Etna Park

Environment and Nature, Naturalistic places and wildlife parks

Environment and Nature, Naturalistic places and wildlife parks.
The Etna Park covers 59,000 hectares in a unique natural environment: the extraordinary landscape that surrounds the highest active volcano in Europe, has become, since June 2013, a World Heritage Site.

The proximity to the city of Catania and the A18 Messina-Catania highway allows easy connections to the Park. The towns that surround the Etna Park (Adrano, Belpasso, Biancavilla, Bronte, Castiglione di Sicilia, Giarre, Linguaglossa, Maletto, Mascali, Milo, Nicolosi, Pedara, Piedimonte Etneo, Ragalna, Randazzo, Sant'Alfio, Santa Maria di Licodia, Trecastagni, Viagrande, Zafferana Etnea) are connected with Catania and with each other.

In the summit area, at 3,326 m above sea level, there are four main craters that can be reached in two ways: going to the meeting points where you will be accompanied by authorized volcanological guides; going up to 2,900 m above sea level (Torre del Filosofo) by cable car.

During the winter, the volcano offer the chance to enjoy an almost "alpine" atmosphere while continuing to appreciate the sea. While trekking in this season you might need to wear snowshoes or cross-country skis, mountaineering skis, crampons and ice axe.

TRAILS AND PATHS

Etna Park trails

In the Park area there are many different paths that will lead you to the discovery of the Etna, trails with different difficulties and durations. Here below a selection of trails with a detailed description on the Etna Park website and interactive maps.

782 / Monte Nero degli Zappini

This has been the first Sentiero Natura ever to be created in Sicily (in mid-1991) and today it remains one of the most popular hiking trails in the territory of the Etna Park. It is named after the Sicilian dialectal term for pine trees. The route is not particularly difficult. It unwinds from the plateau located West of Monte Vetore (1823 m a.s.l.) at a short distance from the Grande Albergo dell’Etna. It crosses ancient and recent lava fields (1985-2001), lava flow caves, hornitos, “cannon-shaped” stones (solidified sarcophagi of lava solidified around tree trunks), wooded formations, impressive pines of exceptional beauty, and finally reaches the Botanical Garden New Gussonea. This was created by the University of Catania and the Regional Forestry Authority and represents a very important study place. Here all the main environments characterising the Etna area have been recreated and all the plant species of Etna can be observed. From here, along a stretch of paved road, the starting point is reached and the ring route completed. The trail develops entirely within the Forestry Property and offers several observation points, each with its specific features, constituting a significant cross-section of the natural environment of Mount Etna. It is advisable to walk the trail in spring and autumn, avoiding the hot summer climate and the sudden snowfalls that may occur in winter.

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726 / Grotta dei Lamponi – Grotta del Gelo

Of the four paths available today, this is the classic route used by generations of hikers to reach the site of an almost unique natural phenomenon in the South of Italy, namely a cave featuring a perennial, though modest, amount of ice. The Grotta del Gelo (Eng.: Ice Cave) is located at an altitude of 2,030 m a.s.l., in the middle of a lava field produced by an epic eruption that, according to the chronicles, lasted ten years (1614-1624). It can be reached through a not always evident track departing from Passo dei Dammusi at an altitude of 1,707 along Hiking Trail no. 701. The difference in altitude is 323 m and its length approximately 3,800 metres.

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720 / Grotta delle Palombe

A hiker wishing to travel the “Sentiero Italia” from East to West through Mount Etna must walk this trail. After descending from Malvagna and passing through the tiny and orderly village of Verzella, we approach the volcanic massif by crossing the S.S. 120 in the first place and subsequently, after entering the perimeter of the Etna Park, the “Quota 1000” S.P. West of M. Dolce. The route overlaps with a notable ancient mule track, and through it goes up to an altitude of 1,235 m, where it meets a forest road. Once entered the latter, hikers pass through a flat area, called Passo SilIetta, at an altitude of 1,370 m. Here are two groups of sheepfolds divided into numerous chambers separated by walls built with dry lava stone. Finally, the route heads south again a forest road passing through the State Forestry Property-owned Casermetta di Grotta delle Palombe, eventually to join the Pista Altomontana at an altitude of 1,620m.

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713 / Monte La Nave

From Maletto and the State Road (S.S.) no. 284, it is possible to climb up to the Volcano’s middle zones by walking along M. La Nave to meet the State Forestry Property border. Hiking Trail no. 713 starts here and leads to the Pista Altomontana, through a 2.3-km route and a 250-m difference of altitude. Just before their junction, the State Forestry Company-owned La Nave Lodge is located at an altitude of 1438 m. This can provide hikers with an emergency shelter. The route largely benefits from the shade of different species of oak trees.

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702 / Pista ai Crateri Sommitali

It consists of a dirt road built several decades ago by the licensed companies in charge of trasporting tourists by off-road minibuses. It departs from the two ski resorts and ends at the authorised quotas, which have varied through the years according to the risk arising from volcanic activity. The road starts on the south side, at an altitude of 1,910 m, next to the Cableway station and encircles the summit area at an altitude of around 3,000 m a.s.l., keeping the distance from the complex of terminal and sub-terminal craters, thus ensuring a reasonable level of security. It then descends to Piano Provenzana (about 1,800 m) where there is an additional ski resort. The track is shared between hikers and motor vehicles. On the south side, it has been modified or even completely remade a number times in the 1970s, 1980s and early 2000s, when the new Escrivà de Balaguer and Vincenzino Barbagallo craters appeared along it and large lava flows cross edits south-descending ridge. From this side, short detours allow hikers to overlook the underlying Valle del Bove in several points, over most of the lava has flowed from the South-East Crater in recent years. The path also allows visiting the aforementioned recently appeared craters and observing, from a relatively close distance, the complex consisting of the two summit chasms, one of which retains the name of Central Crater, and the older 1968 complex of Bocca Nuova and the two sub-terminal North-East and Southeast craters. On the North side, the track has faced much less changes and, with short detour, allows hikers to reach Pizzi Deneri (2,847 m) and the underlying Rocca della Valle (2,738 m). These are extraordinary terraces allowing enjoying a wide panorama that stretches above Valle del Bove and Valle del Leone, both located on the slopes of the volcano. The two ends of the route can be reached by private vehicles and constitute Hiking Base Points.

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701 / Pista Altomontana

The 34.400-km route develops almost entirely along a ring-shaped wide road covering about 60% of the volcano’s perimeter, located at an altitude between a minimum of 1,435 m on the north side to a maximum of 1,917 on the west side. The only exception is a short pass stretching through a narrow lava path resulting from the 1981 eruption, which spilled onto the north flank threatening the town of Randazzo. The ring it outlines is not a closed one, due to the chasm of the Valle del Bove, not impossible though difficult to cross. Though curved in shape, the length and conformation of the Pista Altomontana make it a sort of backbone of the Etna trail network, as it is accessible from almost all the villages surrounding Etna through some paths featuring a roughly radial track. Subsequently, it is possible to proceed towards the summit areas from some of its junctions, following other paths through large radial lines. The Pista Altomontana could be defined as the “hub” of the Etna trails, as it allows reaching the medium altitudes of the Volcano from one side and descend from another one. It also allows crossing and enjoying almost all the landscapes that Mount Etna can offer, ranging from different types of tall trees forests and- in particular – pine woods with larch pine and beech woods, to harsh lava flows characterised by very diverse shapes and appearance. The Pista Altomontana roughly marks the border between the second and third of the three circular belts into which the ancient authors used to divide Etna, that is, the downstream wooded belt and the upstream volcanic desert belt. Finally, it allows admiring an hourly changing panorama overlooking the two underlying valleys of the Simeto and Alcantara rivers, the mountainous complexes of Nebrodi and Peloritani and the villages scattered across them. Along it, or at short distance, there are a dozen small buildings, generally owned by the former State Forestry Company, some of which are available as emergency shelter or a basic overnight stay for adequately equipped hikers. The two ends of the route can be both reached by private motor vehicles and constitute Hiking Base Points.

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