Livigno – Valle Alpisella – Cancano Lakes

For this excursion we start from Livigno, in the direction of the Valle Alpisella, passing through the sources of the Adda until we reach the Lake of San Giacomo di Fraele. For the more daring, we recommend arriving as far as Lake Cancano right afterwards.

The crossing is long but quite easy, with dirt roads and good trails that run through the wild Alpisella Valley, where there are some beautiful lakes surrounded by dolomite walls and the sources of the Adda River. From Livigno you take a wide dirt road closed to traffic that heads north on the flat and soon enters the larch forest.

You leave on the right the path to Parè and you go on always in plain, along the Gallo Lake.

After about 2.5 km of road you leave on the right the path marked for Trepalle di Livigno, you cross the Canale Torto on the Ponte delle Capre and in a short time you go up to the Ristoro Val Alpisella. Leaving the restaurant on the left, continue on a dirt road that climbs with some hairpin bends among larch and mugho pines, then cuts level, high above the wild lower valley of Canale Torto. Leaving on the right a second branch-off for Trepalle, the little road enters the Alpisella Valley, which at the beginning is quite narrow. Cross the stream over a small wooden bridge, then climb up the wooded slope with some long hairpin bends.

A traverse towards east brings, finally, out of the wood; the valley is now wide and mainly grassy, closed at north by the imposing dolomitic walls of Pizzo del Ferro, and at south by the chain that culminates with the great pyramid of Monte Pettini.

A gentle climb through meadows leads to the beautiful basin where the Lago dell’Alpisella (2268 m) lies.

The pond, extended for about 6400 square meters and no more than 2-3 m deep at the center, extends in a beautiful basin between gentle grassy bumps. The banks are characterized by a thick marsh vegetation, where frogs and newts live. The toponym “alpisella” is an Italianisation of the dialectal word alpesgéla, which roughly means “cold pasture”. Continue slightly downhill on the opposite side, between the meadows of the right side and the gigantic screes that descend from Pizzo del Ferro, until you reach a basin where there is a small lake with clear water and no name. The dirt road skirts a temporary pool and a second unnamed lake, then comes to a fork (altitude 2229).

Continuing to follow the dirt road, which descends on the right side of the valley, you arrive at the Lake of San Giacomo di Fraele. Here we describe the path that descends on the left side of the valley, more interesting if only because it passes by the sources of the Adda.

We leave the dirt road and take an easy path on the left that goes down among the scree coming from Pizzo del Ferro. After crossing two spots of tiny pines, a very short deviation to the right leads to the Adda Springs (altitude 2122). A small stream gushes directly from the detritus at the foot of the slopes of Pizzo del Ferro, and flows rapidly towards the nearby Lake San Giacomo. The spring has been partially piped into a metal tube for hikers to drink.

The path continues parallel to the Adda, descending diagonally between patches of mountain pines and clearings, crossing some small tongues of scree coming down from the slope above. You then lose height with several hairpin bends in the mixed coniferous forest, and you reach the wide dirt road that runs along the Lake of San Giacomo.

Following the path to the left, in a few minutes of almost flat path, you reach Fraele Pass (1952 m). A wide wooded saddle, site of an ancient glacier, which clearly separates the massif of Monte Cassa del Ferro from that of Piz Murtarol. The pass is located on the watershed between the Adriatic Sea (Po basin) and the Black Sea (Danube basin), and was crossed by a very ancient communication route, which climbed from Valdidentro through the Passo delle Scale, to then deviate in Val Mora and reach Mustair. Following the path on the right you can reach Lake Cancano and then return to Livigno on the same route.

Will you be able to go back or will you linger like us in front of such a marvel?


Trail type: dirt, gravel

Water: in Livigno, at the source of the Adda river, at the Lake of San Giacomo


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