Umbrail Pass

At 2,501 meters it earns a top 10 spot in the list of highest paved passes in Europe and it is the highest paved pass in Switzerland.

The Umbrail was a side-trip into Switzerland during the Giro of 2011 and the start of my Giro of 2020.

I started the climb in bad weather during my Tour de Suisse 2019 too, but found it was blocked by a landslide some 5 or 6 kilometers in.

The Umbrail from Bormio is actually (all about) the Stelvio, so short of visiting the summit sign, I’ve done that four times 🙂

Santa Maria

UmbrailWith an average grade of 8.6% it’s far from easy, but it’s a steady climb, with beautiful views and it is not too busy with motorized traffic.

The steepest part is actually right at the start, where, after a series of hairpins, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Müstair valley with Santa Maria in it.

The two kilometer unpaved section in the middle was actually not too bad. I only saw that once when going up, going down in rainy conditions may have been more troublesome.

However, the entire pass has been paved since, so this problem does no longer exist…

Because of its open character, the wind may be an annoying factor in the upper part, were the road is fairly straight, almost “meandering” like a stream.

Just past the summit, you’ll end up on the Stelvio – you can then climb the final, difficult, kilometers up to the summit of that, or descend to Bormio.

Note that including the remainder of the Stelvio will increase the overall average grade to a staggering 9.4% over the full distance of 14.6 kilometers…

Reports of my ascends here (2011) and here (2020).


Obviously the climb from Bormio is better known for its more famous twin, the Stelvio.

Up to the summit of the Umbrail and the split for the remainder of the Stelvio at the old customs building, it’s 18.3 kilometers long at an average of 7.1%.

Not the easiest of climbs either…

For a more detailed description of this climb, with views similar to the Prato side of it, I refer to the Stelvio page.

A combination (loop) with the full length of the Stelvio – from either Prato or Bormio – is harder than it looks.

From Bormio you would first climb the Stelvio, descend to Prato and then circle around via Sluderno to Santa Maria for the Umbrail – this is the most obvious option.

Counterclockwise from Prato, with the Stelvio first and the descent to Bormio is also possible, but getting to Santa Maria that way is much more challenging.

You will first have to get over the Foscagno/Eira to Livigno, take the train through the tunnel Munt la Schera (prohibited for cyclists) and then get over the Ofen pass.

Of course you could also just ascend the Stelvio from either side, descend the Umbrail to Santa Maria, turn round and get back up again 🙂


View of the Umbrail

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