The most demanding stage of the Emerald Trail will take you on a high-altitude path from the depths of the Gondo gorges, through Alpjen, to the border area between Italy and Switzerland. Breath-taking views of mountain peaks and the deep Divedro valley await you. Wonderful Alpine plants bloom on the Passo delle Possette gap. You will descend to Nembro through the Alpine pastures of Vallè and beautiful spruce and fir woods. A path set deep in almost pristine nature will take you at last to the Alpe Veglia pasture.
The excursion starts by the old barracks in the Gondo gorges. Follow the mountain road going uphill to Alpjen, although shortcuts are available. Since the climb is really not that attractive you might as well catch a taxi to Gondo. In Alpjen (1600 m), the exertion will be rewarded. The alpine pastures and the sparse stone houses provide an idyllic view. The vast plateau of rich pastures is surrounded by larch. Up high the Monte Leone glacier sparkles white. Do not linger too long: another climb is waiting to take you up to Corwetsch through a magnificent larch wood and the Piäneza pasture. After Alpjderung cross the Italian border on the 2000 metre-high trail. The pastures of Vallescia and Camoscella seem to hang from the mountain side. The view towards the Fletschhorn, the Zwischbergtal and, downwards in the Valle Divedro, are stunning. Reach the Passo delle Possette gap (2245 m) and meet the Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA) trail. Find on the right, immediately before the gap, a wide calcareous Alpine meadow: in July you will find it abloom with edelweiss, Alpine sea hollies and Alpine aster. The descent through the Alpe Balmelle and Vallè pasture is gentle and pleasant. The Alpe Veglia can be reached from Vallè on a narrow, exposed track. Choose the more comfortable variant on the pasture road leading down to Nembro. The shade spruce wood is interspersed with firs. Above Nembro, at an altitude of approximately 1400 metres, you will find the carriage road to the Alpe Veglia. After a few bends the Alpe Veglia is already behind you and the road continues on the flat to the Cariasca creek gorges. The road flattens out at the Cappella del Groppallo chapel. Shrubbery and alders spread on both sides of the road. In the second half of June the Alpine columbine blooms. At last you will reach the ample plateau of the Alpe Veglia (1771 m) one of the most charming site of the whole Alpine arc. The pasture is set in a vast hollow. Numerous creeks fall precipitously from the sides of the mountain and meander through mat grass. Larch woods climb all the way up to the alpine pastures. On two plateaus the Bianco and d’Avino lakes can be found. The settlements of Ciancavero, Ponte, and Cornù are situated at the plateaus borders with their typical slab-roofed stone houses; La Balma, a little higher is hidden in the woods. Two educational trails leave from the Alpe: one leads to the Bocchetta d’Aurona (Chaltwasserpass) gap and is about glaciers; the other one leads to La Balma and is dedicated to the nature and culture of the Alpe Veglia. The first panel is by the limekiln east of Cornù, near the wide Rio Frua waterfall. The historic Monte Leone hotel in Ponte has been undergoing restructuring work for years now. Since 1978 the Alpe Veglia is a protected area and only the owners or managers of restaurants or bars are allowed to drive vehicles up here. For all other people the ban on vehicle traffic is absolute. Houses can be restructured only in their traditional style; the construction of new buildings is banned. Authorities encourage farming: in the past more than 1000 cows reached the pasture in the summer, now that number is down to a couple of hundred.
Trail description: Andreas Weissen
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected areas
Landscape and nature
In the Gondo gorges typical elements of Southern Switzerland’s steep gorge woods can be found. Besides mown meadows, Alpjen is mainly alpine pastures. Larch woods around Alpjen and the Alpe Veglia are very beautiful. Above the timberline are alpine meadows, calcareous and very rich in species in the Passo delle Possette area. Under Vallè and on the opposite side, in the Nembro/San Domenico area spruce and fir predominate. Just before Veglia is a high-stem shrub area with alder and aquilegia. Here you can find the Veglia-Devero Nature Park. The Veglia Park was Piedmont’s first nature park and was subsequently enlarged to include the Alpe Devero park.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000sites
• Alpe Veglia e Devero Nature Park
• Alpi Veglia e Devero - Monte Giove, Natura 2000 site
Wildlife, Natura2000 species / along the trail
Insects: Erebia christi (RL CH / § / E / S)
Birds: Dryocopus martius (ca), Aquila chrysaetos (ca / S), Cinclus cinclus (ca / S), Monticola saxatilis (RL CH), Tetrao tetrix (ca / S)
Other species of interest
Aquilegia alpina (RL CH / § / S), Paradisea liliastrum (RL CH / §), Tulipa australis (RL CH / §), Parnassius mnemosyne (RL CH), Chenopodium bonus-henricus (ca), Lilium martagon (RL CH / §), Saxifraga cotyledon (RL CH), Dactylorhiza sambucina (RL CH / §), Orchis ustulata (RL CH / §), Epilobium angustifolium (ca) , Larix decidua (ca), Gentiana purpurea (ca), Luzula nivea (ca), Pulsatilla apiflora (ca), Erebia tyndarus (ca), Erebia aethiops (ca), Alnus viridis (ca), Eriophorum scheuchzeri (RL CH), Aster alpinus (ca), Leontopodium alpinum (ca), Nigritella nigra (RL CH / §), Euphydryas aurinia ssp. (RL CH), Androsace vitaliana (RL CH / §), Gentiana kochiana (ca), Juncus jacquinii (ca), Pulsatilla vernalis ( ca), Ranunculus kuepferi (ca), Campanula excisa (RL CH / E).
RL CH: Switzerland’s Red List of threatened species
§: Species enjoying national protection
E: Endemic species
ca: Typical species
Wildlife, Natura2000 species (not necessarily on the trail)
Insects and crustaceans: Erebia christi, Euphydryas aurinia, Parnassius apollo, Parnassius mnemosyne, Maculinea arion.
Birds: Aquila chrysaetos, Falco peregrinus, Bonasa bonasia, Lagopus mutus helveticus, Tetrao tetrix tetrix, Alectoris graeca saxatilis, Bubo bubo, Glaucidium passerinum, Aegolius funereus, Dryocopus martius, Lanius collurio, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. Pernis apivorus, Milvus migrans, Milvus milvus, Gypaetus barbatus, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Circus pygargus, Tringa glareola, Alcedo atthis, Lullula arborea, Anthus campestris, Emberiza hortulana.
Mammals: Lynx lynx, Plecotus auritus
More information on plants and animals
Regional habitats: mown meadows and extensive pastures, rich meadows and hay fields, dry meadows, riverine forests and plants, spruce, larch, alder, and high-stem shrub, mat grassland (and other grassland)
”Alpe Veglia e Alpe Devero: conservation of high mountain meadows and bogs”, Dr. Nat. Paolo Pirocchi, Dr. Nat. Giovanna Ianner, Parco Naturale Alpe Veglia e Alpe Devero, 2003.
WWF’s tips for hikers
Plan each stage carefully, purchase a 1:25000 map, use light but sturdy equipment (hiking boots, rain cape, binoculars…). Be sure to carry a small supply of water and food. We suggest you taste local food (possibly organic) at resting places and restaurants.
Do not litter, do not pick up flowers or rocks and in no way disturb the local fauna. It is unsafe for inexperienced hikers to leave the marked trails and it may cause disturbance to wildlife.
History and culture
The Alpe Veglia has always served as a summer pasture. The local cheese is called “Nostrano” (meaning “local, indigenous”). In 1884 the first hotel in Veglia, the Monte Leone, was established. At a slightly higher altitude you can see the new one, inaugurated in 1928. In the 1930’s other simple mountain inns and the Città di Arona Hut of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) were added. The limekiln that provided mortar for the construction of the hut and the Lepontino hotel is well preserved and can still be seen by the Rio Frua waterfall.
The d’Avino lake is set in a high plateau above the Alpe Veglia (2246 m), the only artificial lake in the region, built at the beginning of the 20th century. The 1970’s project that included the construction of a dam and the flooding of the plateau was then abandoned for geological reasons. In 1875, in the Rio Mottiscia bed, two soldiers found a ferruginous spring. Its natural mineral water proved excellent, but the spring flow was too scarce to warrant its commercial exploitation.
• Monte Leone hotel in Ponte
• Rio Frua waterfall near Cornù
• Limekiln near the Cornù waterfall
• Glacial potholes above Cianciavero
• Lago delle Streghe (Witch Lake) in the larch wood near Cianciavero
• Mineral spring in the larch wood near Aione/Ponte
• Veglia-Devero nature park information centre in Portea
Next stage: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 9
Stage before: Emerald Trail Wallis-Piedmont: Stage 7