Beautiful lakeside roads before hairpins plunge down the side of a mountain through a forest, which then open up into a nice wide valley. What is not to like?!
This route can be tailored to suit how far you want to go. If you are time crunched then just take on the top section, but if you have longer, go all the way. The main highlight is the amazing Maloja Pass. A total of thirteen switchbacks over 3km with an average gradient of around 8%.
Of all the passes in the region the Maloja Pass is probably the most spectacular, both visually and as a feat of engineering. If you like hairpins that snake up the side of a mountain, then the Maloja will be right up your street!
All metrics in this article are approximate.
This route starts on the same road, from Silvaplana on Hauptstrasse 27, although, this time we head left and away from St Moritz in the direction of Sils Maria, Maloja and ultimately Chiavenna.
Ride to the top of Maloja Pass
The first few kilometres are pan flat as you ride along the shore of Lake Silvaplana. The road is quite narrow, but this doesn’t really seem to be an issue as Swiss drivers seem very respectful of cyclists.
The first village you go past is Sils Maria which sits on a bit of flat land between the two lakes. After Sils you are again riding along another lake, this time the Silsersee or Lake Sils. The road is a little wider, but still nice and flat, so you can cruise along and take in the postcard views of the lake.
Next up Plaun da Lej with a restaurant, a few houses and a yacht club. Blink and you’ll miss it.
The road continues along the lake for a few more kilometres before you reach Maloja which is situated at the very western end of the Lake of Sils. Maloja lies at the top of the pass of the same name and is the last village at the end of the Upper Engadin Valley.
Maloja is one of the bigger and more spread out villages and is host and starting point of the famous Engadin Ski Marathon (more info below). From the outskirts of the village, the road immediately drops into the top of the pass, cue amazing views and a spectacular series of hairpins clinging to the side of the mountain through a forest.
The next 5km are like a fairground ride and great fun if you love descending. If you don’t like going down, grab the brakes and try to look at the amazing views as a distraction.
The trouble with going out and back on a route like this is knowing that the fun you are having on the way down is always twinged with the thoughts of, “this will hurt going up,” on your way home. Once out of the hairpins the road opens up and you can relax and enjoy the free speed without the anxiety of the sharp bends. In a matter of minutes you are in Casaccia, a small village that is merely a collection of houses and the odd guesthouse.
This is unfortunately where I had to turn around and head back for home as my time had run out (but note Tips section for info on the rest of the route to Chiavenna).
The return home
The run up to the bottom of the Majola Pass proper is just a steady ramp up before the serpentine section begins and you are into the hairpins.
The road runs parallel to a stream, then passes the ruins of an old church and like the rest of this region it is all surrounded by very pleasant scenery.
The hairpin section is about two and a half km form Casaccia and for col hunters this is the fun bit to test yourself. It begins with two switchbacks with a short gap before they come at you thick and fast, eleven in total and all fairly closely grouped. This type of climb is always rewarding because just looking back reveals how rapid your progress has been, and all the bends keep your mind off the climbing and concentrating on navigating your way through the twists and turns. The main part of the Maloja Pass is short at under 3km at an average gradient of 8.5%
In no time at all you are at the top and in the village of Maloja once again.
From Maloja it is the lakeside road all the way back to the starting point.
When I rode this route it was fairly quiet, but I have been reliably informed that this road can get quite busy as it is one of the main routes into the Engadin from Italy.
The Engadin Ski marathon is an epic cross country ski event over a standard marathon distance of 42km, from Maloja via Potresina to S-chanf (which is a few kilometres beyond where we turned up to start the climb up the Albula Pass at Punt). It is also has a very small ski area, but most people here for the skiing, will take the bus up to the bigger areas along the valley.
As mentioned above, the route that I had planned went all the way down to Chiavenna, which is another 26km down the road form Casaccia, and just across the border into Italy. The rest of the route to Chiavenna is basically just a descent before the turn around, so if you do this extra section, be mindful of having a long steady climb before the final ramp up at the top of the pass.
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