Trail running the Bernina Tour – the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps

Running Collection by Fräulein Draußen

Standing at 13,284 feet (4,049 m), the Piz Bernina is the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps. You can now circumnavigate this impressive mountain massif between Switzerland and Italy on a relatively new route for hikers and trail runners.

It took me four days to complete the route, but I modified the third and fourth day to avoid the snowfields at higher altitudes. Even in the beginning of July, there was quite a lot of snow. The original route can be found here:

The scenery along the route was magical throughout. The trails varied in difficulty from easy paths to challenging crossings of large boulder fields. You need alpine experience, a good level of fitness, and surefootedness for this adventure.

Depending on your fitness and how you travel (running or hiking), you can divide the tour into more or less stages. When planning the stages, you should err on the conservative side, especially on the Italian section, as progress here is often relatively slow due to the nature of the paths.

All in all, this was a really great and scenic tour which I would do again in a heartbeat.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    18.5 mi
    3.5 mph
    4,375 ft
    4,300 ft

    The Bernina circumnavigation adventure - as is so often the case in Switzerland - does not actually start in Pontresina, but already on the train journey there. With its many tunnels and daring bridges, the Rhaetian Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the trip is definitely an experience.From the train station in Pontresina, you can take a great, very easy-to-walk path right into the Val Roseg, a beautiful high valley with a view of glaciers and mountain giants. After a few kilometers, the first long climb of the tour awaits, up to the Fuorcla Surlej mountain house. And from there you definitely have one of the best views of the Bernina massif.After an extensive refreshment, the route then leads on the other side back towards the valley, in which the bright blue lakes of Silvaplana and Sils lie. The view of the lakes is the companion for the rest of the stage, which leads along a moderate mountain trail to Maloja.

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    24.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    5,950 ft
    5,550 ft

    Definitely the most demanding section of the tour is between Maloja and the Campo Moro reservoir. At Maloja, after a short, flatter warm-up phase, the long climb begins up to the 2,562-meter-high Muretto Pass, at the highest point of which you cross the border to Italy. From here it is no longer called “Grüezi”, but “Buongiorno”!Then you descend a little until you come to a rather long, rather idyllic and green mountain trail, which meanders as a small path through forests and meadows and after a further climb leads to Val Forasco - a place that is beautiful and idyllic in the Alps It is hard to beat: a plateau littered with flowers, several waterfalls falling from steep rock faces, a small lake in which the Alpine panorama is reflected and snow-covered, steep mountain sides. Just beautiful.The Rifugio Longini is a bit higher, the only supply option on this day. And that is also urgently necessary, because from here the path becomes much more difficult. Extensive block fields have to be crossed again and again. An almost vertical snow field and a raging river also make the section (depending on the season) not exactly easier and narrow, rocky and sometimes steep paths let the kilometers pass only slowly. It is only on the last kilometers before Campo Moro that the paths become easier again. The large portion of pasta in the great Rifugio Zoia just above the reservoir was more than deserved after this day.

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  • 03:52
    11.2 mi
    2.9 mph
    1,900 ft
    5,175 ft

    After the exhausting day before, we spontaneously rescheduled the third stage a bit - also to avoid the snow fields to be expected when circling the Sasso Moro. Instead of crossing the Passo Confinale, we cross the mountains a little further south via the Passo di Campagneda - and shortly after the highest point of 2,626 meters, we cross the border from Italy to Switzerland again.After the wonderfully quiet ascent and lined with various small mountain lakes, you continue on the other side through beautiful mountain landscapes towards the valley. The descent is long, but it is fairly easy to walk, especially later. A real treat after the scrambling of the previous stage. Surrounded by high mountains, the small, historic village of Poschiavo is waiting in the valley - our milestone (in which, however, I am less interested in history and culture and more in pizza and bed).

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    21.6 mi
    3.2 mph
    5,400 ft
    2,875 ft

    As long as the way into the valley was the day before, the ascent the next day back into the mountains of Graubünden. The route roughly follows the rails of the Rhaetian Railway, which winds particularly impressively through the mountains on this part of the railway line. The highlight for all train drivers is the section along Lago Bianco, the large reservoir at the Bernina Pass. However, it is even nicer to walk along this lake - and that works pretty well on the flat paths. At the other end of the lake, the route continues uphill, towards Diavolezza, a spectacularly situated yoke and mountain house of the same name at 3,000 meters. Directly opposite, as it were in the front yard: the Morteratsch glacier and the highest peaks of the Bernina group.Here, too, leftovers of winter in higher altitudes were the reason that we had already turned off at Lej da Diavolezza, a small lake below the last climb up to the yoke. Fortunately, I was at the top a few years ago.This change in plan also had something good, because there was still enough time to walk the twelve kilometers from the Diavolezza valley station back to Pontresina, the starting point of the tour. A very scenic and running route and a relaxed end to a really, really, really great tour.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    75.7 mi
  • Duration
    26:25 h
  • Elevation
    17,600 ft

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