It’s no secret that Ryder-Walker has dedicated the last decades to perfecting a series of treks across Italy. The ever-expansive nature of Italy allows for a great variety of experiences; whether you are traveling through the towering Dolomites or island hopping off the coast of Sicily, choosing our favorite hikes in the Italian Alps was a monumental task. The Highlights of Italy Trek explores three regions in Northern Italy, the most mountainous section of the country which borders closely with both France and Switzerland. The Courmayeur region is tucked under the shade of the massive Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc), Cogne is a village that serves as the entrance to the Gran Paradiso National Park – the largest national park in Italy, and Champoluc is the largest of a series of hidden villages tucked deep in the Alps beneath the mighty Breithorn.
See the Mont Blanc’s Most Impressive Side
The Italian face of the Mont Blanc, known locally for its own slightly lower summit as the Monte Bianco, is without question the most awe-inspiring view of the highest mountain in Western Europe. Although the Mont Blanc is best known for its French side, and the ever-bustling village of Chamonix, from Italy you are truly able to experience the true scale of the mountain. The Monte Bianco rises from the village of Courmayeur at a nearly vertical angle, soaring to the summit of the mountain. The vertical distance between Courmayeur and the summit is truly Himalayan in scale – a vertical drop comparable to the distance between the base camp and summit of Everest.
Explore the Hidden Valleys of the Italian Alps
The Italian valleys surrounding the Breithorn and Monte Rosa are pleasantly forgotten by time. These deep and isolated valleys flow seamlessly into the highest peaks in the Alps, populated only by small villages with dedicated outdoor communities. The most populace of these secret Italian resorts is in the village of Champoluc, which offers truly soaring views of the Breithorn – a mountain best known for its view from Zermatt, although Champoluc offers a much quieter and truly unique experience of the iconic summit.
Swim in Glacial Lakes
The Italian Alps aren’t just known for glaciated summits and deep forests, there is also an incredible collection of glacial lakes tucked high in the mountains. An ever-popular destination for locals, these lakes are often the center of mountain life with Italian families swimming in the frigid water and picnicking on the shore. The lakes we visit on our Highlights of Italy Trek are the Lago Blu and Lago di Loie. The Lago Blu is shadowed by the Breithorn and is the product of earth-shattering glacial erosion, a carving so impressive that the lake even sports white sand beaches – a true rarity for alpine lakes. The Lago di Loie commands an uninterrupted view of the Mont Blanc and striking emerald-green water.
Hike the Balcone della Val Ferret
The Balcone della Val Ferret is one of the truly legendary hikes in the Alps. Held in such illustrious regard as the Grand Balcon Sud above Chamonix and the Alpenrose hut above Zermatt, the Balcone della Val Ferret provides an extended outing along a rock outcropping that sits directly opposite the Brenva. The Brenva is perhaps the most well-known ice wall in the alps, rising thousands of feet towards the summit of the Mont Blanc. The mountaineer and writer Tom Patey described the Brenva and the experience of climbing it as such:
“Any fool can monkey around on rock overhangs, but it takes craft and cunning to beat the Brenva”!