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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.