Your journey starts from Pontresina or Surovas train station for a ride aboard the 100 years old, UNESCO-protected Bernina Line Railway. Were you to travel the entire 122km you would cross 196 bridges, through 55 tunnels and through German, Romansh and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland, as well as some of the Swiss Alps most spectacular scenery. So, grab a window seat (right side, if you can) and savour your transportation to the start of the hike.
If you start early enough, when you disembark the train at Ospizio Bernino, Lake Bianco will offer a mirrored reflection of the snow-capped mountains that crowd its shores. The path remains flat and hugs the contours of the lake, allowing for a pleasant stroll with ever-changing views.
A short climb brings you to Sassal Mason Hut. The views from here stretch around the valley, dominated by the glacier of Vadret da Palü which appears to defy gravity as it clings to near-vertical mountain slopes. A thundering waterfall of meltwater explodes from within the glacier, its noise reverberating around the valley as you descend to Alp Grüm.
This route is above 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.
Some of the path is along rocky steps and sections with exposed roots; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.
In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.
This trail is not suggested for walkers with vertigo; the slightly lower ‘Panoramaweg’ trail is a good alternative; well-signposted, impressive views, and finishing at the Muottas Muragl station.
This path requires you to cross the railway tracks. Check whether the warning lights are flashing, and then check both directions, before crossing carefully.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Railway Outdoor Museum
Photos and information boards line the platform at Ospizio Bernina, recording the incredible story of the railway. The railway was initially only available during summer but quickly became equipped to deal with the region’s harsh winters, with only a few mishaps along the way; in 1920 an avalanche swept 8 workers away, and in 1962 a train full of passengers was stranded for three days in Bernina Ospizio.
Lago Bianco, meaning White Lake, was formed by the damming of two natural lakes, Lago Bianco and Lago della Scalla. Hydroelectric systems related to this have powered the railway since its inception. The lake gets its striking turquoise colour from the glacial waters that feed it.
Food and Drink
There is a café at Ospizio Bernina train station, where the trail begins, and a café and restaurant near the Alp Grüm train station. After 4 kilometres, the hut at Sassal Mason may be serving food and drink.
Such is the way of Alpine hiking, that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.