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Dolomite Hut Hike: Self-Guided

Hiking the Alta Via 1

Alta Via 1 Self-Guided

Trip Details

    • Location: Northern Italy
    • Length: 5 – 10 days; this is flexible
    • Grade: Strenuous and strenuous plus
    • Accommodations: Rustic rifugios and hotels
    • Dates: Late June to mid-September
    • 2019 Self-guided Land Cost: 10 Days: $2,075 per person sharing a twin or double; $2,295 for a single or solo hiker. Land cost may vary depending final itinerary.

Hiking Trip Summary

Click for more detail From soaring rock towers to grassy alpine meadows the Italian Dolomites offers some of the most dramatic, exciting and challenging hiking areas in the Alps. Strikingly different from the French or Swiss Alps, the limestone Dolomites rise dramatically from narrow valleys to form impressive spires, canyons, sheer rock walls rising 3,000′ and huge limestone plateaus.

The Dolomites were once submerged under a coral sea, which led to the gradual formation of layers of sediments: limy mud, sand silt, clay. These elements combined with massive forces of the earth’s sifting crust and resulted in the formation of the Dolomites. Since that time, many, many millions of years ago, the Dolomites have been worn to their present state by glaciation, erosion, frost, wind and rain. More recently in social history, this region saw heavy fighting during World War I and remnants of this are still very apparent. Three languages are spoken in this area: German, Italian and Ladin, an old dialect, which came to the area from northern regions.

Beginning in the Italian Sud Tirol, the hike leads south along the high route, Alta Via 1, through the Pragser, Tofana, and Civetta mountain groups. The impressiveness of the scenery and the variety of terrain on this route is matched only by the warmth and hospitality offered by the mountain huts. The unusual contrasts in landscapes, changing colors and textures of the mountains and curious mix of Italian and Austrian influences means fantastic hiking, stunning scenery and plenty of pasta.

This linear trip is a great hike highlighted by breathtaking views, rustic and lively mountain refuges, a sense of excitement of what lies around the next bend or the next pass and the satisfaction of traveling by foot through this beautiful and remote area.


  • This itinerary represents one of many possibilities. There are variations depending on your time frame and level of hiking ability. Please contact us if you would like a more detailed itinerary including elevation gain, loss, distance and additional information.

Day 1: Individual transfer to starting point to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Cortina is about 2 – 3 hours by bus from Venice. This chic village is situated in the heart of the Dolomites. It has a lovely mountain setting and it is fun to explore.

Another wonderful starting point is the small village of Welsberg/Monguelfo, Italy , situated on the northern edge of the Dolomite Mountains. This small village is truly off-the-beaten path. Starting in Welsberg is a great option but only if you can spend two nights. Because travel to Welsberg/Monguelfo is a bit more involved it can take about 4 or 5 hours or more by train/bus from Munich or Venice.

Day 2: Morning transfer to Ra Stua (The transfer is included). This pleasant hike offers the first views of the Tofane, the Croda Rossa and the Croda del Becco. Passing the high alpine meadows of Ra Stua, the trail switchbacks up through the larch forest before arriving at the Rifugio Fodara Vedla for the night.

A more strenuous option is a morning transfer to Pragser Wildsee (Lago di Braies). This stunning blue-green mountain lake is nestled between the surrounding mountains: the Seekofel, Croda del Becco and the Grosse Apostel. Your hike around the lake soon gives way to a steady, climb to the forcella (pass or col) Porta sora L’Forn (7,880′). The view from here is one of the best anywhere in the Alps! In front of you spread the mountains of Tofane, Pelmo, Cristallo, and Civetta. All these will mark your way as you head south. From the pass, you cross a limestone plateau and descend to your rifugio.

Day 3: From last night’s stop you first descend (1,380′) to the valley and then hike up to Rifugio Fanes and Lago di Limo. A spectacular 360-degree view awaits you at a picnic spot at the Passo di Limo. The trail then opens into a lush broad valley between the rocky summits of Monte Castello, which was heavily fortified during WWI, and Piz des Cunturines (10,111′). The scenery and colors are stunning. This descent (1,500′) leads down to the valley floor followed by a 40-minute climb to Rifugio Scotoni. This small rifugio is set in a beautiful valley surrounded by the towering mountains of the Cime di Fanes. This is a long day.

  • Some hikers break the long day from Fodara to Scotoni into two days of hiking and hike from Fodara to Rifugio Lavarella or Fanes one day and then to Scotoni the next day.

Day 4: The first part of today’s hike is a steady hike up through the Alpe di Lagazuoi to the Rifugio Lagazuoi (gaining 2,530’.) Surrounding you are the Punta di Fanes, the cliffs of the Lagazuoi and the massive Tofana di Rozes. Near the pass there are several World War I underground passages called galleries, which serve as memorials to the terrible fighting that took place here in 1916. After a stop for lunch at Rifugio Lagazuoi, a mountain restaurant, you have an optional hike, which takes you down through one of these galleries, otherwise you can take advantage of the cable car that speeds you to the valley.

Once in the valley you cross an alpine road, rejoin the hiking route and begin your final ascent (950’) to the very friendly and comfortable Rifugio Cinque Torri that has been run by the same family since 1936. Once again the setting for this rifugio is remarkable as it looks at the long wall of the Croda di Lago and sits right near the Cinque Torri (Five Towers). In the distance rise Sorapis and Anteleo, simply put, the view is awesome.

  • Some enjoy adding a rest day in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Day 5: Today the trail takes you near two, striking rock mountains: Averau and Nuvolao, as you descend to Passo Giau. The trail then leads over the forcella Giau where the views of the Tofana and Monte Cavallo are inspiring; the mountains on display to the south include Monte Fromin, Cernera, Pelmo and the upswept flank of Monte Mondeval. The trail leads over lush alpine meadows, perhaps spotting some wild edelweiss. The last part of the day leads below Pelmo’s north face, (which is 3,300′ straight up to the top at 10,454′,) to your comfortable mountain rifugio at Passo Staulanza.

Day 6: From Staulanza, you hike by several farms, join a popular trail and climb to the shoulder of Monte Coldai. Monte Coldai anchors one end of the famous Monte Civetta (10,620′). After stopping for lunch at Lago Coldai, you continue to the Col Negro di Coldai that looks over at the towering west face of Monte Civetta. This “wall of walls” extends for over 4 miles! About midway past this wall you climb steeply to Rifugio Tissi perched on mountaintop looking out at the Val Civetta, down the Alleghe Valley and west to the Marmolada Glacier. This overnight stop is memorable.

Day 7: From the rifugio, you descend to the val Civetta over the Col Rean, through beautiful, open, green meadows and to the narrow valley of Val Corpassa. The route takes you right below the sheer rock faces of the Torre Venezia and the Torre Trieste, both rising some 2,000′ feet. You may see some climbers ascending these impressive towers. You pass by the Rifugio Vazzoler (5,656′), then ascend steeply through a dense forest to forcella de l’Orso and alongside Monte Moiazza’s southern flank and Rifugio Bruto Carestiato for the night. Though a strenuous day on some rugged terrain, this may be one of the prettiest and most varied days on the hike.

Day 8: From Rifugio Carestiato – Continuing on the Alta Via 1, you first arrive at Passo Duran and cross the mountain road. The route from this point on is remote and rugged. The trail leads south of the rocky Tamer Grande and Castello di Moschesin. Rounding the corner at the pass at Moschesin you are treated with views of Mont Talvena, Cima de Zita, the deep, narrow valleys of the La Clusa to the south and Monte Pelmo (again) and the Val Prampert to the north. This rocky, rough and quiet path leads to your overnight stop at Malga Pramper. Malga Pramper is a working farm. They make cheese and other items which they sell to the day hikers who visit the farm for lunch.

  • Instead of hiking the long, rugged route all the way to Malga Pramper you can take a different, shorter trail from Passo Duran and meet your van at 12:00 for a quick transfer to Forno di Zoldo. Dinner not included. Breakfast included in the morning. Any extra luggage will be at the hotel.
  • Some depart from Passo Duran and head right to Venice, skipping the last few days on the trail.

Day 9 : From Malga Pramper you descend to the small village of Forno di Zoldo. This is a wonderful final walk of your journey and a great way to end your adventure. From Malga Pramper you descend on a nice path through the hardwood forest. The views continue: Pelmo to the north and the rocky wall of the Spiz di Mezzodi to the east. About half way to Forno the trail become a paved jeep track. The gentle grade makes for nice downhill walking. The route leads to the pretty village of Forno di Zoldo and your hotel. Your extra luggage will be at the hotel or as per your specific confirmed itinerary. Breakfast included. Dinner on your own.

  • Some hike to Malga Pramper, sample some of the homemade products and meet the van for late afternoon transfer to Forno di Zoldo. Overnight in Forno di Zoldo. Dinner not included. Breakfast included.

Day 10 : After breakfast meet your van at the hotel for transfer to Venice. Travel time to the airport is about 2 hours. This transfer is included in the cost of the trip.

Let us know your travel plans and we can assist you with the best hiking options and best options for where to start and departing the route.

Additional Information


This may vary depending on final itinerary: general consulting regarding hiking dates and abilities; travel information on getting to and from the starting point; travel suggestions; maps: Italian Tabacco Maps; the 1:25,000 scale covering the route; detailed trail notes, which include additional information covering various aspects of your trip (i.e. lunches, laundry, water, refuge routines, alternate transportation, etc.); we make and prepay all overnight accommodations, which include breakfast and most dinners; we make and prepay all private taxi transfers as detailed in the final itinerary; hotels with private baths. Other overnight accommodations will vary; lots of great hiking.

Not Included

This may vary depending on final itinerary: Air fare, lunches, travel to and from starting point/ending point, transfers or excursions on trains, lifts, buses, taxis, extra charges due to changes in itinerary, items not on set dinner menu, beverages except what is served at breakfast, bottled water, insurance, extra costs, if any, for parking a personal car, items of personal nature (phone calls, shower tokens, laundry, excess baggage charge, medical expenses, evacuation costs, insurance, passport fees, etc.). Allow roughly $200 – $350 in additional costs depending on final itinerary.


This hike is not vehicle supported. You will need to carry a moderate sized pack with only the clothing and accessories you will need for the duration of hike. (See our sample packing list.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight to 15 to 20 lbs. including lunch and water. Any extra luggage or belongings you may have can be left at the hotel or will be transferred as detailed in the final confirmed itinerary.

Accommodations and Facilities

Hotels: The hotels are warm, welcoming and comfortable. All the rooms have private baths

Rifugios: The rifugios vary greatly depending where they are located, but are usually simple and rustic, yet comfortable. Some accommodate as few as 20 hikers; most serve from 30 – 50. They have bunk rooms with 2 – 8 bunks per room with blankets and pillows. The facilities are shared and there is a hot shower or two available. There are common dining areas, where meals are served. Please note: not all rifugios have private rooms.

Meals: Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or rifugios and lunches are picnic style along the trail.


Travel to Cortina: The Cortina Express Bus www.cortinaexpress.it and AVTO Bus www.atvo.it operate direct buses from Venice to Cortina. Go to the web sites for schedules and more information. The bus takes about 2 – 3 hours. Or you can take a train from Venice to Calalzo Pieve di Cadore and then a bus or taxi to Cortina: travel time is about 3 – 4 1/2 hours depending on the schedule. It is also possible to take a taxi from Venice to Cortina, though not the most economical it is certainly the most convenient.

Travel to Welsberg: You can reach Welsberg/Monguelfo by train from Venice, Milan, Munich or Zurich, where there are major international airports. Venice is normally the best arrival airport. It is roughly 4 – 5 hours by train from Venice to Welsberg/Monguelfo.

Who would like this trip?

Our Self-Guided Dolomites Hut Hike is great for hikers who look forward to wonderful, challenging hikes and like the thought of staying remote but comfortable rifugios. Some nights at the rifugios (though not all) include private rooms. This hike should be on every hiker’s list of musts!

What makes Distant Journeys’ trips different?

We are a small company. The founders plan the trips, talk to prospective hikers on the phone and guide several of the trips themselves. We want you to take a trip with us that is well suited to you. All this allows for flexibility, value, personal attention and safety. We are very proud of our trips and our high return rate of hikers. Please ask us for a list of past participants as they will give you honest insight to Distant Journeys. We are dedicated to providing personal attention and crafting a quality experience at good value that is just right for you.

More Information

If you would like register, would like to receive more information including a detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss and distance) and/or request a list of past participants please contact us and specify which trip.

Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.