Winter hike to Monte Faiè

Europe Italy
View from Monte Faie on Lago Maggiore, Lago di Merluzzo and Lago d'Orta
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In times like these, when COVID has the whole world in its grip, we tend to take any chance we get to do anything that resembles normal life. So when the province I live in, Piemonte, went into a yellow zone, we immediately took advantage of the opportunity to travel within our region. We went for a little weekend getaway to Lago Maggiore. And since I love hiking, we decided to squeeze in a hike during our short weekend trip. Destination: Monte Faiè. Today I will tell you all about this hike and how to get there.

Monte Faiè

Monte Faiè is located on the Piemontese side of Lago Maggiore. The mountain stands tall at 1352 metres and overlooks not only Lago Maggiore but also Lago di Merluzzo, a smaller neighbouring lake, and Lago d’Orta. It’s the ideal hike for anyone who loves gorgeous lake views.

How to get there?

If you want to hike up to Monte Faiè, there are two ways to go about it:

  • Option 1: Alpe Ompio
    If you leave from Alpe Ompio, the hike takes about 2.5 hours round trip and you have to hike up about 400 metres (dislevel).
  • Option 2: Bracchio
    The second option is longer and more strenuous. If you leave from Bracchio, the hike takes 5 hours round trip and you hike up 1000 metres.

Since we wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather, and not being locked up in our flat, we chose the 2nd option. Therefore, the information you find below is only applicable to this hike leaving from Bracchio.

Starting point of the hike

Bracchio is a small town 11 km (+/- 15 min) away from Verbania. You have to keep following Via Bracchio until you reach one of the two parking lots just before Trattoria il Risottino.

Here you can park for free the whole day, which is always handy. From the parking lot to the start of the hike, it takes about 10 minutes. You keep following Via Bracchio until the end and then take a right towards the church. Here you pass either left or right by the church and then keep following the road (Via Zanotti). You then turn left towards Via Montebello I and you have arrived at the start of the hike.

Once you reach the start of the hike, you will see a sign pointing both left and right to get to Monte Faiè. Having done both (we took left to hike up and came back the other way), I would suggest following the left sign (A52). This trail is a lot more scenic and you aren’t constantly walking in the forest.

1st part of the hike: Towards Vercio

The viewpoint from Vercio boasts gorgeous views

During the first part of the hike you will still mainly be walking in between the trees, but from time to time you see the lakes looming in the background. It will be hard not to turn around to take in the gorgeous views, but luckily there are several viewpoints along the way where you can stop and enjoy the landscape.

From Bracchio to Alpe Vercio, it takes about 1:15 and once you arrive there, you should make sure to walk up to the viewpoint. Here you already get an an amazing view of all three lakes, but it’s definitely worth to continue hiking up to see the view all the way from the top.

2nd part of the hike: Towards Cromlèch del Monte Faiè

Monte Faie with views of Lago d'Orta in the background
The 2nd part of the hike was quite strenuous

So far, the hike isn’t too strenuous or technically difficult. The second part of the hike becomes a bit more treacherous, especially when you do it in Winter, like we did.

From Vercio towards Cromlèch del Monte Faiè the trail becomes quite a bit steeper and zigzags up the flank of the mountain. After about half an hour after leaving Vercio, you turn the corner and from here it becomes very steep. We didn’t have any sticks with us and we basically crawled our way up the snowy hillside, using trees and branches to pull ourselves up (note to self: buy sticks!).

At this point we realised that going down this way wouldn’t be the best idea, so we decided we were going to do the whole Monte Faiè loop to get back to Bracchio. This part, towards the crest, took us about another 30 minutes. However, I’m sure that in Summer this normally doesn’t take as long.

3d part of the hike: Towards Monte Faiè

Monte Faie view from the top
The view from the top of Monte Faiè is gorgeous

Once we reached the crest, relieved we managed to scramble our way up, we were convinced Monte Faiè was just behind the next hill. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. We hiked over several hills before we reached the actual summit and sat down for lunch. Despite the efforts and the aching muscles, the view was absolutely worth it!

We arrived at the top about 2:45 after leaving the car park. As I said before, I’m sure it doesn’t take as long during Summer when you don’t have to plough your way through snow and the trail is easier to find.

The descent

After a refreshing (literally, our hands were freezing and shaking) stop and lunch, we decided to not turn around and go back the way we came from. The trail was a bit too slippery for our liking, so we decided to follow the A54 trail back to Bracchio. This way we’d make a loop around the mountain and we wouldn’t have to take the same road back.

This trail is a bit easier, and took us past Alpe Olmio (the other starting point). We realised that this is probably the most popular route to take to get to Monte Faiè but we still felt like the A52 trail was more scenic.

From Alpe Olmio we still had another 1:15-30 to get to the car park. At times the trail isn’t indicated that well, so it doesn’t hurt to have maps.me downloaded (since this works much better for hikes than Google Maps).

By the time we reached the car, our legs were shaking and quaking. No surprise, we hadn’t done any other hikes to warm up, we went straight from sitting on the couch all the time to hiking up and down 1000 metres in about 5 hours.

Conclusion

It took our bodies a whole week to no longer ache, but it was so worth it. I’m sure the pictures will give you a pretty good idea why. If you’re ever around Lago Maggiore, I would definitely recommend this hike. Even if you’re not the biggest hiker, it’s possible to reach Monte Faiè with less effort. In that case, I would advise leaving from Alpe Olmio. You’ll still be rewarded with those gorgeous views at the top.

If you do leave from Bracchio, like we did, I would advise to for sure take route A52 to hike up. Also, if you end up hiking up there in Winter: make sure to bring sticks, you won’t regret it.

Have you ever hiked around Lago Maggiore? Do you have any tips for my next visit? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Want to know more about what you can do in Piemonte? Read my blog about things to do in Torino, the capital city of Piemonte!

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