Photo: Entering Alp Russein after the nasty climb.
The Val Russein is a side valley of the Vorderer Rhine near Disentis.
There isn’t much there other than just a very beautiful and very quiet valley. There is a dam and a few holiday homes at Barcuns Dadens near the start of the valley, then after that there is nothing but a gravel road and a few farmhouses. I went up on a weekday morning in July and only saw a handful of hikers.
The main reason people will head up there is to take the westward Val Cavardiras side valley to the Camona da Cavardiras hut for the night and then down to Maderanertal the next day (something I would also like to do).
The start of the valley by the road/train line is very narrow and barely noticeable as you pass by, the first section up to the dam is in forest, then once you get past the dam it opens up into meadows and its full glory.
This is one place which would be a bit awkward to casually visit by public transport. There are four buses a day to ‘Disentis/Mustér, Punt Russein’ at the entrance to the valley – but these only run on weekdays and you would have to do a fairly long there-and-back-walk to a bus stop with nothing else around it.
My visit by mountain bike
Route: Disentis – Sumvigt – Alp Russein – Disentis.
Length: 32km, +/- 1285m.
I visited whilst staying in Disentis for a mix of work and biking. I followed MTB Route 208 ‘Val Russein’ out of Disentis, going to Sumvitg and then for the sake of time going straight up the valley and skipping the climb up to Alp da Glivers. This was tough enough, but the full suggested tour would have added another 15km and 825m of height on (Graubünden MTB route planners are insane).
Most of the tour was scenic riding on gravel/asphalt roads. Maybe it was just because of the recent heavy rain, but the one section of single trail dropping down into the valley from Clavadi was horrifically steep and unstable.
The last climb up to Alp Russein is steep: 1km of constant 20% gradient on rough/loose ground. Even after training myself up on steep roads that spring I had to give up and push. It was more than worth the effort.
I followed the road to the very end at Alp Russein and found myself in an isolated corner of the Alps with only a few cows and marmots for company. This would be a long dead-end walk for a hiker (you are surrounded by 3000m peaks and ridges with glaciers on the other side), so probably the only visitors are the farmer and occasional mountain biker.
The ride back down the valley was pure joy.