Bikepacking Abruzzo: The Wolf’s Lair
The Wild Side
The idea behind The Wolf’s Lair was to create a bikepacking route that links the three National Parks and one regional park of Abruzzo, a predominantly mountainous region located in central Italy. The result is a 388km loop on gravel, doubletrack and tarmac roads with over 8,500 meters in total ascent. Starting from the archaeological site of Amiternum, next to L’Aquila city, the route enters the Gran Sasso National Park and reaches the breathtaking Campo Imperatore plateau via a remote doubletrack road. There stands Corno Grande (2,912m), the highest peak of Gran Sasso d’Italia massif.
Heading south, the landscape changes dramatically. The luxuriant forests disappear in the bowel of the karst canyon formed by the river Orta. The 1,282 meter San Leonardo pass leads to the Maiella massif and into the heart of its National Park where you can admire crumbling primeval structures called “tholos”. For centuries shepherds used these as shelters to spend nights or wait out bad weather. From the Cinquemiglia plateau you will reach the Abruzzo National Park, the oldest in Italy and the richest in flora and fauna. Be prepared to see brutal wildlife scenes, such as the pregnant deer mauled by wolves shown in the photo below.
Last but not least is the Sirente Velino Regional Park, where you will remain in the shadow of the majestic Sirente Mountain until you reach Pagliare di Tione, a remote and ancient village where it feels as if time has stood still for a millinea.
241 Mi.(388 KM)
% Rideable (time)
- Must Know
- Trail Notes
- Amiternum, starting point of the route, is an archaeological site where you can admire ruins of an ancient roman theatre and amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century BC.
- Epic doubletrack road that leads to Campo Imperatore plateau in the shadow of Corno Grande peak.
- Santo Stefano di Sessanio, one of the most beautiful fortified villages in Italy. The medieval atmosphere and the graceful architecture worth the visit.
- Rocca Calascio, the highest mountaintop fortress in Italy (1460mt) and among the 15 most beautiful castles in the world by National Geographic.
- Civitella Alfedena and its narrow alleys, where traditions are still alive, and the amazing view of Barrea Lake at his foot.
- La Camosciara, a Nature Reserve within the Park and a natural amphitheatre whose rugged peaks have allowed the survival of chamois of Abruzzo and the Marsicano Bear, today symbol of Abruzzo National Park.
- Sperone, a ghost town in the Marsica area.
- Post-ride beers on the veranda of “Ristoro degli Elfi” in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
- The Wolf’s Lair is mostly rideable and not very technical. It does contain a few rough sections but they can be walked if needed.
- We rode gravel bikes to cover the loop. The bike choice was ok for tarmac and offroad track, although a monster-cross or a 29er mtb could work better for the roughest and steepest sections.
- The ideal riding season is between mid-May and mid-September. The weather conditions can change quickly near mountains areas (especially in the Gran Sasso range), prepare yourselves accordingly.
- In the National Parks and the surrounding areas lives the Apennine wolf and the Marsican brown bear. To date no case of attack by bear has been reported, but be careful of the wolves, especially in packs.
- Single night wild camping is tolerated in the parks. Just some tips: set up late – strike early – stay out of sight of the main roads – #leavenotrace.
- Great wild campsite near Passo San Leonardo with water fountain. (noted on the GPX).
- Lodging is possible in some villages along the route.
- Drinking water is never an issue, there is plenty of water fountains along the route. (a few are noted on the GPX).
- A “must-stop” is at Ristoro Mucciante, on the Gran Sasso plateau, for tasting pecorino cheese, salumi nostrani and the delicious arrosticini (barbecued lamb skewers).
- Food can be bought from grocers in Tocco da Casauria, Campo di Giove, Villetta Barrea and Secinaro. (noted on the GPX).
- You can satisfy your huge caloric deficit at Lo Scoiattolo, a rifugio-restaurant placed at Passo Godi. Their traditional Abruzzo cuisine is simply delicious, and the portions are massive!
The singletrack in the Camosciara reserve, just after Civitella Alfedena village, can change in a river of sticky mud in wet weather.
- parcoabruzzo.it – the official webpage for the Abruzzo National Park.
- gransassolagapark.it – the official webpage for the Gran Sasso e Laga National Park.
- parcomajella.it – the official webpage for the Majella National Park.
- parcosirentevelino.it – the official webpage for the Sirente Velino Regional Park.
- MontanusWild.com – for the full set of photos from this trip.