Dolomites hiking is one of our favourite things to do. But with so many paths in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, how do you choose where to go? Here’s our list of the 6 best day hikes in the Dolomites and why we loved them.


Arriving early in the season, the alpine air was laced with the lingering chill of spring. Persistent snow clung to the high trails, making some crossings impossible. On the lower paths, alpine flowers were just starting to bloom. High above the meadows, those formidable jagged peaks diminished the rocky paths crunching under our hiking boots.

After a number of visits, the impossibly beautiful landscapes of the Italian Dolomites never cease to impress. Their allure growing every time. They may not have the height and grandeur of the snow-covered French peaks or cute villages and steep-sided valleys of the Swiss Alps. But what sets the Dolomites apart are the dramatic limestone peaks. Crags that soar out of rolling green meadows. A landscape different from other alpine areas – where the change from rural idyll to inhospitable mountain is swift and stunning.

We’ve hiked trails that meander through meadows, traversed steep slopes, and crossed high summits. It’s the one area of the alps we know better than any other.

All the day hikes on this list are relatively achievable for most people with a good level of fitness. But it probably helps if you like to get to the top puffing and panting a bit.

Here are our favourite hikes in the Dolomites.


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DOLOMITIES HIKING / 6 OF THE BEST WALKS


TRE CIME / Circling the most famous peaks in the Dolomites

LAGO DI SORAPIS / Hiking to wild & idyllic turquoise waters

VAJOLET TOWERS / Scrambling under soaring limestone peaks

SASSOLUNGO / Circumnavigating the Sassolungo-Langkofel massif

VAL DI FUNES / Ambling through cute villages and meadows

BRENTA DOLOMITES / Ascending to rifugios on high rocky outcrops

1 / COMPLETING THE TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO LOOP

The soaring peaks of Tre Cime lie in a desolate rock-strewn region of the Dolomites. The three towers that rise above a sea of boulders and scree slopes have become an iconic image of the region. The most famous view of the peaks – standing tall above Rifugio Locatelli – can only be reached on foot. But what a journey it is.

This three and a half hour circuit around the three towering monoliths is relatively easy and follows clearly marked paths. But in spite of its simplicity, it traverses some of the most dramatic scenery in the Dolomites.

The views are instantaneous. Beginning at Rifugio Auronzo, the pointy Cadini group create a jagged line against the blue sky. Within an hour the trail passes over Forcella Lavaredo. Here, a phenomenal view of hundreds of majestic peaks in a variety of twisted shapes lined the horizon like a crumbling forest of rocky skyscrapers.

Further, at Rifugio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte in German) you can enjoy breath-taking views while sipping on a beer. After Locatelli, the ascent and descent is all over in about 40 minutes. The path brings you close to the Tre Cime peaks and up on the Col di Mezzo, where you are rewarded with more of those superb Dolomites’ views to the west.

This is one of the best hikes in the Dolomites. It would be difficult to find an easier walk that is more rewarding in the entire region. Even if you are not a regular hiker this walk is eminently doable.

You can find the full details and map of this walk in our hiking Tre Cime article.


Distance: 10.3 km round trip | Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes | Elevation: 400 m ascent and descent | Difficulty: Easy-Medium

2 / HIKING TO THE TURQUOISE WATERS OF LAGO DI SORAPIS

Each spring as the warm air melts the snow and ice, water flows down the valleys. The water brings with it ‘rock flour’, ghostly white particles formed as glaciers scrape against the mountains. This rock flour is suspended in the water and as it collects into lakes a shimmering turquoise colour is created.

Three of these colourful lakes, Lago di Braies, Lago Misurina and Lago Carezza, are all set by the road and visited by masses of people every day. But Lago di Sorapis is a far less visited but equally as stunning turquoise lake. The crisp mountain air, crunchy alpine foliage and impressive reflection views make this a hike well worth conquering.

But the beautiful remote alpine lake is not all this walk has to offer. The easy to follow 215 path winds through shady forests, traverses slopes still retaining snow and crosses narrow ledges aided by ropes. It’s an adventure and an experience. Views stretch off to Tre Cime and the Sexten Dolomites to the east and up to the craggy peaks of Monte Cristallo and Piz Popena to the north. It’s a great walk.

After absorbing the tranquil atmosphere of the lake, there is an option to go back the same way or take the more invigorating path 216. This option requires a bit more grunt-work – 400 additional metres of ascent to be exact. But the views of the 2300m Forcella Marcoira pass are well worth it.

Path 216 requires a few handholds in places and can be a little indistinct over the summit. But on a clear day, the path you are aiming for will be visible out front. Heading back this way competes an excellent circular day hike in the Dolomites.

All the details are in our Hiking to Lago di Sorapis article.


Distance: 13 km round trip | Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes | Elevation: 725 m ascent and descent | Difficulty: Medium


3 / SCRAMBLING UNDER THE SOARING VAJOLET TOWERS

The Vajolet Towers are six summits that rise out of the rocky basin of the Catinaccio group. Three of their spires stand out in particular – dominating the landscape for miles. The towers are a popular spot for serious rock climbers but taking the trail up to the base of the summit is an excellent and challenging day hike.

Instead of circumnavigating them, like at Tre Cime, the trail starts way below the pinnacles. Bit by bit the hike snakes its way up a rocky path, until it reaches the base of their 2,800m summits.

The journey begins on the cable car from Vigo di Fassa up to Rifugio Ciampediè (2000m). From here, an easy trail heads through forest and up the valley. The first hour is simple enough but the path begins to steepen as you approach two great rifugios. Having a break at either of them, you can stare up at what comes next. A dramatic scramble up the bottom of the towers.

It’s a steep and rocky path with a few sections with steel cables and others where some scrambling is required. But it’s an energising hike, and with such a steep path, the ascent is tucked away very efficiently.

After 400m of vertiginous hiking climb, Rifugio Re Alberto comes as a welcome relief. But don’t stop there. Press on to the 2,741m high Rifugio Passo Santner where panoramic views to the west open up. If you look behind, those mighty towers have dwindled to nothing.

Unless you are a Via Ferrata expert you have to return the way you came, but the excitement of this walk makes it all worth-while.


Distance: 11 km round trip | Time: 6 hours | Elevation: 1,000 m ascent and descent | Difficulty: Medium-Hard

4 / CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SASSOLUNGO MASSIF

What sets the Dolomites apart from other Alpine regions is the sudden change between rolling green meadows and inhospitable mountain peaks. Spires of rock seem to simply burst out of a carpet of flowers and grass. Nowhere is this contrast more dramatic than around the Sassolungo massif. Here three mighty spires of limestone protrude from the highest Alpine meadow in Europe.

This truly magnificent day hike is probably our favourite in the Dolomites. At 6 hours and with 1,000m of ascent and descent this circuit of the Sassolungo massif is a long day. But an extremely rewarding one.

The trail clings to the boundary between meadows and rocky peaks. On one side, the sheer-sided faces that make up the massif tower above the path. On the other, grassy meadows, alpine flowers and winding trails, roll-off towards other mountains.

And what remarkable mountains they are. Many of the best rock formations in the Dolomites are here. The soaring spires of Puez-Odle, the massive rocky lump of Sella and the craggy buttresses of the Catinaccio all hove into view and disappear as you complete the circuit.

Finally to make the walk that little bit easier and life that much better, there are some great rifugios on the route. Munch on bagels and doughnuts while enjoying coffee sitting on sheepskin rugs at Rifugio Friedrich August. Or, grab lunch wedged in a crevasse at Rifugio Vicenza. Every hour you come across another rifugio and each one has quite remarkable views. Give yourself 8 hours, stop whenever you want and have a truly great day.

You can find the full details and map of this day hike in the Dolomites in our hiking Sassolungo post.


Distance: 17.6 km round trip | Time: 6 hours | Elevation: 1,000 m ascent and descent | Difficulty: Medium-Hard

5 / AMBLING THE VILLAGES AND MEADOWS OF VAL DI FUNES

Val di Funes has become an Instagram favourite. Images of the churches of San Giovanni and Santa Maddalena backed by the jagged peaks of the Puez-Odle massif are ubiquitous on travel photographers feeds. But remarkably the valley in which they are set is much less visited and even less hiked than you would think.

This walk is a bit of a diversion from the others on this list. Instead of rocky peaks and energetic climbs, our Val di Funes hike gently meanders through undulating meadows. Swathes of grass billow in the breeze or lay freshly cut in perfect symmetry on the ground. Fields carpeted in flowers provide the perfect foreground to verdant valley walls.

It is the most tranquil and idyllic scene. A trail high above the cute villages clings to the grassy slopes of the valley. And of course, it passes the two Instagram friendly churches, nestled in green fields with towering mountains soaring behind them.

You can check all the details for visiting the churches and hiking the Panoramaweg and Sunnenseitenweg on our Val di Funes article, including how to get the best picture of those churches.


Distance: 7 km round trip | Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes | Elevation: 250 m ascent | Difficulty: Easy

6 / ASCENDING TO RIFUGIO BRENTEI AND RUFUGIO TUCKETT IN THE BRENTA DOLOMITES

Many hikers that come to the Dolomites don’t make it this far west. The Brenta Dolomites are a bit out of the way and a little tricky to get to. But we simply couldn’t put together a list of our favourite day hikes in the Dolomites without including this remarkable walk.

The hike begins with a ride up the Grostè gondola lift which begins in the town of Madonna di Campiglio. The lift goes up to almost 2,500m altitude, saving a considerable amount of legwork. Energy best preserved to take in these remarkable views. The trail weaves around a rocky canyon, darting in and out of the towering needle-shaped peaks. Passing some picture-perfect rifugios, it gradually drops back to the valley floor to commence a long descent home.

The rifugios are a great place to recharge after the walk. But, most remarkable are the views. Set on rocky outposts, they peer into the endless array of needle-point mountains. Climbers cling to ropes and Via Ferrata enthusiasts dangle from steel cables.

It is one of the best explorations into the rocky desolation of the high Dolomites.

The walk is relatively long, but the cable car takes the sting out of the ascent and from there it is a gentle stroll under the rocky peaks before the steep 1300m descent down the valley. If you have a car try to make the time to head here and see this remarkable place for yourself.


Distance: 18 km round trip | Time: 6 hours | Elevation: 200 m ascent and 1300 m descent | Difficulty: Medium

HONOURABLE MENTION / PUEZ-ODLE ALTOPIANO

There is one hike not on the list that has been recommended to us by many people. Sadly each time we have tried the walk we have faced thick cloud, driving rain or too much snow. So while we cannot recommend it ourselves, considering adding the Puez-Odle Altopiano hike to your Dolomites wish list.

If after our 4th attempt we can actually complete the hike, we’ll update this post with our review.

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GREAT SIGHTS BUT NOT GREAT HIKES

For us, a great hike requires a bit of leg-work, interesting changing views and the opportunity to see things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. However, there are just too many great sights in the Dolomites that are well worth seeing, even though they’re not at the end of what we would consider a really great hike.

So, here are our favourite sights in the Dolomites that you can see while saving the legs for another day.

ALPE DI SIUSI / The vistas over Alpe di Siusi in the early morning or late afternoon are stunning. Large alpine meadows, carpeted with wildflowers, provide a lush foreground to the imposing Seceda mountain ridge. But the meadow is large and you can be hiking for many hours without the scenery changing much. In our opinion, Alpe di Siusi is best explored on two wheels rather than two legs. Hire an e-bike from Ortesei and spend the day collecting much more of the area than you could on a hike.

SECEDA SUMMIT / The views from the summit of Seceda are extraordinary. From the ridge, a jagged line of soaring spires appear like the teeth of a mangled saw. Clouds regularly loiter below the top, creating a moody atmosphere. Unfortunately, the hike up and down is not as exciting as the view itself, so save your legs and just pop up on the cable car from Ortesei.

SELLA MASSIF / The Sella massif is a massive block of rock and the views from the top are excellent. On a clear day, you can spend hours identifying the various Dolomites peaks that surround the summit. Unfortunately, it is high and difficult to construct a circular day-hike that gets to the top with changing views. It’s better to take the cable car up to Sass Pordoi and enjoy the views from there.

DOLOMITES HIKING MAP & GUIDE

In addition to our more detailed articles about the hikes, you may want to grab a copy of the excellent Shorter Walks in the Dolomites. It contains detailed descriptions and maps for 5 out of the 6 hikes mentioned in this post.

To save our map, click on the star the right of the title – this will download to: YOUR PLACES -> MAPS in Google. You’ll then have all our suggestions and perfect photo spots ready to go.

BEST TIME FOR HIKING IN THE DOLOMITES

The hiking season in the Dolomites is relatively short. It is possible for snow to hang around on the higher ground well into summer, making some of the paths impassable. The cold weather and snow can return as early as October.

The cable cars close at the end of the ski season and while some of the larger ones reopen in late May, many others don’t return to service until mid-June. The rifugios, which are such a great part of hiking in the Dolomites, also shut after winter. Some don’t reopen until mid to late June.

So the best of the hiking season runs from mid-June to late September. The optimal time to visit is the first few weeks of July. At this time, flowers carpet the upper meadows and the snow should have cleared from the higher trails. Otherwise, just try to avoid August when the school holidays bring large crowds.

If you plan on a long walk try to start early in the day. Mid-afternoon showers are common and can be heavy.

WHERE TO STAY & HOW TO GET TO THE HIKES

These walks are spread across the Dolomites, but by staying in just two locations you can easily reach the most of these walks. Here’s how you could split up your stay. Alternative, read our Dolomites itinerary for a suggested 7 days of hiking. It doesn’t include all the walks listed in this article, but it’s a great week of hiking with all the planning taken care of for you.

 

STAY IN CORTINA FOR TRE CIME (1) & LAGO DI SORAPIS (2)

The town Cortina d’Ampezzo gives the best access to the Tre Cime and Lago di Sorapis hikes. It’s a short drive or just over 20 minutes on the 030 bus to get to Passo Tre Croci for the beginning of the Lago di Sorapis walk.

The start of the Tre Cime hike is only a 40-minute drive but slightly more difficult by bus. Either take the 445 and change onto the 444 or the 030 and change onto the 031. Both routes take about 90 minutes and run regularly in summer.

 

CLEAN BUDGET / Hotel Al Larin

QUALITY MID-MARKET / Hotel Via Gaia

5 STAR LUXURY / Cristallo Resort & Spa


STAY IN VAL GARDENA FOR VAJOLET (3), SASSOLUNGO (4), VAL DI FUNES (5) & PUEZ-ODLE

To do these walks, your best option is to stay in either Selva or Ortisei (20 minute bus ride apart) in the Val Gardena valley. The Sassolungo circuit is a cable car or short bus ride from the centre of Selva. The Val di Funes meander is a 45-minute drive or two buses from Ortisei. And the Puez-Odle Altopiano hike leaves just outside Selva.

If you have a car the Vajolet towers hike is only an hour away but public transport is tricky and requires a change on infrequent routes.

 

GOOD VALUE / Chalet Pra Ronch

PERFECT APARTMENTS / Residence Larciunei

MODERN GEM / Hotel Luna Mondschein


STAY IN MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO FOR BRENTA DOLOMITES (6)

The hike in the Brenta Dolomites is the most out of the way hike in this list. To do this walk (and it’s worth it) stay in Madonna di Campiglio and take the Grosté Gondola lift that goes up from the northern end of town near Campo Carlo Magno. The final stop on the cable car, Passo del Groste, is the starting point for the hike.

 

GOOD VALUE / Hotel Alpina

TRADITIONAL CHIC / Biohotel Hermitage

BOUTIQUE CLASS / DV Chalet Boutique Hotel

TIPS & GADGETS FOR HIKING IN THE DOLOMITES

1 / Two of the walks mentioned here require cable cars and fees can quickly add up. Some hotels offer discounted passes and other multi-day passes are available from the cable car station. Check to see if they will save you money.

2 / All the routes are well marked, but make sure you have a good idea where you are going, and ideally take a physical map or download the maps from our more detailed posts onto your smartphone. MAPS: Cortina map / Vajolet Towers / Val Gardena / Brenta

3 / The harder hikes require hiking boots (we use something like these) or at least sturdy walking shoes. Trainers are fine for the easy hike. Hiking poles can also help to bypass some of the strain from your legs to your arms.

4 / All these walks have at least a rifugio or café on route but if you are at either end of the season check they are open. Even if they are, carry plenty of energy replenishing snacks and a water filter bottle. If you’re doing a longer hike we highly recommend a hydration bag like this one.

5 / Always take a waterproof and some warm clothes. Every 1,000m you rise the temperature drops about 5 degrees and if the clouds come over and the wind picks up it can get cold quickly.

6 / Similarly, clouds can clear quickly. Even if it looks overcast before you set off, the sun could be shining in no time. So pack a hat and/or sunscreen.

7 / To collect shots of those turquoise lakes, we highly recommend investing in good quality ND Filters, they’ll really make your images pop. To use the filters, you’ll need a decent tripod, the Ultralight SIrui is the best we’ve come across.


WHERE NEXT?

Firstly, if you found this article helpful, head over to Instagram and give us a follow.

Secondly, the Dolomites is one of our favourite mountain destinations and you can find most of these hikes on our 7 day road trip. Here’s some more of our writing on this stunning part of Italy.

HIKING TRE CIME

CAPTURING THE BEAUTIFUL VAL DI FUNES

BEST ALPINE DESTINATIONS FOR HIKING

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below – we will always reply. To stay up to date with our travels, follow us on social and signup to our NEWSLETTER.

The Italian Alps are an excellent destination for some great hiking. After a number of visits, we’ve put together the best day hikes in the Dolomites. / #dolomites #dolomiteshike #hikingdolomites / hiking in the Dolomites / dolomites hiking / #dolomites

The Italian Alps are an excellent destination for some great hiking. After a number of visits, we’ve put together the best day hikes in the Dolomites. / #dolomites #dolomiteshike #hikingdolomites / hiking in the Dolomites / dolomites hiking / #dolomites

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