Best hikes in the Dolomites, Italy

5 Stunning Day Hikes in the Dolomites Italy

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The Italian Dolomites is a dream destination for mountain lovers. But with thousands of kilometers of hiking trails, each more beautiful than the other, how in the world do you choose where to go… We had this exact same question when planning our Dolomites hiking trip this summer – what are the most beautiful, the best hikes in the Dolomites?

I consulted numerous websites, tourism boards, travel guides, and internet forums trying to choose the best Dolomites hiking trails for our trip. I was looking for relatively easy hikes with the most spectacular scenery. Furthermore, each hike had to be doable with children.

We hiked in the Dolomites with our three kids age 7, 7, and 9, so we were only interested in day hikes and not long treks or multi-day hut hikes. To be completely honest, I must say that our kids are really good hikers, but still, if a 7-year old can do it, then I think it’s safe to say that it’s doable for most people in good physical condition.

To save you hours and days of research, I’m sharing all my findings and our experience hiking in the Dolomites in this post. This is in no way a complete Dolomites hiking guide, rather a small selection of some of the very best hiking trails in the Dolomites, just 5 of our absolute favorites.

You could spend the whole summer hiking in the Dolomites admiring jaw-dropping amazing sceneries… However, if you are visiting the Dolomites for the first time and want to see some of the best mountain scenery, then this Dolomites hiking guide is a good place to start.

View over Baita Troier mountain hut in Italian Dolomites

Mountain views near Seceda

 

All the hikes mentioned in this article are rather short and quite easy, except for the last one. Each hike offers plenty of shorter alternatives, while still giving you access to some of the most beautiful landscapes of Italian Dolomites.

I’m confident to recommend each and every single one of these walks – the scenery along these hikes is simply phenomenal. In addition, as I said, the majority of these hikes are really doable for everyone.

Please note that this is Dolomites hiking guide for the summer months only (June – September). While most trails will be accessible from approximately mid May till mid October, it’s advisable to check trail conditions in advance if you travel in shoulder season.

For each hike, I included practical information, such as distance, duration, difficulty level, as well as some practical tips based on our personal experience. You will see that my selection of the most beautiful hikes in the Dolomites is quite varied, not only in terms of location and scenery, but also the duration and difficulty level. So there is truly something for everyone. Find out!

At the end of the post, I also included some general information and tips for hiking in the Dolomites. You can also find suggestions on where to best base yourself for hiking in the Dolomites. To make your travel planning easier, I also created a map that indicates the starting point of each hike – it can also be found at the bottom of the post.

***Read also our complete guide to Val Gardena accommodation***

Best hikes in the Dolomites that you shouldn't miss

 

Adolf Munkel Trail

Adolf Munkel Trail in Odle – Geisler mountain group is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the Dolomites and our family’s favourite. What makes it my number one suggestion for Dolomites hiking is that you get to see the most incredible scenery without too much effort.

Adolf Munkel trail is a circular hike that starts at the parking area in Zans in Val di Funes/Villnöss Valley. You will be hiking in the Nature Park Puez-Odle in the Odle Masssif, part of the UNESCO world heritage site. Zanser Alm parking area is large, but fills up quickly, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.

The starting point of this hike is trail no.6 in the direction of Tschantschenon. It begins at the big building (Jausenstation Info Zans), at the main entrance of the car parking area. Follow the wide gravel road direction southeast, where you’ll soon pass three little restaurants/b&b’s. The rest of the trail is really well indicated, so no need to worry about getting lost.

The first part of this hike is a bit boring, it goes uphill, and there is little shade, so it can get hot in summer. But don’t let this discourage you. Soon you will reach a bridge, where you turn right following the Adolf Munkel Weg, trail no. 35 towards Geisler Alm, and from there the scenery just gets better and better. Hiking here is easy and rewarding.

Hiking Adolf Munkel trail - one of the best easy hikes in the Dolomites

Adolf Munkel trail

 

As you follow the Adolf Munkel trail, you’ll come to a point to the intersection with the trail no.36A, in the direction of Geisler Alm – the picturesque Geislerhütte. You can either turn here, or continue a bit further along trail no.35 till you reach the next intersection. Follow trail no.36 to Gschnagenhardtalm alpine pasture where you’ll find a nice mountain hut. From here you follow trail no. 36 further and also end up at the Geisler Alm.

There were really bad thunderstorms in this area the day when we visited, so we opted for what looked the safer option at that moment and headed straight to Geisler Alm. However, the small detour to Gschnagenhardtalm is really worth it, so if the weather is good, I recommend that you take this route and see both the mountain huts in the most spectacular setting.

Geisler Alm is a beautiful place to relax and spend an hour or two. There is a restaurant here, a big playground for the children, and a really nice outdoor seating area that will make you want to linger a bit longer than you planned. You can have lunch or at least some Tyrolean apple strudel and absorb some of the best views of the Dolomites.

When and if you can finally force yourself to leave, continue along trail no.36 in the direction of Dussler Alm, and from there back to the car parking at Zanser Alm.

  • Duration: 3hrs
  • Distance: 9km
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Facilities: There are several mountain huts/ restaurants along this trail.
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes. Take a bus in Chiusa in the direction of Zanserhütte.
  • Parking fee: 5 EUR in the morning, a bit less in the afternoon.
Geisler Alm - picturesque mountain hut along Adolf Munkel trail in the Dolomites

Geisler Alm

 

Alternative trails:

  • You can just take trail no. 36 from the parking area straight to Geisler Alm. Hiking isn’t very spectacular here and the biggest part goes through the forest, but it’s the quickest way to get to the mountain huts where you have the best scenery of the whole trail.
  • You can also take a longer version of the Adolf Munkel Trail (13km, 4,5hrs in total). Starting point is the same as above, but instead of turning off on trail no.36, you stay on trail no. 35 to Malga Brogles. From there you follow trail no. 28 and then trails no.34, 33B, and 33 back to the parking area. Alternatively, follow trail no.28 and then no.29 back to the trail no.35 in the direction that you came from, and then hike to the above mentioned mountain huts, before walking back to the parking.

TIP: Don’t miss one of the most iconic photography spots of the Dolomites, that of the church of St. Magdalena. It is also located in Villnöss valley and is just a short stop that you can easily do after completing the Adolf Munkel Trail hike. There are several ways to get there. You can either hike to the viewpoint on the panorama path Villnöss from St. Peter village (6km, 2hr hike), walk there from St. Magdalena village itself (it’s quite steep as the road goes uphill), or drive the narrow village road to the viewpoint. Driving is of course the easiest option, but keep in mind that the road here is really narrow. Furthermore, there are quite some tourists walking on the road and you can’t actually park the car here as the road is too narrow. So if you are fit enough to walk, just go there on foot. I indicated the location of this viewpoint on the map below.

St. Magdalena church - the iconic view of the Dolomites in Italy

St. Magdalena church – most iconic view of the Dolomites

 

Seceda – Pieralongia – (optional) Col Raiser

If you are looking for another Dolomite hiking trail with amazing views and little effort, then I cannot recommend Seceda – Pieralongia area highly enough!

There are several hiking options here, and there is no way I can describe them all. But if you are looking for shorter walks in the Dolomites that offer beautiful scenery, this area is as good as it gets.

We were by car and therefore opted for a circular Pieralongia hike that starts and ends at Seceda cable car station in Ortisei. Alternatively, you can start the hike at Seceda, but end it at Col Raiser, from where you can take the cable car down to St. Cristina. This option requires a bit more hiking, but it’s pretty much all downhill.

Hiking the beautiful Seceda Pieralongia trail in the Dolomites

Hiking near Seceda

 

If I were to go back here, I’d probably go with this second option as you see more diverse scenery. It’s a bit more complicated when it comes to logistics, but all the towns of Val Gardena are well connected by bus (and it’s free with a guest card -more info here), so this would be a really nice option if you are staying nearby, as you can leave the car at the hotel for the day.

No matter which option you choose, probably the nicest part of this hike is between Seceda and Pieralongia. As you exit the cable car at Seceda, you’ll see the distinct shape of Seceda mountain in the distance. Your destination, Pieralongia, is in the same direction. Just follow the hiking trail no. 1 and then 2B and you’ll soon see the peculiar sharp long rocks of Pieralongia.

Hiking at Pieralongia in Puez-Odle Nature Park in the Dolomites

The scenery near Pieralongia

 

The scenery here is amazing, but if you want a good view in the other direction as well, you may take a short turn off to the left along hiking trail no. 6. Here you have a nice view of the Northern part of the Puez – Odle Nature Park. After this scenic detour continue further along 2B in the direction of Pieralongia.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach the Pieralongia Hut, but we made lots of photo stops along the way. This is in principle just a 20-30min hike, so it’s really something for everyone. We met families with smaller children, but also older people. You can have such a relaxing day hiking here!

Malga Pieralongia Alm is one of the most authentic mountain huts we saw in the Dolomites. The surroundings are so pretty and you could easily spend an hour or even longer here. There is a restaurant, bathroom facilities, and a small playground for the children. They also have some farm animals – always fun for the kids.

If you hike a bit further past the hut, you come very close to the peculiar-shaped rocks that you saw in the distance. You might run into some donkeys here. The views are amazing and this is a really nice place to make a stop if you brought your own picnic.

Donkeys at Pieralongia rock formations near Seceda in Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites

In summer you are likely to meet some farm animals near Pieralongia

 

At this point, we turned around and hiked back in the direction of Seceda, taking a slightly different route than the one we came on. We hiked slightly down to Rifugio Troier – this is a bigger hut with a nice restaurant and a beautiful outdoor seating area with incredible views. Here you will find a playground and a small animal farm as well. Plenty of opportunities for the children to play and a good excuse for the adults to get a drink or try some local apple strudel.

With incredible scenery and so many mountain huts and playgrounds Seceda – Pieralongia hike is just perfect for a relaxing day in the Dolomite mountains.

  • Duration: 1-3hrs (depending on playground and restaurant stops)
  • Distance: 4km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Facilities: There are several mountain huts/ restaurants along this trail
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes. Take a bus to Ortisei.
  • Parking fee: Hourly. Can’t remember exactly how much we paid, in any case just a few Euros.
Kids relaxing after Seceda hike in the Dolomites on the terrace of Baita Troier mountain hut

Outdoor terrace of Troier mountain hut

 

Alternative trails:

  • Alternative circular trail option is to continue hiking past Pieralongia rocks till you get to the first crossing. Then turn right in the direction of Fermeda Hut, then right again, and follow the lower trail back to Seceda. This is the longest and the more strenuous option, since you’ll have to walk back up to Seceda. This is the orange line on the map below.
  • Seceda to Col Raiser. Continue past Pieralongia rocks, turn right in the direction of Fermeda Hut, then go left at the next turn, as you join part of Torri di Fermeda hike. Col Raiser is well indicated. At Col Raiser you can take a cable car down to St. Cristina. About 2km, count at least 2hrs hiking time + stops. This is the pink line on the map.
  • As you can see on the map, there are many more other options to explore the area around Seceda. If you have strong knees, you could even hike back down all the way to either Ortisei or St. Cristina.
Seceda Pieralongia hike on the map

Seceda Pieralongia hike described here is the yellow line, circular longer trail – orange, and the hike to Col Raiser – pink

 

Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks)

Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike is the one you’ll find in pretty much all Dolomites hiking guides. It’s often mentioned in all kinds of publications as one of the absolute best hikes in the Dolomites.

I have mixed feelings about this hike, however, and mainly due to its popularity and the crowds in summer. The scenery is nice, but very barren compared to the other places, and somehow I just preferred the greener hikes in the Puez-Odle Nature Park, the Val Gardena side of the Dolomites.

It’s also quite a long way to get here, especially if you are coming from Val Gardena as we were. I don’t recommend driving here for a day – you better stay in Cortina or Misurina for exploring this area.

Hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop in Italian Dolomites

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

 

Anyway, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the symbol of the Dolomite UNESCO World Heritage site, is popular for a reason. Not only are the three peaks truly impressive, you can also enjoy some of the best far views in the Dolomites (see the featured image as well). It’s truly beautiful and well worth a visit.

The good news is that you don’t have to hike the entire 9,5km loop in order to enjoy the views. The negative side is the crowds, as Tre Cime is a popular place for bus tours. We visited the area in the first week of July, on a rainy day that ended with thunderstorms and lightning, still it was by far the busiest hike we did in the Dolomites. I can’t even imagine how busy this place gets on a sunny day in August… If you can, come off season (September is said to be great), or as a minimum avoid the weekends.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop trail starts at Rifugio Auronzo. Just walk past the restaurant and to the left, and you’ll see the wide gravel road leading in the direction of Rifugio Lavaredo. About half way there is a small chappel, Cappella degli Alpini. This first part of the hike is flat and very easy, and is therefore really busy. Families with young children even walk here with the strollers. Rifugio Auronzo – Rifugio Lavaredo walk is 1,7km one way and takes about 30 minutes.

At Rifugio Lavaredo the trail gets a bit tougher and steeper as you walk in the direction of Forcella Lavaredo, one of the best viewpoints of this area. Count about 20 minutes to get here from Ruifugio Lavaredo (+-1km). Most people and especially groups don’t go further than this point.

At this point the trail gets easier as it remains relatively flat, as you walk in the direction of Rifugio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte). This is actually a wide gravel road used for supplies to the hut. This part of the hike is about 2km and will take approximately 40 min.

Rifugio Locatelli mountain hut near Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites

On the way to Rifugio Locatelli

 

If you already walked this far, you’re almost half way and can just as well continue and do the whole loop. Next stop is Malga Langalm (almost 3km, 1h20), from there it’s just a short hike back to Rifugio Auronzo (2,5km, 40min).

I wish we could have done this entire hike to be able to give you a complete and honest review of it. However, somewhere in between Forcella Lavaredo and Rifugio Locatelli it got dark, started to rain, and we had to turn back. In a matter of minutes, the gravel road turned into a river, lightning got stronger and thunder – really loud, and we had to literally run for shelter. With over 2,400m (7,800 ft) height and well above the tree line, this is a very dangerous area to be when there is lightning. We decided to wait out the storm at Rifugio Lavaredo and and had a very long lunch here till the lightning stopped.

  • Duration: 3,5-5hrs
  • Distance: 9,5km
  • Difficulty: Moderate (first part is easy)
  • Facilities: There are several mountain huts/ restaurants along this trail
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes, in high season.
  • Entrance fee: You have to pay 25 EUR entrance fee to drive up here.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo hiking trail map at Rifugio Lavaredo

You can find this Tre Cime di Lavaredo circular trail map at Rifugio Lavaredo

 

Lago di Braies (Pragser Widlsee)

Lago di Braies, also known as Pragser Wildsee, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Europe, maybe even in the world. It reminded us of Lake Louise in Canada. I have to say that the Dolomites are just as beautiful as the Canadian Rockies, maybe even more impressive in a way, as there is more variety in the landscape.

Lago di Braies is another extremely popular tourist destination, but its beauty will make you forget the crowds. Try not to look at the huge parking lot and a big hotel blocking the view, and head straight to the lake. As you arrive at the picturesque wooden boathouse, you’ll be struck by the pristine beauty of this place.

You don’t have to hike much in order to appreciate the scenery of Lago di Braies, but hiking to the end of the lake is the best way to escape the biggest crowds. The circular hike is quite easy and can easily be done with children. Note that the hike on the left side of the lake is a bit steeper and rocky, the right one – completely flat. If you are visiting with young kids and have a stroller, just stay on the right side of the lake.

Hiking at Lago di Braies, the most beautiful lake of the Dolomites in Italy

Hiking at Lago di Braies is really easy

 

At the back end of the lake, you’ll find several beaches. It’s a good place for a dip in the water, but keep in mind that the water is freezing cold. Our crazy kids went swimming here, so it’s definitely possible if you feel like cooling down a bit after the walk.

Lago di Braies hike is by far the easiest of all the Dolomites hikes described here, and the views are not to be missed. A must-see place if you are visiting Dolomites for the first time!

  • Duration: 1,5-2hrs
  • Distance: 5km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Facilities: There is a hotel and a restaurant by the lake
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Parking fee: Hourly, depends on the time of the day.

TIP: Plan to spend at least half a day at Lago di Braies. You can rent a boat, which is such a great way to enjoy this beautiful lake.

Lago di Braies is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites

Lago di Braies

 

Selva to Rifugio Puez (Puez-Odle Altopiano hike)

We had really high expectations from this hike as we heard several people describe it as the ultimate hiking experience in the Dolomites. I have to say that this hike from Selva to Rifugio Puez starting at Dantercepies cable car station and via Rifugio Jimmy is by far the most diverse day hike you can probably do in the Dolomites, but it’s also the most challenging hike we have ever done.

By no means is this an easy hike and don’t believe those websites that tell you it can be done in 5-6 hours. Not if you are a recreational hiker who actually wants to enjoy the scenery, take some pictures, and stop for a picnic along the way.

Taking into account that you first need to take a cable car to the starting point of this hike, stop to rest and eat, and get back to your starting point in Selva, you should count 7-9 hours for this hike. It took us about 8 hours hiking, more if we add the walk back to our hotel in Selva. Every time we talk back about this hike, we all refer to it as ‘the hike that would never end’.

The hike starts out very promisingly with truly amazing views at Dantercepies cable car station. The first part of the trail to Rifugio Jimmy is easy and enjoyable and takes just 15-20 min. Here you are facing the first real challenge – a steep climb to Forcella Cier along the hiking trail no.2. The views are great, but so is the effort. The climb will probably take at least half an hour and it’s really tough. Don’t forget to enjoy the views along the way – after all that’s what you’re here for, and not for the race.

Dolomites hiking - mountain view from Forcella Cier near Gardena Pass

Incredible views from Forcella Cier, above Jimmy Hut

 

When you reach the top and head into the mountains, the scenery changes completely. It’s a rocky terrain with no vegetation and even in summer you’ll still find quite some snow here.

There are two viewpoints along Jeuf de Cir area, both also offering a chance to turn off left and head back down to Selva along the trail no.12. By this point you probably hiked for 2 hours and you think, based on what you read, that you’re half way. You’re not! If you feel really tired by this point, I’d really consider going back to the village from here, as this is the last safe option to go down. The next safe trail downwards is at the Puez Hut, another 1,5-2 hours hiking from here.

It’s really difficult to get excited about this part of the trail. The scenery isn’t all that special, there is no shade, and you feel like there will never be an end to this hike. The only nicer place along the way is Lago di Crespeina, but by now you realise that you can’t afford to linger much longer if you want to make it back to the village before dark. No worries, you think, there is another trail indicated on the map that will get you down to the valley quick…

Sheep along Lago di Crespeina in the Dolomites

Luckily we met some sheep along the endless stretch of a rather boring hike near Lago di Crespeina

 

However, what you find at Forcella de Ciampac is a sheer wall of rocks and loose stones, by no means a hiking trail. If you are not tired of your life, do not attempt to hike down here. We tried just a small part and it was the most frightening hiking experience ever. We had no choice but scramble back up and continue our hike all the way to Puez mountain hut, as initially planned.

After 4,5 hours of serious hiking we finally reached Rifugio Puez (Puez Hütte) at 2,475 m. Note that this is not the end of the hike, as you still have to get back down to the valley, some 1,000 m below.

Since this last stretch takes at least another 2 hours (it took us 2,5 and we were walking fast), we decided to take a well deserved break. Luckily, there is a restaurant at Puez hut and I can really recommend their Kaiserschmarrn – traditional shredded pancakes that are very popular in Northern Italy and also in Austria.

Kaiserschmarrn at Rifugio Puez in the Dolomites

Kaiserschmarrn at Rifugio Puez

 

Once again, we looked at the map and were thinking of taking the most logical route back. Trail no. 14 looked like the best way to get to the valley.

Luckily, we asked the waitress at the restaurant and from her reaction we understood that this trail is really steep and not that impressive. She recommended we take the slightly longer, but supposedly more beautiful trail no. 16 down from Puez to Selva. I feel so grateful for her advice, as this part of the hike was so spectacular that it saved the whole day for us.

Family hiking down from Rifugio Puez to Selva di Val Gardena

Trail no.16 from Rifugio Puez to Selva

 

Alternative trails:

Since the nicest part of this Selva – Rifugio Puez hike was in the beginning – the area around Jimmy Hut, and then again at the end between Puez Hut and Selva, it would be possible to split this hike into two separate hikes and still see the best scenery.

On the other hand, the 1km vertical climb from Selva to Puez would be really exhausting, so it’s not for everyone either. However, even if you just hike a small part of this trail into the mountain valley at Vallunga hiking area in Selva, it is also really worth it as the views are amazing. This part of the hike is flat and can even be done by bike or with a stroller.

Vallunga hiking area near Selva di Val Gardena in the Dolomites

Vallunga hiking area near Selva di Val Gardena – this was the end of the Rigugio Puez hike for us

 

Would I recommend this hike from Selva to Puez Hut? If you travel well prepared, know what to expect, and count the whole day for this hike, then yes, it’s worth it. If, on the other hand, you are looking for nice views and little effort, then you better consider doing just one part of this hike.

  • Duration: 6-7hrs (+stops, count at least 8 hours if you want to enjoy it)
  • Distance: Not sure. Some sources say it’s 14km, some  – 16km, the others – 22km. We didn’t track the distance, but I can tell you it felt closer to 20 than to 14.
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Facilities: There are facilities at Rifugio Jimmy and Rifugio Puez. Nothing in between.
  • Accessible by public transport: Yes
  • Parking fee: Hourly
Map of Selva to Rifugio Puez hike starting at Dantercepies cable car in Val Gardena

Selva to Rifugio Puez hiking trail (+cable car) is indicated in yellow

 

Best hikes in the Dolomites on the map

As promised, here is the map indicating the starting point of each hike mentioned in this post. I also indicated parking areas where you can leave your car for each hike.

You can click on the map or zoom it in and out. For the index, click on the little arrow on the top left corner.

Practical tips for hiking in the Dolomites

  • Best time to hike in the Dolomites is June through September. If you can, avoid the peak season, July and August.
  • Plan to spend at least a week in this beautiful area – there is so much to see!
  • Parking fees and cable car rides are quite expensive. You can save money by making use of guest cards offered by most hotels in the region. They usually include free public transport and give discounts on cable car rides. If you are staying in one area for at least 3 days, it might be worthwhile to buy a pass issued by a local tourism board (e.g. Val Gardena pass or Cortina card). If you are planning on taking at least 2 cable cars a day, it can save you quite a lot of money.
  • Travel well prepared: always carry plenty of water, snacks, sun protection, as well as rain gear.
  • Sturdy hiking boots are a must for most hikes. Light hiking shoes can be sufficient for the easier hikes.
  • I recommend trekking poles, especially if you have weak knees.
  • Afternoon storms are very common in the Dolomites, so start your hikes early.
  • The weather can be very different in different places, so it’s best to consult websites that offer very local forecast. We used this website most of the time and the forecast was pretty accurate.
  • Always carry a cellphone with you.
  • Buy a good hiking map or, as a minimum, take a smartphone picture of the hiking map of the area before you start.
  • If you are looking for more suggestions for the best shorter hikes in the Dolomites, you may want to check this great guidebook that features 50 different walks.
  • Don’t overdo it. Better do one hike and truly enjoy rather than try to see it all in too little time.
  • Take your time to explore the little villages, mountain passes, and enjoy your time in the Dolomites!
Hiking from Puez Hut to Selva in The Puez-Geisler Nature Park in the Dolomites

Hiking down from Puez Hut to Selva

 

Best home-base for hiking in the Dolomites

The roads are really steep and narrow in the Dolomites, and there are many mountain passes you have to negotiate, pretty much everywhere you go. On top of that, you have to share the roads with hundreds of bicycles and busses, and there are lots of road works in summer as well. Therefore, staying in just one place and driving up and down to different areas in the Dolomites will eat up too much of your time.

After thorough research and based on our experience, I recommend two areas that can be best used as a base for hiking in the Dolomites: Val Gardena (the towns of Selva di Val Gardena, St. Cristina, or Ortisei) and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

We stayed in Selva di Val Gardena and it was a great home base for exploring Val Gardena area, but really much too far for the hiking trails around Cortina.

Val Gardena sign at Gardena Pass in the Dolomites

Val Gardena is probably the best base for exploring and hiking in the Dolomites

 

Val Gardena is a good place to stay for most of the hikes described in this post, including Lago di Braies, but not for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike. There are so many mountain passes between Val Gardena and Cortina, and you really can’t enjoy them if you are just passing by.

The better option for exploring would be to stay at Val Gardena for a couple of days, then make your way to Cortina, stopping at the mountain passes along the way. Then spend at least 2 nights in Cortina, from where you can easily visit Tre Cime.

If you rather have a quiet vacation and just stay in one place, then make it Val Gardena. It is really well located not just for the most beautiful hikes of the Dolomites, but also if you want to drive some amazing mountain passes. It’s also close enough to the highway, so if the weather is really bad in the Dolomites, you can easily visit Bolzano or Merano for a day.

***Read also: Val Gardena Hotel & Accommodation Guide***
Sella Pass in the Dolomites

Beautiful Sella Pass not far from Val Gardena

 

So, this is my small selection of some of the best hikes in the Dolomites. I hope that you’ll find inspiration in this post and enjoy your trip to this incredibly beautiful region.

There are, of course, many more stunning hikes you can do in the Dolomites, as well as countless other activities and places to see. But if you are looking for truly spectacular shorter hikes in the Dolomites, then I think you won’t be disappointed by any of these trails described in this article.

Visiting Italy and looking for more travel recommendations? Please check our Italy travel guide.

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this very helpful and timely guide to hiking in the Dolomites. We are planning to do this next year and didn’t know where to start as there are so many trails. I have some ideas now, thanks for sharing!

    1. Author

      Good to hear you found this useful, Lucy. Enjoy the trip!

  2. Thanks so much for this very helpful and timely guide to hiking in the Dolomites. We are planning to do this next year and didn’t know where to start as there are so many trails. May I ask if it’s possible to hike in October assuming that it is a cooler month? If we want to use a guide, which agencies would you recommend? Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Corina, I think October is a bit tricky as you’ll never know how the weather will be. I did some research and most guided tours seem to stop in September. However, I found this private guide who is running hiking tours till October 20th this year. The hikes start from Cortina d’Ampezzo area and you have a choice of several day hikes, some that are mentioned in this post (Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lago di Braies). Since it’s a private guide, you can ask for any hike that you like, but since it starts in Cortina, it would be indeed wiser to stay in that area. I see that they also mention Lago di Sorapiss, which is a stunning hike as well. Also Lagazuoi is something we considered and it would definitely be worth it. So yes, there are some possibilities.

  3. Loved reading your post. Thanks for sharing..
    We are looking at visiting this area in June.. Would be there around the 12th June.. Would the refugios / mountain huts be open at that time?
    Also is it possible to convert some of your treks into a 2 day itinerary and stay at the mountain huts for a night? Which one would you recommend?

    1. Author

      Hi Vineeta, I’m afraid I can’t help you much with the multi-day hikes as we have no experience. I’d assume that most mountain huts would be open mid-June, but if you want to be sure about a specific one, it would be best to try and contact them (or a local tourism board) directly.
      There are just so many hikes in the area and you could indeed combine several of them into a multi-day hike, but you’d have to do your own research and get a really good hiking map for the area.
      EDIT to add: I just stumbled upon this guided tour that lets you choose how many days you want to hike in the Dolomites and they say they’ll take care of all the arrangements. Maybe worth checking…

  4. Very useful information! Will definitely consider all of them.

    PS. What trail did you guys take at the first picture of the blog with your two sons and the rocky peaks to the left side?

    1. Author

      Hi Jill, someone just asked it the other day as well (you could see it in the comments below). The first picture is from Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

  5. Such a helpful article! THANK YOU!!!

    1. Author

      Good to hear that, Angela.
      Happy travels!

  6. Hello Jurga-Great article about the Dolomites. We are going in August. Where is the trail(name/location) in the 1st picture? We want to go! Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Karen, the first picture is from Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks) hike. It’s described in the article.
      Enjoy your trip!

  7. For sure your post is the most useful and informative that I’ve
    encountered. Thanks for helping everyone !

    1. Author

      Thanks for your feedback, Emilio. Enjoy hiking in the Dolomites!

  8. As others have said, your post is the most useful and informative that I’ve
    encountered after much searching. the guide book Shorter Walks in the Dolomites
    is very useful but your lived account is very helpful in terms of organizing our trip.
    I wonder if you might have any thoughts about staying in one Rifugio or another?
    Steven

    1. Author

      Hi Steven, glad you find this useful. I know how it is to research a trip and how first-hand reports are incomparable to any book indeed.
      Unfortunately, I can’t help you further – we never do multi-day hikes and thus never stayed in any mountain huts. There are so many of them and it’s a great way to hike through a big area, but you’d need a very good hiking map with all the huts indicated to figure out the best itinerary for a region where you want to hike. I also don’t know if you need to book any of them in advance, but I guess it would depend on the season and the group size.
      Good luck with the search!

  9. Thank you, Jurga, for your response. I should have mentioned we will not have a car. It seems best for us to stay in Ortisei and conveniently walk trails you recommended from there. Hopefully for one day we will rent a car and drive to do hikes from Santa Maddalena. Your photos are so enticing and your suggestions very helpful – much appreciated.
    Elaine

    1. Author

      If you don’t have a car, I strongly advise to stay in one of the Val Gardena towns and book your accommodation asap. Ortisei, Selva, or Santa Cristina are all good options. We stayed in Selva.
      If you stay there, you will normally get a guest card at your accommodation that allows you to use the public buses free of charge. If you are planning to do more hiking in the area, it might be interesting to check Gardena card – it can save you some money if you take lots of cable cars (we didn’t do that as it made little sense for us it really depends on how many cable cars you plan to take – they are quite expensive).
      PS to get to Adolf Munkel trail, you can also take a bus. First to Chiusa and from there to Zanserhütte. But I don’t know the schedule, but I’m sure you can ask for that info at the local tourist office once you get there.

  10. Hi, Jurga – Your very helpful info about best walks/hikes in the Dolomites is much appreciated. The closest we’ve been to this area was in Castelrotto, Siusi and Bolzano. In September we look forward to going on the trails you described. Do you think Chiusa would be okay for a base? Thanking you for considering my requested advice – Elaine

    1. Author

      Hi Elaine, if you have a car and don’t mind a bit more driving on most days, then yes, Chiusa seems ok to me. Only to get to Cortina area it’s really far. On the other hand, if you take the bigger roads (like on this map, so not via the mountain passes), it should also be doable.

  11. Hey Jurga, I read travel articles a lot. And I mean A LOT!

    And I think this is possibly the best article I’ve read. It’s entertaining, informative and has just the right amount of detail. Thank you very much. My hikes will be based around this write-up.

    May I ask one question? My partner and I plan on staying in Val Gardena for the 5 nights we’ll be in the Dolomites. We will be there in July and plan on using buses to get around. With that in mind, will we be able to explore the Sella group (specifically Pordoi and Sella) from Ortesei via bus? I’ve heard these passes are great, so I would hate to miss them because I decided to save money and not rent a car.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Ed. Always glad to hear that our readers find the articles entertaining and useful.
      We didn’t take the bus, so I don’t have experience with that. But indeed there is a local bus (and it’s free with a guest card that you get at the hotels in the area). Here you can find more info on Val Gardena buses. I’m not sure if there is any bus that goes to these two passes though, but you can just ask at your accommodation or at the visitor center. I’m sure they’ll know the best way to get there. I seem to recall that we constantly had to deal with busses on those narrow roads, so I think you can get there by public transport, but I’m not 100% certain how.
      PS I’m not sure if you’ll save much by not renting a car – renting a small car in Italy is really not expensive. You can check this website for price comparisons and the best deals for car rental. So it really depends on what else you’re planning to do I suppose.

      1. Hey Jurga,

        Wow, the cars really are quite cheap. I may be able to justify renting one, even if I only use it for two of my four days…

        I have one more question for you regarding your trail ‘Seceda – Pieralongia – (optional) Col Raiser’. Is there any particular reason you are starting at Seceda, rather than at Col Raiser? Most of the articles I’ve read have this trail or similar starting in reverse to yours. Just wondering if you have a preference.

        1. Author

          Hi Ed, hiking from Seceda to Col Raiser you’ll be going down pretty much all the time (unless you make a loop as we did, then you’ll go back up a bit). Whereas going the other way you’ll be climbing up all the time. Pretty much all the people we met were hiking in the same direction we did and I really don’t know why those guides tell you to start at Col Raiser, except maybe that the cable car to go up is a bit cheaper there… Or they think that a beautiful hike in itself isn’t enough if it’s not challenging… No idea, but we kind of prefer not to make things more difficult if it’s not necessary… So if you come to Ortisei and start your hike in Seceda, you can end your hike at Col Raiser and go down to Santa Cristina from where you can take the bus back to wherever you are staying (or wherever you left your car).
          And yes, renting a car is indeed not that expensive in southern Europe and it gives you so much freedom.
          Enjoy your trip!

  12. Hi Jurga, awesome posts lots of great information. I have been thinking of getting a map for the area. Would you recommend one map company over another? I know they speak Italian and German in the area. Being from the states I unfortunately only speak English. Will they speak enough English we can get by? Hopefully they will not be offended because we don’t speak their native language? Also we are going to be there for a while. We have 15 days should we spend them all there. Can you recommend the best quaint mountain towns to visit to break up the days of hiking so we can take a day off and rest? Thanks so much, Jerry

    1. Author

      Hi Jerry, yes, indeed that area is a bit tricky in terms of language – everything is more German than Italian actually and the food is a mix of both – it’s great! I don’t really speak much Italian or German and could get around well with just English, so you’ll be fine. I think ly husband spoke German a couple of times, but not because they didn’t understand us in English.
      As for the maps, we just used Google Maps to get around and didn’t buy any hiking maps either as all the hikes we did were quite short and well indicated.
      15 days is long so you can do a lot. I think that if you like seeing more places you could split your stay between Val Gardena and Cortina d’Ampezzo area.
      If you want to visit some really nice towns, then why not just stay in the mountains for a week and then spend the rest of your time visiting other amazing places nearby (there are so many!).
      Close to Val Gardena are towns of Bolzano and Merano – both make a great day trip (we visited both in a day and it was really nice). Also Trento is doable as a day trip from this area and is certainly worth a visit.
      A bit further to the South you have Lake Garda with amazing scenery and stunning little towns – you can’t go there as a day trip from the Dolomites, but coupld easily spend 2-4 days in that area. More information here: Best of Lake Garda and here: Lake Garda itinerary ideas. From there you can also easily visit Verona and even Venice. If you go more to the west, you come to Milan and Lake Como – all amazing places. More info here: One Day in Milan and also here: Bellagio, Lake Como.
      As you can see, possibilities are really endless, so it’s really up to you. In 15 days you could see a lot – mountains, lakes, towns…
      Hope this helps and doesn’t confuse you more…
      Enjoy the trip – it’s an amazing part of Italy. You’ll love it.

  13. Great post Jurga. I’ve spent a bunch of time sorting through all the info on the net on the Dolomites, looking for the perfect hiking trails and home-base town in prep for our family trip this summer. Your post is exactly what I needed! Keith

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that, Keith. Enjoy your trip. You’ll love the Dolomites!

  14. Hello Jurga, loved the post! I’m definitely doing the Adolf Munkel Trail. I want to do the Seceda – Pieralongia hike too, but have a question; would be great if you could reply:

    Is it possible to hike from Ortisei to Seceda and on to Malga Pieralongia Alm, and back? In other words, is it possible to avoid taking the cable car during this hike? I’ll be back-packing for 2 months straight, so want to save money where I can. I am reasonable fit, and a couple extra hours of hiking shouldn’t be a big deal. Also, I could take public buses wherever I can. I read somewhere that I could take a public bus back from Col Raiser to Ortisei.

    A response would be much appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Prateek.

    1. Author

      Hi Prateek, it is possible to hike from Ortisei to Seceda, but it’s a very steep and long climb- you’d go from 1236m to 2518m – it’s A LOT! I have no idea how long that would take, but I wouldn’t advise this to anyone.
      It’s a bit easier to do from St. Christina, but still over 1000 m ascent.
      If I remember well, cable car from St. Christina to Col Raiser was cheaper than the one from Ortisei to Seceda, so you could make the hike from there (it would require a bit more hiking uphill, but nothing compared to coming all the way from the bottom).
      If you stay at any of Val Gardena hotels, you should be able to get a guest card that allows free use of public transport and also gives you a discount on cable cars.
      TIP: if you are staying in the area for several days and are planning to do lots of hiking, you could save a lot by getting Val Gardena card. It’s not cheap, but quickly pays off if you take just a couple of cable cars.
      Hope this helps.

  15. Hi thanks for the really informative post. Could you tell me where the trail numbers come from? Do the maps of the area have the trails illustrated and numbered on them?

    1. Author

      Hi Liz, I’m sure there are maps you could get at the info centers, but we just used simple trail maps that you get at the cable car. Those maps don’t usually have trail numbers, but they do have hiking paths clearly indicated. You can also find the trail numbers on the informative boards before each hike and all the signs along the way have trail numbers on them.
      So, basically, if you know which trail you want to follow, you could do it without a map as well, just following the signs. But I always took a picture on my phone of the informative boards at the start of the hike, so we had an overview with us just in case.
      If you are planning to do any serious hiking, more than just a few hours, I think it would be wise to get a good hiking map of the area.

  16. Hi Jurga,

    Thanks for this amazing post. Such useful information. I am
    planning a trip to the Dolomites with my husband this summer. Just like you we will be looking for easy to medium hikes. We plan to spend 18 nights in the Dolomites. Could you advise me on how we should divide the days between Val Gardena and Cortina (we will make these 2 as our base). Initially I was thinking of spending more days at cortina and fewer at Val Gardena, but after reading your article I am re thinking my decision. Please do advise.

    1. Author

      Hi Nupur, 18 days is really a lot, so why don’t you split them in two and spend 9 in each place? I’d almost go for a bit more time in Val Gardena and less in Cortina, but in any case you have so much time that you can thoroughly explore both regions.
      In addition to all these amazing hikes, another reason why we liked staying in Val Gardena is that it is close enough to the highway. So in case of bad weather in the mountains we could visit some beautiful towns nearby. Bolzano is recommended, but also Merano was extremely nice. Both just an hour’s drive away from Val Gardena; we visited both on the same day.
      As far as hiking goes, there are so many options near both places, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
      Have a great trip!

  17. Thank you so much for your amazing advice, hints, and suggestions. I am planning a trip with my mother in law and this was VERY helpful. One question, if we were to stay in Val Gardena and or Cortina, Do we need to rent a car? Or, can we use all public transportation?

    1. Author

      Hi Kathryn, once you get to Val Gardena, you don’t really need a car. There is a local bus that connects all the main villages.
      I’m not sure about how easy it is to get from Val Gardena to Cortina by public transport though. It might look like it’s close by on the map, but it really isn’t and the roads there are crazy steep and narrow.
      I also don’t have experience with transportation in Cortina, but I assume that there are busses there as well that bring you to the starting point of some hiking trails.
      Hope this helps. If not, try researching the websites of Val Gardena tourism and Cortina.

      1. Thank you for your quick response – I really appreciate i! I will check out those websites and start planning. Have a wonderful day..

  18. I just love seeing you your family enjoying such stunning scenery. Our girl is almost two and loves being carried along our hikes but I think it won’t be long before she will start walking more herself (she can walk a long way she just stops to look at everything so we don’t get very far haha). These hikes in the Dolomites look so stunning and I’m glad to see they are manageable for little legs too 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Suzy, our kids also started hiking at 2. She’ll be hiking before you know it. 🙂
      Most of the hikes described here are a bit too difficult for the little legs, but if you can carry her, you could do the easier ones for sure.

  19. How do you get to Val Gardena or Cortina from a major city/airport? We are trying to avoid renting a car, so we’d like to fly into the closest airport and take public transit if possible.

    1. Author

      Hi Gina, I honestly don’t know. I think that even if there are any public transport options, they would require so many connections that it would take you a day. I remember, however, that all the hotels in the area had promotion for airport shuttles you could book with them – not cheap (think hundreds of euros), but definitely the easiest way to get there from any major airport nearby. The closest big airports are Milan, Munich, and Venice. But there are also some smaller ones, e.g. Innsbruck in Austria. You could just ask your accommodation and they’ll arrange it for you.
      Just note that it can be so much easier and cheaper to rent a car than take a shuttle in two directions. In addition, it also gives you complete flexibility to drive to the starting points of the hikes once you are there. You can check car rental prices here – renting a car in Italy is really quite cheap.
      Hope this helps

      1. Thanks for the reply! My husband is just worried about driving there. We are from the states, and earlier this year he had to drive in Ireland. Opposite side of the road on VERY narrow roads, he was so nervous and anxious. Maybe if we just drive to a hotel in the area and take public transit to the hiking areas the driving wouldn’t be so bad.

        1. Author

          Hi Gina,
          The roads between Val Gardena and Cortina are really narrow, so maybe stay away from that area. If you just drive to Val Gardena from e.g. Milan (like on this map), it’s highway pretty much the whole time, except for the last half hour or so. But that road is really ok, just a regular road in the mountains, no mountain passes. It gets steep and narrow after Selva.
          Also, in Italy they drive on the same side of the road as in the States.
          Indeed, once you get to your hotel, you can just leave the car there (make sure hotel has free parking and is not far from the main road where busses drive). We stayed in Selva and really liked the town – many restaurants, shops, busy enough to be enjoyable but not too busy. Lots of beautiful hikes in that entire area – can easily fill a few weeks.

    2. We are planning a trip to Ortisei for a week in September. We’ve been to the Dolomites three times now.
      For Val Gardena we are taking the train from Verona (our last stay before the Dolomites) to Bolzano, and there are frequent buses from there to Val Gardena, I think around an hour. There is also bus service from Bressanone, a bit further north of Bolzano. Public transportation is very good in the area, and we have done just fine without a car. Milan was convenient for us, but we have also done this from Venice. I think Milan was more straightforward. Check out Trenitalia.com.
      We have been to Cortina also, but we prefer the Alpe Siusi and Val Gardena areas.

      1. Author

        Thanks for sharing this practical info, Melody. I’m sure it will be very useful to other readers looking to reach Val Gardena by public transport.

  20. Thanks for sharing such a fantastic blog. Awesome Pictures it’s looking pretty cool and lovely in this post. I haven’t visited Italy yet, but after reading your blog, would surely love to visit ASAP.
    Keep updating with beautiful places with your blogs, Keep it up.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Kathleen. Italy is AMAZING, no matter where you go, you’ll love it for sure. Hope you can find a way to see it soon.
      Happy travels! Jurga

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