Robiei Glaciological Trail


The Basodino is the vastest, most studied and most accessible glacier in Ticino. It represents a precious heritage of a glacier's natural evolution South of the Alps. The glaciological trail (an itinerary that requires good training) offers an insight to discover this spectacular high altitude region, an exclusive environment with very rich flora and fauna. The "Alpe Robiei" (Robiei Pasture) tells a remote and recent tale of the people leaving in the Bavona valley: a beautiful valley that you cross all the way to San Carlo, departure station of the cableway that goes up to Robiei.


The cableway that leads to Robiei was designed by the hydroelectric company of Maggia, which has also built the dams that accumulate the water necessary for the region's hydroelectric power plants.

The glacier of Basodino has a surface of 2 square kilometers and it is located at an altitude between 2,500 and 3,120 meters. As with most Alpine glaciers, we are witnessing a rapid reduction of their surface and volume. They are shrinking so much that, according to experts, their time is ticking and within a few years – they claim – only a few residues of ice will remain on the highest mountain crests.

The ideal time to enjoy the rich flora of the area is between the months of July and August. The cableway that leads to Robiei operates from mid-June to the beginning of October. The region is populated by numerous animals: ibexes, chamois, groundhogs, hares, ermines (rare), country mice and numerous birds including the Royal Eagle. Some mountain huts, farmsteads and sprügh (spaces obtained under large boulders) remind us of the vital importance of pastures on these mountains. Also the glaciers exercise their charm. In fact, already at the end of the 19th century Federico Balli ordered the Hôtel du Glacier to be built in the village of Bignasco. Located at the doorstep of the valley it was meant for tourists attracted by the Alps and the perennial snows of Basodino.

Itinerary: Robiei Glaciological Trail (6h, see map)

From San Carlo in the Bavona Valley go up with the cableway to Robiei. The glaciological trail unravels in an Alpine environment up to an altitude of 2,430 meters with arrivals and departures in Robiei (1,890 m). The route starts from the lake Zött dam, accessible in a 15-minute walk from the cableway station on a paved road by crossing two short well-lit tunnels. From the dam the trail leads you to the summit of the orographic moraine on the right of the Basodino glacier (the highest point). Almost horizontally, it then crosses the big rocky plateau under the icy facade of the opposite moraine (left orographic) and descends towards Robiei after passing the courtyard of Randinascia.

The itinerary is not particularly difficult from a technical point of view. However, some segments require caution, especially when crossing snowfields and watercourses. Indications given in the guidebook should be respected. As any other Alpine trail marked in white and red, it requires appropriate equipment for the terrain and for the mountain's unique weather conditions.

Educational visit of the Robiei dam

As an initiative of the Ofima utility company the tunnel inside the Robiei dam is now open to the public: it's now possible to visit the interior of one of the infrastructures that have profoundly modified the landscape of the high Bavona Valley. The dams are imposing concrete constructions conceived by mankind's ingenuity to accumulate enormous quantities of water for the production of hydroelectric power. The educational itinerary explains how dams are integrated into the water's natural cycle and illustrates different construction techniques, security control and the transformation of the water's force into electricity. The interesting walk through the dam's tunnels is unique in Ticino and is free of charge. The key to access it is held by the Robiei Hotel and can be picked up in exchange for ID. The temperature inside the dam is about 8°C and humidity is high: we recommend bringing adequate clothing.
Duration: 30 minutes.