Hiking Mt Vesuvius – a Hike Into History

Mount Vesuvius was peaking through the clouds as we looked up from the ruins of ancient Pompeii. When the volcano erupted in AD 79, the people who survived the eruption were buried under up to 6 m (20 ft) of volcanic ash. It’s hard to look at the mountain today and not feel a sense of foreboding. But Hiking Mt Vesuvius is an adventure you don’t want to miss when you’re visiting Naples. If you only visit Pompeii, you just see half the story.

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Related: Find out what to see and do when you’re visiting Livorno, Italy.

An image of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background.
You can see Mount Vesuvius towering over the ruins of Pompeii. Photo by Greg Olsen.

One of the World’s Most Monitored Volcanoes

Vesuvius is an active volcano that has erupted many times and will likely erupt again. When you’re hiking Mt Vesuvius, you can see steam being released from vents inside the crater. While the most deadly eruption occurred in AD 79, there have been many others over the years. An eruption in 1631 was felt across southern Europe and ash fell 1200 km away in Istanbul, Turkey. The last eruption was in 1944 and several villages were destroyed. Another full scale eruption would be disastrous. More than half a million people live inside the danger zone of Vesuvius. For that reason, it is one of the most monitored volcanoes on the planet.

An image of the steam vents inside the caldera of Mt Vesuvius.
You can see steam coming out of vents inside the caldera on Mt Vesuvius. Photo by Greg Olsen.

Is Hiking Mt Vesuvius Safe?

In a word – yes. Would I want to buy property on the side of this volcano? No. The government has tried giving incentives to get people to relocate, but few residents have done so. It’s pretty unlikely that an eruption will happen while you’re hiking Mt Vesuvius. There are usually warning signs before an eruption occurs and this is one volcano that is closely monitored.

An image of the national park sign inside Vesuvius National Park.
Hiking Mt Vesuvius is so popular that it was made a national park in 1995. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Parco Nationale del Vesuvio

Hiking Mt Vesuvius is such a popular thing to do that in 1995, the area around Vesuvius was officially declared a national park. The park has 11 different trails that cover a total of 54-km, but most visitors, myself included, just hike the main trail that leads to the summit and the caldera. We caught a taxi to the entrance gate the first time we hiked it and used a bus the second time. There is very little parking near the entrance. You can also hike from the bottom of the mountain up, but we just did the hike from the top near the park entrance.

An image of the trail and the view of the Bay of Naples in Vesuvius National Park - Hiking Mt Vesuvius
On a clear day, the views are excellent as you are hiking Mt Vesuvius. Photo by Greg Olsen.

What You Need to Know When Hiking Mt Vesuvius

My number one tip for hiking Mt Vesuvius: use the bathroom before you go. The outhouses at this park are some of the worst I have seen anywhere. If things get desperate and you have to use the outhouse, make sure you bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It’s gross, but you will survive. The trail can be a little steep at the start of this hike, but if you’re not terribly out of shape you should be fine. Some hikers used hiking sticks. It takes about an hour to hike up and back from the entrance gate – including time for photo-ops. There is a little gift shop and a coffee shop partway up. It could take you longer if you stop and linger there, but the views are lovely.

An image of the trail and a person hiking Mt Vesuvius in Naples, Italy.
The first part of the trail is very steep, but it’s also wide and flat and there are hand rails. This really helps when you’re hiking Mt Vesuvius. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Useful Gear

This is a relatively short hike, but it can be steep in places. It can also be windy near the top of the mountain. Wear sensible walking shoes and a bring a light jacket. I usually bring a lightweight day pack to hold my water bottle, sunglasses, jacket, hat, snacks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer (see my number one tip above.) Note: I love traveling with the pack below, because it’s lightweight, inexpensive, folds up to a tiny square and has a lifetime guarantee.

Climbing to the Caldera – Hiking Mt Vesuvius

The entire top of the mountain was covered in clouds the first time my family and I went hiking at Mt Vesuvius. The cloud cover gave the volcano an air of mystery. The second time we hiked there, we were more fortunate. On a clear day, you get marvelous views of the Bay of Naples. From the very top you can gaze out over the ruins of Pompeii and imagine how it must have looked in AD 79. That’s what I call hiking into history.

An image of as man hiking Mt Vesuvius in Naples, Italy.
As you are hiking Mt Vesuvius, there are spots where you should watch for falling rocks. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of uneven trail on the hike up Mt Vesuvius near Naples, Italy - Hiking Mt Vesuvius
There are areas of uneven trail on the hike up Mt Vesuvius. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of the steps on the trail in Mount Vesuvius National Park near Naples, Italy - Hiking Mt Vesuvius
Making Vesuvius a national park and charging an entrance fee has allowed them to make improvements to the trails like these wooden steps. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of two people standing near the caldera of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy - Hiking Mt Vesuvius
Hiking Mt Vesuvius is worth it to see the caldera of the volcano that wiped out the city of Pompeii. Hiking up an active volcano is exciting. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of the trail and the crater on Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy.- Hiking Mt Vesuvius
The trail along the crater of Mount Vesuvius provides great views of the crater as well as Pompeii below. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of the caldera of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy.
A closer look inside the crater of Mount Vesuvius. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of two people standing in Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background near Naples, Italy.
It is possible to go hiking at Mt Vesuvius and visit Pompeii in the same day. Be sure to get your Pompeii Vesuvius selfie shot. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

If You Go – Hiking Mt Vesuvius

  • It’s easy to go hiking at Mt Vesuvius and visit Pompeii in the same day. I recommend doing the hike first and visiting the archaeological site afterwards. The first time we hiked Vesuvius, we arrived right at the park opening time and we had the summit all to ourselves for several minutes before other hikers arrived. There was something very special about standing alone at the top of this infamous volcano.
  • Naples is the closest city to Mount Vesuvius. If you are in Naples for lunch or dinner make sure you eat pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza. It must be eaten there. It’s a rule.
  • There is a small fee to enter the national park and go hiking at Mt Vesuvius.

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