Margherita Ragg is a mountain junkie and the creator of adventure travel blog The Crowded Planet. Coffee, hiking and sleeping in are some of the things she loves best.
Lake Garda is a must-visit destination for outdoor and adventure lovers. Italy’s largest lake is not only blessed with stunning natural landscapes and mild weather, but is also home to a great variety of activities.
Head to the Trentino (northern) shore of Lake Garda, where the mountains meet the lake, and you’ll find enough outdoor activities to do something different every day of the week.
Here are seven Lake Garda outdoor activities guaranteed to showcase Italy’s natural beauty and deliver an adrenaline rush.
Hiking is probably the easiest outdoor activity to enjoy on Lake Garda. The northern shore of the lake is surrounded by peaks reaching 2,000 meters and crisscrossed by a variety of trails that range from a simple afternoon walk to challenging, multi-day hikes.
The GardaTrek Top Loop is a great long-distance (7-day) summer hike with spectacular views of the lake. For those visiting outside the summer months, there are two other GardaTrek options. The Low Loop is a simple two-day hike along the lake shore and surrounding villages. The Medium Loop is a four-day trail that climbs to 1000 meters and can be hiked year round.
2. Via Ferrata
The term via ferrata describes a protected climbing route that uses a system of steps, ladders and steel cables that is always in place. Via ferrata were used by World War I troops to reach high-altitude trenches and forts. The northern Lake Garda region and nearby Dolomites were part of the WWI Italian front, and there are still several via ferrata that can be climbed. The most famous is the Via delle Bocchette in the Brenta Dolomites, about an hour away from the Trentino shore of Lake Garda. Closer to the lake, you can opt for the Colodri ferrata, an easy climb that is ideal as for first timers.
3. Sailing & Windsurfing
The northern shore of Lake Garda is a wind sport mecca, due to the famous Ora del Garda, a year round wind that blows from south to north every afternoon. Reliable winds make Lake Garda a popular location for windsurfers and sailors. There are several schools and clubs in Torbole and Riva del Garda that organize lesson and equipment rental.
4. Mountain Biking
Thanks to an extensive network of bike trails and shuttle services, mountain biking is another popular outdoor activity in the area surrounding Lake Garda. The Sarca Bike Trail is an easy, 25K option that runs parallel to the Sarca River and heads north from the lake to the villages of Arco and Dro. Those looking for a real adrenaline rush can explore the many downhill mountain bike trails.
5. Rock Climbing
The town of Arco, not far from the northern shore of Lake Garda, is one of Europe’s best rock climbing destinations, thanks to its wonderful crags and opportunities for multi-pitch climbs. Veteran climbers need no introduction to Arco. Beginners can take advantage of climbing schools like Mmove in Arco.
Climbing schools can also arrange canyoning day trips. There are several streams descending the mountains surrounding the lake, and canyoning trips range from easy outings for beginners to hair-rising adventures for veterans, with long jumps and abseils.
There’s no better way to end a Lake Garda vacation than a panoramic paragliding flight that allows you to appreciate a bird’s eye view of the lake and mountains. Paragliding tours depart from the top of Monte Baldo, one of the highest mountains surrounding the lake, and end 20 to 40 minutes later in Malcesine on the northeastern shore. From Malcesine, take a sunset ferry ride back to the northern shore.
What to Pack for a Trip to Lake Garda
April to October is the best time to head to Lake Garda. Hiking, climbing and mountain biking are possible year round, but the summer months are best for activities like windsurfing and canyoning.
Temperatures get quite warm, so pack a technical t-shirt or tank and convertible or roll-up women’s hiking pants. Water or board shorts like the Mutiny River Short are great for time along the lake and double as hiking shorts. A light jacket like the MØVA Hoody is great when the wind starts blowing; the W’s Airstorm Jacket is a great option for earlier or later in the season.