The Trentino side of Lake Garda always reserves some incredible surprises, such as the Ponale path. This road, transformed into a now very popular pedestrian and cycle path, is one of the main attractions of this Garda area. A panoramic road on Lake Garda in all respects…
Walks and excursions: where do we start?
This path connects the banks of Riva del Garda to the Ledro Valley behind it, with a road carved into the rock, which leaves you speechless for its beauty. The Ponale Trail project dates back to the 19th century, a time when connections were needed between the productive hinterland and the shores of Lake Garda. About 20 years ago, however, the road was abandoned in an entirely different situation – in the meantime a functional tunnel had been created.
Since 2004 it has become a path where you can pass on foot for walks or with bicycles; it has become a famous road throughout Europe for the suggestive corners it offers in about 20 kilometers of walking (round trip).
Starting the journey from the coast of Riva, you pass in front of the hydroelectric plant and then cross the road when you see the sign for the D01 – Direction Ledro on the western Gardesana road.
The route continues in the panoramic Ponale route and you walk among the rocks, small tunnels, exciting curves that go uphill for about 2 kilometres. You arrive at this point above the bay, on the border with the Valle di Ledro which flows here: this is the point of the Sentiero del Ponale which takes one direction for bikes, and takes another on foot.
Described as a system of paths, the Ponale System, this area in fact includes a network of hiking and mountaineering trails that can also be covered in part by mountain bike.
On foot on the Ponale path
Continuing on foot, cross the bridge and then take a flight of steps that leads to the forest road, where Valle di Ledro begins. Here you arrive at a part of the paved roadway, the Pregasina road, you go through hairpin bends with a breathtaking landscape, climbing up the rocks and with Lake Garda below. We then arrive at the panoramic terrace, where there is also a statue of the Regina Mundi. Here you can also rest in the bar or restaurant, since the journey is certainly not short…
After a while, the Ponale Path returns united for pedestrians and cyclists, and you can head together towards Biacesa and then to Prè di Ledro, a town which, following a slope, leads towards the center of Molina di Ledro. Here you can easily reach the shores of the spectacular Lake Ledro.
Here is the Lake Ledro pile-dwelling museum, which makes it a unique opportunity to visit a prehistoric scenario, thanks to the archaeological finds on display and the huts reconstructed in wood.
The beauties of walking on the Ponale Trail
This route can be covered in about 3 hours, which leads to a height difference of about 600 meters between the start in Riva del Garda and the highest area.
As we have said, it is about 10 km outward and 10 km back, but it does not present walking difficulties – if anything, the last part uphill towards Lake Ledro can be tiring, and during the hottest days you need to prepare with water and comfortable shoes.
For those who don’t want to tackle the entire route, there is the possibility of a ring route, shorter but still exciting.
In this case, having arrived at the crossroads where there is a bar, go down towards the tunnel, take the short stretch of paved road and return to the crossroads towards Pregasina, which returns towards the lake.
The road is the most panoramic among those of Northern Garda because it reserves rocky scenery on one side and spectacular views of the lake on the other.
In some areas, moreover, it is also possible to spot military shelters dating back to the war period. These are Austro-Hungarian fortifications that were intended to prevent Garibaldi’s troops from descending from the Ledro Valley to Lake Garda, and which were also used during the First World War to defend the Empire’s border with Italy.
The territory of Ponale
This large territory includes the Ponale Valley, which despite being in the Trentino Garda area, has a mild climate and vegetation that gives the passage the freshness of holm oaks, willows and poplars.
The Ponale Valley connects the Ledro Valley to the Garda Valley in this spectacular path, which in ancient times was instead traveled by a mule track, a fundamental link, which reached from the Ledro area to the so-called Porto del Ponale.
It was one of the two outlets on the Basso Sarca river, and it was practiced since the 12th century – there are even reports from 1192 of transport from Riva to Ponale and then to Torbole.
An important commercial area, which in 1848 had a turning point: the ancient mule track of the Ponale was transformed into a connecting road along the sheer walls of Monte Oro and Rocchetta. A project desired by the entrepreneur Giacomo Cis, for which the Porto del Ponale was abandoned and the Strada del Ponale was created. The works were completed in 1851, and then the story, as we have seen, reached the present day, in which even this Ponale Path is history today, to be walked with emotion for its beauty.
Directions for traveling safely along the Ponale Road
One last note: the Sentiero del Ponale is in any case always an impervious environment, so it is good to know that deviations from the practicable roads are not recommended. It is always advisable to avoid venturing into these mountain roads with pushchairs or wheelchairs with reduced mobility, while dogs can also be good company as long as they are kept on a short leash.
Furthermore, an essential recommendation, excursions to the Sentiero del Ponale are not recommended during periods of frost and thaw: falling rocks from above is dangerous, so it is not advisable to venture during winter or in case of rain and thunderstorms.