Hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is an excellent day in the Dolomites with stunning views of jagged limestone peaks, top quality rifugios and awesome photo opportunities. Here's everything you need to know.


Hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is one of the best walks in Italy’s Dolomites. It is a circular walk with remarkable views the whole way around. At its centre lie three sheer-faced towers stretching inexorably into the sky, making it one of the iconic images of the Dolomites. With a very easy walk, perfectly positioned rifugios and more photo opportunities than you can imagine, it is one of our all-time favourite day hikes.

Little did we know when set off on this beautiful walk – with the sun shining bright and our spirits high – that by the end of the day we would be would be staring at our bruised rental car on the back of a pickup truck.

All the information you need to complete the Tre Cime hike, and relish in our misfortune, is contained in this article.

HIKING TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO LOOP

The anticipation was building as we took the narrow hairpin road that creeps up to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Layer upon layer of spiky mountains, dotted with fir trees and alpine flowers were slowly appearing. Having arrived from gloomy London the day before, the bright blue sky came as a welcome relief. The beautiful scenery, fresh air, vitamin D and the anticipation of undertaking one of the most famous hikes in the Italian Dolomites was generating that perfect holiday buzz.

Before you even put your cappuccino down, the views from Rifugio Auronzo, where most people start this walk, are spectacular. A lush green valley drops away from the narrow path which clings to the side of the mountain. A steady stream of walkers stretch, preen and prepare; ready to set off on this fantastic trail.

BREATHTAKING VIEWS AROUND RIFUGIO LAVAREDO

As we took off, fuelled by strong Italian coffee, the beauty of the Dolomites spread itself before us. A well-maintained path that curves along the base of the towers offers a thoroughly picturesque alpine scene. But once we made our way over the first ridge, just under the base of the towers and past Rifugio Lavaredo to Forcella Lavaredo, we were gobsmacked with the phenomenal view in front of us.

We’ve done a lot of walking in different parts of the world, but this single view was one of the most impressive we’ve ever seen. Hundreds of jagged peaks in a variety of interesting shapes line the horizon like a crumbling forest of high-rise rocks. The light at this altitude, reflecting off the massive sandstone monoliths, makes the whole scene look almost fake. You could be on the soundstage of a massive movie set.

PERFECT LUNCH AT RIFUGIO LOCATELLI

Luckily, the Italians like their coffee as much as I do, so it’s not a long walk before you get to Rifugio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte). They have the envious position of being smack bang in front of Tre Cime. In terms of rifugios with a view, this one takes the tiramisu. Towering rocks surround you on all sides as you sit on their amphitheatre style deck enjoying an Italian coffee, ham and cheese croissants and some delicious pastries.

Taking off from Rifugio Locatelli, the path drops down the valley and continues back up the other side. Here the trail follows a narrow rocky ledge. A deep drop on one side offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, while the other side clings to the base of the three towers. It’s a spectacular part of the walk, one of those experiences that’s good for the soul.

If you feel like immersing yourself in wide open spaces and enjoying a fantastic walk, this is the place to do it. They say Tre Cime di Lavaredo gets very crowded in summer. That is no undoubtedly true, but saying hello to fellow walkers as you wait for them to step past you, is a small price to pay to enjoy this spectacular hike.

DRINKING IN THE VIEWS

Shortly you come upon Malga Langalm, a picturesque spot for a quick beer and an excellent photo opportunity of Tre Cime reflected in a small lake. The path heads up to a ridge and the scenery changes again to a high alpine grassy patch. From here to the end of the walk, the path meanders down a winding picturesque trail, dotted with alpine flowers.

If I was being picky – and I am – my only problem with this walk is that the final stop – back at Rifugio Auronzo – doesn’t have an outdoor deck with seating. This means the only way you can enjoy your post walk beer is to sit on the ground outside with small rocks wedged in your ass. It’s such a shame given the fantastic location and no doubt a bit of a lost opportunity for the business. But, overall it’s not a huge price to pay. As an alternative, the nearby Lago di Landro – a short drive away – has a beautiful view overlooking a lake, and chairs to sit on outside. So all-in-all it’s a much better option to enjoy a well-deserved wind-down beverage.

That was our plan. What actually ensued was a long, agonising wait for the Italian breakdown service in the car park.

THE DETAILS/ HIKING TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO  LOOP

The hike begins at Rifugio Auronzo, a 40-minute drive from Cortina. At the time of our visit, the road up to the large car park charged €25 entrance fee to take your car. You can also take the 444 bus from Cortina, which runs from June to mid-October.

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike is 10.3km, takes 3 hours 20 minutes, has about 400m of ascent and descent and is relatively easy. The paths are well signposted and clearly shown on Google Maps.

Rifugio Auronzo to Rifugio Lavaredo | 30 min | 1.7 km

Rifugio Lavaredo to Forcella Lavaredo | 15 min | 0.6 km

Forcella Lavaredo to Rifugio Locatelli | 45 min | 2.2 km

Rifugio Locatelli to Malga Langalm | 1 hr | 3.2 km

Malga Langalm to Rifugio Auronzo | 50 min | 2.6 km

THE JOY OF HAVING A KNOW-IT-ALL NAVIGATOR

I’m a very good driver. I’ve been doing it for years, as I mentioned on our roundup of Moroccan driving. Mark’s not a good driver. He’s a good navigator. It’s always best if I’m behind the wheel and he’s behind the map. I never interfere with his navigation approach even if I think there might be a better way to go. He doesn’t burden himself with so much restraint, often giving me helpful tips while I’m driving. Like “watch out for that,” “there’s a car up there,” “put your indicator on now.”

I usually just ignore these instructions and do my own thing. With a bit of practice, it’s easy to block out the chippering coming from the passenger seat. One of the things he is always saying is “bit close on my side.” On this particular road – on the way down from the Rifugio Auronzo car park to Lago di Landro where our cold beer was waiting for us – it’s not a particularly helpful instruction. It’s close on all sides. It’s a very narrow, winding road that, while great fun to drive, doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvring. So, I ignored the “bit close on my side” because I had my own side to worry about

Tre Cime Flat tyre
Our flat tyre splattered with that silly foam.

As it turns out, I was a bit close on his side. I hit a huge rock which sent shudders through the car. Generally, when something like that happens (and it’s very rare), I usually try and pretend nothing happened. This time, you could actually hear the large gash I created in the tyre as it hit the ground on each cycle. With that and the Italian drivers shouting excitedly out of their windows as they went past, I knew something was a bit different this time.

FAILING AT EUROPEAN TYRE MAINTENANCE

Being a farm boy, I wasn’t particularly phased because I knew how to change a tyre and I could use all my masculinity to do so in this beautiful setting. But, fresh milk isn’t the only thing Italians don’t seem to have the need for. A spare tyre in their rental cars is the other. All I had to work with was a bizarre looking contraption that was supposed to fill the tyre with foam, making the car driveable again. I ignored the instructions where it said it only worked on minor punctures and tried it anyway. Unsurprisingly we were faced with no choice but to send a distress signal for help.

Nothing says “I should have learnt another language in school” like trying to speak to a hire car employee in Austria about needing to be rescued at the top of a mountain in Italy. With minimal phone reception to get updates, we spent the next 6 hours in dignified silence waiting for help to arrive. Finally, a chatty Italian man bearing a tow truck and no English, turned up to carry us to safety. In true Italian style, he took us to his Mamma’s house where his whole family attended to our car with the excitement of an overbaked Panforte and charged us €20 for the trouble.

If you listen to your navigator, hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is a fantastic day out in the Dolomites. The scenery is simply stunning, the walking tracks top notch, and the rifugios punch well above their weight. For a taste of the Dolomites, it’s an easy walk that highlights some of the best the region has to offer. If, however, you don’t listen to your navigator, you may just pay the price.

MORE READING

For more walking articles, read about 7-day day Dolomite Itinerary here and our favourite summer destinations in the Alps. You might also be interested in our 14 day European Road trip taking in the Alps as well as the French and Italian Riviera’s.

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All the details you need to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop in the Italian Dolomites / #trecime #dolomites

All the details you need to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop in the Italian Dolomites / #trecime #dolomites

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