GRAN PARADISO TREK
The Royal Trail Gran Paradiso
12 Days $4500 ex Torino
9 Nights Hotel Stay
2 Nights Refugio
Mostly on foot
Guest and Luggage Transfers included
High Heart Rate Holiday
At 2500 meters above sea level, you are well above the tree line in the Gran Paradiso National Park. Open grasslands sprawl out, down into enormous valleys formed by ancient glaciers and to the base of gigantic cliffs that extend to the summit of the Gran Paradiso itself, over 4000 meters above the sea. This is rugged terrain made from rock, ice, and rivers. Waterfalls spill hundreds of feet into a heard but not seen river below.
As our group reaches 3000 meters, our guide, Ismael, stops us and without a word points to a large boulder outcrop 100 meters to our left. There on top of the highest boulder stands a giant alpine ibex or steinbock, the tips of its horns at least a meter above its shoulder. It knows we are there, but it points its nose down the valley, surveying for what, I am not sure, maybe a wolf or another dominant male. Smaller female ibex gather around. A couple of young ibex play and flitter about. Our group is in awe of this chance encounter and then they were gone, just like that. The joy that distant encounter gave us could be seen on everyone’s face.
Grass soon makes way for rubble and scree, and the landscape turns from vivid green to a dark and menacing black. We are approaching Col du Loson at 3299 meters above sea level. I can see the col from below. It is tiny and tight, appearing like the gates to hell in some Auguste Rodin sculpture. Ismael encourages everyone to continue on.
As we reach the col, ones breathe is not only taken away by the altitude but also the view down the other side into the Valsavarenche. The brightness is vividly contrasted by the darkness from where we had just come. Beams of sunshine shone down into the valley, pointing the way toward our lodging for the evening. “This is such an awesome place” I hear one of my companions murmur. I couldn’t agree more.
“Intending visitors to the district should be warned that when the King of Italy is hunting around Cogne (the present King has not been there since 1885) they may find their movements impeded by fear of disturbing the game. This will seem however but a small hindrance when set against the great facilities which the royal hunting paths (passable for horses) afford to travelers on the less interesting portions of many of the ascents in this group.”
The Mountains of Cogne 1893
George Yeld and Rev WAB Coolidge
Ibex were hunted in the Gran Pardiso as they were considered walking pharmacies as their blood, horns, bones and even their droppings were used in remedies for everything from poisoning to rheumatism. A special talisman was made from the tiny cross-shaped bone found in the Ibex heart, believed to guard the wearer against violent death.
The Gran Paradiso sits in the Valle d’Aosta in northern Italy, only 45 minutes drive from Aosta itself. In 1856, King Vittorio Emanuele II unified several hunting grounds and declared the area a Royal Game Reserve. As such, the Gran Paradiso remains a rugged island of natural beauty, dominated by the only 4000m peak wholly in Italy, the Gran Paradiso.
The northern section of the park forms part of the famous Alte Via 2 which is the only part of the park that most treks take in. However, the Gran Paradiso has so much more to offer than just these couple of days along the Alte Via.
Our expedition will take in the southern, western and northern sections of the Gran Paradiso, staying in the park for the entire time. Staying in the park allows us to explore the magical mountains and rugged and desolate valleys which verge on pristine wilderness. Only a stone’s throw from other famous European peaks, views of Monte Rosa, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc will be afforded at several passes along the way. Herds of Chamois and solitary Ibex can be seen everywhere along the route.
This is a wild part of Europe. Our accommodation will be a mix of small hotels and Rifugios, trying to avoid dorms as much as we can. Countering the ruggedness is the famous Italian hospitality and excellent food and wine.
This expedition is perfect for those that wish to see another side of the Italian Alps, one that is remote, spectacular, and steeped in history.
The Gran Paradiso Journey
Check in is usually after 2pm. You will have free time to explore the surrounds of Torino.
Aosta is situated north of the Gran Paradiso National Park and is an ancient Roman city. First established in 25 BC, Aosta is girt by towers and a wall. This beautiful town was situated where the roads of Switzerland and France converged and was an extremely important trading post through the millennia. It is a great place to wander around and get into the north Italian way of life. We will have a private tour of this wonderful town steeped in ancient history. Transfer from Torino to Aosta is via train. (B)
Today we start our adventure with a walk from Aosta to Cogne at the base of the Gran Paradiso. This is a moderate to difficult introductory walk that will get guests started on their journey. In the afternoon we will arrive in the beautiful and quaint town of Cogne. Once a major stop for the King’s hunting party, Cogne remains a tourist attraction that is satisfied by several 4-star hotels and excellent food. 10km 6 hrs (B,L,D)
Heading south from Cogne we head off for a day walk to Alps Money. For the first hour or so we will walk along the base of the Valnontey before turning left up the east flank of the valley. Views all the way are amazing of the Gran Paradiso massif. By lunch, we reach Alps Money with vistas of several peaks forming an enormous amphitheater at 2325m. The cascading Tribolazione glacier beneath the impressive chain of peaks from the Herbetet around to the Gran Paradiso and Roccia Viva are breathtaking. Lunch will be among several abandoned shepherd’s huts. Back to Cogne for a much-deserved meal. 16 Km 6 hrs (B,L,D)
Today we head off on our main journey down the Valnontey once again. The difference is we head west this time along part of the famous Alte Via 2. After passing through a wooded forest we break out into divine open plains that provide amazing views of the mountain area. The trail is the very trail King Vittorio Emanuel II used during his hunting expeditions. Along the way, we will stop at a local cheesemaker to taste his divine produce. By lunch, we will have arrived at Rifugio Sella, a typical mountain refuge used by climbers and trekkers alike. Nearby is another royal hunting lodge, scene of wild parties and now used by the park rangers. Overnight at Rifugio Sella. 9.5 km 7hrs (B,L,D)
We continue on our journey along the Alte Via 2, over Col Loson (the highest non-glaciated pass in the whole park) at 3300m about 2 hours from Rifugio Sella. The climb itself is quite gentle, explained by the fact that is was once the trail used by the King’s hunting parties. From here we head down this enormous valley with giant cliffs towering above towards the beautiful Valsavarenche. Lunch will be en route. The trail finishes with a walled-in path over the bridge that crosses the Torrente Savara. Eaux Rousses is named after the red rock behind the hamlet that is stained by water trickling down from a spring containing iron. 16 km 8 hrs (B,L,D)
While Pont is only just up the valley we will head back up the mountain towards the Gran Paradiso to get a taste of climbing life. From Eaux Rousses, we head up towards Pont and then up towards Rifugio Federico Chabod, a base for climbers taking on the Gran Paradiso summit. Here we will spend the night however if the weather permits we can take a walk closer to the glaciers that hang above the Rifugio. This is a short day but a wonderful place to spend the night. 11 km 6 hrs (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will traverse across the mountain towards Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele for lunch. There are great views from here of the surrounding mountains and an excellent lunch out on a verandah. After lunch, we will head down into the valley and overnight in Pont. We will have a chance to explore the valley with short walks with great views of the Gran Paradiso. 11km 6hrs (B,L,D)
Today we head out of the Valsavarenche via a beautiful trail towards Gran Collet at 2832m. Amazing views of the massif will be had along this trail. Then down into the sparse valley below, the Piano del Nivolet, where we will have lunch at Rifugio Savoia which was the original hunting house of King Vittorio Emanuele. After lunch, we will trek over Col Nivolet and before we transfer down to Ceresole Reale. 9 km 4hrs (B,L,D)
Back up into the mountains for a day hike. This morning we will take the bus back up to Col Nivolet and start our journey on the best-restored Kings’ Trail. This will be a dramatic day with a high pass and then lunch by a high altitude lake; Lac Lillet. Then its a long down over 1400m to Mua where we will be picked up and transferred back to Ceresole Reale. Overnight in Ceresole Reale. 10 km 6 hrs (B,L,D)
From Ceresole Reale we head back into the mountains for the final day. We will do a beautiful traverse from our home for the last 2 days to Noasca, a charming town full of history. This is an intriguing day hike in the Valle dell’ Orco along 17th-century paths and unique alpine villages. We will also have the opportunity to taste and purchase the local cheese specialty, toma. After lunch, we will transfer to Turin which will only take an hour or so. Turin’s tree-lined boulevards are reminiscent of Paris and its’ cafe’ culture is second to none. Turin is a beautiful town, steeped in history (it is the home of the modern Italian state) and a must-see on any visit to Italy. 10 km 5 hrs (B,L)
After breakfast, we will part ways from this wonderful Royal Trail of the Gran Paradiso (B)
Note: For those that wish to stay extra nights in Torino we can arrange this. The hotel is the Grand Sitea. We can also arrange for ongoing train tickets to and from Torino.
I love this trek because it is into a wild landscape, away from people and it takes us high into the mountains, a place I love. There may be days we will not see any other trekkers as we pass over several 3000-meter passes. I am sure you will love it too, as it is all in Italy so we get to sample their great food and hospitality.
- Led by a qualified guide
- All accommodation in towns and on the mountain
- Transfers to Aosta by train and from Noasca to Torino by car.
- All meals as outlined in Itinerary
- All transfers to and from the Gran Paradiso National Park
- Park permits
- Welcome dinner
- Town tour in Aosta
- International Flights
Your Guides and Safety
Our handpicked professional guides who come from a range of backgrounds and are registered and licensed IFMGA members who work for us regularly. All mountain lovers, they skied, climbed, and hiked many of the routes around the area and spend their days exploring the Gran Paradiso range and many other mountain ranges in the world.
The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun, and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.
The Gran Paradiso is for those that want to try a hike at a higher altitude and through a more rugged landscape than the Tour du Mont Blanc.
It is for those who love mountains, snow-capped peaks, glaciers and high altitude lakes.
The Gran Paradiso is for those who love Italian food and hospitality.
This trek is for those who appreciate a nice place to rest your head each night, who like to try new things such as staying overnight in a mountain refuge, and who don’t really want to carry a heavy pack each day.
This trek is for those who understand that they may be a bit tired at the end of the day, but the places you have trekked through more than makes up for the tiredness.
Why No Roads?
An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary adventure. Our multi-lingual certified mountain guides are passionate about and well versed in the nature that abounds in the Gran Paradiso. Very few people visit the Gran Paradiso National Park and as such there will be days you won’t see another trekker. Your guide will ensure you are on the correct trail and they will ensure your safety if the weather turns to the worse. They will be able to tell you what to wear each day and they will guide you across some of the remoter 3000 meter plus cols that form the trail in the Gran Paradiso. We feel a guide is essential on this trek.
Because most of our nights are spent in small family-run boutique hotels, you will be able to savor the various styles of cuisine from the regions of Aosta to Piedmont and from valley to valley. While the meals in the 2 rifugio are excellent, the meals in the boutique hotels give us a real taste of northern Italy. We are sure you are going to love the food we provide on this trek.
The first section of our trek utilises what is known as the Alta Via 2. This trail continues all the way to Courmayeur. However, after day 6, we diverge from this trail and continue on what we call the Royal Trail. These trails form part of the trails established by King Vittorio Emmanuelle and take us into parts of the park few ever visit. We will take in high-altitude lakes, tiny hamlets of stone and wood, and lone chapels linked by old mule trails. This is a unique and authentic historical trail that provides us with incredible landscapes, wild flora and fauna, and at night, delicious Italian cuisine.
We get asked a lot of questions about the Gran Paradiso trek. The following are certainly the most common, however, if you have another question please let us know or the answer may be found in our Trip Notes section.
How hard is the Gran Pardiso hike?
The Gran Paradiso is a serious trek. Even though we spend each night in nice accommodation, the terrain we hike through can be rugged and rocky at times. The Gran Paradiso trail is set at a higher altitude than the Tour du Mont Blanc and as such we are above the tree line for a great part of the journey. There are several passes we cross that exceed 3000 meters and snow can be present, even in summer. Keeping all of this in mind, the average day will be about 6-7 hours of walking, on rocky or stone trails at an altitude of above 2500 meters in an alpine setting.
Do I have to carry all my luggage?
The answer is “no”. This is a fully supported trek, so your main bag will be transported from one night’s accommodation to the next. On the nights we stay at a Rifugio, you will need to bring clothing, toiletries, etc for the night stay as there is no vehicle access to these locations.
What are the Rifugios like on the Gran Paradiso?
Italy has a network of Huts and Rifugios offering board and lodging to hikers along the trails. For 2 nights we will stay in Rifugios, Rifugio Vittorio Sella near Cogne and Rifugio Chabod. Rifugio Vittorio Sella (2558m) was once a hunting lodge for the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emmanuelle. It has now been converted into a large refuge with an excellent restaurant and a small bar nearby. Rifugio Chabod, 2710m, is an 85-bed rifugio specifically built for mountaineers climbing the nearby peaks and in particular, the summit of the Gran Paradiso itself which stands at 4061m. Rifugio Chabod has an excellent dining room and facilities. We will endeavour to get our group into one of the smaller 2,4 or 6 bedrooms. Toilet and shower facilities at the Rifugios are shared.
The Royal Trail around the Gran Paradiso massif follows the trails set out by the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emmanuelle. The King gained all hunting rights within the park and established 5 hunting lodges throughout the territory. Over 300 kilometers of trails were established to transport goods and staff between the lodges and for the King to gain access to areas for hunting. Our journey will take us along these trails, on a 102-kilometer hike along the very same trails King Vittorio Emmanuelle traveled on.