The Soria Ellena Refuge
The Vallone della Barra, up which the trail climbs after a cool initial tract through beech woods, opens onto broad, sunny pastures. This valley was chosen by Park management as the site for releases of bearded vultures in the international reintroduction program.
After San Giacomo di Entracque (1226 m), shortly beyond the park hiking refuge, the road becomes unpaved and, with a few switchbacks, rises up into the Vallone della Barra.
The beech woods rapidly thin out and give way to lush meadows interspersed by occasional patches of brush. The trail continues to climb at a mild gradient, near the valley floor; passing to the right of the Gias Isterpis, recently restructured, the trail continues on a long traverse until it reaches Piazzale dei Cannoni, where it passes by a mule track on the left leading to the Gias della Siula.
The road climbs with two switchbacks (shortcut possible here), then proceeds, alternating traverses and occasional switchbacks: at about 1650 m, next to a switchback heading right and at the foot of a rocky outcropping, there is another small path leading off to the left, easy to see but a bit difficult, that shortens the route.
After passing the narrow bottleneck known as the Passaggio di Peirastretta, the steepest part of the trail is finished: passing by the trail for Colle di Fenestrelle on the right, the dirt road fords the Gesso della Barra torrent at the mouth of the Piano del Praiet plateau.
Hikers should cross the torrent on the wooden footbridge, a few meters to the left of the ford. Just over the footbridge, there is a fork: the route continues on the left fork and, on a trail half-hidden by weeds, leads to the Praiet shelter. Here the trail turns right and climbs up a steep ramp over a rocky ridge, atop which stands the Soria Ellena Refuge (1840 m, 2 hours and 10 minutes - 2 hours and 20 minutes from San Giacomo di Entracque).
If you prefer to avoid this tract of trail as well, after crossing the footbridge, follow the dirt track leading southward into the broad pastures of the Piano del Praiet until it meets another branch of the torrent, just at the turnoff on the right for Colle di Finestra and the Pera de Fener.
The track fords this stream as well and, turning sharply northward, climbs up the hillside to the Soria Ellena Refuge.
Access and parking
From Borgo San Dalmazzo drive up the Valle Gesso. After passing Valdieri, turn left for Entracque. Before entering the town, turn right for San Giacomo and then right again for San Giacomo. There is a parking fee in the summer season.
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