Home » Green Lake: a mountain breathtaking destination for a one-day trip from Turin

Green Lake: a mountain breathtaking destination for a one-day trip from Turin

by Paola Bertoni
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The Green Lake (Lago Verde in Italian, Lac Vert in French) is a spectacular alpine lake. The colour of the water in summer is an emerald green so intense that it has no equal. In winter, it is white and covered with snow. Perfect for a day trip from Bardonecchia or Turin, Lago Verde is an excellent destination to immerse yourself in a fairytale setting in the unspoilt nature of the mountains.

Why the water of Green Lake is green

The main characteristic of Green Lake, which attracts large numbers of hikers in summer, is the colour of the water, an incredible emerald green. In reality, the lake’s water is pure, transparent and colourless, like the water of all Alpine lakes. 

The lake’s emerald green comes from an algae living on the bottom that gives it this characteristic colour. However, the colour of the water is not the only surprise of Green Lake. Tree trunks that have fallen into the lake keep incredibly long, without rotting, creating a colour contrast to the green lake.

There are two main reasons for this: the fallen trees are mainly larches, whose wood is itself resistant to rotting, and the water in the lake has a pH value tending towards alkaline due to the magnesium salts contained in the dolomites, the sedimentary rocks above the lake.

What to do in Valle Stretta during an excursion to Green Lake

The Green Lake is in Valle Stretta, an Alpine valley stretching between Bardonecchia in the Turin province and the Névache municipality in France. Valle Stretta is an enchanting mountain area frequented in summer and winter. The landscape is rich in streams, forests and flowers at every turn.

During the summer, it is possible to stop on the shores of Green Lake to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the characteristic emerald waters. Numerous fish swim in its waters, and although there are no prohibitions on bathing, the water is so icy that it is impossible even in the warmer months.

In winter, however, the lake freezes and turns white with snow. The region is famous for winter sports, and the nearby Bardonecchia is a renowned ski resort.   

Useful tips for your hiking to Green Lake

Green Lake has an altitude of 1834 metres and is in Valle Stretta, a side valley of Val di Susa. The area attracts many Italian and French tourists yearly because it is only an hour and a half from Turin, about 10 kilometres from Bardonecchia and 30 kilometres from Briançon.

A borderland, Valle Stretta was Italian territory until the end of World War II. For this reason, people speak Italian before French in the alpine huts, even though Green Lake is in the French municipality of Nevache.

The path to Green Lake is well-signposted and regularly used. It is an easy route and suitable for everyone in good health, with their own pace and appropriate clothing. If you are unsure if you’re fit enough to get to Green Lake, ask for information and maps at the Bardonecchia Tourist Office in the central Via Medail.

Where to get food and water

During the last part of the walk to the lake, there are no services or refreshment points, only unspoilt nature. However, there is a fountain and two refuges near the car park where the trail starts, where you can refill your water bottles or enjoy mountain gastronomy.

Although the Re Magi and Terzo Reggimento Alpini alpine huts are on the French side of the valley, their cuisine is typical Piedmontese. Valle Stretta was always on Italian territory until 1947 when the upper part became part of the French department of Hautes-Alpes.

Starters are usually anchovies with green sauce, bean salad, tomini cheese or sliced meats. The main courses are such as polenta and cheese or polenta and sausage.

What to pack for a hike to Green Lake

The trail up to Lago Verde is within everyone’s reach, even for untrained but healthy hikers. Although there are a few steeper climbs, the trail never has any exposed sections or dangerous inclines.

Good hiking equipment such as comfortable, breathable clothing and hiking boots solves the problem of how to dress. Sneakers, however, are not recommended because there is a risk of getting twisted. Hiking boots offer protection for the ankles and have a non-slip sole that is perfect for even the most uneven surfaces.

As for all mountain hikes, put a heavy sweater and a windproof, waterproof jacket in your rucksack. As well, of course, as food for a picnic in the greenery and a water bottle to fill up at the fountain near the hut at the beginning of the last section of the trail to Green Lake.

Alpine landscape in Valle Stretta
Alpine landscape in Valle Stretta

How to reach Lago Verde: hiking trails, car and public transport

From the beginning of Pian del Colle, Bardonecchia, the path to Green Lake is about six kilometres long for about two hours of walking. This estimate applies to trained people and is an extra hour or so for Sunday hikers, but you could also park and start walking from the alpine huts area.

The route up to Green Lake is suitable for everyone because most of the walk is easy. The few steep climbs are very short. However, the trail is not ideal for pushchairs because there are large tree roots and stones of various sizes along the way. If you wish, however, you can leave the buggy unattended halfway along the path between the Re Magi hut and Green Lake, as I have seen several families do.

The easiest way to get to Green Lake from Italy is to arrive at Pian del Colle, in the municipality of Bardonecchia, then proceed on foot, stopping at the Re Magi refuge.

By car from Turin to Bardonecchia

Getting to Green Lake by car from Turin takes about an hour and a half to get to Bardonecchia. From Turin, the fastest route is the A32 motorway towards Frejus, but you can also cross the entire Susa Valley via the SS24 state road. Once you reach Bardonecchia, follow the SP216 provincial road to Pian del Colle, where the trail starts.

How to reach the Green Lake trail by public transport

As an alternative to the car, Bardonecchia and the Alta Valle di Susa can be reached by train with connections every hour from Turin, which is connected to other Italian cities by Italo and Trenitalia high-speed trains.

During the high season, in July and August, a free shuttle bus connects Bardonecchia station with Pian del Colle, where the path to Green Lake starts. You can consult the shuttle bus timetables (in Italian) on the Bardonecchia municipality website.

The route on foot from Pian del Colle

The complete path to Green Lake starts from Pian del Colle in Bardonecchia. After leaving your car in the dirt car park at Pian del Colle or arriving by free shuttle bus, there is a short stretch of tarmac road and then the path to Green Lake.

The walk to the Re Magi refuge takes about an hour and a half. After the first hour uphill, the path becomes flatter, between woods and meadows. The view is beautiful because the Valle Stretta stream accompanies the entire walk.

The short route from the Re Magi refuge

Once at the Re Magi hut, you’ll have the last half an hour’s walk to ascent to Green Lake. Starting the trek to the lake from there is also possible because there is a car park just before the Re Magi and Terzo Reggimento Alpini alpine huts.

Despite the path being slightly more difficult because of stones, tree roots and steeper climbs, the last few kilometres are genuinely memorable because they offer postcard-perfect scenery. Alpine huts in the first part of the trail alternate with flower-filled meadows and grazing cows in the summer season.

The landscape changes in the last section of the trail when it enters a thick pine forest that hides the Green Lake. The last section requires more attention because you must walk between tree roots, but the view of Lago Verde when the pines open up is breathtaking. Then begins a short descent to reach the lake, which lies in a small basin.

Feel free to comment on your experience of this summer trek to Lago Verde, in this unspoilt oasis of nature between Bardonecchia and Valle Stretta, on the border between France and Italy.

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