Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso National Park


Location: Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions  Map

Area: 239 sq mi (620 sq km)

Highest peak: 13,323 ft (4,601 m)


Gran Paradiso National Park is located in Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions of North- west Italy. Gran Paradiso National Park covers an area of 239 sq mi (620 sq km). Gran Paradiso National Park is situated on an Italian side of the European Alps. Its history begins in 1856 then Victor Emmanuel, first king of unified Italy designed an area in the mountains as a Royal Hunting Reserve for the Ibex mountain goat. Unfortunately locals have been hunting these beautiful animals to near extinction since its body parts were considered magical talismans against all problems in life. Another Italian king Victor Emmanuel III continued the work of his grandfather by expanding the area and establishing first Gran Paradiso National Park in the history of Italy. Currently there are about 4,000 ibex in the area of the Gran Paradiso National Park.
Gran Paradiso or Grand Paradiso park is easily accessible from Italy, France and Switzerland. There are hotels and restaurants just outside of the park boundaries. The best time to visit Gran Paradiso is from April to October. Families and casual visitors prefer the northern park of the park because of its high mountains, spectacular views and large number of accessible paths as well as places for picnics. If you prefer more rugged tourism and climbing then south part of the national park will suit you better. Campgrounds, shelters and mountain huts are spread all over the area and can be open year round. The park has a web of hiking trails of variable difficulty. Although high tourist concentration in some areas have cause garbage piles and noise pollution that scares all animals away. Gran Paradiso also attracts skiers and snowboarders in winter.



The history of the Gran Paradiso National Park is closely linked to the safeguarding of its symbolic animal: the ibex (Capra ibex). This ungulate, once widespread at high altitudes, beyond the treeline, throughout the Alps has been the object of indiscriminate hunting for centuries. The reasons why the ibex was such a coveted prey by hunters were the most varied, including the succulence of its meat. In the early years of the 19th century, a woman from Gressoney-Saint-Jean, surname Zumstein, discovered that a colony of about one hundred specimens survived in the valleys that descend from the Gran Paradiso massif.

On 21 September 1821, the King of Sardinia, Carlo Felice, issued the royal patents with which he ordered: "The hunting of ibex is prohibited from now on in any part of the reigns he dominates". This decree, which saved the ibex from extinction, was not inspired by values of environmental protectionism, not contemplated in the mentality of the time, but by mere hunting speculations. The rarity of these specimens made hunting them a luxury that the sovereign granted only to himself.

In 1850, the young King Vittorio Emanuele II, intrigued by the stories of his brother Fernando, who had been hunting during a visit to the mines of Cogne, wanted to travel the Aosta Valley in person. He set off from the Champorcher valley, crossed the Fenêtre de Champorcher on horseback and reached Cogne; along this route, he killed six chamois and one ibex. The king was struck by the abundance of fauna and decided to establish a royal hunting reserve in those valleys.

It took a few years for the officials of the House of Savoy to be able to stipulate hundreds of contracts with which the valley dwellers and the municipalities ceded to the sovereign the exclusive use of the hunting rights relating to chamois and bird hunting, since ibex hunting was forbidden to the valley dwellers for thirty years already, and in some cases even fishing and grazing rights. The mountaineers could no longer bring sheep, cattle and goats to the high-altitude pastures, which were reserved for game.

The Gran Paradiso Royal Hunting Reserve was officially born in 1856, the territory of which was larger than the current national park; in fact, it also included some municipalities in the Aosta Valley (Champorcher, Champdepraz, Fénis, Valgrisenche and Brissogne) which were not subsequently included within the boundaries of the protected area. The valley dwellers, after the first bad moods, willingly gave up their rights to the sovereign, understanding that the presence of the sovereigns in those valleys would bring prosperity to the local population. King Vittorio promised that he would "trot the money along the paths of the Gran Paradiso".

A supervisory body made up of about fifty employees called Reali Cacciatori Guardie was set up, churches, embankments and municipal houses were restored, huts were built for park rangers and larger hunting lodges using local labour. However, the most important work that changed the face of the Valle d'Aosta and Canavese valleys was the dense network of paved mule tracks built to connect the villages with the hunting lodges, covering a distance of over 300 km. These roads were designed to allow the king and his retinue to move comfortably on horseback within the reserve. Most of them are still passable today. They overcome steep slopes with countless, very wide hairpin bends always maintaining a slight and constant slope. Most of them wind over two thousand meters and in some cases exceed three thousand (Col du Loson 3296m and Colle della Porta 3002m). The most inaccessible points were overcome by digging the route into the rock. The roadway is paved with stones, supported by dry stone walls built with considerable skill and has a variable width from one to one and a half meters.

The best preserved stretch is found in Valle Orco; from Colle del Nivolet, after an initial stretch halfway up the hill, the royal mule track crosses the hills of Terra and della Porta, touches the Gran Piano hunting lodge (recently recovered as a refuge) and then descends to the town of Noasca.


The King's Hunts

King Vittorio usually went to the Gran Paradiso reserve in the month of August and stayed there for two to four weeks. The newspapers and publications of the time were exalted by the good-natured character of the king, who conversed and discussed with great affability, in the Piedmontese language, with the local population and described him as a bold knight and an infallible rifle. In reality, the hunting campaigns were organized so that the king could target the prey while waiting comfortably in one of the lookout posts built along the paths.

The king's retinue was made up of about 250 men, hired among the inhabitants of the valleys, who performed the duties of beaters and bearers. For the latter, the hunt already began in the night. They went to places frequented by game, formed a huge circle around the animals and then with shouts and shots scared them so as to push them towards the hollow where the king was waiting behind a semicircular lookout of stones. Only the sovereign could shoot ungulates; behind him stood the "grand veneur" who had the order to give the coup de grace to wounded specimens or those that escaped the king's fire. The object of the hunt was the adult male ibex and chamois. Several dozen were shot down a day. The decision to spare females and puppies favored the increase in the number of ungulates and the real hunts became more abundant year after year.

The day after the hunt, the king and his retinue moved on to the next hunting lodge. Sunday was a rest for the beaters and, from the villages, some priests would come up to celebrate mass in the open air. The route most traveled by the king during his tours of the Gran Paradiso was the following: he started from Champorcher, crossed the Fenêtre de Champorcher (2828 m), descended to Cogne, reached Valsavarenche passing through Col du Loson (3296 m), climbed to Colle del Nivolet (2612 m) and from here it entered the Canavese area passing above Ceresole Reale and then descending to the town of Noasca (1058 m) along the Ciamosseretto valley (as the name suggests, very rich in chamois). The most used hunting lodges were those of Dondena (2186 m), of Lauson (2584 m, today Vittorio Sella refuge), of Orvieille and of the Gran Piano di Noasca (also the latter recently recovered as a refuge).

Even the successors of King Vittorio, Umberto I and Vittorio Emanuele III, undertook long hunting campaigns in the reserve. The last royal hunt took place in 1913. Vittorio Emanuele III, more cultured and less friendly with the villagers than his grandfather, changed his mind and decided, in 1919, to cede the territories of the Gran Paradiso he owned to the State with the relative rights, indicating as a condition that the idea of establishing a national park for the protection of alpine flora and fauna was taken into consideration.


The national park

On 3 December 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele III, in the early days of Mussolini's government, signed the decree law establishing the Gran Paradiso National Park. Article 1 of the decree establishes that the purpose of the park is to "preserve the fauna and flora and to preserve the special geological formations, as well as the beauty of the landscape". Article 4 establishes that the management is entrusted to the Royal Commission of the Gran Paradiso National Park. A series of rules follow: hunting and fishing are prohibited within the perimeter of the park, access with dogs, weapons and devices that serve these purposes, the Commission can suspend and regulate grazing in some localities. The surveillance service was entrusted to the Royal Forestry Corps which reinstated all the rangers of the old reserve who requested it. Then came the dark years of the park.

In 1933 the Royal Commission was abolished by royal decree and the management of the park passed to the (fascist) Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Surveillance, entrusted to the National Forestry Militia, became a sort of punitive service: criminals or political antagonists, often not accustomed to the harshness of the mountains, were sent to atone for their punishments (a sort of Italian "little Siberia"). Vigilance lost its effectiveness, poaching resumed and at times park rangers were even ordered to kill specimens of ibex and chamois of the best species as a gift to the military authorities. During the war, given the absolute scarcity of food, poaching became necessary for the local population as well, in order to survive.

When peace returned, the ibexes were reduced to just 400 heads. On 5 August 1947, with a legislative decree of the provisional Head of State Enrico De Nicola, the Gran Paradiso National Park Authority was established with a board of directors made up of 13 elements and a corps of security guards directly reporting to it. He was appointed superintendent director (he will be until 1969) prof. Renzo Videsott who the following year, in 1948, established the first Italian environmental association, the National Pro Natura Federation, in the castle of Sarre. Thus ended the long journey, which lasted almost thirty years, from the hunting reserve to the national park.

In the 2000s, the National Park was also recognized as a site of community interest (SIC/SPA code: IT1201000) and was part of the "Gran Paradiso" Important Bird Area (IBA code: IT008). In 2006 it was awarded the European Diploma of Protected Areas, renewed in 2012 together with the Vanoise National Park.

In 2007, the Governing Council of the Park Authority, with resolution no. 16 of 27 July 2007, established a modification of the boundaries of the park, notifying the Ministry of the Environment and for the Protection of the Territory and the Sea on 30 October 2007. By Decree of the President of the Republic of 27 May 2009, published in the Official Gazette no. 235 of 9 October 2009, the park was therefore rebounded, with a reduction of the overall total area equal to 0.07 percent of the territory. However, the President of the Republic considered the intervention positive because the selection of the peripheral areas to be included in the park was made on the basis of their naturalistic value, for example highly anthropised areas were sold and more natural areas were included, while for the new perimeter of the park, priority was given to the presence of natural boundaries to allow for a more rational management of the territory:

«In fact, anthropised areas have been sold, for example villages, obtaining in exchange areas of great naturalistic value (the wood, the peat bogs and the wetlands of the Dres valley in Ceresole, the larch woods with broad-leaved trees of Chevrère-Buillet of Introd, the of larch with stone pine and the heaths of the Vallone dell'Urtier in Cogne, the spruce forest of Sysoret, ideal habitat for Linnaea borealis in Aymavilles) or of significant landscape and cultural value (the secular chestnut groves of Noasca and Locana).

In 2014 the Gran Paradiso became part of the world Green List of protected areas, established by the Council of Europe. Gran Paradiso is the only Italian park to have obtained this recognition. This is reconfirmed in 2017 and 2021.


Physical geography


The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain massif culminating at over 4000 meters entirely in Italian territory. The park is affected by five main valleys: Val di Rhêmes, Val di Cogne, Valsavarenche, Valle dell'Orco and Val Soana; in particular, the borders are approximately delimited by Val di Cogne to the north, Val di Rhêmes to the west, Valle Orco to the south and Val Soana to the east. The band that goes from 3 to 4000 m is cloaked in 59 white glaciers, more extensive on the Aosta Valley side, of which at least 29 are constantly monitored by the rangers. These are perennial but relatively recent glaciers having formed during the "little glaciation" of the 17th century.

From the highest peak (4061m) starts the ridge that divides Cogne from Valsavarenche which, descending towards Aosta, rears up into the two peaks of Herbétet (3778m) and Grivola (3969m). On the Piedmont side, the Ciarforon (3642 m), the Tresenta (3609 m), the Becca di Monciair (3544 m) stand out against the sky. These mountains are easily identifiable, by an expert eye, even from the Turin plain. Ciarforon is one of the most unusual peaks in the Alps: on the Aosta side it is covered by an enormous ice cap; from Piedmont, its south wall falls almost vertically onto the valley below and the nearby Noaschetta Glacier.

The Torre del Gran San Pietro (3692m) and the Becchi della Tribolazione (about 3360m) are located in the upper Piantonetto valley; the privileged observation point is the Pontese refuge at Pian delle Muande in Teleccio. From Punta di Galisia (3346 m), a mountain on whose summit the borders of Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta and France meet, a ridge detaches in a south-easterly direction made up of jagged and pointed peaks which culminate in the imposing rocky bastion delle tre Levanne (about 3600 m): these are the jagged and glittering peaks that inspired the ode "Piemonte" to the poet Giosuè Carducci who had the opportunity to come to these parts in 1890 while he was presiding over his high school exams in Cuorgnè.

Granta Parey (3387 m) is the symbolic mountain of the Val di Rhêmes: it marks the westernmost point of the park. The peaks in the eastern sector of the park are lower; among them the Punta Lavina (3308 m) and the Rosa dei Banchi (3164 m) stand out. The latter is very popular with hikers due to the aerial panorama it offers towards the Soana Valley and the Champorcher Valley. The peaks of the national park are obviously part of the Graian Alps.



The geomorphology of the area was modeled by the expansion of the glaciers, which covered the whole area during the Quaternary glaciations, and typical aspects of the periglacial environment are still visible today in the areas surrounding the glaciers. In the valley of Ceresole Reale there are potholes of the giants [16]. The perennial snow line is located at about 3000 meters above sea level. In Valle Soana, in Piata di Lazin, there are the characteristic "stone circles" (patterned groud) shaped by frost.


Valleys and municipalities

Valle d'Aosta:
Cogne Valley (orographic left side): Cogne, Aymavilles
Valsavarenche (both sides): Valsavarenche, Introd, Villeneuve
Val di Rhêmes (orographic right side): Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, Rhêmes-Saint-Georges

Piedmont (Province of Turin):
Valle dell'Orco (left side + right side up to eastern Levanna): Ceresole Reale, Noasca, Locana, Ribordone (only the upper part of the valley)
Val Soana (valleys of Forzo, Campiglia and right sector of the valley of Piamprato): Valprato Soana, Ronco Canavese



The largest and most evocative lakes in the park are located in the area surrounding Colle del Nivolet. From the two lakes of Nivolet, in front of the Savoia refuge in the plateau of the same name, the Savara stream originates which, after flowing through the valley to which it gives its name (Valsavarenche), flows into the Dora Baltea near Aosta. After passing the grassy step above the refuge, we enter the Rosset plains where we see the most spectacular natural lakes of the entire protected area: Lake Leità with its particular elongated shape and Lake Rosset with its characteristic islet. The latter constitute the source of the Orco torrent which flows towards Piedmont and flows into the Po near Chivasso. Not far from the Rosset plains are the Lacs des trois becs (three large and two small) and continuing a little further the Black Lake (or Lake Leynir). The "region of the great lakes" is the heart of the national park: from the banks of these stretches of water, the view extends over all the main peaks of the Gran Paradiso and Levanne.
In Val di Rhêmes we find the pleasant Lake Pellaud: it is located inside a beautiful larch wood at a relatively low altitude (1811 m).
In Val di Cogne there are two interesting lakes: Lake Lauson (Valnontey) and Lake Loie (2356 m, Bardoney valley).
On the straight side of the Valle Orco, along the route of the royal mule track, just below the Colle della Terra, we find Lake Lillet among the moraines. Given the altitude (2765 m) this lake, except for a short summer period, is always frozen. In its vicinity you can meet, in the right season, herds of ibex, puppies and little goats of a few months. Lake Lillet can also be reached by a steep path that climbs from the Mua di Ceresole hamlet.
One of the lesser-known corners of the park is Lake Dres (2073m). It is located on the reverse slope of the Orco Valley, almost at the extreme southern border of the PNGP. It is one of the few points on the Piedmont side where you can see the summit and the glacier of the Gran Paradiso peeking out beyond the high Canavese peaks.
In the Vallone di Forzo, in Val Soana, there is Lake Lasin (2104 m); in the center of a wild basin it is characteristic for the large island that occupies the north-eastern part of the body of water.
It is interesting to remember that the city of Turin depends, for its hydroelectric supply, on the Canavese towns of Ceresole Reale and Locana. In Valle Orco there are no less than six artificial reservoirs managed by Iride S.p.A.: three are located along the road that leads to Colle del Nivolet (Ceresole Lake, Serrù Lake, Agnel Lake), three others in the side valleys of the sunny side (Piantonetto, Valsoera , Eugio).



Given the steep slopes that characterize the Gran Paradiso valleys, it goes without saying that the torrents that flow through them originate numerous waterfalls along their impetuous flow that refine the harsh landscape of the park. The most spectacular are those of Lillaz, a hamlet of Cogne. Also on the Piedmont side there are some picturesque waterfalls that can be easily observed by tourists: the one above the town of Noasca or the one formed by the Nel torrent at the height of the Chiapili di sotto hamlet. Near the huts of Chiapili di sopra, the highest village of Ceresole Reale, two other thunderous waterfalls make a fine show.



As required by the framework law on protected areas, the territory of the park is divided according to different degrees of protection:
integral reserve,
general oriented reservations,
protection areas,
areas of economic and social promotion.



In the lower part of the park, in terms of elevation, there are larch woods, grasslands, broad-leaved woods made up of aspen, hazel, wild cherry, sycamore, oak, chestnut, ash, birch, rowan. The beech woods, in a range between 800 and 1200 m, are found only on the Piedmont side between Noasca, Campiglia and Locana. Between 1500 and 2000 m there are coniferous forests. The stone pine is widespread in Val di Rhemês while the silver fir is found only in Val di Cogne near Vieyes, Sylvenoire and Chevril. In all the valleys we find evergreen spruce and larch. The latter is the only conifer in Europe that loses its needles in winter. The larch woods are very bright and allow the development of a thick undergrowth composed of rhododendrons, blueberries, raspberries, wood geraniums, wild strawberries. In general, spruce, larch and pine forests cover about 6% of the park territory.[19] Impossible to list the endless variety of flowers that from March to August enliven the different areas of the park with their colors. We will limit ourselves to a few examples. The martagon lily typical of the forest, and the St. John's lily that blossoms in the meadows, bloom in early summer. The very poisonous aconite is found along watercourses. Between the highest part of the woods and 2200 m there are expanses of rhododendrons with their characteristic cyclamen-coloured bell-shaped flowers.

Above 2500 m among the rocks saxifrage, alpine androsace, artemisia, chickweed and ice buttercup find their habitat. Even the edelweiss and the genepì are found at these heights but they are very rare. Peat bogs and wetlands are colonized by cotton grass whose white balls herald the end of summer.



The symbolic animal of the park is the ibex present in about 2700 units (September 2011 census). The adult male can weigh from 90 to 120 kg while the horns can even reach 100 cm. The female, smaller, has smoother horns just 30 cm long. The herds are made up of only males or females and puppies. Elderly males live isolated. The mating season coincides with the months of November and December; in this period the male ibexes that have reached full sexual maturity fight each other, piercing the silence of the valleys with the unmistakable sound of the gorings audible even from the valley floor. The female remains fertile for a few days. Pregnancy lasts six months. In late spring, the ibex retires to some isolated ledge where she will give birth (May, June) to one calf, sometimes two. The ibex has a mild and imperturbable character and is easily observed by man.

The chamois, on the other hand, is diffident, elegant in its leaps, fast and snappy. Of smaller dimensions (maximum 45-50 kg), there are over 8000 specimens. Its horns, not as imposing as those of the ibex, are thin and slightly hooked. This ungulate is no longer in danger of extinction as the absolute lack of natural predators has favored its numerical growth and excessive colonization of the territory (during the winter they go down to the valley damaging the undergrowth, cross the paved roads, reach look for food a few meters from the houses) so as to sometimes require selective hunting actions to reduce their number.

The park, in the past, was not a balanced and complete ecosystem. Natural predators were completely absent: the bear and the wolf had been extinct for centuries, the others were persecuted in the days of the reserve. The task of the Royal Hunters Guards was to protect the game not only from poachers but also from animals considered harmful and the king rewarded with large tips the killing of a lynx, a bearded vulture, a fox or an eagle. This led to the extinction of the European lynx and the bearded vulture around 1912-13.

Today, thanks to surveillance and conservation activities, there are 27 pairs of golden eagles (2013 census), reaching one of the highest densities of pairs of golden eagles in the Alps, while the fox remains very present. About thirty years ago the techniques for the reintroduction of the lynx were experimented. Furthermore, the bearded vulture has also been reintroduced, which can now number around 7 individuals. Since 2011 the Bearded Vulture has started nesting again in the Park, although without success in the first year. In 2012 the nesting was repeated for two pairs and was successful in both cases, with the rearing of a young for each nest. The wolf, on the increase in Italy, going up the Apennines, has returned to being seen in the Park in recent years and today has 6-7 specimens, it is a family herd of 5-6 specimens between Valsavarenche, Val di Rhêmes and Valgrisenche and a lone wolf in Val di Cogne. In 2017, the formation of a herd in Valsavarenche was ascertained, with six puppies.

Another very common mammal in the park is the marmot (there are about 6000 units). It lives in underground burrows with several burrows as exit routes. It prefers grasslands and flat areas, especially in the Val di Rhêmes and in the Valsavarenche. It is a rodent and with the first colds it falls into a deep hibernation that lasts almost six months. Its cry is unmistakable: a whistle that the "sentinel" marmot emits, straightening itself vertically, when it sees a danger or an animal foreign to its environment followed by the sudden stampede of the other members of the herd.

Numerous species of birds are also part of the Gran Paradiso fauna: buzzards, woodpeckers, tits, ptarmigans, choughs, sparrowhawks, goshawks, owls, owls.

Two species of trout swim in the lakes and streams: one native, the brown trout, the other allochthonous, the fountain char, the latter introduced in the sixties for tourism with the consent of some scientists of the time, and in eradication course from high altitude lakes thanks to the "Life+ Bioaquae Project".

In 4 small alpine lakes: the lakes of Nivolet Superiore, Trebecchi Inferiore, Trebecchi Superiore and Lillet, the presence of a small crustacean, the Daphnia middenndorffiana, was found. They are all lakes located at an altitude of more than 2500 m a.s.l. and without fish fauna and this daphnia is a species that normally has as its habitat the fresh waters of the arctic ecosystems.

Among the reptiles we remember the common viper (Vipera aspis, typical of dry areas, and among the amphibians the salamander Salamandra salamandra). In the coniferous woods it sometimes happens to find piles of conifer needles even half a meter high: they are the nests of the Formica rufa.



Points of interest

Of particular interest are the habitats considered priority by the Habitats Directive: calcareous floors, Pinus uncinata forests, low-calcareous marshes with alpine pioneer formations of Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae, dry grassy formations on calcareous substratum (Festuco-Brometalia), active raised bogs, wooded bogs. In particular, within the park there are some biotopes of particular Community interest, proposed as Natura 2000 sites of Community interest:

Prascondù (code IT1110046)
Vallone Azaria - Barmaion - Torre Lavina (pSIC code: IT1110059)
Vallone del Carro, Piani del Nivolet, Col Rosset (pSIC code: IT1110060)
High altitude calcareous environments of the Rhêmes Valley (pSIC code: IT1201010)
Parriod wood (pSCI code: IT1201020)
Eaux Rousses, Djouan lake, Colle Entrelor (pSIC code: IT1201030)
Walloons south of La Grivola (pSIC code: IT1201040)
Sylvenoire forest - Arpissonet (pSIC code: IT1201050)
Gran Paradiso peak - Money (pSIC code: IT1201060)
Alpine peat bog of Pra Suppiaz (pSIC code: IT1201070)


Visitor Centers

The visitor centers of the park are single-theme information points (the bearded vulture, the ibex, the chamois, geology, predators, trades) distributed throughout the territory of the various municipalities of the park and present in each valley. They are managed by the Park Authority, especially in the Aosta Valley they are managed in collaboration with Fondation Grand-Paradis.

The visitor centers are:
Homo and Ibex in Ceresole Reale
The shapes of the landscape in Noasca
Spaciafurnel - Old and new trades in Locana
Culture and religious traditions in Ribordone
Traditions and biodiversity in a fantastic valley in Ronco
The precious predators in Valsavarenche in the locality of Degioz, dedicated to the lynx and its return in the seventies and from 31 July 2011 with a new space dedicated to the wolf
Welcome back Bearded Vulture! in Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, in the Chanavey locality, dedicated to the bearded vulture and the park's avifauna
Tutel-Activa Park Laboratory in Cogne, laboratory in the Miners Village born in 2007
Water and Biodiversity in Rovenaud (Valsavarenche)
Man and crops in Campiglia Soana

In addition to the visitor centers there are some museum exhibitions or botanical collections:
Old School of Maison, permanent exhibition in Noasca
The high mountain peat bogs in Ceresole Reale (closed)
Alpine garden Paradisia in Valnontey
Ecomuseum of copper in Ronco Canavese (closed)


Refuges and bivouacs

Numerous refuges are set up inside the park, in addition to bivouacs for mountaineers and for those who use them occasionally in compliance with the rules dictated by the CAI. Each of them has different opening and closing periods and in some the possibility of board and/or accommodation is given. Among them, the refuges that have obtained the "Quality Mark" from the Park Authority are the Guido Muzio refuge, the Massimo Mila refuge, the Le Fonti refuge, the Mario Bezzi refuge.


Full list:
Municipality of Aymavilles:
Bivouac Mario Gontier (2,310 m a.s.l.)
Municipality of Ceresole Reale:
Guido Muzio Refuge
Massimo Mila Refuge
Guglielmo Jervis Refuge
Le Fonti Refuge
Pian della Ballotta Refuge
Municipality of Cogne:
Refuge Sogno di Berdzé al Péradzà
Vittorio Sella Refuge, at Lauson
Municipality of Locana:
Pontese refuge in Val Teleccio
Municipality of Noasca:
Noaschetta Refuge
Municipality of Rhêmes-Notre-Dame:
Gian Federico Benevolo Refuge
Municipality of Valgrisenche:
Chalet de l'Épée refuge (2,370 m a.s.l.)
Mario Bezzi Hut (2,284 m a.s.l.)
Municipality of Valprato Soana:
Piamprato GTA Stage Place
Giovanni Bausano Refuge
Municipality of Valsavarenche:
Refuge in the city of Chivasso on the Nivolet hill (2,604 m a.s.l.)
Federico Chabod Refuge (at 2,750 m a.s.l.)
Margherita di Savoia refuge (2,534 m a.s.l.)
Vittorio Emanuele II Refuge (2,735 m a.s.l.)


Religious architecture

Sanctuary of Prascondù, which also houses the Museum of Popular Religiousness created by the Park Authority.


Gastronomy and crafts

The Park's food products are mainly bodeun (sausage made with pork blood and potatoes and mocetta, a chamois-based salami). The craftsmanship of leather, copper, wrought iron and mountain agricultural tools survives.



The toponym "Gran Paradiso" derives, by assonance and via the French Grand paradis, from the Aosta Valley patois Granta Parei, which means great wall. It is the same etymology of the nearby Granta Parey. Another (unofficial) toponym used locally is mont Iseran.

Features Monte
The Gran Paradiso is the third highest peak among all those located completely in Italian territory, it follows in order: the Corno Nero (4321 m) and the Piramide Vincent (4215 m), all peaks included in the Monte Rosa massif between the municipalities of Alagna Valsesia and Gressoney-La-Trinité.

The summit of Gran Paradiso is located entirely in the Valle d'Aosta area on the border between the municipalities of Cogne and Valsavarenche, and therefore is the highest peak of the only mountain massif culminating at over 4000 meters entirely in Italian territory. From the summit the summit ridge descends towards the south which soon reaches the Roc (4026 m), an elevation included in the secondary list of 4000 of the Alps.

Several glaciers descend from the sides of the mountain: from the western side towards the Valsavarenche descend the Gran Paradiso Glacier and the Laveciau Glacier; the Tribolazione Glacier descends on the eastern side towards the Val di Cogne



The first ascension was made on 4th September 1860 by John Jeremy Cowell, W. Dundas, Michel Payot and Jean Tairraz, on the current normal route.

Today this route is generally considered an easy climb (difficulty F +), apart from the last 60 meters. As proof of the relative ease of access to the summit, the priest-mountaineer Joseph-Marie Henry in 1931 even managed to lead a donkey to the top. Don Achille Ratti, future Pope Pius XI, conquered the summit although burdened with the weight of a boy he carried on his shoulders.


Ascension record

The ascension record of the Gran Paradiso belongs to Nadir Maguet who on 15 July 2020 completed the round trip from Valsavarenche in with 2h02'32 ", beating the historic record of Ettore Champrétavy from Valle d'Aosta, skyrunning athlete, who in 1995 reached the summit from the Pont di Valsavarenche hamlet (1960 m) and back in just 2 hours, 21 minutes and 36 seconds (1 hour, 43 minutes and 22 seconds one way).

The previous ascension record of the Gran Paradiso was set by Valerio Bertoglio, park guard of Ceresole Reale with a past as an athlete, on August 6, 1991. Bertoglio took 2 hours 32 minutes and 6 seconds from the Pont di Valsavarenche hamlet to the summit of the Gran Paradiso and back (1 hour and 50 minutes one way).


Mountaineering routes

The climbs usually start from the Federico Chabod Refuge or the Vittorio Emanuele II Refuge. The first was dedicated in 1966 to the great historian and mountaineer Federico Chabod; the second is named after Vittorio Emanuele II King of Italy, who created in 1856 the royal hunting reserve of Gran Paradiso, today the Gran Paradiso National Park.

Normal route from the Vittorio Emanuele II Refuge
The normal route from the Vittorio Emanuele II Refuge initially runs north on a moraine formed by large blocks of stone; then turn right (eastward) in a small valley bordered by the wide lateral moraines of the glacier; then you start to climb the Gran Paradiso Glacier with fairly regular slopes and encountering few crevasses. Going up you meet the characteristic Schiena d'Asino, pass near the Becca di Moncorvé hill until you reach the final crevasse, after which the short, albeit demanding, final ridge to the Madonnina della summit remains to be covered.

Normal route from the Federico Chabod Refuge
The climb from the Federico Chabod Refuge takes place first along the moraine and then on the Laveciau Glacier. Climbing up the somewhat crevassed glacier you reach the Schiena d'Asino and here the ascent route joins the one coming from the Vittorio Emanuele II Refuge.

Classic route, North Face
The ascent of the north face starts from the Federico Chabod Refuge; it takes place first along the moraine, then on the Laveciau Glacier and finally on the north-west face of the mountain. Shortly after the entrance to the glacier, you leave the track of the normal route and head decisively towards the bergschrund. After passing it, go up the wall on constant slopes, bypassing the main serac on the left until you reach the ridge. Follow the ridge briefly (first snowy and then rocky) until you reach the summit.



The park organizes numerous educational and educational activities with schools and offers the possibility of carrying out various activities in the adventure camps and work camps at various times of the year. In the park it is also possible to practice ski mountaineering with the support of alpine and trekking guides. Furthermore, thanks to the Rê.V.E. – Grand Paradis, co-financed with the ERDF fund of the European Union, since 2012 a fleet of pedal assisted electric bicycles has been available to cross the park, in one of the largest bike sharing systems in Europe.

Trail for the blind
Since 1992 there has been an equipped path for the blind in the park of about one kilometer and with a slight slope.

Project "Walk in the Clouds"
With the "Walking in the clouds" project, the Park promotes gentle mobility, regulating private car traffic in the summer along the road that leads to Colle del Nivolet and encouraging travel on foot, by bike and by shuttle.

Gran Paradiso Quality Mark
The Gran Paradiso Quality Mark is an identification tool that the Park institution assigns to operators in the tourism, hotel, craft and agri-food sectors, committed to a process of quality and sustainability to guarantee consumers that they come from the Park area, the quality of processes and respect for the environment.