• Jenny

Mount Etna Hikes | Schiena dell'Asino

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Hiking the Schiena dell'Asino Trail

Mount Etna is truly a hiker's dream. Hiking on a volcano with views of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance? It doesn’t really get much better than that. But where to start? After careful research and consideration of the lack of hiking we have done recently, I chose the Schiena dell’Asino trail. With breathtaking views of Mount Etna, the Sicilian coastline, and beautiful flora along the way, this trail is top-notch.

According to my All Trails app, the Schiena dell’Asino trail is a there and back trek, 4.1 miles each way, which is moderate in difficulty and fairly heavily trafficked. The estimated duration according to the app was 1 1/2 hours. I’m not sure what type of superhero clocked themselves at this rate; it took us an hour and a half to reach the top, and then another 45 minutes to go back down. We hike at a constant, but leisurely pace so we can enjoy the views and stop for pictures every now and then. Add in another 30 minute snack break at the top, and that brought our total time to just under 3 hours.

The trail is quite rocky in many areas, which made us extremely thankful we chose to wear our hiking boots. It is possible to hike this in tennis shoes; however, I would not recommend attempting this due to the rocky terrain. Your ankles will thank you later! And now, on to the hike!

Look for this sign just to the left of the parking lot

The Schiena dell’Asino trailhead is located at the meeting point of Strada Provinciale 92 and Via Catania, with a small parking area available. It is also possible to park along the side of the road wherever you can find a spot. Click here for the GPS coordinates to the parking area. The trail head is just off to the right of the parking area and is clearly marked.

The beginning of the trail is extremely rocky, and has a constant incline for about the first half mile. Luckily, this part of the hike is surrounded by densely growing pine trees, which provide much needed shade for this tedious first section. No matter how much your muscles ache and your lungs burn, keep going!

The trial is very easy to follow, just follow the red and white trail markers. There really aren't any offshoots, other than short cuts that irresponsible hikers have made. There is a short side trail that goes to a cave called the Grotta di Pitagora, but we decided not to take it this time. I'm sure we'll be back. Something to look forward to for next time.

Pine trees provide a nice cover of shade
Follow the red and white trail markers

About a half mile up, watch for an opening in the trees with a small grassy patch. The view from here is the first reward for all of your hard work. You can see the surrounding mountainside, smaller concave shaped hills, and an impressive section of coastline that reaches up to Taormina to the north and down to Siracusa in the south.

You can see the Mediterranean Sea from up here!
Perfect selfie spot!
Beautiful views await you on the Schiena dell'Asino

After you come out of the trees, the terrain and vegetation starts to change. The trail meanders among larger rocks and provides soft, volcanic soil for walking. Replacing the pine trees are round bushes, tall yellow grasses, and small cactus plants that remind me of being in the dessert. Other than the trail and the obvious places where lava has flowed, plant life covers the sides of the mountain.

The volcanic rocks are porous and allow for lots of vegetation on the mountainsides

Speaking of lava flows, if you look with an observing eye you can catch dried up lava rivers in various sizes and stages. From solid rock that looks like it was petrified in mid-flow, to patches of soft black soil tracing paths down the mountain, Etna doesn’t let you forget that you are actually walking on an active volcano!

Looks like the lava froze in mid-stream!
This dried up lava river bed cuts right across the trail
A wide sandy path shows where lava once flowed

As you continue to trek up the trail, the views really start to open up. Glimpses of Etna’s peak, in all its smoke and glory, come into sight, along with larger rock formations and even more widespread views of the valleys below.