Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello, two magnificent glacial lakes located at different heights. Again a very cool hike through the Corsican mountains, a must do hike during a hiking roadtrip on the island of beauty.
Two lakes which could be almost each other’s opposites, but both are dazzlingly beautiful in their own way. The first lake is blue/gray and is surrounded by green meadows and rocks. The second lake is as black as the night, surrounded by jagged dark rocks and snow literally falling into the water. The trail consists of two parts, the climb to Lac de Melo and the climb to Lac de Capitello, the second part is slightly shorter but steeper and more challenging.
The hike starts at the end of the Restonica valley, known for its scenic beauty. A beautiful clear river flows down through the valley towards the village of Corte and is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountain peaks. You can do a great variety of outdoor activities here, what makes this place a paradise for outdoor lovers.
To Lac de Melo
The first part of the hike is a gradual climb over rocky paths. In Corsica the trails mainly consist of rocks, from small rocks to large ones you need to climb using your hands. At least that’s our experience. This makes hiking a bit more challenging here. On this part of the trail we cross some flowing streams and walk past a few small waterfalls. The trail follows the right bank of the river and as the climb progresses, the view over the Restonica valley is getting wider and wider. You can enjoy this climb to the fullest and take your time to enjoy the surrounding nature. There isn’t any forest here, making it very open and spacious. You’ll mainly see a variety of shrubs and small trees. If I wasn’t so fanatical during previous hiking days, I’d have labeled this first part of the trail as fairly simple but with aching muscles and again a sunny warm day, it’s a different story.
After half an hour we pass the old Bergerie de Melo, which has been transformed into a small mountain café. It looks very tempting in this lovely setting but no time for rest, my water bottle will have to do it. After this point you can choose between two directions. The easier one is accessible from the left side of the shore after crossing a little stream. The challenging trail continues through the right side of the river. This trail runs over large rocks. It contains two large metal stairs to get past a series of huge rocks and a fixed cable to get past a series of smaller rocks. Sometimes a little help is needed to overcome an obstacle!
A short climb follows before the lake is eventually visible. Lac de Melo is situated in a beautiful natural setting. It’s almost circular in shape and the surrounding grassy shores and mountain peaks provide a serene atmosphere. The lake is very beautiful but doesn’t give me the wow effect I expected. That’s not very surprising since I was very spoiled with a fantastic view over Lac de Nino the day before. So I was really hoping the second lake would blow me away!
To Lac de Capitello
The climb to Lac de Capitello is more challenging than the first part. The trail is quite narrow and runs over small sometimes loose rocks, larger rocks and boulders. In addition, this part is anything but flat and sometimes it feels more like mountain climbing. We follow the right side of the stream, which expands into a powerful waterfall at some points. We gain height at a rapid pace and Lac de Melo, which we left behind only a few minutes earlier, looks smaller and smaller. The view during the climb becomes more and more impressive!
After half an hour of climbing, we are greeted by snow and large rocks. Iron chains secure these rocks and help you get past them. That was quite a challenge with sweaty hands. Hiking in the snow wearing only shorts and a t-shirt is always a special experience, even if I have experienced it hundreds of times. It made me think back to last year when I hiked through the snow in Canada at Whistler Mountain in shorts and t-shirt and even came across a little snowman. I really enjoy such moments. We arrive at Lac de Capitello 45 minutes after our start at Lac de Melo.
The view from the Lac de Capitello is so beautiful. The dark water and steep rocky mountainside contrast perfectly with the white snow. I haven’t seen such an ink black lake before. A lake that radiates so much roughness and simultaneously so much peacefulness. And I haven’t spoken yet about the view of Lac de Melo. We look down on everything we had to work very hard for. A breathtaking panorama! Nice to know is that the Lac de Capitello is frozen eight months a year and is no less than 42 m deep. This one is the deepest lake in Corsica.
We picnic on the rocks, overlooking Lac de Melo. The ones that steal the show here, are the alpine choughs. Large numbers are floating bravely in the air, as kings of this breathtaking nature. These black birds with yellow bill know very well what they can find here. Food of course! These anything but shy birds know the habits of picnicking hikers like no other and don’t say no to a crumb of bread. I also feel free as a bird and even make an attempt to do a yoga pose on a dangerous irregular rock, overlooking the deep valley. Freedom and joy!
If you still have energy, you can continue hiking up to the Breche de Capitello towards the GR20. This means an extra hour climbing and an extra hour descending. After a few days of hiking in the sunny Corsican mountains and the descent still awaiting us, we didn’t hike up to this point. Also, there was still a lot of snow in late May and it was too dangerous with our classic hiking shoes to climb the steep slope.
The descent was very painful for me, because I had huge problems with my knees. The pain got worse during previous hiking days, so bad that I had to descend with heavy painkillers. I was grateful for my recently purchased hiking sticks that offered me support, but the pain in my muscles at the end of this journey reached a level that I had rarely experienced before. Luckily, the next day is a day on the road with a little bit of sightseeing. Yet I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this hike.
Which lake is your favorite? I choose number 2 without any doubt!
- Difficulty: Easy to dificult depending on the selected endpoint.
- How to get there and parking: From Corte via the D623 and the Restonica valley. After a 15 kilometer drive on a winding narrow road you arrive at the bergerie de Grotelle. In peak season the parking lot gets full very fast, so you have to park at one of the lower situated parking lots and will be transported by shuttle bus to the starting point of the hike. The parking fee is €5 in high season and the traffic, depending on the period/crowds, are regulated starting from camping Tuani.
- Starting point: Bergerie de Grotelle 1370 m.
- Endpoint: Lac Melo 1711 m, Lac Capitello 1930 m, Breche de Capitello 2200 m.
- Elevation gain: 650 m to Lac Capitello.
- Duration: 3,5 to 4 hours (without breaks).
Want to read more about hiking in Corsica? You might also like this:
Hiking in Corsica: Lac de Nino
Hiking in Corsica: Gorges de la Spelunca
Incredible rock formations in western Corsica: Calanques de Piana