Lago del Narèt


This summer I cycled Colle del Nivolet and said: “This may be the most beautiful high Alps paved climb I have ever cycled. Seriously.” Now, cycling the fabulous climb to Lago di Naret, I was reminded of Nivolet:

  1. Both have several beautiful alpine lakes/dams.
  2. Both are huge and high with approximately 2000 metres of vertical climb.
  3. Both are stunning.

Colle del Nivolet is higher and probably a little more spectacular, but it only gets “fun” for the final 15 kms or so. Whereas Lago del Narèt feels more remote and, importantly, the entire 32 kms is superb …. although the top half is easily the highlight.

I started in the village of Bignasco. Most of the early kilometres are fairly easy as the road climbs through a narrow valley with mountains on each side. It is so low that it feels lush. After 10 kilometres, at Peccia, there is a fabulous series of 12 hairpins and the road gets steep, stepping up into another plateau. Tough to photograph due to all the trees, but fun to ride:

About half way to the summit is Fusio, the last village. From this point, the route is ultra quiet. Above Fusio, the road climbs to a large diga (Italian for dam) and the Lago del Sambuco.

I stopped atop the dam to buy a drink, and the sales guy told me that the route to the summit had not opened – due to snow – until July 3rd this year.

The road continues for three flat kilometres beside this large lake. It is an absolute blast to ride this stretch.
Lago del Sambuco

If the climb had ended here at Lago del Sambuco, it would have been a very good ride. But it was about to get far more exciting. After Lago del Sambuco, the rest of the route is difficult. While the profile shows a bunch of full kilometres at 10%, 11%, 12%, etc – there are some short stretches much, much steeper – hard work, but in a beautiful setting.

After a short descent at 26 kilometres, the road turns up for real. I was working hard, approaching the tree line when a herd of goats came galloping down the mountain. There was one giant king goat that eyed me, and yes, I was slightly nervous. 🙂

And the road climbs higher:


In the final few kilometres, there are three more small lakes before reaching Lago del Naret. It’s a truly beautiful location: high, savage, surrounded by alpine peaks.

View of Laghetti Superiore and Laghetti Lassolo
Laghetti Superiore: A heart shaped lake?

At Lago Scuro, there is a small descent and then a final ramp beside the big Diga del Narèt.

Lago Scuro, and the Diga (dam) del Narèt

There are in fact two dams for Lago del Narèt. They are paved and I cycled across both. There is also an unpaved road around the left side of the lake which I followed to the far side. Here is a hiking trailhead. Perhaps a future mountain bike project?

On the dam

As I began descending, I thought that whoever had decided to build a road here was either insane or a genius (that enjoyed cycling). A truly amazing climb.

View of final kilometre from the dam

9.6 Awesome

A paved road to the end of the world. A truly great climb.

  • Views 9.5
  • Difficulty 9.5
  • Quiet / No Traffic 9.5
  • Fun Factor 10
  • User Ratings (62 Votes) 6.2

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Pingback: Here are my ten favourite alpine Road Bike Climbs of 2014.

  2. Pingback: Roadtripping Switzerland | CyclingTips

  3. Fantastic climb, thanks will!! Here i did the “crazy thing” of the year (until now) especially with the hiking trail until Passo Naret at 2430mt and the descent to Bedretto walley until Alpe Cristallina at1800mt. (90′ in total walking, sometimes bike on shoulder). From here start a nice gravel road that in 4 km (sometimes very steep) join to main road from Airolo to NufenenPass. My trip have been continued with Gothard & Susten and the day after i closed the loop with the up&down from GrosseScheidegg, Grimsel,Furka,Oberalp & Lukmanier. Fantastic area to cycling, here the pictures of that incredible two days:

  4. I was there today but only got to the first hairpin bend at 1832m due to the road disappearing beneath a mountain of snow for as far as I could see. So far plans to ride Grimsel, Furka, Nufen, Susten and now Lago del Naret all disrupted by more snow than usual

    • That’s a shame.

      As I wrote in the article, that year a guy told me the road wasn’t open until into July. And this year had far more snow. This is truly an August/September climb.

  5. I can confirm that this morning it was ok for bikes but not officially open. Barrier closed after Sambucco and still some debris / small rocks stones higher up but fine to ride.

  6. Just did this after the recommendation on your site. Bloody hell it’s amazing. Beautiful. Brutal. Thank you.

  7. I climbed this again two days ago from Ponte Brolla just above Locarno. It was magnificent as usual. Saw snakes high up and the goats were quite friendly too. Nathan did me and Flo pass you and another rider as we were descending just near Fusio???

  8. Just added this to the ride list when I arrive at the end of August. How’s traffic during the last week of the month? I’m coming from the U.S. to do the Alpenbrevet and Grand Fondo in Varese, hope my legs survive!

  9. Basile Blancpain on

    Did it today. As great as expected.

    Fyi, it’s often rideable deep into October and even November thanks to the warm climate in Ticino. Just take some warm clothes with you for the downhill part.

  10. I just wanted to say thank you for this excellent website and the recommendations.

    I was fortunate to ride up the Colle del Nivolet a several years ago and it has lingered in the memory as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been so your passing comparison caught my interest. The Swiss Alps make for brilliant cycling but when I went to Hospental in June I made the extra effort to visit the Lago di Naret. It was well worth it and I loved it. What a fantastic road to ride, quiet and very challenging, one of the very best. It just keeps on going!

    I was also reminded of the road up to the Lago di Teleccio, a dead end climb off the beginning of the Nivolet, covered elsewhere on this site. I would also strongly recommend the Teleccio, for those seeking out of the way and merciless steep roads up to dams.

    Keep up the good work!

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