• Distance 20 km
  • Elevation gain 1500m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

The Passo dello Stelvio (or Stelvio Pass) in the Italian Alps is one of the most photographed roads in the cycling world. It’s a marvel of engineering that writhes up the slopes of the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps.*

La Gazetta dello Sport described the Stelvio climb from Bormio as “a serpent of asphalt, five tunnels, 21.5 kilometres and 1,541 metres of climbing.” The average gradient is 7% and the maximum is officially 14% but it’s rarely above 9% for long.

Cycling the Stelvio-Bormio side of the pass is the “easier”, less famous way to do it (the ascent from Prato is the “classic”). But don’t discount the Bormio side – it’s got a more varied beauty than the Prato side and it also has a good dollop of Giro history. It was the ascent used in the 1956, 1972, 2012 and 2014 Giro d’Italia. It is also the climb used on the annual Granfondo Stelvio Santini.

If you’re staying in Bormio, Passo dello Stelvio climb is right on your doorstep as it rears up practically from the town centre. You can always tackle both sides of this infamous mountain via this demanding loop!


*(In case you’re wondering, the first is the Col de l’Iseran – it’s got a whole 12m more than the Stelvio Pass.)

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Highlights of cycling Passo Dello Stelvio (Bormio)

We loved the varied character of this mythical climb. It takes you from the narrow, rocky valley above Bormio through lush green pastures to the austere, cold summit of the Stelvio.

The central section (at around kilometres 10.5-16) is quite spectacular: hairpins beside a roaring waterfall lead you up to a gorgeous Alpine valley.

Old buildings on the side of the road to Stelvio Pass from Bormio
Cycling to the summit of Passo dello Stelvio - Bormio side
View of the famous Passo dello Stelvio switchbacks

Route notes

1. Switchbacks and tunnels: 0-9 km

The Stelvio climb from Bormio starts at around 1,225 m. The climb has a 7% average gradient and these kind of pitches hit you immediately on the switchbacks that take you out of town – don’t expect an easy warm up.

The road is then pretty straight as you climb up above Bormio, with views along the Braulio valley, through sparse woodland with the grey barren peaks of the Pass looming above you.

You hit a couple of short switchback sections at the 6-7 km mark and between kilometres 6.5 and 9, prepare yourself for the tunnels that take you through the mountainside. This was our least favourite part of the climb as the tunnels are narrow and, though they’re thankfully lit, we found them intimidating as the noise of any vehicles is amplified (so a small fiat sounds like a ten tonne lorry)… There are also traffic lights (so you may need to stop – see photo below) and you may find the road is damp. Make sure you’ve got lights on your bike and that they are on.

Early part of cycling climb up Passo dello Stelvio from Bormio
Tunnel on Stelvio-Bormio side
Cyclist climbing Passo dello Stelvio Bormio side

2. Hairpins and Alpine valley: 9-16 km

Once out of the tunnels, the road rises steeply (around 13%) to the next hurdle: a spectacular stepladder of 14 switchbacks next to the majestic Braulio waterfall. The views are spectacular and you pass one of the romantically faded Casa Cantoniera buildings, where road workers used to live.

At the top of the ladder, you leave the narrow valley you’ve been climbing all this time and pass over into the stunning Plateau “Pian de Grembo” (see the photos in the Highlights section above). The road leads through Alpine meadows and when we were there the scene was perfected by early morning sunshine and jingling cow bells. On the way you’ll see the third of the Casa Cantoniera buildings – together with the moving WW1 monument (which also happens to be the point at which you’ve got 5.5km to go).

We found this the easiest part of the climb, so it’s time to catch your breath, take on some food and drink, enjoy the scenery and prepare yourself for the final push to the summit.

Abandoned building on way up Stelvio from Bormio
Steep climb up switchback section on Stelvio Bormio side
View down switchbacks back towards Bormio

3. Tough last push: 16-20km

We found the last four kms the most demanding of the ascent, with average gradients over 8% and cold, rocky, windswept terrain that reflected our mood. By this time you’ll probably be feeling pretty tired and the cold will start to bite, so it’s a perfect storm of suffering that needs to be overcome!

If you take your eyes from the road, you can glimpse the buildings at the top of the Pass – the endpoint is in sight!

At the top of a short series of hairpins, you pass the turning for the Umbrail Pass. It’s next to a fabulously cracked and peeling old building and the Albergo Ristorante (which could serve as an emergency place to stop for a break if needed).

As you approach the summit, you can see a swarm of buildings on the horizon. It’s an odd sight on an otherwise unspoiled mountain (though that’s unlikely to be your foremost thought at this stage – and the buildings do have a potential benefit to you: they house coffee, pizza and hot dogs…)!

Cycling Stelvio from Bormio past restaurant near Umbrail Pass
Bike at top of Passo dello Stelvio looking towards Prato
View of the famous Passo dello Stelvio switchbacks

Café stops

Bar at around the 12 kilometre mark, after the tunnels and near the waterfall.

Albergo Ristorant IV Cantoniera is a basic looking café (photo above) that was offering basic refuelling when we visited.

At the summit there’s a range of cafés, slightly gloomy-looking hotels and (assuming you’re not there super early) burger/sausage dog stands.


We rode the Stelvio from Bormio.

You can find out more about where we stayed, as well as other accommodation in Bormio and Prato in our Bormio/Stelvio bike hotel article.


Read both our FAQs on cycling the Stelvio and our tips for cycling in Italy before you set out.

If you’re interested in the Granfondo Stelvio Santini, you can read our guide to the event here.

In particular – remember your bike lights and wear something reflective to ensure the cars (and motorbikes) can see you in the tunnels. There are traffic lights so you should be ready to stop for these.

Approach to a tunnel on Bormio side of Stelvio Pass


Check the forecast before you head out. And bring enough cold weather clothes for the summit and descent!

Have you climbed the Stelvio Pass?

We’d love to hear from you – comment below!

Don’t miss our other guides to rides in the area: see the related rides section below or check these: Stelvio (from Prato), Umbrail Pass loop, Bernina Pass loop, Mortirolo and Gavia loop and Cancano lake.

Check out our ultimate guide to cycling Bormio and other articles on Italy, below.

Please support Epic Road Rides

A huge amount of time and effort goes into the article you’ve just read, all with the aim of helping you!

If you found what you’ve read useful, I’d really appreciate it if you dropped something in the tip jar here.

It’s a way you can say thank you and help us carry on creating top quality content with no annoying ads and no pay wall.

Leave us a tip here!

Looking for an organised cycling trip?

If you want someone to help you plan and book your cycling holiday, fill out this form. We aren’t a tour operator/agent but we work with lots of people who are and will do our best to put you in touch with someone that can help (within 24 hours wherever possible)!

We will use this info to send the enquiry to Clare and/or their team. Our privacy policy explains more and here’s a reminder of our disclosure policy and terms and conditions.

Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com in 2018 to help make it easy for cyclists to explore the world by bike. Today her mission is still inspiring cyclists to discover new places on two wheels – and doing what she can to make sure they have the best possible time while they’re there. Clare has visited 50+ destinations around the world, many of them by bike.

The contents of this website are provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on it. You should carry out your own due diligence and take professional advice. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our website is accurate, complete or up to date. If you use any information or content on this website, download from, or otherwise obtain content or services through our website, it is entirely at your own discretion and risk. Epic Road Rides Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information and content on this website. Find out more here.

2 Responses to “Cycling Passo dello Stelvio from Bormio, Italian Alps”

  1. I found this site to be 100% spot on for all things cycling from Bormio. I planned a 3 day trip to ride Lago Cancano, Stelvio, and Gavia. After scouring the internet for information, routes, advice, and stories, this site was by far the best. I felt like I had already done the rides when i got there. The highlights about the climbs were perfect. Thank you for all of the help. My only regret for the trip was that I did not get a chance to tackle any of the monster loops. I look forward to getting my Stelvio shirt in the mail! Please consider making a Gavia shirt also.

    I stayed at the Hotel Funivia and it was spectacular. It’s a beautiful family run hotel that 100% caters to the cyclists. Daniele, AKA Stelvio Man, was great. He even rode with is up to Lago Cancano on day 1 just to have a chat and give some advice for the rest of the trip. The food at the hotel was fabulous. The services to include cleaning of the days cyclliong list was a great benefit. They have a relationship with Spot On bike shop which was also great. I could not find new disc brake pads before arriving and they had them in stock and quickly replaced them, only charging me for the pads themselves.

    • Hi Shawn, thanks so much for taking the time to leave this feedback; great to hear you had such a fantastic trip and that our site was useful! Feel free to share us with your friends! Happy cycling and best wishes, Clare

Leave your comment

  • (will not be published)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.