Crystal clear water at Cavagrande del Cassibile | one can see the stone/rocky seafloor underneath the water.

Crystal clear water at Cavagrande del Cassibile (Melvina Taylor)

Nestled inside a large gorge are the idyllic turquoise waters of Riserva Naturale Cavagrande del Cassibile. Although this dog-friendly hike is challenging, the stunning views sweep away any fatigue. But beyond marveling at the grandeur, reward yourself with a dip in the plunge pools at the bottom. These waters are perfect for swimming somewhere that isn’t the beach, making this a real hidden gem in Sicily. 

Rocky terrain at Cavagrande del Cassibile

Rocky terrain at Cavagrande del Cassibile (Melvina Taylor)

At a Glance
  • Distance: ~2.80 miles

  • Time: Half-day Hike

  • Difficulty: Challenging

  • Elevation Gain: ~1,065 feet

How to Get There

From NAS Sigonella, the canyon is about a 1.5 hour drive south in the province of Syracuse. There are two entry points with two different trails to access the hike – north and south. The North Trail is the trailhead that you will be directed to when searching for this location on Google Maps. It requires some off-roading on a single-lane unpaved and pothole-riddled “road,” and is also inadmissible for dogs. I would not recommend this starting point; however, the hike itself might be easier. Since I brought my dog, I had to head down to the South Trail. To find this entry point, you should search “Bar Trattoria Pizzeria Cava Grande Ra Zia Gina.” This will guide you to a paid parking area (I was charged four euros) with a cafe/bar that serves snacks, refreshments, and food (grabbing ice cream here post-hike was a great reward). The South location was also dog-friendly, and I saw many others with their dogs, big and small.

Blue/green water Cavagrande del Cassibile with rocky background with trees on the stone.

Cavagrande del Cassibile (Melvina Taylor)

South Trail

The most important thing to note about this hike is that you must only do what is within your comfort level. There is no doubt that there are sections of this hike that are challenging, though I spotted many people and children of varying capabilities. Bringing a buddy is always advisable for safety. And if you can’t get past the start, then this hike might not be for you.

As for the trail itself, you will be starting from the top of the canyon for this hike. At a leisurely pace with a small dog, it took me 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete in its entirety, not factoring in the time I spent lounging around at the bottom. For this reason, I would budget at least a half-day for this trip. For the most part, the path is outlined clearly, except at the bottom. If in doubt, ask a fellow hiker, or follow others, but you will want to keep heading toward the pools. The path varies in grade and steepness (your thighs will feel the burn on the ascent) and there are spots that are not well-manicured. Once you get to the bottom, there will be multiple opportunities to cross the stream (the Cassibile River) that runs through the middle. Ensure the safety of yourself and others before crossing the water because there is a slip hazard. To combat this, bring grippy water shoes.

There are many outstanding views on the trek. Stopping at the lookout points really inspires awe due to the sheer magnitude of the gorge. You can also spot systems of houses that were dug into the canyon’s sides that date back several centuries. Any archaeological enthusiast will enjoy viewing the most notable of these systems, “Grotta dei Briganti,” or Brigand’s Cave. Once at the valley floor, the landscape is completely different. The glistening pools are so inviting and are a great way to cool off. And it is here, listening to the rush of the waterfalls and taking in the beautiful Mediterranean fauna, that you truly notice how spectacular this location is.

Other Notes
  • Wear appropriate hiking gear such as trekking shoes for the uneven and at times slippery terrain, and long trousers for walking through brush.

  • Be sure to bring some cash for parking and the bar at the starting/finishing point.

  • Bring a lot of water and wear SPF; the pools are not well-shaded.

  • Pack a picnic lunch for the bottom and a bathing suit for a swim!

author picture
Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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