On my loop over this pass and Stilfserjoch,
I saw by far the most bikes with touring bags on the northern
side of this pass. The racers are on Stelvio, the tourers enjoy
a bit more peace and quiet over here. But then the south side to
Umbrail Pass is common to to both passes, so riding all the way
across, you get to experience both worlds.
When you have the choice of two mountain crossings, the
lower one is usually the one with all the traffic. Not so in
this case. Nearby Passo
attracts motorcycles and bicyle riders because
of its height, and all the other scenic reasons, that go
along with this. Umbrail Pass is really just a shoulder
point on the way to Stilfserjoch
(Stelvio). And still, this is the highest Swiss road pass.
It has relatively little traffic, few bridges and tunnels,
even a short unpaved section, and it's a great bike ride,
especially for touring bikes.
START-END SOUTH ALT: Tresenda
05.(1260m,48.6km) START-END SOUTH: Bormio
06.(2470m,67.3km) Umbrail Pass route diverts from
07.(2501m,67.6km) TOP: Umbrail Pass
08.(1430m,81.1km) START-END NORTH: Santa Maria, route
goes right downvalley
10.(890m,98.5km) Schluderns, shortly before that:
15.(290m,151.5km) START-END NORTH ALT: Meran
From South. This is the side, where
Umbrail Pass is a shoulder point on the Stilfserjoch approach.
No climbing is involved after turning away from Stelvio and
riding north to the Swiss border crossing. Here the views are
fantastic in both directions. The intricate geometric patterns
on the doors and windows of the monumental border station walls
make it clear, that you are now entering Switzerland, even if no
official is there to verify this. Hardly anybody stops here,
because of the nearby top of Stifserjoch, and that's also one
reason this place is so naturally attractive.
From North. (described downwards) A
long traverse gets the road out of the snow, and the icy world
quickly recedes into memory. The road crosses a small bridge,
looking like it is trying to emulate a roman arch. On some
other passes, where bridges and tunnels line up like perls
on a necklace, one would never remember this. Yes - there are
innumerable tunnels over on the Italian side to Bormio. But this
is one of very few bridges on the Swiss side.
Just after the bridge comes the short unpaved section, which
works great to slow down the motorcycles. It even clears the air
a little, so that you don't think you are running a marathon in
Central Park during rush hour.
My favorite part on this pass is the lower descent into the
Vinschgau Valley, which today is part of Italy. Sta Maria sits
in the perfect gap, as foreground to Ofenpass, its church tower
so aesthetically pleasing, its placement just had to be divinely
inspired. Turning down valley, the road keeps dropping quickly,
even if no more switchbacks are needed.
One could spend a week exploring the Vinschgau, but one sight
that is exactly next to the rolling bike is the monastary in
Muestair. People bury their dead in the most different ways. In
some places they build little mounds of dirt, and then place
quirky momentos on top, things like football jerseys, little
model cars or jewelry. Here they took a very different approach.
See what they did here ! And see the place they picked,
preferably during good weather.
The profile continues all the way downvalley to Meran to show
maximum elevation gain.
A Dayride with this pass as intermediate summit is
on page: Stilfserjoch