Family Hike in Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley

Written by on October 6, 2020 in Blog, Our Good Life in Italy

Family hike in Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley - beautiful snowy mountains

After two months of lock-down due to the COVID virus, we couldn’t wait to get back out into the nature again. As soon as we were allowed to, we headed up the road to beautiful Valsavarenche, at the heart of the Gran Paradiso national park, for a hike.

We decided on this area for our first post lockdown outing because we always wanted to visit but hadn’t. And we were hoping to finally see a ‘marmotte’ and a ‘stambecco’ (Ibex) in the wild. Both of these indigenous species of mountain animal are most numerous within the protected environment of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

Valsaverenche little village

The route to our family hike in Valsavarenche 

We checked out the official Gran Paradiso website ( ), where you can find several hiking trails. They are categorised by Valley and also by level of difficulty. We chose trail number 12, which has a difficulty rating of ‘E’. ‘E’ means ‘Escursione’, which designates a strenuous hike rather than a gentle walk. It has a ‘dislivello’ of 400 m, with an expected duration time of 1 hour 30 minutes. That’s one way, meaning its a minimim 3 hour hike, plus whatever stops you make. Destination, Maisoncles, a refuge at 1863m. Starting point in the village of Rovenaud.

Emile Chanoux’s birthplace

Rovenaud turns out to be the village where local Aosta Valley hero Emil Chanoux came from. The main Piazza in Aosta is named after him. He was a prominent politician and journalist, as well as head of the National Liberation Committee of Aosta. He was the leader of the Aosta Valley Resistance during WWII. The SS captured and tortured him and he died in jail in May 1944 at the age of 38. Our walk started at his old schoolhouse, which is exactly like the little village schoolhouse in Heidi.

family hike in Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley - Crossing over the snow

Husband saves the family from disaster

After a few hundred meters we had to cross a river which was still covered in snow. Ian, our family health & safety officer, stopped us going straight across. He was worried that the snow bridge would break and that we would plunge into the icy water below. He instructed the boys to throw rocks onto the ice and hit it with a big stick. This actually worked and it was then was easy to cross using the stepping stones that were now revealed..

Nature is amazing - huge fallen out tree spotted on our family hike in Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley

The trail

We continued our way uphill through the lovely larch forest. The path followed a series of Z-shaped turns which made it actually quite easy as it wasn’t too steep. In terms of how tiring it was, the children and I made easy progress. Husband was moving a little slower. He blamed it on having to carry the backpack.

Chirping birds encouraged us on our way and we admired the beautiful little spring flowers. We saw a lot of fallen trees that probably had been swept away by winter avalanches. Some had huge roots, much taller than us. It really gave a spectacular demonstration of the force of nature.

We stopped once for a little rest with a few biscuits and a drink of water. But as it turned out we were already already very close to our destination

Badge of Maisoncles in Valsavarenche

Destination – Maisoncles

True to the given duration time on the sign at the beginning of the trail, we soon spotted a small wooden house up above the tree line. Once we got up there we also discovered a collection of small huts, presumably once used by the Rovenaud inhabitants as an alpeggio. Nowadays the house is used as a refuge, although for the park rangers and not open to the public.

The magnificent view that opens up in front of you upon reaching Maisoncles makes up for any possible tiredness. We were surrounded by snowy peaks and there were huge waterfalls crashing down the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. We felt like we were on top of the world, alone, just us. Part of nature, along with the flowers and the mountain goats. This is when you realise how lucky you are to live in a place where there is so much beauty, charm and miracles and it fills your heart with abundance.

picnic on the top of the mountain


My poetic moment was rudely interrupted by the boys demanding their picnic. We found just the perfect spot for it, on top of a huge stone. After lunch the eating stone became the snoozing stone and we recharged our batteries in the sun like giant lizards.

Our picnic was made up of fresh wholemeal buns, prosciutto crudo and cotto, cheese and pomodorini. For dessert we had some nectarines and chocolate biscuits. Our drink was mountain-fresh water from the little fountain attached to the house.

What else could you have wished for? Well, a glass of prosecco or a Genepi would have gone down well.

After taking some photos we set off again. On the way down a huge stambecco suddenly appeared right in front of us on our track, about 10 meters away. As soon as he saw us he started leaping uphill through the bushes. Then he changed his mind and dived back down towards the valley bottom with incredible agility and power. It is amazing how they can jump on these big stones and between the trees at such speed.

stambecco and marmotta to spot during our spring family hike in Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley

Last surprise 

Getting back in the car, we drove a little further along the valley to discover the other small villages and landscapes. It was well worth it as to our great surprise near the main road a small meadow was full of stambecci.  We also finally spotted our first marmotte!! They are so cute, they look like big hamsters.

Pleasantly tired, satisfied and full of experience, we drove home vowing that now we were free to travel around our Region we would climb a mountain every week!

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