As a seasonal hotel reception worker, I was working in Val di Fiemme, a beautiful valley in the Dolomites mountain region surrounded by the rocky Latemar peaks and the Lagorai chain. Most people coming on holiday to my hotel were families or groups obsessed with the most famous Dolomitic peaks, everything people wanted to see was Lake Braies, the Vajolet peaks and the Torre di Pisa hut. During peak tourist season in July and August, these places can get very crowded, just as city tourists would be flocking to the Colosseum in Rome or the Tour Eiffel in Paris.
Knowing that there are lots of unique places in the Dolomites that are still unexplored by the crowds, I grabbed every chance to convince our guests there are hikes in the Dolomites as beautiful as the famous ones, but less crowded. Excited about advising them with my local insights, I prepared a list of my favourite hikes and even asked my most sporty friends for suggestions. Today, I’m sharing this list with you, hoping that it will inspire you to pick your summer 2021 travel destination.
What are the Italian Dolomites?
The Dolomites are a mountain range in north-eastern Italy named after the rocks they are made of, the Dolomite. They are also known as “pale-mountains” because of the colour of this material, which at sunrise and sunset reflects the scarlet sunrays. This optical phenomenon is called enrosadira, or “Alpenglow.”
When is the best time to visit the Dolomites?
To fully experience the beauty of the Dolomites, the best choice would be to visit them during the off-peak months, like May, June or September. In the low season, even the most famous peaks can be enjoyed in peace.
If you are visiting the Dolomites during Summer, I highly suggest trying something different from the most famous peaks. Not only would you have a more enjoyable personal experience, but you would also preserve nature from mass tourism, which is incredibly harmful to the delicate ecological system these mountains host.
However, if I still did not convince you after reading this article to renounce the most popular destinations, try being ready to go early in the morning as soon as the sun rises. The air can be crisp in the morning: just bring a thermos of hot coffee, wear warm clothes and enjoy a panoramic breakfast at a high altitude!
My 7 favorite hiking trails in the Dolomites
1. Lagusel – Val di Fassa
Lagusel is an excursion of around 3 hours starting from the parking of Val San Nicolò near the village of Pozza, in Val di Fassa. Val San Nicolò is a lovely alpine valley, known for its traditional huts and the luxurious flora. The first couple of kilometres can get busy in July and August, but once you pass by the Baita Ciampiè Hut, it becomes very peaceful. This hike is a good choice for everyone, as it is relatively short and not too steep.
It offers a breathtaking view of the Catinaccio peaks. The trail to follow is number 640, and the route is appropriately marked and easy to find. The name Lagusel comes from the Italian “lago”, which means lake. The destination of this hike is indeed a small, mirroring lake nestled amongst luxurious green fields. In Summer, hundreds of cows on the pastures keep the hikers who are passing by company.
2. Spiz de Soforcela – Val di Fassa
The Spiz de Soforcela trekking takes more time and leg-work than the Lagusel one. However, as it does not present major technical difficulties, it is still doable for everyone who is in good physical shape. There are multiple possible starting points, such as the church of Alba di Canazei, from which the elevation gain to the top is 1.130m, or the Ciampac cableway top station.
From the cableway station the trail is marked with the number 2361, which leads all the way to the top, passing through the grassy and quiet Crepa Valley. Even if this peak is not part of the Dolomites, as it is made of black volcanic rock, it gives hikers a memorable view of the Sella group. When thousands of tourists are crowding on the trails of Val di Fassa in August, Spiz de Soforcela still maintains the charme of the wilderness and isolation.
While it is not famous amongst tourists, Spiz de Soforcela is well-known to professional athletes. In fact, every year it hosts one of the Skyrunning World Championships vertical kilometre races. Make sure to bring a packed lunch: no huts are to be found on the way to the top!
3. Punta Vallaccia – Val di Fassa
The ascent to Punta Vallaccia, 11km long and with an elevation gain of 1.200m, is tough but technically not difficult. This peak, with its 2.637m, is the highest one of the subgroup of Monzoni. There are different tracks to reach the summit. One of the possible starting points is the bridge of Valle di San Pellegrino, from which the trail is well marked.
Initially the road twists and turns in the woods, until it opens up to a panoramic view where the hike steepens and climbs up the meadow. The hardest section continues until Burt di Ciadin, where the trail 624 on the left leads to the top.
The view from the summit unveils the beauty of Marmolada, Sasso Vernale, Cima Uomo, the eastern section of Lagorai and the Latemar group. Many alpine animals such as the marmot, chamois and partridge, inhabit this territory and are likely to be seen by the most quiet and respectful hikers.
4. Piz Miara – Passo Pordoi
Piz Miara is a well-known destination for skiers in winter, but not a common destination in Summer. The peak, with an elevation of almost 3.000m, stands out of the Sella Group. The trail is technically not difficult, with ups and down instead of a continuous ascent, but long. The starting point Rifugio Maria, on top of the Sass Pordoi, can be reached by cableway. From there, descend to the Forcella Pordoi and continue towards the Rifugio Boè.
This first part, especially the cableway, can get very crowded. However, most tourists tend to avoid walking past this point and rather enjoy the view from the hut. From Rifugio Boè, follow the path 666 until the junction with the number 649, that must be followed until the sign indicating the peak Piz Miara.
From this intersection, the cross on top is just a few minutes away. The whole trail is around 3.000m above sea level and its landscape is rocky and almost lunar. Thanks to its elevation, it offers a magnificent view of the Sella massif, the Sassolungo and the Marmolada Glacier. Even during the warmest summer months, it is likely to find spots of snow along the way. The few plants that grow in this environment are rare and protected: it is important not to pick any flowers to preserve the wildlife.
5. Rifugio Puez – Val Gardena
From the Val di Fassa we are now moving to the popular Val Gardena, one of the most loved destinations in the Dolomites area. What tourists appreciate the most is the hospitality of its inhabitants, which grew up influenced by three different cultures: Latin, Italian and German. The most popular hikes in this area, such as Seceda, get incredibly busy in July and August.
The trail to Rifugio Puez is suitable for those who are keen to avoid the crowd of August tourists who reach the top by ski lift and spend the day drinking in the local hut. The starting point could either be the Vallunga parking in Selva or the Dantercepies cableway top station. From the cableway station the path is marked with the number 12A until the Jimmishütte Hut, from which trail 2 leads to the Cir Pass, Ciampei-Scharte and finally to the destination, the lovely Rifugio Puez.
It is possible to head back taking a different way, following paths 16 and 14 across Vallunga, known for its lush nature and fields, as well as for its views of the Odle Group, Sass de Putia and Cir Group. The trail is around 15km long and takes 5.30 hours, but take some more time to enjoy the view and a refreshing drink at the hut!
6. Paesaggio Lunare Col Raiser – Val Gardena
Another lesser-known hike in Val Gardena is the Lunar Landscape loop on Col Raiser. It leads all the way to the top of Piz Duleda, which with its 2.900m is the second highest peak of the Puez Group. The ascent to this peak is tough, with its 13km of length and 1.010m of elevation gain, and takes about 6 hours to be completed with an average pace. For these reasons, it is only suitable for expert hikers.
The starting point is the upper station of the Col Raiser, known as “Val Gardena’s most beautiful pasture.” The trails to follow are the number 4, 2-3, 3, 3A, 3B, 2, 2-3, 4 in this order. Starting from the Firenze Hut, continue towards Forcella Roa up to the peak Piz Duleda, and then descend to Forcella Nives and Forcella Forces de Sieles and get back again to Firenze Hut.
The panorama from Col Raiser is often described as one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world. It gifts its hikers with iconic views of the Geisler Peaks, Stevia and the Sella Group, the group of Sassolungo and the mountain of Pic.
7. El Cor – Agordino
The name of the trail El Cor, which literally means “heart”, has been chosen because of the heart-shaped Dolomite arc to be found along the path. This wonder of nature is located on the Pala dei Balconi, which belongs to the municipality of Taibon Agordino, in the region of Veneto. This place is still free from mass tourism, because the trail is rough and not officially marked, and some parts even require basic climbing knowledge.
Moreover, the area can get foggy throughout the day and has no phone coverage. Even the most skilled hikers should undertake this challenging excursion with a professional alpine guide. The trekking with its 1.300m of elevation gain takes a whole day to be completed, but the pain is worth the experience. This is a magical place, still untouched by humans and whose story is respected by the inhabitants of the region.
The rocky and almost intimidating landscape of these mountains witnessed countless romantic stories: locals used to take their significant other in front of this natural sculpture to propose.