Most mountaineers get to know Gran Paradiso hikes as an acclimatization climb for the nearby Mont Blanc. However, this 4061-meter high-rising peak located between the Aosta Valley and the Piedmont regions deserves more than that. The Gran Paradiso National Park, named after the peak, is a great environment for hiking, whether you are looking for a short day trip or a multi-day trek from hut to hut.
About the Gran Paradiso
The Mont Blanc massif and the Monte Rosa massif both lie on the border between France and Italy. The Gran Paradiso, on the other hand, is the only peak whose summit reaches over 4000 meters and is entirely within Italian territory. This makes it the highest peak in Italy, with an altitude of 4061m. The summit of the mountain was first ascended on September 4, 1860 by Cowell, Dundas, Payot and Tairraz. Up to this day, by high alpine mountaineering standards, the Gran Paradiso is regarded as an easy 4000’er, even though climbers must ascend 1300 meter of altitude. Most of the climb requires basic alpine skills as it goes over glaciated snow slopes. Only the final section covers rocky terrain that is a bit more technical. With the huge crowds of mountaineers climbing this peak in high season, this section may become a bottleneck. On the summit, there is a Madonna statue. Most climbs start at the Refuge Chabod or the Refuge Victor Emmanuel II.
Within the boundaries of the park there are about 5,000 ibexes in total (Capra Ibex). Chamois also occur in large numbers. In addition, many mountain marmots, vultures and water starlings.
Best time to visit Gran Paradiso National Park
Mid-June to mid-September, with the greatest crowds from mid-July to the end of August. The most beautiful period is autumn, just before the first winter snow will fall.
Accommodations around the Gran Paradiso
Due to its location in a national park, Gran Paradiso is only surrounded by small villages that are self-sufficient. Offcourse there is Courmayeur to the north, but it serves more as a base for those who wish to explore the Mont Blanc massif from the Italian side. In the Gran Paradiso area, you can find any type of accommodations: from bivouacs to mountain huts and camping. Even hotels, bed & breakfasts and rest areas for camper vans are available, If you are looking for a fine hotel, these are worth checking out:
Petit Hotel, The Petit Hotel has been in Cogne since 1968. It was founded by our grandparents Lucia and Innocenzo who still very actively help in looking after the garden and flowers. It is a charming place where children and their parents feel at home.
Mountain Hotel Gran Paradiso, 2000 meters of emotions. It is one of the few hotels that is located directly inside the delicate natural ecosystem of the Park National of the Gran Paradis
Hostellerie du Paradis The tranquility reigns. Nicely located guarding the quite for the peace-loving guest. The characteristics and tranquility of the surroundings give the hotel a friendly atmosphere.
Camper van rest areas
Camper van rest areas offer places where you can load fresh water and unload your dirty water. On some occassions, there is electricity as well and bathrooms with showers. Sometimes there are facilities such as a hotel, bar, restaurant or a minimarket nearby. In the Gran Paradiso area, these types of rest areas can be found in the Cogne Valley, the Rhemes and Savarenche valleys, the Orco valley and the Soana Valley.
Pitching your tent is possible at designated campsites in the area. These offer all the facilities you need such as toilets, showers, restaurants, etc. Some of the best campsites include Campeggio Piccolo Paradiso, Campeggio Casa Bianca and Camping Gran Paradiso in Valsavarenche.
Gran Paradiso hikes
The Gran Paradiso national park www.pngp.it offers splendid scenic beauty for active travelers. Not only do you get views of the Gran Paradiso, the highest mountain of Italy, but the panoramas over the surrounding valleys are well worth the effort.
Traverse Chabod Hut to Refuge Vittorio Emanuele II
Two of the main mountain huts on the Gran Paradiso are linked by a scenic traverse. During this journey, it is possible to admire the whole of Valsavarenche in this section. Views on the northwestern wall of the Gran Paradiso are also seen along the way. This traverse can be done in one full day although some people tend to do it in three, with the ascent up the Gran Paradiso on day two.
This hike starts at the Montesuc cable car station at 2100m and takes about an hour to walk. There are about 15 stops and observation points while descending through the woods in this ring-route. Along the way, you will enjoy splendid views over the Valnontey and the glaciers of the Gran Paradiso massif.
Dres Lake is situated at an altitude of 2087m and takes about 2 hours 30 minutes to reach. The trail starts at Villa Poma in the Orco Valley and is well-marked.
The hike to Colle Bora is a little more strenuous as it gains 1027m of altitude. The trail starts at Piamprato Soana, a little town at the end of the Soana valley that leads through a grassy basin surrounded by woods—a charming setting for a good hike. The duration of the hike is about three hours, allowing plenty of time to rest.
Vaudaletta – Col Leynir
This trail is for experienced hikers as it takes about 7 hours to reach Col Leynir. With an altitude difference of 1205m, you will be ascending most of the way. The trail departs from the small town of Thumel in the Rhemes Valley before crossing a small wood and leads to the recovered huts of Vaudaletta, where you can spend the night before returning or continuing your journey.
Sylvenoire – Gontier
Located in the Cogne Valley, this hike starts in the charming village Sylvenoire, following a dirt trail to Plan Pessey. A mule track continues your hike and afterabout 4 hours, you will reach Gontier. Gaining about 985m, it’s a hike for those withdecent stamina.
If you are planning a long hike, be sure to bring some giuraje, which are sugared almonds, or hazelnuts, for energy. They are made by several bakeries in the park. Mecoulin, a typical regional raisin bread is another option. Pont ham and potato salami are other local delicacies to be enjoyed during or after your walk.
The Chabod Hut is one of the two most-used mountain huts for climbing the Gran Paradiso. It is located at the footof the northwestface of the mountain in the heart of the national park. Situated at an elevation of 2750 meters, a hike of several hours (2.5h) is needed to reach it. The footpath leading up to itdates from the hunting days of king Vittorio Emanuele II and winds through the woods. The refuge offers services with 85 beds during the summer season and in springtime (for skiing). In the summer, it is a meeting point for hikers and climbers who wish to explore the area.
Refuge Victor Emmanuel II
This mountain hut is the second refuge often used for Gran Paradiso climbs. It is named after king Vittorio Emanuele II who hunted in the area in the past and gave the national park its status. It takes about two hours to reach from the village of Valsavarenche. With an altitude of 2735m, it is similar in height to the Chabod Hut. It is capable of hosting 120 people, but is only open during the summer season. Prices to stay range from €3 (sleeping bag) – €65 (all-inclusive).
Tetras Lyre mountain hut
This cabin is located about fifteen minutes from the Vasavarenche bridge on the path to Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II. It is possible to spend the night here, but you can enjoy some great dishes as well. So, it makes a good stop during your hike.
Further from Gran Paradiso, this refuge in Valgrisenche makes a good hike. It is best reached from Surier. The walk takes about 2 hours during which you climb 500 altitude meters.
Unlike mountain huts, these are shelters where no caretaker is present. You can spend the night when out trekking. Most of them are open for use, but in some cases you may need to obtain the key beforehand.
Three Best Ways to Climb the Gran Paradiso
Gran Paradiso is located between the Piedmont and Aosta Valley regions, in the Graian Alps, Italy. It is positioned south of the Mont Blanc massif.
With an elevation 4,061m and a prominence of 1,879m, it is ranked the 7th highest peak in the Graian Alps.
Its first ascent was in September, 1860.
Best Time to Climb Gran Paradiso
The months of June through to September are considered ideal for summiting. One can attempt ski-alpinism during spring season and get to just a few meters below the peak.
The Gran Paradiso is a relatively straightforward peak to summit, however, unlike other 4000m peaks in the Alps, there are no mechanical lifts to assist you summit the mountain partly.
It has two main climbing routes; the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele and the Rifugio Chabod. Both routes end with a 20-minute technical climb.
The Rifugio Chabod
This route is slightly longer than the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele, but it offers a scenic and wonderful hike approach.
From the Chabod Hut, climb up the glaciers that are on the north-western side of the peak. Cross the mound while heading right to an altitude of 3,300m. Here, you will reach the north-west ridge. Proceed to the glacier valley till its end. Then climb upwards till you get to the “schiena d’asino”. The trail here intersects with the Vittorio Emanuele refuge at 3,700m.
Head left towards the Montcorve pass. After a steep climb and crossing the final crevasse, you will get to the “Madonnina” summit of Gran Paradiso.
The North East Ridge
On the north-west face before reaching the base, head left to start climbing the glacier through a rocky area while aiming for the Piccolo Paradiso pass. Press on towards the ridge using the easiest path along this steep slope.
Once you reach 3,975m, head downwards towards the Cogne valley and follow the rocky passages. Climb up the ridge on the north western face until you find another ridge that will lead you straight to the summit.
You can either use the Figurio Chabod or the Vittorio Emannuel for descent.
The Rifugio Vitttorio Emmanuel
Head north-east from the refuge along the well-marked path to a couloir on the Laveciau glacier. Climb up the glacier till you reach schiena d’asino which will roughly take 2 hours. Make a left turn to traverse along a glacier that will bring you to a terminal crevasse. You will be a few meters shy of the summit.
Descent can be along the same route.
A few Tips for you
Acclimatize beforehand. You need to be in top physical condition to manage the large elevation gains and high altitude.
You will also need to be competent at alpine scrambling and glacial travel.
The absence of cable cars may have put your knees under so much pressure during ascent, and you may find it a tad bit difficult while descending. It is therefore recommended that you cover the 2,000m descent to the valley floor in two phases. You can opt to space it out by covering about 800m then camp overnight. Proceed the next morning after your muscles and joints have recovered.
Things to do in the Gran Paradiso region
Gran Paradiso National Park is a destinition well worth putting on your list of desireable adventures. Winter tends to be the time for skiing and snowboarding, but summer has plenty of activities to choose from as well. A typical activity in summer for visitors is to go on a hike to the many alpine lakes, mountainhuts or viewpoints to soak in the views of the surrounding nature. If you are looking for something more challenging, alpine guides can take you to one of the peaks, with the Gran Paradiso being the most popular, as it is the highest in Italy and reaches above 4000 meters. However, the normal route isn’t too demanding and is within the capabilities of anyone used to a long day of hiking.
Other sports such as mountainbiking, rock climbing, rafting, canyoning and via ferrata are possible here as well. During your stay, you have the chance to see an ibex, chamois, deer, marmot or wild boar.
Hiking with kids near Gran Paradiso
Despite plenty of options for people with mountaineering ambitions, there is something for families traveling with children as well. The Valley of Cogne has two great walks aiming at youngsters. From Capoluogo, you can hike to the Lillaz Waterfalls, a 4km hike taking about 1h20min. This path leads to the village of Lillaz where you can continue the trail that runs alongside the stream until you reach the falls.
A different option is the easy hike from Capoluogo that leads to Valnontey. This takes about an hour.