Cascata di Parcines (Parcines Waterfall; also Wasserfall Partschinser in German) is said to be the tallest waterfall in the Alto Adige region of Italy (also known as Südtirol or South Tyrol) at 98m. Given the precipitous nature of the Dolomites mountain range spanning Northern Italy and Southern Austria, calling the tallest might be a bit of a bold statement to make. But academic trivia aside, we thought it was a very beautiful waterfall, and the alpine scenery around it certainly made it one of the more memorable waterfall excursions we've done in Italy.
Like many alpine waterfalls, this was a tall mountain cascade with high volume and an uninterrupted drop comprising most of its overall height. On the drive up to the town of Parcines (or Partschins in German), we could see the impressive waterfall backed by tall snowy mountains with another cascade perched further up the mountain from it. It was too bad we couldn't find a suitable place to pull over for a photo of the scene from the drive up because it underscored the scenery of the waterfall's surroundings.
We were able to experience the waterfall both from its base as well as from a lookout near its top. From the trailhead near the Gasthaus Birkenwald (see directions below), we took a short path on gravel road towards a bridge. Just before crossing the bridge, there was a signposted narrow footpath that followed alongside the stream on which the waterfall flows. After a few minutes of uphill hiking, we were then on a grassy hill where the trail forked in two directions.
To the left, the trail descended right towards the base of Cascata di Parcines. To the right, the trail stayed on the knob of the hill heading towards a bench and some signs. The lower trail reconverged with the upper trail primarily near the bench, but there were other informal trails linking the two paths. Nonetheless, it was from this grassy hill that we were able to get the best frontal views of the falls though we were fortunate there were enough clouds to keep the afternoon sun from being directly in our line of sight directly above the falls.
Beyond the bench and sign, the trail continued up more steps alongside another creek under the shade of more tree cover towards the Gasthouse Wasserfall (Waterfall Guesthouse). Like the Gasthouse Birkenwald, this place featured a restaurant and some rooms. There was a trail that continued to ascend past a shrine then up a sloping path leading right up to the near top of the Cascata di Parcines.
From up at this vantage point, I was able to enjoy a grand view of both the towns of Parcines (or Partschins) and Merano below me. Meanwhile, picturesque snow-capped alpine mountains towered over the developments. Looking in the other direction, I was able to see alpine mountain chalets perched high up the mountains in the near vicinity with another cascade (which looked like it was man-modified) spilling right towards the Gasthaus Wasserfall right below.
Overall, we spent about an hour away from the car, which was parked at the sanctioned spot just uphill from the Gasthaus Birkenwald. It's worth noting that I did see a shuttle van make its way up to the Birkenwald (and possibly higher), so it's conceivable that there might be some kind of service between the town of Parcines (Partschins) 2-3km below and the falls itself. Otherwise, I'd imagine you're looking at about 90 minutes of uphill walking from town to the waterfall.
From Bolzano, we drove on the SS38 bound for Merano for about 32km. After passing by Merano and several tunnels, we exited the SS38 at a signposted turnoff for Parcines (Partschins) to our right. Then we drove the uphill road into town, then we continued past the town following the signs for the waterfall while in town. There were very steep and narrow one-way streets we had to take as the Wasserfallweg (waterfall way) got progressively steeper and remained narrow.
Beyond the town of Parcines, the road became Via Cascata, and we followed it steeply uphill for another 2km as we would eventually get past the Gasthaus Birkenwald and onto the sanctioned car park for Cascata di Parcines. Given the limited space of parking up here, we did notice there were other parking spaces further down the mountain as well. Moreover, if driving the narrow and steep road (where it's very easy to stall with a stick shift while waiting for opposing traffic to pass) would be too risky or scary, it's possible to park inside the town of Parcines (Partschins) and walk all the way to the falls.
This drive took us around 45 minutes to cover the distance between Bolzano and the car park above Gasthaus Birkenwald.
For additional context, Bolzano was 61km (under an hour drive) north of Trento, 269km (2.5-3 hours drive) northwest of Venice (Venezia), and 280km (over 3 hours drive) northeast of Milan (Milano).
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