Welcome to Mount Etna! Located a short distance from Catania, on the island of Sicily, this active volcano has dominated the local landscape since ancient times. Long before man inhabited Sicily, Mount Etna has been smoking and smoldering, sometimes erupting, into the sky above, and has played many a role in local histories, legends and myths.
Today, we take to the trails leading up the slopes of Mount Etna. Come with us as we tackle a slightly challenging hike for a better view of this natural phenomenon well known for its active, frequent eruptions. Wonder if Mount Etna will erupt today?
Hiking The Trail to Mount Etna
Considered the highest active volcano in Europe, a Mount Etna hike is worthy of an afternoon in Sicily. Though the peak itself sits at nearly 11,000 feet, hikers can achieve dramatic volcano views with a relatively simple climb to the lower elevation of about 4,500 feet. And, this level does not require special gear nor a guide to achieve it! Let’s go hiking, shall we?
A Mount Etna adventure begins at the Welcome Center, where trail conditions are reviewed and hiking paths are chosen. The climb up to 4,500 feet is easy enough, no special equipment required. Simply a solid pair of hiking shoes, water, perhaps a few snacks, and the desire to experience Mount Etna from a much closer vantage point.
The trail can be a bit rough and rugged at times. But that’s half the adventure! Stretches of volcanic rock intertwined with gravel cut an uphill path through nearby brush and shrub, giving a sense of walking along a solidified river of lava.
Continue onwards and upwards, ever so slowly climbing in elevation. Soon the trail opens up, and the first evidence of volcanic action appears just on the other side of the ridge.
Look closely! Puffs of volcanic smoke may be spotted spiraling into the clear blue sky above, co-mingling with random clouds floating by. Mount Etna has the longest documented eruption history of any volcano in the world, and is active even when not it’s not erupting!
Standing In The Shadows of An Active Volcano
The trail up to the 4,500 level is well traveled and fairly straight forward. Though that last stretch of trail just before opening up above the volcanic crater can be a busy section of trail. That’s because there’s an active volcano spread out right along the trail’s edge!
Everyone wants to stop and soak in that very moment when the trail opens into that first glorious view of Mount Etna and the vast crater beneath it. It’s hard not to stop for a momentary pause to soak in the dramatic volcanic views dead ahead.
And there it is! Mount Etna, smoldering and smoking off in the distance. Our first full-on, up close visualization of this living, breathing volcano. Well, more like a long, drawn out stare at Mother Nature’s marvelous handiwork!
Time to hike onward and upward for a closer exploration of Mount Etna. Meander along one of several side trails heading farther up the mountain to experience other features of this incredible, powerful display of Mother Nature at work.
Step to the edge of the trail, staring down the face of a giant volcanic cliff and beyond into the vast crater far below. Mount Etna has been erupting regularly for so many years that the surrounding lava flows spread out across an area of nearly 600 square miles!
Stand at the edge of the trail for a photo opp, the smoldering, smoking volcano your background. It will be a surreal moment, indeed, and one that makes this hike worthy of an afternoon in Sicily. Sadly no eruptions nor other dramatic volcanic action on our day. Only a few puffs of smoke and a little rumbling. Still impressive none the less!
- Check before you go! If Mount Etna is expected or is experiencing ongoing eruptions, trails will most likely be very crowded.
- Pack plenty of water and snacks. There are no water stations, pit stops nor other relief stations once hiking the trail.
- Pack an extra layer for potential drops in temperature.
- Plan on several hours round trip to complete the hike to 4,500 feet.
- Consider hiring a local, qualified guide if you plan to hike much closer to the crater.
If your plans are for a relatively easy, albeit several hours’ long hike, consider Mount Etna! You’ll be happy you did.
Have You Hiked The Trails To Mount Etna?
Mount Etna symbolizes the end of our fantastic two weeks of adventures across Italy. It has been a wonderful time, but it is now time to say, arrivederci Italy! Until we meet again.
Have you been to Sicily, Italy? Did you hike up the trails for a closer vantage point of Mount Etna? Do share your experience!
All images by C.Biederman