Monte Cofano is a monolitic, impressive mountain, built up by limestones, standing directly at the north coast in the western part of Sicily. Situated in the province of Trapani between Trapani and Monte Erice to the west and Capo San Vito and the mountain range of Parco Naturale dello Zingaro to the east, Monte Cofano rises 659 m above the sea level.
The north half of the mountain is surrounded by the Mediterranean sea. To the south Monte Cofano is linked by a narrow col with the marble quarries of Custonaci.
Hiking Monte Cofano can mean having four different attractions together on one day:
- hiking up an interesting mountain with a little bit of rock climbing and beautiful views on the Mediterranean sea and the western parts of Sicily;
- having an interesting coastal trail along a savage shoreline with an abandoned tunafish factory (Tonnara) and an old spanish watchtower
- having the opportunity to (sun) bath
- getting inaugurated in the mysteries of Sicilian sweets (if you finish your day at the little town of Erice on Monte Erice near Trapani).
Look out for the monastery pasticcerie (sweet shops).
The trailhead or the summit and the coastal trail is in the village of Cornino, directly at the village beach.
The best possibility is to get there by car. There is no railroad.
The public bus services can be - well - more than disappointing. If you don´t mind about it, check here if you can get a good connection. But always remember: if there is a bus on the schedule means not automatically that it will operate at all or be on time.
From Palermo or Agrigento take the highway A 29 and the A 29 dir in the direction to Trapani. Leave it at the exit "Erice" and follow the SS 187 in direction Castellamare del Golfo.
You can leave the highway A 29 bewteen Palermo and Mazara del Vallo at the exit "Castellamare", too, and follow the SS 187 in the direction Trapani.
Near Baglio Messina leave the SS 187 where Custonaci and San Vito lo Capo is signposted. At Custonaci follow the signs for Cornino. The road will automatically lead you to the beach road (Via Cornino and Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo).
Near the end of the Lungomare there is a broad, V-shaped intersection. The right road leads up the gentle slope with many holiday and weekend houses. Leave the car at or near the intersection.
Summit Route Overview
Follow the right road at the above described intersection up the gentle slopes, which are leading to the rock faces and quaries of Custonaci. After you have passed the houses of Cornino there is a lonely standing villa ahead. Pass the villa to its left, you will reach an old, partly overgrown road, which leads up in some switchbacks to the broad saddle south (right) of Monte Cofano.
At the saddle there is an intersection with another dirt road. The right road leads up to some marble quarries. Go left. Soon you will arrive a little pond for the cattle to drink. Near that pond a trail leaves the road to the left. Follow this trail up the south slopes of Monte Cofano; there is one switchback and after another ascend the trail ends at the south rocks of Monte Cofano.
Now a very nice climb (never more than UIAA grade I) starts through some dense bushes of the European dwarf palm. Stay more right while climbing up, its easier than the left side. You soon will see a fixed rope above you, securing a steep and slightly exposed rock step which you will have to overcome to reach the southeast summit slope of Monte Cofano.
For your descent bear in mind where that rope ends! Maybe you should mark it with a cairn. Then follow up the summit slope up to the summit. There is no more good trail for this part of the ascent, so look for the easiest way to get up.
Monte Cofano has a summit cross and enough space for you to enjoy a well deserved rest.
Descend to the pond at the broad col on the same way.
If you don´t want to go directly back to the car after the summit you can make the complete loop around Monte Cofano by experiencing the coastal trail.
For this recommended alternative route pass the pond on the road in northeast direction. Where the slope starts descending to the sea the road ends. There is a good trail with some switchbacks, leading down to the sea There is an abandoned Tonnara (tunafish factory) standing at the seashore. There should be some information panels about the surrounding nature and the Tonnara, too.
The coastal trail starts at the Tonnara and leads with some ups and downs around the northern part of Monte Cofano. You will experience a ragged and savage coastline, a little chapel, named "Crocifisso", you will pass many of the European dwarf palm trees (Chamaerops humilis, also called "palma nanna") which are growing - as far as I know - only in the western parts of Sicily and you can climb after 2/3 of the coastal trail onto the platform of an old spanish watchtower, called Torre di San Giovanni di Cofano.
The trail ends at the south end of Cornino, after about 200 m you will reach Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo and your car.
Hit the beach directly at Cornino. Go then looking for the sweet shops at Erice.
Monte Cofano is a protected area, the Riserva Naturale orientata Monte Cofano, so there are surely some restrictions to bear in mind.
Unfortunately I didn´t find them mentioned on the italian sites about Monte Cofano so thats my guess:
- no camping
- no fires
- no collecting of plants, parts of them or seeds
- do not leave the trails
- do not remove or disturb the animals and birds
- maybe no bathing within the Riserva Naturale (but the coastline there is so savage you will not get tempted too much....)
Monte Cofano is, due to the Mediterranean climate, a whole years hike.
Best time is early spring until early summer (February through May) and October/November. February through early April there are abundant wildflowers blossoming. You might see many orchids within the Riserva Naturale.
June through September is normally too hot - you would not like hiking with 45 grade centigrade ...
In late autumn, winter and early spring it is raining sometimes very hard in Sicily. As the trails are very slippery don´t climb Monte Cofano during wet periods. Wait until the ground has dried up.
Bathing season starts normally June until late October.
AccomodationsThere are hotels, bed & breakfasts mostly linked to farms (agritourismo) and holiday houses or appartment in the surrounding area.
San Vito lo Capo
Castellamare del Golfo
The area is worth while exploring some more days: you can hike Monte Monaco or in the Parco Naturale dello Zingaro, take a bath at San Vito lo Capo and visit Trapani and the greek town of Segesta.
Maps and GuidesAs far as I know there are no good maps available.
There is a good guide book with a hike onto Monte Cofano now also available in English:
Wanderführer Sizilien und Liparische Inseln
The map within the guide is sufficient for this hike.