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Hike: Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada and Cimetta (Locarno family hike)

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Easy circular hike around Cardada (3.3 km), slight ascent and descent (90 m), with playgrounds, play areas and a scavenger hunt. Optional chairlift ride to Cimetta viewpoint and infinity swing. No strollers. Locarno (Canton Ticino, Switzerland).

The "it" factor

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada viewing platform

What makes it special:

What needs to be considered:

  • The path is not well indicated on signposts or trail markings and there is some back and forth walking required

  • No strollers

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada and Cimetta impression video

The fun factor

Meet your hike guide: Squitty the Squirrel. She - she looks like a she to me! - lives in Cardada and can show you the way to all the fun places around the mountain. Just ask at the gondola's ticket office for the free Squitty the Squirrel treasure map to start your adventure.

Your mission is to find 10 different animal footprints and tick them off on the map. Most are printed on white boards, some you will find on the ground. If you find a minimum of 7 (like we did), you can get a small gift at the end of the hike at the ticket office. Tip: the locations of the boards are marked on the map by a little squirrel. We found the map a bit confusing and it took us a while to figure out the treasure hunt and the route, as there is a bit of back and forth to find all the footprints and kids attractions. See practical info for our route recommendation with numbered steps. Once you get the hang of it - it is super fun!

To get to the hike you can either park in Locarno and take the funicular to Orselina and then the gondola to Cardada or drive directly to Orselina (very limited parking) and just get the gondola. See practical info for details. As soon as you arrive in Cardada, you are welcomed by a shaded barefoot path with climbing bridges and a small playground. We did not find any scavenger hunt footprints here but out toddler got instantly excited about the day's adventure when she saw all the fun that Squitty the Squirrel had to offer.

We recommend to do the hike clockwise. That brings you to the Indian Village first with your first footprint board and weird looking statues. Next stop: a small church with the second footprint hidden behind it and a beautiful clearing with giant chess and tic-tac-toe boards. Just a few minutes later you will find the third footprint next to a football field and a table tennis table. Tip: If your kids are into football, bring a ball with! We didn't have any so our toddler was a bit disappointed. The promises of the next play station quickly made her move on though :)

The fourth footprint is in Cimetta, which is another mountain top. You have three choices - either skip it altogether, take a chairlift or hike up & down (2.3 km one way, 340 m ascent / descent). We opted for the chairlift rides and were happy with our decision. The chairlift is quite original as it faces sideways so you can admire the views better. At the top there is a restaurant, more spectacular views and an 'infinity' swing.

Once you're back down at the bottom of the chair lift, the path brings you to a small water fountain and the fifth footprint. We were considering skipping this one, as it requires you to go back and forth a bit and it looked quite far on the map. In reality the detour is not that big, so if you are committed to the scavenger hunt it is perfectly doable. The "fun factor" of this stop is limited though.

After that, is the main loop through the forest path. You'll find parabolic mirrors where you can listen to echos and discover new sounds, communicating columns and a "sound seesaw", which were three moving planks making sounds. There is also what they call a centrifugal merry-go-round and the sixth footprint.

The path leads you back to your starting point at the top of the Cardada gondola, where a mega fun reward awaits just behind the restaurant! Kids can use all their remaining energy to do some serious playing at this playground with a "Noa's ark" climbing area, coordinated swings and a giant bench. The whole family can admire the panorama from a viewing platform. Just next to the giant bench you will find the last footprint to complete your task.

In the end, we only found 7 out of 10 footprints. Let us know if you find all 10 - but don't try to hard as there is a catch :)!

The views factor

Even though Cardada is "only" at 1'340 meters high, the views are spectacular. You see Locarno, Lake Maggiore and all the surrounding green mountains. It is definitely worth the visit just for that. The walk around Cardada is mostly on paved roads through the forest but you do get quite a few spots (including the Cardada viewing platform) where you can admire the area. This part is stroller friendly.

If you decide to go up to Cimetta, you will find yourself at 1'671 meters. The chairlifts up and down offer amazing views. As the chairs are facing sideways, on your way up you get to admire the lake and on your way down - the forest-covered mountains.

The large loop hike takes you through mostly shaded forest paths. We appreciated this hike due to the variety of paths and views it had to offer. This part is not stroller friendly.

The value factor

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada

In 2023, the Orselina - Cardada gondola bothways was 28 CHF per adult and 14 CHF per child between 6 and 18 years old. 1/2 Tax card gives you 50% discount and kids below 6 don't pay.

If you decide to also take the chairlift to Cimetta, that is an extra 8 CHF per adult and 4 CHF per child or if you have 1/2 Tax - if you buy the gondola and chairlift ticket together. If you buy it at the chairlift, it will cost you 10 CHF per adult and 5 CHF per 1/2 Tax / child.

The fitness factor

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada hiking path

Overall the main hike is quite easy (3.3 km, 90 m up and down). We have done it with a grandpa and a 3.5 toddler walking the whole way. The road directly around Cardada's gondola and leading to the Noa's Ark, viewing platform and Cimetta's chairlifts is paved, suitable for strollers and quite flat.

The main loop, starting from the chairlift, has slight up and downhill parts and goes through the forest with occasional roots sticking out - not really stroller friendly.


The food factor

Along the hike there are three restaurants. As we arrived just in time for lunch with a hungry toddler, we ate in Albergo Ristorante Cardada, which is just next to the gondola. They had a good selection of Italian food, with a few kids options (including pene with tomato sauce). The food was good, the staff was nice and we had a good experience, but the google reviews are polarizing. Next time we are planning to eat at Casa Colmanicchio, which is down by the Cimetta chairlift as the reviews are better. Capanna Cimetta is at the top of the chairlift and is open only when the weather is good.

There are also plenty of beautiful picnic places if you prefer to bring your own food and skip the restaurants.

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada and Cimetta - practical info

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada hiking map

  • Arrival by car: You can park either in Locarno in one of the city's car parks and take the funicular from Locarno to Orselina (you get 50% off the parking fee in the Largo Zorzi and Piazza Stazione car parks if you get your ticket stamped at the funicular's office) or park directly in Orselina (very limited parking available). Then take the gondola to Cardada

  • Arrival by public transport: Take the train to Locarno, the funicular from Locarno to Orselina and the gondola to Cardada

  • Gondola and chairlift timetables

  • Tip: Ask at the gondola's ticket office for the free Squitty the Squirrel treasure map

  • Start & end: Cardada gondola station (1'340 m)

  • Ascent / Descent: 90 m

  • Length: ca. 3.3 km

  • Duration: Playground fun: 1-3 hrs, hike: 1-2 hrs. It took us 6 hours in total (including lunch)

  • Squitty the Squirrel Cardada - Cimetta treasure hunt (Locarno family hike) more info

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada hiking map

Play stations in the recommended order and the restaurants on your way:

2. Barefoot path

3. Indian Village & scavenger hunt footprint

4. Church, giant chess, tic-tac-toe game & scavenger hunt footprint

5. Football field, table tennis & scavenger hunt footprint

6. OPTIONAL: Chairlift up

7. OPTIONAL: Restaurant Capanna Cimetta

8. OPTIONAL: Infinity swing

9. OPTIONAL: Viewing platform & scavenger hunt footprint

10. OPTIONAL: Chairlift down

11. Restaurant Casa Colmanicchio & small playground

12. Small water fountain & scavenger hunt footprint

13. Parabolic mirrors

14. Communicating columns

15. Centrifugal merry-go-round & scavenger hunt footprint

16. Sound seesaw

17. Noa's ark playground, connected swings, giant bench & scavenger hunt footprint

18. Viewing platform

Squitty the Squirrel treasure hunt in Cardada hiking path

Arosa bear sanctuary & adventure trail map

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