Dolomites Hiking: The 8 Best Options for Hiking Hut-to-Hut in Italy

By Sierd van der Bij

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Dolomites Hiking: The 8 Best Options for Hiking Hut-to-Hut in Italy
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A walking holiday in Italy doesn't get much better than hiking from hut-to-hut in the Dolomites. Sure, the southern part of the Italian boot has its charms and the weather is actually always fantastic, but if you're looking for mountains, you really need to keep north. In this blog post you can read more about Dolomites hut-to-hut hiking, like the Alta Via 1 and the Alta Via 2.

The Dolomites have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. Thanks to their sublime, monumental and colourful landscapes, these mountains are among the most beautiful in the world. If you are looking for a real Italian adventure, then look no further. The Dolomites or the Alps? The Dolomites are part of the Southern Limestone Alps and can therefore be considered as part of the Alps. So we may speak of both the Dolomites and the Alps when we go on a hiking trip in Italy. Are you still with us? Good, then let's start with the best options for hiking the Dolomites!

1. Ultimate Hut-to-Hut Hiking in the Dolomites: Alta Via 1

The hut-to-hut hiking tour in the Dolomites that is number one on the list is the Alta Via 1. What is an Alta Via? Alta Via means nothing more than High Route or High Path. There are many high-altitude paths in the Dolomites. That is why the most popular 6 have been given a number. The paths that are part of these routes also have their own number. Viewed on the map it looks like a road network. Very convenient, because it allows you to plan the most beautiful routes. If you walk the Alta Via 1, you do not have to plan anything anymore. This route will take you to all the highlights such as Püez, Lagazuoi and Cinque Torre.

The Alta Via 1 starts at Lago di Braies, in German Pragser Wildsee, the lake pictured above. Lago di Braies is easy to reach from nearby Cortina d'Ampezzo and Dobiacco (Toblach). From Lago di Braies, you can walk to the Cinque Torri in four days. Ideal for a shorter walking holiday. The complete Alta Via 1 is about 120 kilometres long and ends at a bus stop near Belluno. You will have been on the move for about 10 days and with a short bus trip to Belluno it is all finished. On the full route you not only have the highlights in the north and middle of the route, but you also take in the unspoilt beauty and tranquillity of the southern Dolomites. If you want to read more about the Alta Via 1, you can do so in this comprehensive blog post.

1. Ultimate Hut-to-Hut Hiking in the Dolomites: Alta Via 1

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2. Hut-to-Hut Hiking for Mountain Goats: Alta Via 2

Another Alta Via? Yes, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are a number of Alta Vias in the Dolomites. The Alta Via 2 is ranked 2, but in terms of beauty it could just as well have been ranked 1. It is the slightly tougher brother of the No. 1. Think Via Ferratas, steep climbs and descents and a high adrenaline level. On this exceptional route, you hike from north to south. The route starts in Bressanone, also known as Brixen, and ends in Croce d'Aune. Curious what that looks like? Hans Nijenhuis, known from Dutch newspaper the Algemeen Dagblad, went there with us and made the following video about it:

Is the Alta Via 2 really so different from its more popular brother? Despite being on the same mountain range and not so far apart, the difficulty level of these trails is quite different. The Alta Via 1 can be done without much difficulty by any hiker, beginner or experienced. However, the Alta Via 2 is only to be recommended The Alta Via 2 contains sharp ridges, Via Ferratas and steep slopes, which require experience in the mountains. Something for you? Read more about the Alta Via 2 here and check out our offers here.

3. Symbol of The Dolomites: Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen

If you have the map of Italy in front of you, to the right above Cortina d'Ampezzo you will see Tre Cime di Lavaredo , or the Drei Zinnen. This natural wonder of the Dolomites is in Parco Naturale Tre Cime, which was officially established in 1981 and covers 11,615 hectares. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 2009, the Dolomites are for many the most beautiful mountain area in Europe.

What exactly the Tre Cime are is clear. They are 3 enormous rocks that together form an impressive formation. As mentioned earlier, this is the symbol of the Dolomites and therefore a hotspot for many day trippers.

During our Tre Cime hut-to-hut trek you will walk around the Tre Cime in 4 stages. On average you will hike between 6 and 7 kilometers per day (3 to 4 miles). Without a break and at a leisurely pace, a stage takes about 3 to 4 hours. The trails are well marked and you will not encounter any technical difficulties along the way. Of course, you have to be physically fit to start this hike, but apart from that it is the perfect hike for anyone who wants to enjoy the ruggedness of the Dolomites for a couple of days in an approachable way. Find our family-friendly hut-to-hut trekking offers here.

3. Symbol of The Dolomites: Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen

4. The Best of Pale di San Martino: Palaronda Trek

Pale di San Martino, the Pala Group, is majestic, elegant, literally hardcore, an Italian favourite, and, is home to one of the most fun and kind of sexy treks in the Italian Dolomites. Sexy, you say? Well, if you have a look at the photos and see the landscape you are hiking through, you can definitely get a few sexy profile photos or Instagram stories on this trek. This is the Palaronda Trek: short, accessible, not too technical, and a great way to spice up your time in Italy. The Pale di San Martino is the largest massif of the Dolomites and it is located between eastern Trentino and Ventore. Its highest point is 3,192 metres: Cima de Vezzana.

The Palaronda Trek is short, accessible, and doable for most hikers. The classic version, also known as the Palaronda Soft Trek, is 4 days long, counts about 35 kilometres and entails almost 3,000 of elevation. Sounds like the life of an ibex but you too can do this. Your daily hiking time isn't much longer than 5 hours max so in the huts you will have plenty of time to rest your legs, fuel up, and recharge yourself. Hiking times are generally a bit shorter than on other famous Dolomite hikes. Read more about the Palaronda Trek here.

4. The Best of Pale di San Martino: Palaronda Trek

5. The Granite Dolomites: Alta Via del Granito

The Alta Via del Granito (Granite High Route) is a 3- or 4-day circular traverse of the unique granite area of the Cima d'Asta - Cime di Rava group in the Northern Italian Lagorai chain, geographically still part of the Dolomites. The Alta Via follows a network of ancient paths and former military roads, dating back to the First World War, connecting the only two refuges in the group. Three days of pleasant trekking amidst stupendous natural landscapes, stark reminders of the Great War, mountain huts and alpine pastures, good evidence of man's ancient pact with nature. In short: The Alta Via del Granito is pretty epic.

Do you like mountains? Are you looking for an epic hiking adventure off the beaten track? Of course, the Alta Via del Granito is for you! If you came here to get that questions answered, we have to have a very good chat. We can imagine you are looking for something different than the outrageously popular Alta Vias further up North. Maybe you came here because they are fully booked. Let's be clear that the Alta Via del Granito is not just an alternative to other treks in this part of the world. This is an epic adventure that is very popular with Italians but hasn't really made it to the mainstream long-distance hiking world yet. That, our friend, allows you to enjoy an unspoilt local rifugio experience. Here you can read more about the Alta Via del Granito and our offers are right there!

5. The Granite Dolomites: Alta Via del Granito

6. Dolorama Weg = Dolomites + Panorama

The Dolorama Trail is a 61-kilometer (37.9 miles) hike with an altitude difference of 2.356 meters (7.729 feet). The hike is divided into 4 stages and you will walk an average of 6 hours per day. Some days you will be on the road longer than others. Along the way are many resting and viewing points to enjoy the scenery, so you have plenty of time to take in the panoramic views. This also explains the name of the hike: Dolomites + panorama = Dolorama!

The hike starts at the Rodenecker-Lüsner Alm and continues via the Peitlerkofel, which lies at the foot of the Geisler Group, over the Raciesa, and finally ends in Lajen. During this hike, you walk along a well-marked path on comfortable forest and hiking trails. Unlike, for example, a technical hike like the Palaronda Trek, this is a hike suitable for hikers of different levels.Read more about this epic trek here or start your Dolorama Weg here.

6. Dolorama Weg = Dolomites + Panorama

7. Lake & Mountain: Garda Trek

Not the Dolomites and as the name suggests, the routes of the Garda Trek are around Lake Garda. Like an imaginary crown, they cover the northern shores of Italy's largest lake. In this area you will find numerous routes and trails that lead you across the different altitudes over and through the mountains.

The concrete answer to the question, "What is the Garda Trek?" depends a bit on which trek you are going to do. This is because it is 3 different treks that differ from each other in length, duration and accommodation. So hikers of the different routes will also answer this question differently. One thing they have in common is that they are circular. The starting and ending points are the same for each walk, namely, the town of Riva del Garda.

While you are still in the area, you can end the walk with a nice relaxing vacation along the shores of the lake, where you enjoy sun, beach and a delicious Aperol Spritz in your hand. La dolce vita. Find yours here.

7. Lake & Mountain: Garda Trek

8. Last But Maybe Best: Alta Via di Capra

You didn't know this one yet, that's for sure. Let us introduce our take on a hut-to-hut trek in the Dolomites to you: The Alta Via di Capra is a 4-day or 3-day (for the real goats) hut-to-hut that starts and ends in Cortina d'Ampezzo, one of the bases for all that Dolomites breathe and live. Cortina is also a hub for the famous Alta Via 1 and Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also known as the Drei Zinnen. Whereas for the Alta Via 1 you still have to take an early bus to Dobiacco (Toblach), for the Alta Via di Capra you can start hiking from the sidewalk of your hotel and return to that same hotel after 3 or 2 nights. Winning.

On the Alta Via di Capra, you start your trek on the slopes of Parco Naturale Regionale delle Dolomiti d'Ampezzo, in the shadow of the world-famous Lagazuoi. You will then cross the Falzarego Pass and hike past the Cinque Torri, one of the most extraordinary rock formations of the Dolomites. A visit to Rifugio Nuvolau completes this part of the hut tour. But there is more. Crado da Lago, just a day hike for many tourists, is part of the Alta Via di Capra. With Lago Federa and Rifugio Palmieri the perfect cherry on the cake to a short, vigorous trek in the Dolomites. Find our curated Alta Via di Capra offers here.

8. Last But Maybe Best: Alta Via di Capra

How Do I Get To the Dolomites?

The Dolomites stretch across South Tyrol. It is not a huge area, but it can take some time to get from A to B because of the travel time in the valley. Getting there is not difficult at all. The Dolomites have an extensive public transport network with Bolzano, Venice and Innsbruck nearby, you will be able to find a flight. The journey to the most beautiful areas, around Brixen / Bressanone and Cortina d'Ampezzo depends on which route you choose. For your convenience, we have separated this into the Alta Via 1 and 2, our favourite options for the Dolomites. Do note, getting there by train or bus is tricky.

Alta Via 1: Cortina d'Ampezzo

The start of the Alta Via 1 is at Lago di Braies in northern Italy. However, the best place to start is the town of Cortina d'Ampezzo. It is easy to reach from Venice, has an excellent connection to Lago di Braies via Dobiaccio and Toblach and you can easily get back here after the hike.

Alta Via 2: Brixen / Bressanone

The Alta Via 2 starts just outside Brixen. So you don't have to travel by bus from Brixen to the starting point. Brixen is located on the A22, the main Alpine route in this region, making it easy to reach by car from Innsbruck or Bolzano.

Alta Via del Granito: Trento / Venice

The Alta Via del Granito is best reached from Trento or Venice. Trento if you come by car from the north, Venice if you come by plane and depend on a rental car or public transport.

Palaronda Trek: San Martino di Castrozza

The Palaronda Trek starts at Passo Rolle, which is known from the Giro d'Italia. Here you will find the small village of San Martino di Castrozza. This is about 2 hours away from Bolzano, Trento and Venice.

The Dolomites and South Tyrol, the Other Italy

Yes, you are in Italy, but you could just as easily be in Austria. Don't shout it from the rooftops, because the inhabitants of South Tyrol and therefore of the Dolomites call themselves Tyroleans in the first line. In German and Ladin Südtirol, in Italian Alto Adige, informally 'just' Sudtirolo. The area is trilingual. The majority has German as their first language, a quarter has Italian as their mother tongue and a small minority (still) speaks Ladin. This is a very old Rhaeto-Romanic language that you as a tourist will probably never be able to understand.

If you don't speak Italian but you can speak a little German, you will quickly make friends in the Dolomites. All signs are in both German and Italian, dishes often have a German name and the communal area in the rifugios (or Schutzhütte) is also called "Stube" in German.

The Dolomites and South Tyrol, the Other Italy

The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We mentioned it already. The unique peaks and rock formations of the Southern Limestone Alps, the Dolomites, are a World Heritage Site. Of course, it didn't all begin with the discovery of the mineral dolomite in the 18th century. The history of the Dolomites begins about 280 million years ago, when a mountain range at the edge of the oceanic gulf slowly sank and the region where we find the Alta Via 1 and 2 changed into a tropical sea basin. It is hard to imagine this when you come face to face with the Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites.

The impressive formations were created 30 million years ago when the African and European plates collided and the Alps developed. If you have ever hiked in the Dolomites, you will understand very well why this area was put on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009. The Dolomites are divided into 9 sub-regions and the entire area extends over the provinces of Udine, Perdenone, Belluno, Trento and Bolzano/Bozen. The latter four sub-regions are home to our favourites, the Alta Via 1 and 2.

The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

What Is the Best Season for Dolomites Hiking?

The season for a hut-to-hut trek in the Dolomites is from mid-June to mid-September. The relatively short season is due to the weather conditions that limit access to the trails. A typical summer day in the Dolomites is characterised by bright sunshine and clear skies. However, there may be the occasional rain shower or afternoon storm. There is, nevertheless, no snow on the trails, which is the main limiting factor for off-season accessibility. In summer, there may be some light snowfall, but the snow does not accumulate and is usually gone by the next morning. Make sure you bring waterproof and warm clothing and not just shorts.

Hiking in The Dolomites: What Are Via Ferratas?

A via ferrata, in English iron path, or in German Klettersteig, is a protected climbing path with cables, ladders and iron supports attached to rock walls. There are several famous Via Ferratas in the world, the highest of which, onKota Kinabalu, is one of them! The purpose of the Via Ferrata is to help trekkers on their way up. However, the Via Ferratas on the Alta Via 2 had a different purpose when they were built. During World War I, the Dolomites were the scene of battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. The Via Ferratas were installed during those years to allow troops faster access to the front lines.

Most trekkers on the Alta Via 2 carry along a harness and a helmet as a security measure. These items are not required, but if it helps you to feel more comfortable on the route, they are always welcome. Safety first!

Hiking in The Dolomites: What Are Via Ferratas?

Can I Camp During My Walking Holiday in the Dolomites?

We'll get right to the point: wild camping is not allowed on the Alta Via 2. Hikers are required to spend the night in mountain huts, rifugios in Italian. The good thing about spending the night in the huts is that you don't have to bring a tent, cooking kit, and the food for the 13 days. The rifugios vary in size and accommodation options, but they all offer a shower, a good night's sleep including half board with tasty local cuisine.

Can I Camp During My Walking Holiday in the Dolomites?

A Solo Hut-to-Hut Hiking Tour in Italy, Is That Possible?

Yes, it is certainly possible to walk a hut-to-hut in Italy on your own. Finding a place to stay as an individual is often much easier, in the shared rooms there is often a spare bed that you can claim. Hiking individually is done a lot, also by Italians themselves. In the huts you often have a quick conversation with fellow hikers so you don't have to spend your evenings alone.

Weather During a Hut-to-Hut Trip in the Dolomites

The most important rule for hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites and the Alps or other high mountains is that the weather in areas above 2,000 metres changes much more quickly and that different climatic conditions prevail than at the altitudes where we normally travel. When planning a trip for a hut and for mountain hikes, the weather forecasts should always be taken into account. Even in high summer, when the temperature in the valley is over 30 degrees, it can snow in the high mountains. The reason for this is that for every 1000 metres of altitude, the temperature can drop by 5-6 degrees. Because cold air can also store less moisture, it rains or snows more often in the high mountains than in the lowlands. In the high mountains, a thunderstorm can be particularly dangerous; in principle, the chance of thunderstorms increases in the afternoon and the weather can change very quickly due to the altitude.

You can recognise a possible thunderstorm by the lightning strikes or small cumulus clouds piling up. A sharp drop in air pressure is also a sure sign of an approaching thunderstorm. In case of thunderstorms, always avoid the via ferrata and other metal objects. Seek shelter in a cave or under a ledge as soon as possible. Nevertheless, good protection from the sun is essential. The tree line in the Alps is at an altitude of between 1,800 and 2,200 metres - above this level, you are exposed to the burning sun, which is always strong in the high mountains.

Weather During a Hut-to-Hut Trip in the Dolomites

Safe Hiking in The Dolomites in Italy

When you go on a trekking tour in the Dolomites, it is wise to be aware of a few things. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the Dolomites. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, our trekking experts have the following tips for you. 

Don't overdo it

Gear is everything. In the most extreme cases, it makes the difference between life and death, and in all cases, the difference between pleasure and a suffer fest. Provisions, rain, cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone (European emergency number: 112). However, lighter luggage makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra stuff. Your equipment should always be suitable for your planned trip.

Plan carefully ahead

Good planning is half the battle! Hiking maps, reading material, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning tours and enable you to determine the length, height difference, difficulty and conditions of your tour. When planning group hikes, always plan the trip for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. Therefore, always check the weather forecast in advance. Also, contact our trekking experts and get informed before you start.

Bring your gear

Gear is everything. In the most extreme cases, it makes the difference between life and death, and in all cases, the difference between pleasure and a suffer fest. Provisions, rain, cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone (European emergency number: 112). However, lighter luggage makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra stuff. Your equipment should always be suitable for your planned trip.

Suitable shoes or boots

Trail running shoes are fine for weekends in the mountains, but on longer trips you just want to have at least A/B hiking shoes. That means high mountain boots that are also water resistant. For example, on the Alta Via 2, a fairly technical trail, your ankles want extra support and you want to avoid sprains.

Stay on marked trails

The Dolomites have an endless number of marked trails - these are well supervised and maintained. It can be tempting, but it is not a good idea to take short cuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. If you do, you have a good chance of getting lost. Steep slopes of packed old snow are also often underestimated and can be dangerous. In doubt? Then don't do it.

Regular breaks

Again, you are on a walking holiday. Take time for your walk and rest regularly. Our advice: If you have little time, it is better to take the short option than to speed up the long option.

Children are in charge

When you take the children on a hut-to-hut trek, the children are in charge, is the motto at Bookatrekking.com. The children are happy, mum and dad are happy. Listen to them and don't exhaust them. Play a game along the way so that they don't ask you every five minutes if they are there yet. Of course, always choose the child-friendly option.

Respect nature

Do not leave rubbish behind, avoid noise, stay on the marked paths, leave animals alone and respect the protected areas.

Where can I book my walking holiday in Italy?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book many treks in Italy. We take care of all the details for you, give you personal trekking advice and give you the best service possible. Find all our offers for Italy here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of Trekking Experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is a walking holiday in Italy not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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