While the first two thirds of the ascent only the backwards view to the west is open so that Monte dei Cervi can be seen, after a while, as you reach the elevation of the Monte Scalone the south and east open up to give you great views. You should not try to climb Monte San Salvatore directly from Madonna dell'Alto to its south (see description below) as the dense forest of dwarf beeches is all but impenetrable. The descent is much easier as you can (try to) see the open patches from above.
Getting ThereSee the Getting There section of the main page. The trailhead is at a gate on the eastern side of SP119, the road between Polizzi Generosa and Piano Battaglia. Don't be fooled by no trespass signs - the trails are meant for hiking, though you have to climb a 7 foot fence at first.
- Start altitude: 1240m
- Summit altitude: 1913m
- Prevailing exposition: W
- Type: 3h on forest roads - 3h on overgrown and vanishing trails
- Protection: unprotected
The route is described as an 8 loop, starting end ending at the trailhead at SP119.
Monte Mufara West Slopes
The first stage of the ascent follows the forest road which starts right behind the gate. Climb the fence and turn left onto the road. It follows the street for some 500m, then takes a u-turn to the right and steadily climbs the slopes beneath Monte Mufara and Monte Zuacella. Look out for orchids here - they abound in spring. To the right of the road, as it climbs several oddly shaped outcroppings of limestone rock appear near the road until it suddenly reveals a view to Polizzi Generosa and swings eastwards into Vallone della Madonna.
Monte Scalone Slopes
The Vallone della Madonna is a wild and narrow gorge, especially at its mouth above which we are standing now. A sign leads to a nature trail, which descends into the valley to steeply climb out of it again onto the slopes of Monte Scalone. Here you find several nebrodi firs, the almost extinct tree species which only survived here. All trees are fenced in, but some fences have gates so that you can llok at the trees very closely. They reach a height of up to 20m.
The trail gets lost every now and then, especially near the top of Monte Scalone where it crosses a meadow only to cut through a small forest of dwarf beeches. From the summit meadow you can enjoy a fair view towards the surrounding Madonie mountains.
Piano Iola, Piano Grande
From Monte Scalone the trail descends a while until it reaches a forest hut near the small plateau of Piano Iola. From there, back on the forest road, it climbs steeply up the slopes of Monte San Salvatore. It reaches a large plateau, Piano Grande to the west of the San Salvatore summit and there branches into two roads. Take the left one, which switchbacks to the antenna on the western side summit of Monte San Salvatore. From there cut trail-lessly through a beech forest towards the main summit.
After enjoying the summit views, head down directly to Madonna dell'Alto in the south. Again you have to cross a beech forest and again there is no trail. At first you can chose your way into the forest but once inside there is no way to find the right direction. Several ravines cross the slopes and it is far from easy to get down to the forest road which leads to the chapel on top of Madonna dell'Alto. Simply head southwards, at one time or other you must meet the eat-west going forest road. Visit the chapel on top, it is but a fifteen minute hike from the road.
And Back again
From Madonna dell'Alto descend northwards towards Monte San Salvatore. Turn west at a source and follow the forest road which will lead directly to Piano Grande. There descend to Piano Iola and the forest hut underneath. The road now runs all the way through Vallone della Madonna and though it is a hike on a dirt road, this is the most impressive part of the whole loop. To the right and left odd limestone formations guard the way, very nice to look at. Follow the road back down to the trailhead at the gate on SP119.