Blue Trail on the Via Alpina
If the Red artery trail of the Via Alpina with all its top peaks sounds too daunting, then the Blue Trail might be for you. It’s exactly 100 stages less than the Red Trail (just 61 for the Blue) and only enters a mere three countries, although they’re perhaps the most popular destinations: Italy, France, and Switzerland. There are several unique destinations along the Blue Trail, from the picturesque woodsy villages of the Martime Alps to the frozen glaciers of Monte Rosa, there is something along the Blue for you.
The Blue Trail is a little different than the other Via Alpina segments in that it largely consists of previously built and well-known European hiking trails. For example, the main course of the follows precisely along the French trail called the “Grande Traversata delle Alpi.” This trail, which is French for “the Great Crossing of the Alps” was built in 1971. Between Val de Susa and the Maritime Alps, the trail crosses the French border several times. Don’t forget that France was the country that “officially” gave birth to the sport of mountaineering a long, long time ago. In fact, the Aiguille mountain was first conquered in 1492, the same year as the discovery of America. The French have been loving these Alps for a long time; all of these treasures are now protected by 3 French national parks (Vanoise, Ecrins, Mercantour).
Many of these Alpine communities thrive on cattle farming, cheese making, and sheep in the mountain meadows further south. The Via Alpina Blue Trail crosses the wilderness on the southern slopes of the Gran Paradiso National Park. The ibex, a type of wild mountain goat, was once threatened by extinction until it was given sanctuary at the Gran Paradiso Park; now it has once again been reintroduced throughout the Alps.
Don’t miss a visit and a view of Monte Viso — its famous and beautiful profile practically symbolises the Southern Alps and is on thousands of postcards for that reason. Monte Viso is the modern day Mecca of mountaineering, on whose slopes the River Po originates. This is a popular stretch of the Via Alpina to backpack your own gear and set up a tent overnight because of the natural beauty – but like most places on the Via Alpina more luxurious indoors accommodations are always nearby. The Blue Trail continues along the French slopes through Mercantour National Park, where it eventually meets up with the Red Trail in the village of Sospel.