A Haven for Hikers in the Engadine
We’ve all heard of St. Moritz, the very chic and expensive mountain resort in Switzerland’s Bernina Alps. But for hikers, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the equally beautiful, less glitzy—and less expensive—cross-valley neighbor, Pontresina.
Pontresina is the perfect setting for hikers, with a 360-mile network of hiking trails at your doorstep and over a hundred hiking trails for all skill levels, that’s enough to make it one of the most popular hiking destinations in Switzerland.
With so much to choose from, it’s a tough call, but here is a quick overview of some of the best hikes around Pontresina to whet your appetite.
Alp Languard – High above the Engadine
This is a great first day hike. It’s a perfect way to start your stay in the Engadine, overcome jet lag, or just give your legs a little stretch—Nothing too taxing. Start by taking the chairlift from Pontresina up to Alp Languard. Alp Languard is where the chairlift tops out, and it’s a popular summer destination with a restaurant and grassy slopes for picnicking and restfully enjoying the views of Piz Palü. From Alp Languard take the trail to the north in the direction of Muottas Muragl. The trail very quickly leaves most of the crowds behind at Alp Languard and soon enters the territory of the largest ibex colony in Switzerland.
The trail maintains a fairly gentle contour and affords commanding views throughout, and your Muottas Muragl destination soon comes into view. Soon you traverse the high Muragl valley, and cross a small bridge to access the other side of the valley, followed by a gradual slope up to Muottas Murgal. You can conclude your hike at the Muottas Muragl funicular station, or stop for lunch or a snack at the Alp Muragl Bergrestaurant—highly recommended. From Muottas Muragl take the funicular back down to the valley where a bus will take you back to Pontresina. This hike can be hiked in the opposite direction, but the views are equally spectacular in either direction.
Piz Languard, at 3262 meters/10,702 feet, is one of the great viewpoints in the Engadine with views that stretch to the Monte Rosa on the east and even to Zugspitze in Germany to the far north. It’s a popular dayhike from Pontresina and is most frequently combined with a chairlift ascent and a lunch at Chamanna Georgy, all of which contribute to the fun and take advantage of the nonstop views.
Once again you’ll take Alp Languard chairlift from Pontresina. From Alp Languard you’ll note Piz Languard as the broad pyramidal peak to the east. One of the highlights of this walk—indeed, of most walks in the Engadine—is the variety of wildflowers you’ll find which are endemic to the Engadine. You’re also fairly certain of seeing marmots, and with some luck, ibex—Enjoy the show.
The well-marked trail ascends to the Georgy Hut, a privately-owned restaurant with 20 dormitory beds. There has been a hut at this location for over 100 years, which is no surprise considering the fine views. From the hut it’s just 76 meters/250 feet of vertical ascent to the summit of Piz Languard. Your panoramic views include Piz Bernina, Morteratsch and predominant peaks of the Upper Engadine.
Val Roseg – Made for Walking
Val Roseg is certainly one of the loveliest valleys in the Upper Engadine. It’s got it all—Woodland, mountain streams, meadows, towering peaks, and a convergence of glaciers that makes the valley a year-round attraction. For summer hikers the capstone is an ascent to one of the surrounding ridgelines for unmatched views of the region.
The favorite conclusion of this hike is an ascent to Fuorcla Surlej, not only because it offers great views, but because it also offers a quick decent by tram. But once you’re in the Val Roseg you’ll quickly sense what a great base it is for other hikes in all direction.
From the Pontresina railway station, follow the waymarked route in the direction of Val Roseg along a wide graded road, gently ascends the valley through lush woods. Soon the trees give way to meadows and the views from the valley floor open to reveal the mountains on all sides. The Roseg and Tschierva glaciers appear at the head of the valley and to your left.
Before you begin your serious elevation gain, stop for a rest—or better yet, lunch and dessert—at the beloved Hotel Roseg Gletscher. If you’re short on time, or feel content with staying on the valley floor, you could make this the turnaround point for an out-and-back hike. But if you’re still full of energy and infected with a bit of summit fever, then continue on past the hotel in the direction of Fuorcla Surlej.
The trail up the hillside winds through forests and soon breaks through timberline to reveal view of the valley and the glaciers to the southeast. Ascending some rocky slopes on good trails and with a couple stream crossings you’ll reach the glacially-scraped rock of Fuorcla Surlej and the Fuorcla Surlej hut at 2755 meters/9038 feet.
For the descent, continue over the saddle to the wide trail which descends and loops a glacial basin in the direction of the Murtèl tram station (2700 meters/8858 feet), a midmountain stop between the Corvatsch summit station and the base in the town of Surlej. From the Surlej tram station there are frequent bus connections back to St. Moritz and Pontresina.
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