Road Cycling Climbs from North Lake Garda, Italy

, July 20, 2017

I’ll admit – the trip to Lake Garda was an uphill adventure. After a couple of months whistling through Munich’s flat terrain and mild hills on my road bike, the thought of jumping on the train and making it up some sharp faces was compelling. Lake Garda is well known by mountain bikers, trail runners, so I had no doubt that it would be enough for a long weekend of hill climbing and relaxing by the lake.

The thought was that a base in Munich would provide me and my bike easy access to the train over to Trento and finally Rovereto, from where I could ride down hill to Torbole. Items like a narrow 46L Osprey backpack were purchased specifically for this trip, coming into their own as I wove through the cavalry of German vehicles making a leap over from Bavaria for the long weekend (Die Erste Mai – May in Munich is dotted with days off).

Once you’re down in the valley of Lake Garda, it’s hard not to get excited about the number of delightful roads that make their way up the mountain. I selected three routes: one up to a brilliant aqua of Lago di Tenno, another out of the ancient Malcesine and the third and largest, part of a ride to make my return train to Munich.

Three climbs

Ride up to Lago di Tenno in the afternoon and you’ll have the convection wind Ora helping you up the hill – this wind explains for why all the windsurfers and kitsurfers make their way to Torbole in the afternoons (and also why Wind’s Bar is worth a visit). The climb itself is 8km and an average of 6% gradient to Lago di Tenno, though you can continue for another 2km to the natural yet unremarkable apex of the climb. Either way, the lake and lakeside restaurant are worthy rewards.

The second climb had me heading into the tiny commune of Malcesine and its castle nestled on the east side of the Lake. An easy ride over for a coffee is a good warm up before taking on a 5km / 6% climb, dubbed Panoramica da Malcesine for good reason. If you feel up for it, take the right fork and follow the gondola lines higher up the hill if you want to climb higher. I felt a little awkward hobbling around the shiny cobbles of the town in cleats, but in hindsight I should have doubled back to the town for lunch at Castello Lake Front Hotel (their lunchtime opening times are precise)


The final climb of my trip was actually epic, hiking up high into the hills and over Passo di Santa Babara over 12km at 9%. I completed the climb on my way back to Rovereto and the train to Munich – a brilliant way to close out the trip, facilitated by a couple of friends who thankfully took my back to the city for me.

As well as being a popular tourist destination, Lake Garda is also home to an impressive factory that recycles old fishing nets into yarn, Aquafil. You’ll be within view of their facility if you’re riding over Passo di Santa Barbara – it’s pretty neat to know that Lake Garda isn’t purely a tourist destination.


Torbole’s AktivHotel is a purpose built for sports tourists and has a breakfast that is famously calorific and worth paying for even if you’re staying elsewhere in Lake Garda. If you’re looking for a special place to stay, visit Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda which oozes luxury and lists sustainable ethics in an impressive 30-page PDF, “Green Book“.

If you’ve been to Lake Garda and have more vertical metres to mention, email me, Will Ross (