Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park is a stunning mountainous area with unforgettable views and a unique history. Victor Emanuel declared the area a Royal Hunting Reserve to protect the resident ibex, although he exempted himself from the ban. His grandson then entirely restricted hunting in the park and proclaimed Gran Paradiso as the first national park in Italy in the early 1920s. With incredible hiking and recreational opportunities, this park is a must-see for any mountain lover visiting Italy.

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About Gran Paradiso National Park

The Gran Paradiso spans 703 square kilometres in the Graian Alps of Piedmont and the Aosta Valley. It’s home to 57 glaciers and countless peaks, some up to 4000m above sea level. From alpine meadows to waterfalls and streams, the park is known for its natural beauty. Not only are the ibex happily flourishing, but you can run into ermine, wolves, badgers, lynx, owls, eagles, and more native wildlife within the park boundaries. The park centres around Mount Gran Paradiso, the 7th highest peak in Italy, which attracts avid adventurers seeking rewarding and spectacular vistas.

Some of the trails are more than 100 years old, and in winter, visitors can spoil themselves by skiing on an untouched canopy of snow. Mountain bikers also favour the park, as many of the trails are bike-friendly. There’s no shortage of sights to see or places to explore in Gran Paradiso National Park!

Looking at Cogne Ski complex from Grauson Valley
Looking at Cogne Ski complex from Grauson Valley

How to get to Gran Paradiso National Park

Want to go to Gran Paradiso National Park? We’ve got you covered! Well, we can’t pay for you to get there, but we can give you some direction when it comes to flying, driving, and public transport.

Driving to Gran Paradiso National Park

It’s definitely easy to drive to Gran Paradiso National Park from numerous places. Do note that there are different entrances to the park: the Piedmont side and the Aosta side. To get to the Piedmont side, hop in your car and drive along the Orca Valley Road and take a right at Pont Canavese. Once you reach Ivrea, you’ll go on Castellamonte Road, and then follow Road 460.

For the Aosta side, follow the A5. Eventually, you’ll follow the Cogne, Savarenche, and Rhêmes valleys signs.

For some perspective, here are some driving times to consider for the Aosta side:

  • Turin via A5 – 1h 45min
  • Milan via A4 and E15 – 2h 45min
  • Geneva (Switzerland) via A40 – 2h 30 min
  • Lyon (France) via A40 – 3h 45min

Do note that these travel times are from the city mentioned to Cogne.

Access to the park is from either the Piedmont side, closer to Turin, or the Aosta Valley side, which is closer to Aosta.

Flying to Gran Paradiso

Not interested in driving or taking public transport? Want to maximize your time at the park by getting there faster? Take a flight. To reach the Aosta side of Gran Paradiso National Park, it’ll take this long from each airport:

  • Turin – 1h 45min
  • Milan Malpensa – 2h 15min
  • Geneva (Switzerland) – 2h 45 min
  • Milan Linate – 3h
  • Bergamo – 3h 15min

The Piedmont side is closest to the airport in Turin. From here, you can either rent a car, take the train, or take a bus to the park.

Public transport

To reach the Piedmont side from the airport in Turin via public transport, you’ll either hop on the train at Stazione Caselle Aeroporto and take the SFMA towards Stazione Germagnano. From Stazione Germagnano, take the 402 bus, which runs once daily. It takes just under 3 hours to transfer from the airport to the Piedmont side via public transport. But it’s cheaper than renting a car!

From Aosta, take the S.V.A.P. Società Cooperativa towards Cogne! This ride only lasts 45 minutes and costs around $4 CAD.

Best time to visit Gran Paradiso National Park

Is there ever a wrong time to visit Gran Paradiso? Each season has unique benefits. Winter is perfect for skiing, especially from December through March. Spring brings wildflowers and impressive waterfalls. Summer is prime hiking time, with the warmest weather and driest trails. Autumn lights up the park with its radiant foliage.

The best time to visit the park depends mostly on your desired activities. Hikers and mountain bikers should wait until the snow melts on the trails, which tends to happen by June. Shoulder season is possible on lower elevation trails, and the fall is particularly lovely. Skiers and snowboarders will likely get the best snow in the late winter, about February.

Walking along the Valnontey River with the highest peaks of Gran Paradiso National Park behind
Walking along the Valnontey River with the highest peaks of Gran Paradiso National Park behind

How to get around Gran Paradiso National Park

Visitors will have the easiest time exploring the park if they rent a car, but it’s possible to enjoy Gran Paradiso without one as well. If you base your trip in Cogne, you’ll be close to plenty of trailheads and a visitor’s centre with maps and other helpful information. Cogne also has places to stay and eat. You can get to Cogne from Aosta by bus.

Italy’s public transportation is relatively robust, so you generally should be able to get from A to B by bus or train if you don’t have a car. All train and bus timetables are available on one common website.

But if you don’t want to abide by train times, you can look into renting a car at the Aosta airport here. There are also numerous spots to rent a car in Turin if you flew there. For those that went straight to Cogne, you may be able to find car rentals via standards websites like KAYAK, Expedia, and RentalUp.

Gran Paradiso National Park map

Where to stay in Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso National Park sits near various villages and towns, making it easy to choose which location suits you best!

While some designated areas within the park allow camping, do note that wilderness and random camping are not permitted. Look into pulling out your tent or staying in one of the bungalows at Camping Gran Paradiso! To get here, you’ll travel to Valsavarenche and follow the main road until you reach Plan de la Pesse. The campground is located here.

Want to stay somewhere with a little more swank, and a little less rugged? You can look into accommodations in Aosta, Cogne, Valsavarenche, or if you’re only planning on making a day trip here, consider staying in Turin.

Hotels in Aosta

This mountain-backed town, paved with narrow alleys and cobblestone streets, is the perfect place to stay when visiting Gran Paradiso National Park. It gives you a chance to experience Italian delights (try out the cheese here) and explore the spectacular wild! Gran Paradiso National Park is around 30 minutes from Aosta.

If you want a hotel that boasts of character and delicious local cuisine, consider booking at the La Meridiana du Cadran Solaire.

Or experience a blend of chic, warmth, and coziness at the affordable Maison Colombot!

Hotels in Cogne

If you don’t have a car and want to make the most of Gran Paradiso National Park, stay in Cogne! This quaint mountain village may not have as many attractions as Aosta, but the views of the Alps will keep you satisfied.

Places to stay may be limited, but consider looking into (one of the cheaper options, but still on the more expensive side) the ever-so-charming Les Trompeurs. This hotel is right next to Gran Paradiso National Park.

You can also glam it up and pay to stay inside the park at the lavish Bellevue Hotel & Spa!

Hotels in Valsavarenche

This lush commune within Gran Paradiso National Park attracts those who want to spend most of their days exploring the paths carved into this stunning outdoor playground! Tap into your romantic side at the Hotel Parco Nazionale or a’ l’Hostellerie du Paradis.

Hotels in Turin

Suppose you want to spend most of your time exploring other areas, including Turin, Aosta, and the park. In that case, you may want to consider staying in Turin and planning a day trip or two Gran Paradiso National Park—it’s not too far, after all. It’s only a 2-hour drive! It’s best to have a car for this option because public transport will take up too much time.

Bask in luxury at the high-rated Turin Palace Hotel or enjoy a more budget-friendly option by staying at the cozy Hotel Galant.

Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle II is a stop for those willing to climb Gran Paradiso
Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle II is a stop for those willing to climb Gran Paradiso

Where to Eat in Gran Paradiso National Park

Not only does a visit to Gran Paradiso National Park take you through a plethora of breathtaking views, but it gives you a chance to enjoy Italian cuisine at its finest! And what’s not to love about the food and drink here: cheese, wine, bread, pasta, pizza, and the list goes on. So where can you eat here? We’ll discuss some of the best restaurants in each of the places we listed above.

Places to eat in Aosta

  • Meat eaters unite! Come and gather at the Ristorante La Chaumiere.
  • Enjoy authentic local food at Sapori di Casa. It earned a “Travellers’ Choice Award 2020” on TripAdvisor, so you know it’s good.
  • Can’t decide between Italian or American food, but want a good atmosphere? Go to Puburger!
  • Make the most of Aosta’s nightlife by going to Pub Beautiful! They also serve salads and sandwiches here, and they will definitely please your palate.

Places to eat in Cogne

  • Enjoy food and scenic views at Lou Bequet. They specialize in Italian and European cuisine, as well as soups.
  • Gluten-free options, a spectacular setting, and yummy Italian food make Ristorante Sant’Orso & Terrazza a remarkable place to eat after a day of hiking.
  • Wake up and enjoy a coffee and croissants at Cafe’ Du Centre Cogne. You won’t be disappointed!

Places to eat in Valsavarenche

  • Consume local cuisine at hostellerie du paradis! The simple medieval-styled decor paired with scrumptious Italian dishes will have you wanting to come back for more.
  • Enjoy hearty, fulfilling meals at L’Abro de la Leunna. This restaurant also serves Italian cuisine.
  • Go on a two-hour walk and refuel your body at Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II, located in the heart of the park. You can also stay here overnight!

Places to eat in Turin

  • If you’re in Turin, you need to go to Pasto! No one seems to have a bad experience at this Italian restaurant.
  • Rock Burger will please those with big appetites! It offers American and Italian cuisine, and boasts a fantastic atmosphere.
  • Need a caffeine pick-me-up and craving pastries? Caffetteria Pino has everything you need.

There are also a collection of places to eat within the park! Consider looking into Rifugio Guido Muzio for hot food and wine, to name one.

Climbers near the top of Gran Paradiso
Climbers near the top of Gran Paradiso

Things to do in Gran Paradiso National Park

Congrats, you’ve made it into the park! Now, where to go? Here are some of the best things to do in Gran Paradiso.

Hike

Carved into Gran Paradiso National Park sits an array of hiking trails worth exploring! The bodies of water nestled below snow-capped peaks amount to remarkable views. So lace up your shoes or boots and hit the trails. There are many hikes to choose from, but we suggest Alpe Money if you were to do any walk. This 16.3km is knockout when it comes to supernatural vistas. Prepare for a challenging, day-long expedition, but trust us; it’s so worth the momentary pain.

If you want a shorter hike, one that will get you outside, consider the Valnontey River Trail! It may be a short route, but the scenery will stay in your memory forever. Another fantastic one is Rifugio Vittorio Sella. Pass by glaciers and alpine lakes on this great hike, and then unwind at the mountain chalet with some Italian fare and a glass of wine. No matter which hike you choose, the vast, staggering views will intoxicate and enchant.

Climb

Mountaineers can enjoy excellent climbing all over Grand Paradiso National Park. One of the most famous climbs is to take two or three days to reach the top of Gran Paradiso. Beginners can do this climb as well, but it’s essential to be fit to do this.

Ski

That big mountain? Yep, you can ski on that! The Gran Paradiso offers 21.0km of runs serviced by eight lifts—there are so many options to choose from!

Avid ski and snowboard lovers will fall in love with the powdered bliss blanketing Gran Paradiso National Park, where less-travelled-by slopes await. Not into off-piste thrills? Enjoy one of the five different ski resorts within the national park:

Chanavey, Valgrisenche, Rhemes Notre Dame, Cogne-Gran Paradiso, and Payel di Valsavarenche – Dégioz (temporarily closed).

If you’re an intermediate skier or snowboarder, consider going to Chanavey, which has 3.0km of intermediate slopes, 1.0km of easy slopes, and 2.0km of challenging slopes.

Meanwhile, Valgrisenche offers a blend of the three levels but offers more difficult routes than beginner and intermediate.

Rhemes Notre Dame isn’t too much of a ski resort, with only 0.5km of slopes, but the area is tailor-made for beginners!

Lastly, Cogne-Gran Paradiso has 8.0km of slopes available, four lifts, and many intermediate trails. Which one will you try out?

Beautiful views near Cogne in Aosta
Beautiful views near Cogne in Aosta

Cycle

Grab your bike and hit the trails! There are both cycling tours and open trails for you to enjoy all through the park if you want a more relaxed ride. Whizzing down a mountain after killing your legs on the way up never gets old, does it? There are 24 mountain bike trails to choose from. One highlight would be Cappella degli Alpini – Cret. This route takes you to a chapel, which sits at 2010m above sea level. Admire the staggering view of the Cogne valley from here! This is a demanding route and can take around 3-4 hours. Or you can try Salita al Banzai-Trail di Cogne, which is around 32.0km. It’s also a challenging route!

Birdwatch

Gran Paradiso is a birdwatcher’s paradise! We challenge you to try to spot (and name) the 100 species spanning this park.

Keep a sharp eye out for green woodpeckers, hazel grouse, warblers, and, of course, the birds that thrive in the Alps: golden eagles, bearded vultures, yellow-billed chough, and red-billed chough. So bring your binoculars along on your hiking adventures!

Spot Wildlife

The park is full to the brim with wildlife. When you explore this park, you’ll likely notice a variety of woodland creatures dotting the landscape. Keep in mind that Gran Paradiso National Park was first established to protect certain species from extinction, such as the ibex! So look out for this wild goat as you hike or bike.

You may also encounter other unique species, such as ermine, Eurasian badger, alpine chamois, and other more popular, well-known animals—wolf, weasel, and hare. Some may even spot a lynx.

Visiting Gran Paradiso national park during the summer is a very rewarding experience
Visiting Gran Paradiso national park during the summer is a very rewarding experience

How to stay safe in Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso and the towns within are not generally dangerous places. Follow general travel safety advice as you always would: secure your valuables, don’t wear flashy jewellery, travel with other trusted individuals, and have a well-thought-out travel plan in place.

Activity-specific safety considerations should be on your mind while you’re out adventuring: know your backpacking safety, and make sure you have the right gear. Have a basic first aid kit ready, and make sure you review your intended route before setting off.

Interesting facts about Gran Paradiso National Park

  1. Gran Paradiso National Park is the largest protected alpine area in all of Europe.
  2. The park is home to over 100 species of birds.
  3. Gran Paradiso was the first national park established in Italy.
  4. In September 1860, Englishman John Cowell became the first person to reach the summit of Gran Paradiso.
Mountain bikers enjoying riding the Gran Paradiso national park mountains
Mountain bikers enjoying riding the Gran Paradiso national park mountains

Frequently asked questions about Gran Paradiso National Park

Do I need a visa to travel to Gran Paradiso?

Gran Paradiso National Park is in Italy. Visa requirements vary based on your country of origin, and you can find more information here.

Is Gran Paradiso expensive to visit?

The park can be enjoyed on a budget or with more lavish spending. Because of the wide range of places to stay and eat, you should be able to adjust your trip to your budget. Hotels can range anywhere from about $60 USD up for the most basic rooms, and meals are often in the ballpark of $15-$20 USD. Transportation costs can add up between planes, trains, or rental cars, and you should make sure you’re equipped with the right gear for your activities. Beyond the essentials, it’s up to you how luxurious your hotels, meals, and excursions are.

Can I take my dog?

Dogs are only allowed in the lower valley sections of the park and must be kept on leash. From July 15th through September 15th, there are a few select trails where you can walk your pup.

Do I have to pay to enter the park?

The park can be accessed free of charge.

Can I camp in the park?

You can camp in designated campsites in the park. Tents, caravans and campers can enjoy designated sites with amenities. No camping outside of designated areas is permitted.

How can I safely observe the wildlife?

There are so many incredible animals in the park, and you’re almost sure to find at least a few. Remember that wildlife should always be appreciated from a safe distance. Don’t approach wildlife, and don’t ever attempt to feed them.