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Cavagrande del Cassibile: Will You Hike the Prohibited Trails?

Cavagrande del Cassibile: Will You Hike the Prohibited Trails?

Cavagrande del Cassibile is an incredible limestone canyon in Sicily, Italy. It’s by no coincidence, that it’s nicknamed the Sicily Grand Canyon. The Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile (Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve) is one of the best natural attractions in Sicily. At the foot of the canyon, you’ll find Laghetti di Cavagrande, which is a mindblowing natural pool. But, the trails accessing Laghetti di Cavagrande are prohibited and have remained closed since 2014. Of course, the majority of visitors will ignore the signs and hike down to Laghetti di Cavagrande, via the main path called Scala Cruci.

In this travel guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Cavagrande del Cassibile and Laghetti di Cavagrande. If you don’t mind breaking the rules, you can use this guide to help you discover how to access Laghetti di Cavagrande via the closed trails at Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile. Personally, Beck and I decided against accessing these trails when we visited. In this guide, we’ll touch upon why we came to this decision.

Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile (Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve)

Known as Cava Grande or Cavagrande, the Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile is a truly spectacular limestone canyon. If you enjoy exploring natural places and are heading to Sicily, you’ll definitely want to visit this destination.

At Cavagrande del Cassibile, you’ll find immense natural pools (such as Laghetti di Cavagrande), caves (such as Grotta dei Briganti), burial tombs (Ddieri di Cavagrande) and sublime limestone rock formations. The problem is, all of the trails that access these places are closed. You’ll find signs at Cavagrande del Cassibile, which prohibit access of the trails that lead to all of the main attractions in the nature reserve. There are even warnings of substantial fines for not complying with the rules. The trails were initially closed in 2014 due to bushfire damage. Since then, the trails have remained closed and don’t appear to be re-opening any time soon.

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Cavagrande del Cassibile Essential Information

Basically, the ‘closed’ Scala Cruci trail, is the main trail used by visitors to reach Laghetti di Cavagrande, Grotta dei Briganti and Ddieri di Cavagrande. Given the lax attitudes of the Sicilian authorities, locals and tourists alike, choose to ignore these signs and access the closed trails.

We’ve even heard that authorities at Cavagrande del Cassibile, allow people to access the closed trails, merely discouraging people, saying ”it’s at your own risk”. Indeed, we’ve never heard of any accounts of people being punished or fined for accessing these closed trails. Visitors simply rock up, jump over the closed gate, and continue on their merry way to reach Laghetti di Cavagrande. Each to their own.

We also recommend checking out Alcantara Gorge in Taormina

Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile map, showing the closed trails to Laghetti di Cavagrande

To Hike or Not to Hike, That Is the Question

As mentioned, Beck and I decided not to access the closed trails. Call us goodie two shoes, but, after all, we practice what we preach when it comes to respecting the rules of places we visit. For the sake of being responsible travellers and bloggers, we chose not to hike along Scala Cruci. Of course, this meant we had massive FOMO, and, sure, some regret as we saw most people jumping the fence and accessing the prohibited trail. But, you’ve got to stick to your guns if you want to stroll along the moral high ground. Of course, no judgement here. If your dream is to swim and frolic in Laghetti di Cavagrande, then by all means, you do you.

Below, we’ll look at exactly where this beautiful canyon in Sicily is located.

Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile

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DJI Air 2S

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Riserva Naturale Cavagrande del Cassibile, Sicily, Map

Cavagrande del Cassible is located in Avola in the municipality of Siracusa in Sicily.

To help you get your bearings, here’s an interactive map of Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile on Google Maps.

Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile map, showing the closed trails to Laghetti di Cavagrande

Visiting Cavagrande del Cassibile

Whether you access the prohibited trails or not, it’s worth visiting Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile. Simply, from the main car park, you’ll enjoy a superb vantage point of Cavagrande del Cassibile and Laghetti di Cavagrande. Of course, we’re sure many of you will want to go that step further and explore Laghetti di Cavagrande, Grotta dei Briganti and Ddieri di Cavagrande. Below, we’ll talk about hiking the prohibited trails at Cavagrande del Cassibile.

Limestone gorge in Sicily
Scala Cruci zig-zags through the southern side of the canyon

Cavagrande del Cassibile Hikes

Scala Cruci is the most popular hiking trail in Cavagrande del Cassibile. Most visitors use Scala Cruci to access Laghetti di Cavagrande. From the main car park, south of the canyon, you’ll start the hike. Although, there is also another hiking trail called Mastro Ronna. This would involve starting the hike, north of the canyon, from a smaller car park, that’s harder to access due to poor road conditions.

Because most visitors hike to Laghetti di Cavagrande using the Scala Cruci trail, we’ll focus on this path. Afterwards, we’ll briefly talk about the Mastro Ronna trail.

Scala Cruci

Here are the trail specs and a link to an interactive map for the Scala Cruci trail to Laghetti di Cavagrande.

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 2–3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 450m
  • Trailhead: Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile Car Park
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Map: Wikiloc
A map of the Scala Cruci trail

Hiking Down to Laghetti di Cavagrande

Starting at the main Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile Car Park, south of the canyon, you’ll find a locked green gate. If you’re keen on hiking Scala Cruci, despite it being officially prohibited, you’ll have to jump the gate. You’ll then commence the deep descent to the canyon floor. By all accounts, the trail can be slippery and a tad sketchy after rainfall. Given the trail is closed, it’s never maintained. So, the trail will only continue to deteriorate in the future.

Eventually, you’ll reach the pristine Cassibile River. Turn right to continue your walk to Laghetti di Cavagrande.

Laghetti di Cavagrande

Laghetti di Cavagrande

At Laghetti di Cavagrande, you’ll find a small waterfall and natural rock pools filled with emerald-green water. Certainly, swimming in the pristine pools is an awesome reward for the tough descent. During summer, you’ll find many people spend their day at Laghetti di Cavagrande. After all, it’s quite a mission to reach and so there’s no rush to leave! If you arrive during the day, especially during summer, expect the natural pools to be quite crowded.

Aerial view of Laghetti di Cavagrande
Laghetti di Cavagrande

Hiking Back Up to the Cavagrande del Cassibile Car Park

After going for a dip at Laghetti di Cavagrande, it’s time for the challenging ascent. Indeed, going up is going to be much longer than going down. So, keep that in mind when you visit.

Mastra Ronna

Mastra Ronna is the less popular trail option for reaching Laghetti di Cavagrande. As mentioned, the roads leading to the car park at the entrance of Mastra Ronna are far less forgiving. This is definitely the main reason why people avoid going to this car park. So, by default, far fewer people are hiking the Mastra Ronna trail.

According to the signage at Cavagrande del Cassibile, a section of Mastra Ronna is actually open and accessible. But, the trail is only open from the car park to a place called Natala’s House, which is well short of reaching Laghetti di Cavagrande. So, it would seem almost pointless to do the accessible section of this walk. Of course, people obviously ignore the sign and complete the entire Mastra Ronna trail, all the way to Laghetti di Cavagrande.

FYI – for clarification about which trails at Riserva Naturale Orinetata Cavagrande del Cassibile are open and closed, please refer to the map above. Also, click here for a map of the Mastra Ronna trail.

Other Things to Do at Cavagrande del Cassibile

There are other awesome free attractions to explore at Cavagrande del Cassibile other than just Laghetti di Cavagrande. As previously stated, accessing these other attractions would mean accessing the closed Scala Cruci trail. So, it’s up to you, whether you’re comfortable with doing that.

Grotta dei Briganti

Grotta dei Briganti would have to be one of the best caves in Sicily. By accessing the closed Scala Cruci, you can visit Grotta dei Briganti. Basically, once you’ve descended the trail and reached the river, you’ll turn left instead of right. You’ll then follow the river for around 500 metres. Then, you’ll cross the river, and ascend a switchback trail. You’ll then hike an additional 300 metres to reach Grotta dei Briganti. Some people will combine visiting Laghetti di Cavagrande and Grotta dei Brigante during the same hike. Here’s a map of this trail.

FYI – if you want to explore another epic cave in Sicily, then check out Grotta dell’Uzzo in Zingaro Nature Reserve.

Ddieri di Cavagrande (Cavagrande del Cassibile Burial Tombs)

Another attraction at Cavagrande del Cassibile is Ddieri di Cavagrande, which is a set of burial tombs, carved into the limestone hillside. To reach Ddieri di Cavagrande, you’ll also need to access the prohibited Scala Cruci trail. To find Ddieri di Cavagrande, you won’t completely descend Scala Cruci. After around 900 metres, before reaching the river, you’ll turn left. You’ll then follow a less-defined trail, around 1.2km to reach Ddieri di Cavagrande. Again, visitors will combine visiting Laghetti di Cavagrande and Ddieri di Cavagrande. Here’s a map of this trail option.

How to Get to Cavagrande del Cassibile

The easiest and quickest way to get to Cavagrande del Cassibile is to drive there yourself. You’ll find free parking at the main car park. Indeed, it’s rare to find free parking in Sicily, so lap it up! If you don’t have your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring a car. Personally, Beck and I picked up our car hire from Catania International Airport. For an automatic car, we only paid around €7 ($7USD) per day!

As far as we’re aware, public transportation doesn’t go to Cavagrande del Cassibile. So, you’ll need a car for this adventure!

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

​​​​​​​Cavagrande del Cassibile Tours

If you don’t have your own car, but still want to explore Cavagrande del Cassibile, you can always do an organised tour. Funnily enough, the tour operators are happy to break the rules and take you on the prohibited trails. Perhaps, power in numbers, or, having a local guide with you, will put you at ease to explore the closed trails.

The ever-reliable GetYourGuide offers a Cavagrande del Cassibile Reserve Hiking Tour.

Cavagrande del Cassibile Tour

Aerial shot of Cavagrande del Cassibile

This guided Cavagrande del Cassibile Hiking Tour accesses the prohibited trails!

Cavagrande del Cassibile Recap

We hope this guide will help you explore Cavagrande del Cassibile, in whatever shape or form you like. Admittedly, we did see other visitors respect the signs and choose not to access the prohibited trails. But, put it this way – more people are ignoring the signs and accessing the closed trails than people following the rules. Anyway, whether you access the prohibited trails or not, Cavagrande del Cassibile is a beautiful place to visit.

Hiking Essentials

These are our hiking gear essentials for those hiking down to Laghetti di Cavagrande.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • Day trip from Catania: certainly, visiting Cavagrande del Cassibile is one of the best day trips you can do from Catania.
  • Explore the accessible trails: there are some trails that are still open at Cavagrande del Cassibile. By exploring these trails, you’ll still get to explore the epic canyon and still respect the rules.
  • The nearest tourist information centre remains closed: the Avola tourist information point has been closed for several years. It doesn’t seem to be reopening any time soon. So, don’t rely on going to the tourist information centre when you visit Sicily.
  • Arrive early: Laghetti di Cavagrande can get absolutely rammed in summer. So, beat the crowds and the heat and visit early.
  • Visit Agrigento: where are you headed after exploring Cavagrande del Cassibile? If you want to see excellent historical and natural attractions, then head to Agrigento. After checking out the Valley of the Temples, you should visit the breathtaking white limestone cliffs at both Scala dei Turchi and Capo Bianco.

Did we make the right decision by following the signs and not accessing the closed trails? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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