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“Come, join me in my private paradise of unspoilt alpine wilderness”

Ranked #424 of 2,957 things to do in Piedmont
Attraction details
Reviewed 3 May 2014

Share this with me. Within sight of Mont Blanc,anything is crystal-beauty.
The park is named for one of the mountains within its confine,the highest on Italian soil. And the name is fitting for the park is a paradise of unspoilt alpine wilderness filled with an incredible variety of plants,flowers and animals.

Armed with serious hiking boots,reasonable fitness and yodelling- pitch to match the beauty of the edelweiss,violets,anemones and wildflowers,we set off with the hope of seeing changes,ibex and the elusive marmots.
You drive two and a half hours from either Milan or Geneva and a little less from Turin and you find yourself either in France,Switzerland or Italy. My femme decided the Italian frontier. We started at the village of Lillaz and headed towards the wide,U-shaped glacial valley of Urtier.
My personal pet hate is the high- tension- line that runs the full length,marring the alpine valley but brings essential electricity. Our guide was an inexhaustible source of information,a lot shared, as we climbed past a natural outcrop showered by a powerful little waterfall,that shot out of a rocky gorge. he pointed out a juniper sabine, the small carnivorous plants that digest insects to compensate for the lack of nitrogen in the soil. With a quick pointing of his arm,he pointed to a rocky cliff where the park's biggest nocturnal predator,the le duc owl,had its nest.

Leaving the open,grassy valley we climbed to higher ground. our path took us first through a wooded area. Evergreens and larches dominate. We started at an altitude of about 5000 ft. By 11.00 o'clock we were at 7500 ft reaching the top of a grassy,rocky shoulder. Suddenly our guide shooshed us and called us over to the edge in a hushed voice. On the steep slope below was a herd of about 60 chamois with their characteristic small black curved horns. Quickly aware of our presence they began running away with such speed,that they climbed a much higher mountainside opposite. In a few minutes,we could see them crossing a snow field several hundred meters above us.

By sheer serendipity, about half an hour later we encountered a group of male ibex,the heavy big horns of the oldest was half a meter long. Awesome, to the max.
For those with more stamina one of the more rigourous outings is roughly two and a half hour hike,3000 ft up an old mule trail to the mountain refuge of Vittorio sella. the refuge,formally a royal hunting lodge,offers dormitory accommodation and hot meals in the summer and unattended shelter for the rest of the year,very much like the kosziosko huts back home in Australia,in the skiing season,many years ago when i used to cross-country.

This walk affords one of the best chances of seeing ibex and chamois, the trails are not usually well marked,but orientation is not difficult. You will be at 6,000 ft and it is usually obvious in which direction the deep valley floor lies. This makes the Gran Paradiso summit a very popular destination for the casual alpinist. Doesn't it have a great ring to it...'alpinist'? Its a long walk presenting no particular difficulties,but it is strenuous and needing crampons,ice-pick and a rope,because a good part of the day is along glaciers.

Three years ago we made a 3-day trip in the park,spending two nights in one of the unattended huts,small but with enough space for 6 people. On the return leg we had an unforgettable experience. After crossing a difficult pass in intermittent fog,we saw before us ,a wide,boulder strewn and desolate mountain plateau. But instead of the slow,painful going that we expected,we discovered a largely intact royal hunting road that made our advance an absolute pleasure. it was built of rock and earth and raised a meter off the growth to negotiate the rough terrain in an almost straight line.

We imagined with awe,the thousands of of man-hours that had been spent during the 19th century,building such roads at these desolate altitudes,so that king Vittorio Emanuele II could more easily pursue his favourite pastime.
Treading a royal road,spotting ibex,chamois and owls plus the wonderland around us for company,i look into my femme's eyes at twilight,and sigh deeply.

8  Thank Eli B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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5 - 9 of 53 reviews

Reviewed 4 September 2013

Outstanding! We slept a few days at the camping site in Pont (Valsavarenche) and made the tour up to Gran Paradiso Summit (4.061 m) via the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II. On the first day we went from the camping site in Pont up to the Rifugio (~ 800 m elevation gain and 2 hours) where we slept. The second day began with breakfast at 04:00 h and we climbed up to the summit (~ 1.300 m elevation gain and 4 hours). As we had perfect weather conditions we saw all the summits from Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Matterhorn, etc. after a few minutes at the summit we went down to the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II where we had lunch and then walked down to the camping site in Pont where we arrived at ca. 14 o'clock.

3  Thank Chris_Graz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 February 2013

Awesome views or mountains, glaciers and forests - true paradise.

If you're camping or hiking, I'd highly recommend a couple of nights at Camping Gran Paradiso, Valsavarenche. I couldn't find it on Trip Advisor. but the owner is so friendly and even lent us an extra blanket when we'd failed to pack properly for the incredibly cold alpine nights!

http://www.campinggranparadiso.it/UKindex.html

4  Thank BhutekoMasu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 December 2011

This is definetely one of the most beautiful National Parks in Italy.
We hiked there several times, from Cogna, Valsavaranche and on the Piedmont side, from Ceresole Reale.
If you wish to start your hike already from 2600 m height, and in few minutes already enjoy blue alpine lakes and wildlife, Ceresole Reale is the easiest access to the park.
But also the other ones are recommended, expecially Cogne.

3  Thank kayak62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 October 2011

When we first entered the park at Valmontey we noticed that a lot of people had walking sticks. At first we thought it was about nordic walking..until after we decided to go up a mountain for a nice view. The mountains are STEEP. It is definitely not our first hike ever, but this is steep and hard on the knees. However, it is beautiful, the signage is the BEST I've seen so far and you can just drink the water from the river that runs through it. On our 2nd hiking day we entered via Lillaz and walked up to the Lago di Soie (Silk lake). It was a stunning lake, loads of impressive views with people walking their cows up there and even some houses. Again, very, very steep and we climbed over some rocks as well, but beautiful. Tips: take a UV protection hat because it gets very hot from 11, 12 hours on, the levels they indicate on the map (which we got at the information office in Cogne for 1 euro) are only for mountain goats and people used to steep mountains and it took us 7 hours instead of 4 to get up, up, up and again up, and then down, down and down again, take plenty of water, your own food (nothing there, just nature) and good, proper hiking walking sticks AND mosquito gel. They start getting active early there at noon. At Lillaz there also waterfalls you can just visit by a normal, paved road as well as from Valmontey (saw lots of people with their elderly parents). Apparently it's the oldest national park of Itay, 700 square kms area, with lots of wildlife (unfortunately, we have not seen any). Oh, and only public (even squatting) toilets near the entrance of the park, after that you go back to nature..

8  Thank Lucia21Amsterdam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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