DOLOMITES

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One of the best hiking regions in the world is the
DOLOMITES Top 10

The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. A tourist mecca, the Dolomites are famous for skiing in the winter months, mountain climbing, hiking and climbing in the summer.

map-of-DolomitesAT A GLANCE

  • a wonderful region mostly in Italy
  • Italian: Dolomiti; German: Dolomiten
  • limestone geology results in fascinating shapes and colour
  • as famous for skiing and mountain climbing as hiking
  • named a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • highest peak Marmolada 3,343m
  • convenient airports are Venice, Munich, Milan, Innsbruck, Verona and others
  • easy access to trails of all all levels of ability and experience
  • very good tourist infrastructure
  • convenient, efficient public transport. Buses & trains run on time.
  • best weather mid-June to early October
3 Peaks (Tre Cime, Drei Zinnen)

3 Peaks (Tre Cime, Drei Zinnen)

WHY WE LIKE THIS REGION

Best strategy for hikers in this region, we feel, is to day hike. Or do short 2-3 day itineraries. The longer routes (Alta Vie) are good. But you can get more gorgeous territory covered in fewer days with short hikes in different parts of the mountain range.

  • soaring rock towers & spires sculpted by glaciers & erosion
  • there are more interesting mountains here than anywhere else in the world
  • weird karstification: rock surface channelling, sink holes, etc.
  • pretty alpine meadows dotted with domestic animals
  • vivid reminders of WW I history: bunkers, tunnels, barbed wired.
  • easy, quick access to very high trails
  • great hiking for all levels of ability: from wheelchair accessible paths to thrilling vie ferrate (routes aided by iron cables, ladders, etc. fixed to the stone)
  • if you don’t want to stay in mountain huts – called Refugios (Refuges) in Italian – it’s easy to day hike the entire region
  • no need to have a personal vehicle. Buses run to most trailheads.
  • frequent opportunities to buy food & drink, thereby carrying less weight in your pack
  • challenging hiking — but you can sleep in a bed and have a restaurant meal every night if you wish
  • 1500 species of wild flowers
  • rich European history and culture
  • cheaters can use cable-cars and chair-lifts
  • guided hikes are easy to arrange
  • low risk of altitude sickness
  • almost no dangerous wildlife
  • autumn colour change of larches and beeches

CONSIDERATIONS

Oddly, no tenting is allowed. Overnight, instead, at impressive high altitude Refuge builidings. (Rifugios, in Italian.) Food and lodging can cost US$60 / day and up. A cheaper alternative might be to day hike from base towns in the region. Actually, prices at Refugios are normally regulated. Their food and drink tastes GREAT on a deck overlooking some of the finest mountain vistas in the world!

  • many of the most popular trails are crowded high season
  • popular mountain Refuges may be full unless you book well in advance
  • surprisingly, there’s very little water available in the Dolomites. (We normally melted snow with a camping stove.) Worse, the water that is free flowing is often signed “acqua non potabile“. Apparently the mineral composition is not completely healthy for human consumption. (Either that, or the Refuges are budgeting on sales of bottled water.)
  • if you are looking for “wilderness”, this is not it
  • very little animal life as compared with North America
  • terrain devastated by grazing and ski slopes
  • Refuges sometimes dominated by loud, drunken chain-smokers
  • English is spoken by Refugio staff & at tourist spots, but Italian & German are the main languages on the trail
  • you need your own “sleeping bag” for hygiene at the Refuges. Normally that’s simply a silk or cloth sleeping bag liner.
  • expensive trail maps recommended. (Tabacco series.) Even though routes are well marked, sooner or later everyone gets lost in the Dolomites.
  • guidebook is essential for deciding on what refuges to book by phone. It’s risky to decide on accommodation, as you hike. There is no central website or booking office.
  • guidebook is essential for deciding if you are experienced enough for some of the scrambles and vie ferrate routes
  • travel in Europe is easy but relatively expensive
  • weather can change rapidly in the mountains
  • dangerous lightning storms
  • it can snow any day of the year
  • some routes are dependent on Refuges being open, buses running to trailheads. This is seasonal and varies. Confirm locally.

hikers-in-the-Dolomites

27 thoughts on “DOLOMITES

  1. Both photos look like they were taken near the Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen (basically the “Half Dome” of the Dolomites), with Rifugio Aruonzo (http://www.rifugioauronzo.it) being the one you can drive right up to to start hiking around the formation (a good 3 hours). The Drei Zinnen Hutte / Rifugio Locatelli (http://www.dreizinnenhuette.com/) is a solid 1 hour hike from Auronzo and has the best view of the peaks though, as well as a short 2 min walk to begin the Via Ferrata course and explore the WWI caves on Mt. Paterno / Paternokofel.

    • I will be in Italy next week and am looking for one 5-6 hour hike for Thursday and a 2-3 hour hike for Friday morning. We are renting a car so we have some flexibility. What recommendations do you have? Could you please tell me the starting and ending points of some hikes?
      Thanks a lot!!!

  2. Great info! Two places we really enjoy in the Dolomites is the Rifugio Fonda Savio (about 1h 30min hike) and the Rifugio Lagazuoi (can be reached via cable car). You can also hike from the Fonda Savio Lodge to the Rifugio Locatelli to see the famous 3 Cime di Lavaredo. http://bit.ly/1qobqMN

  3. Wondering if anyone could help, not finding much information on weather conditions around the the different areas for December time?
    My partner and I are looking at going but we want to avoid heavy snow as we are not experienced enough with winter conditions

    • My husband and I are going to be in the area in late November and have the same question that you had about the weather conditions. Did you complete your hike in December? Can you share anything about the weather you experienced?

      Thank you!

      • Hi Samantha. I’m here in the Dolomites right now, and it’s getting pretty chilly! I’m considering going lower and south for warmer weather. Shorter days, cold, and rain/snow make it tough going. But I’m also from sunny California, so I’m a bit of a wimp in cold weather. I wonder how many huts would be open in late November? I would Google some tourist information centers and ask them. Most speak good English.

      • I have the same question! Was looking at doing a via ferrata in end of December 2015. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

  4. Hello,

    Wondering if there is an alternative route from Rifugio Pian de Fontana to Belluno without climbing at Rifugio 7 ° Alpini. Thanks!

  5. Hello. I’m planning on three nights in the region and trying to decide the best city for base camp. I’d like to head out for day hikes that are high and rewarding. Moderately difficult is fine. I’ll be there early September. If anyone has any advice, I’d be so grateful! Thank you!!

    • Hi, just came back from 5 days hiking in the Alta Badia region. La Villa is a really good base camp with several day hikes next door. You can buy a lift/bus pass in the village and use all the lifts in the region. I recommend the day hike to Puez Hut (take lift to Gardenaccia from La Villa)/ Another nice but more challenging walk is the one to Fanes hut from Heiligkreuz in Badia. A more easy walk but with the best views is the walk from Piz La Ila (lift from La Villa).

    • HI Prentiss ,

      Planning on doing some hikes this september dolomites region,
      wondering if you have any tips? on where to go where to stay ?
      moderate to hard hiking, want to do some high treks,

      Thanks !

  6. Thanks for sharing this one, very useful post. We’re going to spend winter and summer holidays in Dolomites in 2016 so every information is welcome 🙂 Did you do any via ferrata rails?

  7. Hi! My partner and I are hoping to head to the Dolomites at the beginning of June for a week or so. Any info re best place to base ourselves and good walks would be much appreciated. Do we need to book before we get there?

  8. Hello. I’m planning on two nights in the region and trying to decide the best city for base camp. I’d like to head out for day hikes that are high and rewarding. Moderately difficult is fine. I’ll be there 28 may to 30 may If anyone has any advice (are trails still covered with snow at this time of the year? should I change my route to toscana because of weather?- I prefer hiking), I’d be so gratefu for your advice!

    Reply ↓

  9. Hello! Planning a trip to the Dolomites this September with a 1,7 year old toddler. Could you recommend any easy tracks to hike with a child?:) Thanks!

  10. Pingback: Hiking in the Dolomites | the marmot post

  11. Hi, I’m traveling with family in May. Our first trip to the Dolomites.
    Concerned about the weather 3rd week in May. We’re from Florida, how cold will it be. We want to be prepared! Thanks

  12. I know this is a hiking blog but I have a couple questions regarding wheelchair accessibility in the Dolomites: First, I am wondering how challenging the path is from the cable car Lagazuoi to the Rifugio Lagazuoi in terms of degree of steepness and length. My husband is a strong wheelchair user and I can help push at times, but would love to have a better understanding of this path. I really want to get him up into the Dolomites and this seems like the best way. Also, are there any other wheelchair accessible paths, even at the foot of the mountains that he can enjoy? Thanks for any help anyone can provide.

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