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Hiking in the Dolomites: Everything You Need to Know

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In a country that is renowned for its impressive cities, fascinating historical sites and gorgeous coastline, the Dolomites in the north of Italy still manage to stand out for all that they have to offer.

Breathtakingly beautiful to behold, the mountains are mesmerizing to hike through as sweeping valleys and craggy peaks give way to flower-filled alpine meadows. The Dolomites really need to be seen to be believed and hiking them truly is an unforgettable experience. To help you explore this beautiful part of Italy, here is a guide on how to make the most of your Dolomites hiking experience during your Italy holiday!

1. Tre Cime di Lavaredo 

The three impressive peaks you can see on the trail are breathtaking to behold and are actually the symbol of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hike to the impressive peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo 

This wonderful trail is one of the most popular in the Dolomites and with a good reason. The three impressive peaks you can see on the trail are breathtaking to behold and are actually 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 if you stop a couple of times to take a rest or snap some photos.

Difficulty level: While most of the loop is quite easy to hike, there are some steep inclines here and there.
  • 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 of USD 33.70* per car.
  • Highlight: Explore the fascinating World War I tunnels that were left behind by soldiers who carved them into the mountainside.

2. Adolf Munkel Trail

 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.
Walk the breathtakingly stunning 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Gaze at the majestic mountains and dramatic clouds as you hike along the trail
It is best to start the trail counterclockwise so as to start with the most difficult part of the hike right at the beginning.
Tourist guideposts dot the way for ease in navigation

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 so as to start 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!
  • 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.
  • 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 rifugio can compete with thanks to its scenic setting.
Start your hike from the scenic meadows in Compatsch

Tucked away amidst the towering mountains that loom over it, Tierser Alpl Schutzhaus offers up views that no other rifugio can compete with thanks to its scenic setting. 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. It is no surprise that this is such a popular trail to hike.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Stop off for a quick visit to the delightful Cascate di Fanes, the highest waterfall in the Dolomites, which makes for some fantastic photos.
Enjoy a quick dip in the highest waterfall in the Dolomites

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 definitely well worth checking out and visitors invariably come away impressed with the beautiful nature on show.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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

While it is longer than many of the trails mentioned above, this wonderful hike takes you past both Sassopiatto and Sassolungo: two domineering mountains that are spectacular to behold.
Catch the majestic views of snow-capped mountains while walking this trail

While it is longer than many of the trails mentioned above, this wonderful hike takes you past both Sassopiatto and Sassolungo: two domineering mountains that are spectacular to behold. As well as walking through glorious alpine scenery while on the circular route, 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 any 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.
  • 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.
  • Highlight: Go skiing at the bottom of the Sassolungo Massif in winter or frolic merrily in the wildflower-filled meadows in summer.

Best time to visit

June ‒ September is the best time to go hiking in the Dolomites as the summer weather is nice, all of the rifugi (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 rifugi will most likely be closed.

What to pack

  • 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 with you. 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.

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!

*Note: Prices are as of April 2019.

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