Bikepacking Abruzzo: The Wolf’s Lair

  • Distance

    241 Mi.

    (388 KM)
  • Days

    5

  • % Unpaved

    45%

  • % Singletrack

    2%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    5

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    27,943'

    (8,517 M)
  • High Point

    5,584'

    (1,702 M)

Contributed By

Montanus  - The Wild Side

Montanus

The Wild Side
A mixed terrain bikepacking loop through Abruzzo, Italy, an incredibly diverse region set amongst the spectacular Apennines mountains. This never-ending series of gravel doubletrack, stunning landscapes, delicious food and medieval villages will lead you into the “wolf’s lair” to discover the wild side of Abruzzo.
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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.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • 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.

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • siddhu

    Amazing – must do next season!

  • Looks beautiful. Great photos!

  • Rod Kimble

    Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing!

  • mikeetheviking

    Perfecto.

  • Dave

    AMAZING story telling through photos!

  • DamagedSurfer

    Rad photos! Thanks for sharing.

  • Rasmus Riemann

    Fantastic area and wonderful photos, like to try that once.

  • Julius

    What size tires you used in this trail? :)

  • MONTANUS

    Hi Julius! We used 700 x 40C tires.

  • Depestel Christ

    Great report and photos !! Thx!

  • marcel b.

    Great trip, wonderful pictures. Hopefully in September…..

  • tinguinha

    Wonderful report.

    What’s the traffic like on the paved sections of the route?

  • Sten Eriksson

    Wow, amazing route. Beautiful foto that inspires to get ther my self.

  • Krampus

    Hey!
    I’m planning on riding this trail later this summer. Do you reckon I’ll be okay with the 700×35 Schwalbe G-Ones on my Diverge or should I look into getting a beefier tire beforehand?
    Also, since we’re on the topic of equipment: Do you remember how low your gearing was for that ride?
    Thanks a lot for your feedback! ; )

  • MONTANUS

    Ciao Krampus, 700×40 tires work better on the jeep roads and along some steep and tech downhills. About the gearing we use a 46/36 – 11-32. Have a fun trip, you’re welcome in Abruzzo!

  • David Brazier

    Any advice for international visitors with regards to Airports and transport to the area? Looks fantastic!!

  • Stefano Manziana

    Stupendo il giro, grazie per averlo condiviso!

    Unica annotazione: aumenterei i giorni per realizzare il giro completo. In 5 giorni non si riesce ad apprezzare al meglio quello che la natura può trasmetterti.

    Sbaglio?

  • marcel b.

    Did the ride in September 2017 and I must admit: This is an amazing trip through nature, culture, history and wonderful food! Everything what Italy has to offer to bikepackers: great mountain scenery and lovely woodland with old roman roads and singletracks. I enjoyed it very much although I had to climb Passo San Leonardo from the “wrong” because of woodfires. I have been all over the world on two wheels but this trip was something special. All the way back home by car (1.600km) I had the strong smell of a complete 4kg big piece of Pecorino cheese on the backseat. Thanks Montanus!!!!