Known for its wildlife and geothermal features such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, 96% of which lies in Wyoming while the remaining 4% crosses the boarders into Idaho and Montana, was signed into law in March of 1872 and was the first national park in the U.S. and in the world. Italy shares credit for a similar worldwide claim. Contiguous with the French national park, Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Parco in the Graian Alps near the Piemonte region was established in 1821. From its mountain top, the Matterhorn and the Mont Blanc can be seen.
The park, named after the Gran Paradiso Mountain, came into being because poachers in the early 19th century were hunting Alpine ibex in the personal hunting grounds of King Victor Emmanuel II. For the poachers, it was more than the sport of killing the animals but also recovering body parts for therapeutic purposes. When the ibex numbers reached the point of almost extinction, the king issued a protective order in 1856. Fifty or so years later, the king’s family donated the original land and the park was established. There are now thousands of ibex roaming the park. Along with the ibex species are ermine, weasel, hare, badger, wolf, lynx, and alpine chamois.
Covering more than 173,000 acres, the Gran Paradiso is mostly alpine-surfaced but there are wooded, pasture, meadow, agricultural, and uncultivated regions as well as sculpted areas of glaciers and streams.
The pastures are saturated with springtime wildflowers including lilies, pansies and alpen roses and the woodland is mixed with Norway spruces, stone pines, silver firs, and larches. Inside the park there is a botanical garden with hundreds of plant species.
The park offers an endless variety of activities – sports, hiking and recreational and cultural activities – something for everyone.