Hiking Switzerland: Castagnola – Monte Brè

by Gigi Griffis
hiking to Bre

No matter where I travel and no matter how much I love new places, somehow I always end up circling back to Switzerland. I love it for its calm and organization. I love it for the interesting people I’ve met there. And, to no one’s surprise, I love it for its hiking. 

Short trails. Long trails. Steep trails. Level trails. Snowy, wintery, autumnal, and summer trails. I simply can’t get enough of Switzerland’s landscapes. 

Which is why we found ourselves back for another round of exploration this winter, this time in the Italian part of the country, Ticino.

We stayed on a desperately pretty hillside in an area called Castagnola on the outskirts of Lugano. And it’s from there that I took my favorite hike of the winter: from Castagnola to Monte Brè…

There are quite a few trails zig-zagging up from the neighborhoods of Castagnola to the top of the mountain. Chad tried one a few days before I had my own day off to enjoy the mountain. And then I tried another longer, more meandering route.

Whichever path you follow (they all seem to be well marked, so just follow the nearest signs for Monte Brè), expect forested hillside paths, views out over the lake, and very steep climbs at least part of the way. 

This is what my hike looked like in the dead of winter…

(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)

Want to experience the hike for yourself? Here are some relevant details: 

Hiking times and local transportation

There are a good dozen ways to get from Castagnola to Monte Brè. The shortest way will probably take you about an hour and a half. The longer routes can stretch into more like two to three hours. Follow any of the signposts to Monte Brè. They’re all marked with estimated times, so you can get a sense of how long your route will be.

Chad did his climb in about an hour and 15 minutes and my longer route took about 2.5 hours.

If you prefer to take transit in one direction, in the town of Bre, about 25 minutes from the mountaintop, a bus heads back down into town. And from the mountaintop itself, a funicular will take you down to just above Castagnola and a second funicular will take you all the way down to Lugano if you so desire.

Trail markers

With so many trails leading up the mountain, not all of them are perfectly marked. I found that they all tend to intersect, though, and eventually you’ll come upon a trail marker (and when you do, the markers always seem to have direction and time estimates for Monte Brè, as well as a number of other destinations. 

Dogs on trails

Dogs are welcome on Swiss trails. Make sure you clean up after yours and keep in mind that these trails wind through neighborhoods near the top and bottom (so if your dog is likely to chase a cat or another dog, keep them on leash). There are also a few narrow areas on the trail (where I leash Luna just in case).

It’s also worth noting that there are donkeys, sheep, and geese on various farms along some of the trails up here. 

What to bring

Wear good hiking or trail running shoes (I like Salomon women’s speedcross) and bring a jacket no matter what (once you get high enough, there’s always a chance of cool weather) and poncho if there’s any chance of rain. 

The only water fill-up station I saw on my route was in between the town of Bre and Monte Brè at the very top of this hike, so make sure you have plenty of water and don’t count on being able to refill until you reach the top. 

Since I’m hiking with a middle-aged small dog and occasionally she’s had some knee issues, I also hike with a dog backpack. Here’s the one I love.

Happy hiking!

All photos taken with my Sony a6000.

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