The Gran Bosco Natural Park (Big Forest) is a beautiful place for hiking, mountain biking and, in winter, snowshoeing, in the midst of a wild forest.
The Gran Bosco extends from 1,000m above sea-level to 2,600m. It was established in 1980 to protect the enironment including firs and the wide range of larches and Swiss stone pines. 70% of the area is covered with woodlands, while the remaining 30% is covered with pastures and high-mountain grasslands. The wildlife is extremely varied with about 70 species of nesting birds and 21 species of mammals, among them roe deer, deer, and chamois.
The area prior to being made a national park, provided (circa. 1700) the timber used for the big straight grain beams used in the great military and civil works of engineering, like the Arsenal in Turin, Basilica of Superga, and Venaria Reale Castle.
The great variety of environments and flora in the Gran Bosco offers an ideal habitat for a very rich fauna. Birds of prey include Goshawks, Sparrow Hawks, Buzzards, Kestrels and some Golden Eagles. Among the nocturnal birds of prey there are Tawny Owls, living at the lowest altitudes, plus Eagle Owls and, in the fir forests, Tengmalm’s Owls using for its nest the cavities dug by the Black Woodpecker, the biggest Picidae in Europe.
Other birds include the Ptarmigan and the Black Grouse and Rock Partridge plus Nutcrackers and Stone Pines which eats pinenuts.
Among the mammals there are hares (European hare and Arctic hare), squirrels, marmots plus foxes, ermine, weasel, marten, stone marten, and badger.
Chamois has always been lived in the area, wild boar also live here as do deer and roe deer.
In 1997 wolves were reintroduced to the Park.
The Gran Bosco has wide variety of more than 600 species of flora, among which are some of the most important forest species in Piemonte.
At the border with the meadows (at the bottom of the valley), there’s a considerable area covered in broad-leaf trees, among which Ash Trees, Birches, Maples, and Alders and thin populations of Beech Trees as well as some Yew trees.
As you move to higher altitudes, you enter the realm of conifers. In the driest and sunniest areas and on the most superficial and rocky soils there are Scotch Pines, sometimes covered in big mistletoe bushes. Between 1300 and 1800 meters the area is dominated by Silver Firs and Spruce Firs which extend to the eastern border of the Park. Towards the upper limit of the fir forest it is also possible to find Larches and Stone pines – very rare in the Western Alps – with the wonderful Stone pine forest of the Piccolo Bosco.
The presence of two rare herbaceous species is worth mentioning: Corthusa Matthioli, a Primulacea found in very few places on the southern slope of the Alps, and Menyanthes Trifoliata, characteristic of the areas with brackish water, once largely widespread in the rice fields of Piemonte and today practically disappeared.
Alpine Refuge Daniel Arlaud
The Gran Bosco has a refuge for use all your round for hikers, cross-country skiers and people snowshoeing.
In winter time the shelter can be reached on foot (with normal mountaineering boots) by following the forest path. For further information contact the Tourist Information Centre.
The refuge is open in summer. More details can be found by visiting the refuge’s website (below) or from the Sauze Tourist Office.
The Gran Bosco Natural Park has special regulations to safeguard the forest, its inhabitants and the delicate balances existing between them.
These rules are:
Never leave rubbish
No fires are allowed except in specially designated areas where it’s possible to use barbecues and camping stoves
Do NOT pick wild flowers or wild fruits
Don NOT disturb amphibians, mollusks, or insects
Dogs must be kept on leash and cannot be taken outside the recreational areas and the areas established by the Park Authority (however, if you love walking with your dog, you can go alng the road leading from Monfol to Grange Seu)
From 15th May to 30th November “photographic hunting” is not allowed, in order not to disturb the animals in the delicate period of their reproduction and birth.
It is forbidden to leave the marked trails.
Access by bike is free exclusively along the inner carriage roads and the trails specified by the Park Authority.
Organized groups on horseback or by bike must have the authorization of the Park Director
During the winter, the use of skis along the trails is admitted, while off-track routes are forbidden.
Organized groups and school groups can enter the Park in limited numbers and only by previous authorization issued by the Director or led by the qualified staff of the Park Authority.
Camping is forbidden in all the Park territory, including in the recreational areas, but it is possible to spend the night in Daniele Arlaud Mountain Hut, managed by the Park Authority and situated in the heart of the protected area, at Montagne Seu.