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Located in the heart of the Italian Alps, the Dolomites is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its breathtaking vistas, lush meadows, unique rock formations, majestic peaks, and a plethora of trails for every kind of hiker. Whether you’re embarking on a ski circuit at the Sella Ronda, meandering through picturesque valleys around the Cortina d’Ampezzo, or stopping for a fresh cup of coffee in one of the many mountain huts, a trip to the Dolomites will not disappoint. Here’s our list of 11 popular trails in the Dolomites on your trip to Italy.
1. Tre Cime di Lavaredo
This trail is one of the most popular in the Dolomites for good reasons. From the trail, hikers can see three impressive peaks and the symbol of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the scenery is certainly stunning and the views are to die for, the trails can get a little crowded, especially during the summer months. In any case, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo trail is certainly one of the best hikes in the Dolomites.
- Starts/ends: Rifugio Auronzo is both the start and end point of the hike as it forms a large loop.
- Distance/duration: 9.5 km. 3 – 5 hours, depending on stops and pace.
- Difficulty level: Easy to medium. While most of the loop is quite easy to hike, there are some steep inclines.
- Best for: Short hikes, hiking with beginners/family/children owing to its easy difficulty and well-marked trails.
- Transport options: Take a bus up to the toll road. Keep in mind that there are no public transport options during spring and autumn.
- How to get there: During the summer months buses run regularly from Cortina, Dobbiaco (Tublach in German) and Misurina to Rifugio Auronzo. You can also drive to the Tre Cime and park at the rifugio but you’ll have to pay a mountain toll per car.
- Entrance/parking fees: The toll road entry is USD 31.80 per car and USD 47.69 per campervan.
- Highlight: Explore the fascinating World War I tunnels that were left behind by soldiers who carved them into the mountainside.
2. Adolf Munkel Trail
This easy trail loops around the Odle (or Geisler) mountains and while hiking below their lofty peaks you'll pass through glorious alpine meadows and fields. For many visitors, the trail is one of the best Dolomites day hikes as it can easily be completed by the afternoon if you have an early start. A very popular trail, Adolf Munkel is picture-perfect and you're sure to come away with a whole host of incredible photos from your hike. Although not on the trail per se, one of the best photos to be had in the whole of the Dolomites is of Chiesetta di San Giovanni in Raniu at Santa Maddalena, which lies not far from the route that the hike takes.
- Starts/ends: The loop trail starts and ends at Zanser Alm (Malga Zannes)
- Distance/duration: 9 km. 3 – 4.5 hours. While you can complete the trail in just three hours, it is nice to take it a bit slower and take a couple of breaks or stop off at a few viewpoints on the way.
- Difficulty level: Easy. Although you're surrounded by stunning mountains the hike doesn't include many strenuous climbs or sharp inclines.
- Best for: Easy hikes, kids, summer hikes, diverse local flora and plant life.
- Transport options: Take the train or the bus to Brixen station, switch to bus 330 and ride to the last stop, Zanser Alm. You can also travel via taxis or private vehicles.
- How to get there: From Chiusa you can take a bus towards Zanserhutte and this will get you to the start point of the trail. There is also a car park at Zanser Alm.
- Entrance/parking fees: The parking fee for cars is USD 8.48 and USD 26.50 for camper vans. Alternatively, the season ticket for non-local visitors is USD 31.80.
- Highlight: Hike along the narrow Forcella di Mesdi that so impressively cuts its way through the towering Odle Peaks.
3. Peitlerkofel circular trail
If you're looking for one of the best hikes in the Dolomites then look no further than the Peitlerkofel circular hiking trail. Located in the Puez-Odle Nature Park, the trail takes you all around one of the most spectacular mountains in the Dolomites: Peitlerkofel, otherwise known as Sass de Putia in Italian. It is best to start the trail counterclockwise andstart with the most difficult part of the hike right at the beginning.
- Starts/ends: Passo delle Erbe/Wurzjoch is the start and end point of the circular Dolomites hiking trail.
- Distance/duration: 13 kilometres. 5 – 6 hours, providing that you take a couple of rest stops and photo breaks amidst the incredible scenery.
- Difficulty level: Medium. While most of the trail is quite easy to hike along, there is a steep descent/ascent at one point depending on which way round you go and at the via ferrata you might want to refrain from looking down!
- Best for: Running and fitness enthusiasts, bird watching, pets, and large forests.
- Transport options: Take a train to Brixen or Ponte Gardena and then hop on to local buses to get closer to the starting point. The Innsbruck and the Verona Airports are the closest ones.
- How to get there: From Bressanone, you can take a bus which passes by Passo delle Erbe. Alternatively, you can drive to the start of the hike at Passo delle Erbe and park the car there although you will have to pay a parking fee.
- Entrance/parking fees: Park your vehicle at the car park in Würzjoch for USD 5.30 per day.
- Highlight: Pant your way up to Peitlerscharte – the highest point on the trail at 2357 metres!
4. Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus
Tucked away amidst the towering mountains that loom over it, Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus offers up views that no other refugio can compete with. Located in Schlern-Rosengarten Nature Park, the rifugio is a fantastic place to spend the night although you will have to book in advance due to its popularity. Waking up to such breathtaking panoramas is an unforgettable experience.
- Starts/ends: Compatsch is the starting point for the hike and Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus is the endpoint, or at least end goal of the hike. To return however you will have to hike all the way back to Compatsch.
- Distance/duration: 14.4 km. 6 - 7 hours, factoring in a stop at Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus to grab some refreshments and take in the wonderful views.
- Difficulty level: Medium. At one point the trail climbs quite steeply up to Denti di Terrarossa but other than that it is not too strenuous.
- Best for: Fine wine at the Tierser Alpl Alpine Refuge, stargazing, and local wildlife.
- Transport options: Arrive at the nearest train station Bolzano and catch local buses to reach the starting point of the hike.
- How to get there: Seis am Schlen is just half-an-hour away from nearby Bolzano by bus. Another way to get there is to drive to Seis am Schlern and park there before taking the aerial cableway up to Compatsch where you can start the hike.
- Entrance/parking fees: The parking fee is USD 26.50 per vehicle.
- Highlight: Hike to one of the most impressive rock formations in the Dolomites – the Denti di Terrarossa – and gaze in wonder at its distinctive features.
5. Alpe di Sennes
Straddling Parco Naturale delle Dolomite D'Ampezzo and Naturpark Fanes-Sennes-Prags, the Alpe di Sennes hiking trail takes you through some lovely scenery with picturesque chalets and lakes dotting the alpine landscape. Below the astounding and imposing rock face of Croda Rossa, forests and streams can be found bordering the path. One of the longer Dolomites day hikes, Alpe di Sennes is well worth checking out and visitors invariably come away impressed.
- Starts/ends: Rifugio Malga Ra Stua is the start and end point for a lot of people although some visitors prefer instead to hike from the nearby Rifugio Pederu and back.
- Distance/duration: 17 km (although there are ways to shorten it). 5 – 7 hours, including a few breaks to snap some photos.
- Difficulty level: Medium. Well signposted with easy trails for you to follow, the only thing that makes the Alpe di Sennes hike challenging is if you complete the 17 kilometres.
- Best for: Kids, summertime hiking, diverse flora.
- Transport options: Take the shuttle bus to Malga Ra Stua for USD 14.84 per person. If you’re driving, take the SS51 which is about 8 km north of Cortina.
- How to get there: Just up the road from Cortina, Rifugio Malga Ra Stua is very easy to reach by bus. It is just as easy to drive here although the car park can get full quite quickly.
- Entrance/parking fees: None
- Highlight: Stop off for a quick visit to the delightful Cascate di Fanes, the highest waterfall in the Dolomites, which makes for some fantastic photos.
6. Sassopiatto and Sassolungo
This longer range circular route takes hikers past both Sassopiatto and Sassolungo: two domineering mountains that are spectacular to behold. Apart from the glorious alpine scenery, you'll also see the Sciliar Massif and Odle Peaks off in the distance. As such it is one of the best hiking trails in the Dolomites. Due to the distances involved, the hike is less popular than some of the others in the Dolomites and so you won't find many crowds on the trails.
- Starts/ends: Passo Sella is both the start point and end point of the route.
- Distance/duration: 16.5 km. 5 – 7 hours, depending on stops.
- Difficulty level: Medium. The main difficulty is the distance involved and the time that it takes to complete it.
- Best for: Extreme trekkers, quaint mountain huts, and Città dei Sassi (city of boulders) landscapes.
- Transport options: If you’re coming from Autostrada del Brennero (A22) highway, drive to Plan de Gralba and continue to Hotel Passo Sella, where you will find a parking lot. You can also take public transport options like the 471 during the summer.
- How to get there: From nearby Selva di Val Gardena you can either take the bus or cable car to Passo Sella. Another option is to drive and leave your car in the car park although this does involve buying a pass to access the mountain area.
- Entrance/parking fees: The parking fees are subject to change.
- Highlight: Go skiing at the bottom of the Sassolungo Massif in winter or frolic merrily in the wildflower-filled meadows in summer.
7. Seceda to Odle di Eores Loop
The Seceda to Odle di Eores Loop is located in the Val Gardena region of the Dolomites, especially covering the South Tyrol province of northern Italy. The Seceda Summit is the highest point of the trail and provides breathtaking 360-degree views of the Olde mountain range, characterized by jagged peaks. Towards the end of the loop, you can experience local culture at the charming Eores village.
- Starts/ends: The Seceda to Odle di Eores Loop typically starts and ends at the Seceda Cable Car Station.
- Distance: The loop is approximately 10 kilometers and takes about 4–5 hours to complete.
- Difficulty level: Medium – hard.The trail is dotted with some steep ascents and rocky terrains in certain sections.
- Best for: Alpine landscapes, mountain huts and rifugios, avid trekkers.
- Transport options: The best transport options are taxis or private car.
- How to get there: Travel to the Val Gardena and then Ortisei. From here, hop on the Seceda Cable Car to start the hike.
- Entrance/parking fees: While there are no entrance fees, the cable car fee for a two-way ride is USD 52.99 for adults, and USD 22.26 for juniors.
- Highlights: The Val di Funes, a valley known for the iconic St. Magdalena Church; the enchanting Eores Meadows which offer plenty of scenic views; and distinctive rock formations.
8. Lagazuoi Tunnels
Built during World War I, the Lagazuoi tunnels were constructed for military purposes and provided shelter for troops. Not your typical hiking route, the tunnels are made of a nexus of galleries that are carved into the mountain. Further connected by passageways and stairways, some areas are made accessible for hiking. Visitors are advised to come well-prepared with a head torch and climbing gloves as some tunnels are dark and narrow.
- Starts/ends: You can start the hike at the Falzarego Pass in northern Italy. Follow well-marked trails and complete the hike at the Rifugio Lagazuoi or the Lagazuoi Hut.
- Distance: The entire course can be covered in 90 minutes.
- Difficulty level: Hard. As some tunnels are quite steep and narrow, it can be a challenging hike.
- Best for: Those seeking a challenging yet educational hike, photography enthusiasts.
- Transport options: The Falzarego Pass is easily accessible by car, or you can take a train or a bus to a nearby town like Bolzanno. You can also take a cable car from the Falzarego pass.
- How to get there: You can take a car to the Falzarego mountain pass from Cortina D’Ampezzo or the town of San Cassiano in Alta.
- Entrance/parking fees: While there are no entrance fees, the Lagazuoi cable car runs every day and costs USD 22.26 for a round trip.
- Highlight: Architecture and history buffs will appreciate the engineering marvel; the unique rock formations.
9. The Gran Cir
The Gran Cir is an excellent option for a half-day hike and to catch a memorable sunrise. The mountain pass is located right above the Passo Gardena in the Dolomites. Once you reach the top (2592 m), you’ll be blessed with a view of magnificent mountains in all directions. To the west, you’ll spot Ortler, and to the South, the famous Sella. The Gran Cir is an easy spot from Gardena Pass.
- Starts/ends: The out and back hike typically starts from the town of Corvara and returns the same way.
- Distance: About 4.5 kilometers. Depending on fitness levels and trail conditions, the hike can take about 3 hours.
- Difficulty level: Moderate to hard.
- Best for: Beginners, kids, amateur hikers, a variety of trails, and alpine meadows.
- Transport options: Private car, taxis, buses, and cable car.
- How to get there: If you are coming from the Autostrada del Brennero highway, drive through Val Gardena till you reach Plan de Gralba. Move on to Passo Gardena where you’ll find a parking lot. From Selva, you can take a cable car to access Gran Cir in about 20 minutes.
- Entrance/parking fees: The parking fee on Cir side is a single fee atUSD 6.36.
- Highlights: Incredible sunrises and sunsets; views of Tofana, Antelao, Civetta, and many more to the east.
10. Catinaccio-Rosengarten Massif
This is a great trek for those looking to customize distance or do a short multi-day hike. What’s distinctive about these mountains is the pink-colored hue they adorn during dawn and dusk. The Dolomites have a special chemical composition made of calcium carbonate and magnesium that lend it its colors. To turn it into a 3-day circuit, you can take the Compaccio-Riugio Bolzano-Rifugio Alpe di Tires route on the first day. The second day will take you through Gartlhütte and the last day will bring you back to Alpe di Siusi.
- Starts/ends: Most people start at the Alpe di Siusi and turn it into a circuit. Park at the Siusi-Alpe di Siusi cable car valley station and take the gondola up. You may end the trek the same way.
- Distance/duration: The entire circuit takes about 3 days to complete. However, there are some trails you can take that only require 5 hours of walking and loop around the same day.
- Difficulty level: Medium to difficult
- Best for: Long or short (customizable) hike trails and massive rock faces.
- Transport options: You can take the public bus to several stops like Bozen, Karer Pass, or Birchabruk. If you’re taking a car, you can park at the Frommer parking lot.
- How to get there: You’ll have to first get to Ponte Nova’s crossroads. Take the left to continue to Nova Levante and Passo Costalunga. You can also start the trek at the Kölner Hütte.
- Entrance/parking fees: The park is free to visit.
- Highlight: The Rosengarten is part of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site; winter activities like skiing and snowboarding; the Naturpark Schlern-Rosengarten, a protected nature park.
11. Pale di San Martino Circuit
While most of the circuits in the Dolomites attract many hiking and trekking enthusiasts, the Pale di San Martino Circuit, with far fewer visitors, still appears to be the Dolomites best kept secret. It’s home to the largest mountain group in the Dolomites. Enjoy unparalleled views of the Dolomite as you make your way to the Cima Fradusta Summit. From the ‘observation decks’, visitors can admire or capture panoramic views of the Pale di San Marino peaks.
- Starts/ends: The circuit starts and ends in San Martino di Castrozza, which is a resort township.
- Distance/duration: The entire circuit takes 4-6 days but hikers have the option of ending the loop in one day at several stops with 5-6 hours of walking each day.
- Difficulty level: Medium to difficult.
- Best for: Impressive views of the plateau, photographic vantage points, and high-altitude terrains.
- Transport options: The easiest way to get there is by car and the nearest train station is Trento. The closest airports are the Venice Marco Polo Airport and the Verona Villafranca Airport.
- How to get there: To start the ascent to Pale di San Martino, you must first get to the basecamp location, which is San Martino di Castrozza.
- Entrance/parking fees: The park and parking lot are both free.
- Highlight: Glacial lakes like the Lago di Calaita and Lago di Val Cervara; charming mountain huts or rifugi, encounter remnants of World War I military fortifications.
Best time to visit the Dolomites
June ‒ September is the best time to go hiking on your trip to the Dolomites as the summer weather is nice, all of the refugio (mountain huts or chalets) are open and the trails are in good repair. This is, however, the most popular time of year to visit so you'll come across a lot more people on the trails. Consequently, you may want to hike the Dolomites in either spring or autumn if you want to avoid the crowds. At these times of the year, the weather is still good and accommodation prices are cheaper but the refugi will most likely be closed.
If Dolomites is a part of your travel itinerary, read our travel article on the best time to visit Italy for a seasonal overview.
What to pack during your trip to the Dolomites
- Make sure to carry water with you as well as some high energy snacks as the rifugi may be few and far between.
- Carry both sun protection and a raincoat. The weather can be unpredictable.
- Take a good hiking map with you or a fully-charged mobile phone which you can use to check the trails and routes in the mountains.
- Don't forget to take some cash! You may need to pay parking fees, take a bus or cable car up into the mountains or buy something to eat or drink at one of the rifugi.
- Pack good strong sturdy shoes or hiking boots and perhaps walking poles.
Where to stay in the Dolomites
While hotels and chalets are common in larger villages, you may also be interested in spending your nights at agriturismos, which are working farms with stay options similar to B&Bs. You will find many agriturismos in rural areas.
Apart from these, hikers also prefer staying at rifugis' or mountain huts. Rifugis are only accessible by foot (with very few reachable by car) and are primarily open in the summer. Rifugio Lagazuoi, Rifugio Puez, and the Rifugio Fanes are some of the most popular mountain huts.
Travel Tips for Hiking in the Dolomites
- Keep the contact numbers of rifugis, hotel operators, and emergency numbers handy.
- You’ll encounter Italian, Austrian, and Ladin cultures. Remember to always be respectful.
- Travel during the fall season as the leaves change color and the weather is close to perfect.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best season for hiking in the Dolomites?
The best time to hike in the Dolomites is between June and September. The warm and pleasant weather paves the way for clearing snow, and higher altitude areas become more accessible.
2. What should I wear to hike in the Dolomites?
You’ll need moisture-wicking base layers for clothing and a waterproof jacket. Carry a high-quality pair of sunglasses along with gloves and a hat. Good hiking socks and an extra pair or two are a must.
3. Which areas are the best to stay in the Dolomites for hiking?
Cortina d’Ampezzo offers easy access to the Sella Ronda circuit, Corvara is centrally located, and San Cassiano is known for being within easy reach of diverse trekking routes.
The Dolomites really are one of the best places to hike in Italy for a number of reasons besides the spectacular scenery on show. With well-signposted trails that are easily reachable by public transport, the routes are very accessible and all you need to do is plan a little bit to make sure you make the most of your time in the mountains. In addition to this, the hiking conditions in the Dolomites are almost perfect for large parts of the year. All in all, the Dolomites hiking makes for an unforgettable experience!
For more information, read our travel article on how many days to spend in Italy.