Alta Via dei Monti Liguri
303 Mi.(488 KM)
% Rideable (time)
The Wild Side
The Alta Via dei Monti Liguri is a 488 km route that runs parallel to the coast from the Liguria region from La Spezia to Ventimiglia, a border town with France. This bikepacking route is a rework of the original track designed for trekkers starting from the town of La Spezia, on the east side of the region and near the famous tourist resort of the Cinque Terre. The Alta Via (trekking route) was officially founded in 1983 as a joint project of the Centro Studi Unioncamere Liguri, the CAI (Italian Alpine Club), and the Federazione Italiana Escursionismo (Italian Hiking Federation). However, in the early post-war years, a route almost entirely coinciding with the current Alta Via had already been reported by F.I.E. (Federazione Italiana Escursionismo) between Colle del Giovo (SV) hill and Colle Cento Croci (SP).
On the eastern side of the AVML, Dirt roards and singletrack trails alternate along the wonderful Levante coast among pine, chestnut trees and fern underbrush. The AV5T (Alta Via delle 5 Terre) goes into wilder areas, occasionally offering spectacular views of the Ligurian Sea where the rocky cliffs meet the water. The rocky, technical descent that leads towards the sea and the coastal town of Levanto is spectacular. After riding into an old converted railway tunnel, you start climbing to intercept the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri.
The central part of the route transits north of Genoa on a mix of dirt roads, singletrack trails, and deserted b-roads that pass through small, typical villages of the Ligurian hinterland. From there the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri route meanders through forests and lush meadows before continuing toward the west side where the terrain gets rougher as the altitude rises. In the western section, the AVML leaves the last slopes of the Apennines to approach the chain of the Maritime Alps, where mosses, lichens and very high conifers characterize the environment. A steady climb on comfortable dirt road leads to Monte Saccarello, the highest point (2170m) of the entire route and also the most distant from the sea (30km). After passing some military ruins you reach the summit, from which, on clear days, you can see Corsica at southeast and the pyramid-shaped Monviso (3841mt) at northwest. From there you start to lose altitude towards the sea, along the scenic Via del Sale (Salt road), an ancient dirt road once used to transport goods from the sea to northern Europe. After a few kilometers, the comfortable road gives way to a typically alpine singletrack with some short exposed sections (see “Difficulty”), which leads to the Gola di Gouta. From here, following a rugged ex-military road overlooking the Nervia Valley, you reach the town of Ventimiglia, where the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri ends.
The main difficulties of the AVML are represented by the considerable elevation gain of over 20,000 meters. This requires a solid physical preparation. In addition, the area is known for changing weather conditions which require adequate gear. The route passes over the mountains close to the sea and the formation of fog or the arrival of sudden rains are not rare. Also, be prepared for some hike-a-bike stretches on rough terrain. On the Fonte Dragurina pass (1810mt) there is a short via ferrata that requires caution (signed on the map), especially when traveling with loaded bikes (see photos in the gallery).
Route Development: The Alta Via dei Monti Liguri (Bikepacking route) mixes some stages of the Alta Via Stage Race (a XC marathon stage race) with some streches of Alta Via Info 24h route. We’d like to thank Lorenzo Carlini (from Alta Via Stage Race) and Claudio Simonetti (from Alta Via Info 24h) who helped us with some useful tips to track the bikepacking route.
- Traveling a unique route that starts from the sea to reach the Alps.
- The incredible view of the cliffs overhanging the Cinque Terre.
- The extraordinary view offered by the top of Mount Saccarello, where you can see on one side the entire chain of the Cottian Alps and Corsica on the other one.
- The descent towards Levanto with the sea in the background.
- Several old fortifications on the west side.
- Traditional dishes of the local gastronomic culture. Liguria is home to “Genoese Pesto”.
- To facilitate the return by train once the route has been completed, the track starts from the La Spezia railway station and ends at the Ventimiglia station, whatever the direction of travel chosen.
- The railway line runs along the coast and always remains between 15 and 20km from the route, so that the AVML can be traveled even partially, reaching the intermediate stations along the coast.
- The best time to tackle this route is from June to October as the Alpine section can be covered by snow through the spring.
- Bring mountain clothing, as there can be rapid changes in weather and sudden temperature drops at high altitudes, even during the summer months.
- The AVML can be ridden from La Spezia towards Ventimiglia or from the opposite direction.
- Most of the route is marked with red/white/red flags with the letters AV in the middle. The initial stretch that passes through the Cinque Terre is marked with the letters AV5T.
- To ride this route we recommend a plus-tire bike with suspension fork.
- Wild camping is generally tolerated. Best to set up camp at dusk and move on at dawn. #leavenotrace
- In some parts of the route there are small cabines or votive chapels, which in case of need, can be used as shelter for the night.
- Along the route there are also several accommodation facilities, from cabines to hotels.
- Generally speaking, there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and general markets along the route so food is never a problem.
- Water is not a problem either, there are few sources and several livestock fountains. In the villages you will almost always find a fountain where you can refill.
- Sometimes in the larger towns there are general stores.
- You can satisfy your huge caloric deficit at “Hotel Paretin”, an hotel-restaurant located at Cabanne. Their traditional ligurian cuisine is simply delicious, and the portions are massive!
- altaviainfoh24.com provides a range of services regarding AVML, including a telephone assistance service for Alta Via visitors, free and available 24 hours a day, in 3 languages (Italian, English and French)
- Visit MontanusWild.com For the full set of photos from this trip.
- BeActiveLiguria.it For additional route and tourism information in the area.