• Distance 107 km
  • Elevation gain 3610m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

If you’re staying in Bormio and want to climb the two most famous sides of the Stelvio Pass in one day, this is the loop for you.

This ride takes you through both Italy and Switzerland. It also takes you down some unforgettable descents: the incredible Umbrail Pass of the Swiss Alps and the Stelvio back to Bormio.

It’s a long, but massively fulfilling, day in the saddle.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Umbrail Pass – Stelvio Loop highlights

Hitting the summit of the Stelvio not just once, but twice in a day!

The descent of the Umbrail Pass is out of this world.

Switchback on the Umbrail Pass descending to Santa MariaDescending the Umbrail Pass with Stelvio Pass on horizon
View from the summit of the Stelvio PassView from the Stelvio Pass looking towards Prato
Umbrail Pass summit signUmbrail Pass summit sign

Route notes

1. Climb the Stelvio from Bormio: 0-22 km

Get all the details of the climb from Bormio in our guide. We set off at around 6am and it was cold in Bormio and freezing at the summit. The rule of thumb is that you lose 1°C for every 100m of climbing (so around 15°C different between valley and summit).

The upside of setting out early was that we had the road to ourselves.

Climbing the Stelvio Pass from BormioOn the way up the Stelvio from Bormio, before the ladder of switchbacks
Alpine meadow on Stelvio Pass route from BormioAlpine valley after the switchback section – time for a short breather!
First world war monument on climb up stelvio by bikeView from the WW1 monument

2. Descend the Passo Umbrail to Santa Maria Val Müstair, Switzerland: 0-22-39 km

From the Stelvio mountain pass, drop down 3km back to the neglected gaggle of buildings and take the right-hand turn over the Italian border to the Umbrail Pass. At 2,501m, it’s Switzerland’s highest pass and, were it not for the adjacent Stelvio, it would probably be more famous than it is.

You pass through the security checkpoint and there’s a simple but beautiful war monument on the righthand side.

From here, you fly down never-ending switchbacks through green meadows surrounded by towering peaks. If your eyes dart up from the road, you’ll see the buildings on the Stelvio Pass high above. It’s amazing how quickly you lose all that elevation you struggled to gain such a short time ago!

Despite not being as famous as the Stelvio, it’s a superb road with beautiful scenery. The upside of being less famous is that it attracts less people. We found the surface in good condition – surfacing was only completed in 2015 and, other than for one section they were in the process of repairing, it was a nice ride.

From the exposed switchbacks at the top, you ride down and through an Alpine valley, complete with livestock and stone bridges crossing a roaring mountain stream. Below around 2,000m you’re into forest and it’s time to settle into the rhythm of descending the sweeping bends. Enjoy it; this is what you earned on the way up!

Just before you get into Santa Maria, there are some fabulous views of the town huddled in the bottom of the open valley.

Exposed switchback on way down Umbrail PassAt the top of the Umbrail Pass, looking back to the Stelvio Pass on the horizon
Lower down the Umbrail Pass through woodlandSunny descent down the Umbrail Pass to Santa Maria val Müstair
View down to Santa Maria in Switzerland from Umbrail PassSanta Maria val Müstair viewed from the Umbrail Pass road

3. Santa Maria Val Müstair to Prato allo Stelvio: 39-60 km

From Santa Maria Val Müstair to the bottom of your final climb up the Stelvio it’s around 21 km of easy riding through the Müstair valley. Navigation-wise, it’s very easy too: you join the 2B in Santa Maria. This turns into the SS41 and it takes you all the way until you turn off for Prato allo Stelvio in Glorenza Clurns.

During this section you pass through various small, picturesque villages (and also the border back into Italy).

If you’re feeling in need of a break, this would be a good time for a light bite as you’ll still have a few kilometres to digest your food before hitting the last climb of the day – the small matter of the Stelvio for the second time.

Pretty villages of the Müstair valley, SwitzerlandVillage in the Müstair Valley, Switzerland
Long sunny cycling roads in Italy near Stelvio Pass climbMüstair valley road
Cyclists on the way to climb Passo dello Stelvio by bikeHeading towards Prato and the Stelvio

3. Climb the Stelvio from Prato allo Stelvio: 60-85 km

In Prato allo Stelvio you turn right, onto the SS38 which will take you to the top of the Stelvio Pass and all the way down the other side into Bormio.

You can get all the details of the Stelvio climb from Prato allo Stelvio in our guide.

Wooded slopes near Prato dello Stelvio on the way up to the passLower reaches of the Stelvio from Prato
Switchbacks on Stelvio Pass Prato sideLadder of switchbacks to the Stelvio Pass from Prato
View of the 48 bends of Passo dello Stelvio from Prato allo StelvioEnjoying the view!

4. Descend the Stelvio to Bormio: 85-107 km

From the top of the Stelvio, it’s a fast descent down to Bormio. Don’t forget to be ready for the tunnels – when we were there some of them were controlled by traffic lights.

You’ll be feeling cold and tired by this point. We’d highly recommend putting on all available layers (we even ended up going to buy additional gloves before one of our descents!) and if you can have someone meet you with some extra clothes, so much the better.

The descent requires concentration and energy; you’ll want to have kept yourself properly hydrated and fuelled on the climb.

Spectacular view down Stelvio towards BormioSpectacular views down Stelvio Pass road towards Bormio
Restaurant on way down Stelvio near Umbrail Pass turnBasic restaurant near Umbrail Pass turn
Cars blocking tunnel on Stelvio-Bormio climbBe ready for the tunnels!

Café stops

There are a fair number of restaurants, bars and cafés along this stretch between the Umbrail Pass and Stelvio.

Re-fuelling is much more limited once you’re on the Stelvio Pass – our guides of the climb from Bormio and from Prato contain further details. We didn’t see any refreshment stops on the Umbrail Pass.

Accommodation

We rode the Stelvio from the Hotel La Genzianella in Bormio. We really enjoyed our stay and would happily recommend it to friends.

You can find out more about our stay in the Accommodation section of our ultimate guide to Bormio/Stelvio region for cyclists. You’ll find some other hotel suggestions in there too.

Tips

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

As you’ll appreciate, the Umbrail Pass and Stelvio descents are potentially dangerous. In many places there are no, or very low guardrails, despite dangerous vertical drops of hundreds of meters. Take care (and remember lights for the tunnels on the descent down to Bormio!).

Remember your passport – just in case the border guards ask!

You can check the Stelvio webcam here and the Umbrail webcam here.

 

Have you done this Umbrail Pass loop?

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 above or check these: Stelvio (from Bormio)Stelvio (from Prato)Bernina Pass loopMortirolo and Gavia loop and Cancano lake.

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

Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a road cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com to help make it easy for road cyclists to explore new places by bike.

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3 Responses to “Cycling the Stelvio-Umbrail Pass loop, Italian Alps”

    • You don’t need a passport – both Italy and Switzerland are in the Schengen zone. There was a customs check going towards Prato but we whizzed through on bikes. No customs or anyone at the top of Umbrail.

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