Our colleague Stefan Roos, all-round outdoor sportsman, mountain biker and gourmet, recommends this charming region of South Tyrol as a holiday destination both for leisure bikers and hardcore bikers.

It all began when we got ourselves a dog and so we could no longer book our favorite apartment in our preferred holiday region, the forests of Fontainebleau. Although the owners there had first given their consent, they then decided against accepting dogs. (Even though we had especially bought a poodle, because they are intelligent and do not shed hair or smell!)

Anyway, in a bad mood because of the narrow-minded apartment owners and therefore annoyed with the whole region we decided to spend our free days at home. Whilst surfing the net one day I recalled the stories of some friends who had enthused about the beautiful landscapes, the friendly local people and the fantastic bike trails in South Tyrol, especially in the Vinschgau area. I spoke with my family and at short notice booked an apartment in Goldrain, a small village near to Latsch in Alto Adige.

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Since then I have succumbed absolutely to the delights of this region! I have been there many times in summer and in winter and I have never had bad accommodation or, even worse – bad food! Prices for a double room were always around 60 – 80 Euro or from 55 – 70 Euro per person with half board.

So then a few weeks later, after a few hours of traveling, we reached the Reschen Pass and my first impression was that here it was very densely populated. This was due on the one hand to the long queue of traffic in front of us and on the other hand to the fact that usually my holiday destinations had been in rather quieter and less densely populated forest areas.

The apartment hotel in Goldrain was easy to find and the owners were very nice people who spoke fluent German. If you are not familiar with this region then this comes as a surprise. The apartment was suitable for a family of four with a dog (!), light-filled and with free WLAN. The four bikes were put into a separate storage room on the street (we were given our own key), then we sorted out the rest of our baggage.

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The Annaberger Böden Trail

The next morning after a technical check of our bikes and after we had distributed our gear amongst four backpacks we said goodbye to our dog Siva and rode up to the Annaberger Böden.

A quotation from the trail book: “Before the whole thing becomes tortuous you have already reached the trailhead and the fun can begin.” OK, this is a subjective comment: 560 meter height on the first day with children is not easy.

We started off quite relaxed, pushed our bikes a lot, and enjoyed the views, drank a lot, cooled off at wayside fountains and enjoyed the sprinkler facilities of the adjacent fields. When we finally reached the trailhead in a reasonable mood, I for one, was really happy! This was our first bike tour together with a long ascent and it was important for me that my family could tackle the descent to the valley fresh and relaxed.

For this tour I can recommend a lightweight All Mountain Bike. Our Freeriders and the Hardtails for the kids were ok, but not ideal. As a biker backpack I prefer the Baix 10 or Baix 15 with a drinking straw from the source which can be screwed onto several different plastic bottles. A First-Aid Kit is essential in the backpack; for my tours with the family I always take First Aid Complete, of course together with tools and spare inner tubes.

We have four different bikes so there are many things to consider. Here I do not wish to go into further detail but in my opinion, spare brake pads, a chain rivet tool and shift lever should be included in your gear. Easily digestible foods, a spare T-shirt and protectors as required complete the rucksack contents.

So finally we stood at the beginning of the well signed and marked trail. The first few meters led over forest ground with stones and roots, in the direction of the Annaberger Böden. The trail begins at an easy level in the mountain forest and is really enjoyable because of the huge areas of grassland but then it becomes stonier and more challenging to reach the suspension bridge. We really enjoyed it and the whole downhill was great fun.

Highly recommended is a good map of the area or GPS combined with the trails!book Vinschgau by Ralf Glaser and Martin Gruber. This book is a highly recommended read with extensive information for biking and also for eating out or for accommodation in the region, also with suggestions for cultural events and an overview of bike stations where you can hire a guide.

From Latsch via Tarsch to Goldrain

With our guide, the next day we rode from Latsch to Tarsch. Just after the local signpost Tarsch and turning right over the wooden bridge is the former Bike Park. Unfortunately this has been almost completely dismantled but there are still a few remaining features suitable for simple technique training. So this is what we did and then the guide led us via a forest trail from Tarsch to Goldrain, back to our apartment.

This track is not listed in the Bike Guide but immediately became one of my favorite trails because in terms of scenery and also technically, it provided the sought-for flow. From Tarsch you ride via routes 18, 4, 5 and 5a to the fortresses above Morter. If you look at these routes on the map you can immediately recognize the line following the slope.

A little bit more special is the extended trail along route 12. I am saving this for a second time because the normal descent which passes the two fortresses is simply sensational.

With the cable car in Latsch you can reach the heights. As the paths are very narrow (and in every sport there are people who only think about themselves), they transport bikers in the mornings and evenings in order to reduce to a minimum any “friction” where trekkers and bikers cross paths.

Times vary according to the season and so you should enquire about these at the Valley Station in Latsch. Prices too, may vary. There are flyers about the most common trails available at the cable car station.

For me this was the first time that I had come across an assessment of trails. This is given on the reverse side of the small card from S0 to S5. These evaluations should be taken seriously: less experienced drivers have no problems with S0 or if so, they can simply get off. The same applies to S1, but S2 can also mean that there is no controlled descent. The levels of difficulty S3, S4 and S5 can only be recommended to persons with an integral helmet and downhill gear. Discovering other routes also means that bikes end up being carried – but this can also be fun!

With my family and my dog, we rode almost every evening along the perfectly constructed two-lane cycle path along the Etsch from Goldrain to Schlanders for an ice-cream. Alternatives in this region are for example climbing, the open-air swimming pool in Latsch, a super thermal pool in Merano, Juval Castle, the Schnals Valley, numerous museums or an excursion to Bolzano.

I would recommend leaving the arrival route to the navigation system. From Germany it is quite difficult to reach the valley from any direction and it makes no difference if I pay for the Brenner or Arlberg highway. One thing however is really very important (and over the years I had completely forgotten this): the red and white striped sign with reflectors is still mandatory in Italy when you carry cycles attached to the rear of your car.

For all those who want more exact details, here is the packing list:

  • Bike Yeti Lawwill 6
  • Helmet
  • Biking gloves
  • Elbow and knee protectors
  • Back protector
  • Baix 15
  • First Aid Complete
  • 1 liter water with drinking straw
  • GPS
  • GoPro
  • Snacks
  • Replacement shirt
  • Lightweight windcheater
  • Tire lever
  • Allen keys 4, 5 & 6
  • Chain tool
  • Pump
  • Co² pump
  • 2 spare cartridges
  • Brake pads
  • Gear cable
  • 2 spare inner tubes
  • Simple Swiss pocket knife
  • Mobile phone
  • Money