Gran Paradiso National Park (Italian: Parco nazionale del Gran Paradiso) is located in northern Italy, between Aosta Valley and Piedmont region, at the border with France. It was the first national park established in Italy. A land of beautiful mountains, endless woodlands and rich wildlife. It is named after Gran Paradiso mountain (4061m) located in the middle of the park.
This destination was always on my bucket list but I didn’t know that the mountain range where the park is located is called Graian Alps. Even Mount Blanc belongs to this mountain range… A significant gap in my knowledge about the Alps.
As a base we have chosen La Maison du Guide located in a small village Rhemes-Saint-Georges. It is more like a Bed & Breakfast with several apartments to rent. Beautiful place. Really worth visiting. Located only 10 km from Thumel parking lot where the Thumel-Benevolo trail starts. The city of Aosta is only 25 km drive from Rhemes-Saint-Georges.
Our plan was to hike the Thumel-Benevolo trail up to the Rifugio Benevolo (2287 m) and then see if we can reach one of the lakes located higher in the mountains: Lago di Goletta, Lago Granta Parei or Lago di Tsanteleina. It was the end of May with lots of snow still covering the peaks and we knew that we may not get there.
We started our hike at Thumel parking lot (4km after Bruil village) where we followed trail no.13 to Rifugio Benevolo. It takes normally about 1h30min to get to Benevolo. We hikes with kids and the trail was covered/blocked my snow in some places so it took us little bit longer.
What makes this trail special is no only the beautiful surrounding but also the wildlife around you. And in particular the undisputed rulers of this trail: Marmot (Marmota). They are everywhere ! Some of them are very shy and would hide just after you spot them and some would just sit near their holes/pits and pose for pictures. I have never seen so many of them before in one place. They really make this trail enjoyable, specially for the kids. There also lots other animals such as Steinbock (Ibex) or Chamois (AlpenGämse).
After a short break at Rifugio Benevolo (it was still closed and the summer season has not yet begun) we split into 2 groups from which one went back to the parking lot and the other continued the hike. After Benevolo trails was fully covered with snow and it was difficult to follow the proper path. We were fighting our way through the snow, trying various paths leading up. At the end we didn’t reach any of the lakes but hiked up to the foot of Roc du Fond and had lots of fun in the snow :). Have to come back here in the summer and do a multiple hike like I did in Lepontine Alps.
www.pngp.it – Gran Paradiso National Park official website
www.pngp.it – Hiking Trail Thumel – Benevolo
www.parks.it – Gran Paradiso National Park
www.cai.it – Club Alpino Italiano
www.summitpost.org – Truc Saint Hélène and Tsantèleina Lake