it for the first time, not only because of shortness of breath, but also because of the stunning all-round view of three language regions: the Italian, the German and the Rhaeto-Romance. At this summit they meet and you can wave to Switzerland one last time before you start the descent towards Italy.First, you drive over a beautiful trail to Umbrailpass. From there we continue on flowy trails, sometimes uphill and towards the end downhill towards Bormio. The local hot springs are wonderful and definitely worth a stop. However, we did not include them in the tour so as not to detour you if you are not interested in the sources.The tour leads past Bolmio further into the valley, where you after a short break on a bike path the last few kilometers to Santa Caterina back uphill and at the end over 2400 vertical meters on the clock.
From the sixth leg of the Joe route, it's finally more downhill than uphill. The approaching end of Lake Garda is almost tangible, not least because you've been in Italy's destination country since yesterday.So that you do not get out of step, it goes from Santa Caterina first uphill again on the Gavia Pass, which will once again hit you with alpine alpine idyll from the saddle. The subsequent descent is well-deserved and ends in the tranquil Pezzo, which offers a break before the second big climb of the day: the Montozzo-Scharte.The Montozzo ridge sounds tough and it is too: With gradients up to 23 percent, bike pushing and pushing is inevitable, and your time in the saddle will not be easy. But then one of the most beautiful runs of the entire Transalp in the direction of Peio Fonti awaits you on a dream trail, which offers everything from flowy S1 to occasional S3 passages.Relaxed it then goes on a bike path through the valley until you reach with Dimaro your final destination in front of Lake Garda.
The seventh leg of the Joe Route is the grand finale of your Transalp from Oberstdorf to Lake Garda. The vertical meters fall below 2000, the depth meters reach even 2500th For this you can shoot your last grains on 75 kilometers and enjoy while the ever more Mediterranean air and landscape.From less height meters is directly behind Dimaro first but still little to feel: After Madonna di Campiglio expects you immediately a crisp rise, which is indeed much relaxed after the first ramp, but still pulls about 15 kilometers. In Madonna di Campiglio, it is very nice to come in and gather strength for a long descent that almost feels like home straight.Lake Garda separates you from two passes: the Duron Pass and the Ballinopass, which you climb over a steep forest road. After a few more miles, the goal of your adventure glitters in the distance, which you finally reach after a brisk, relaxed descent to Riva de Garde.