Backpacking European Style in the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy


Mar 13, 2012
During the first week of July, my son and I did a trip thru the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy starting in San Cassiano in the Alta Baudia region hiking across the mountains to Cortina. We used a trekking company (Dolomite Mountains) to arrange the details and in so doing the hiking was more day hiking and hiking from across between rifugios (huts - which were really small backcountry hotels). In that sense it really wasn't backpacking as we traditionally define it but nevertheless I felt the experience and scenery were worthy of posting in this site.

Day 1: Bus from Venice to Cortina (2 hrs) an then a 30 minute transfer by taxi to San Cassiano. We arrived in San Cassiano around noon so we had the afternoon to do some day hiking. We took a lift up part ways and then hiked the high country area for around 3 hours. Here are a few pictures from the area:


IMG_1280.JPG Las Vegas in Italy - a rifugio near the top of the lift.

The views were gorgeous!!

Next a few views of the town area - I know not backcountry:


Day 2:
This day was also a day hike of sorts. We hiked up on the other side of town past a rifugio and back to the hotel for a final night in San Cassiano. The locals cut hay on these steep slopes. I have no idea how they keep the tractors from turning over.

A few more pictures:



A chapel/church in the mountains by a rifugio

A rifugio for lunch

Day 3: Today we start our trek across the mountains to Cortina. Incidentally Cortina was the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics (town of a couple thousand). The lady who met with us and provided us with maps and instructions was a speed skater for Italy in the Lake Placid 1980 Olympics. She vividly remembered the great US vs Russia hockey match. BTW, The hotel/rifugio arrangements which included breakfast and dinner were included in the package.

This day started out with a very steep 400 m climb in about 1.6 km - pretty steep up to a neat high country meadow.

Some pictures:


Patio of our rifugio for the first night - Rifugio Fanes. Great views and accommodations. Only issues for most of the hike was the mountain rains generally started around 2 pm and continued off and on most of the afternoon.

Day 4: For this day we started our hike down to Rifugio Pedru. Here we were able to get some lemonade and an apple strudel to help us over the next hump - up a VERY steep "road" where we again climbed up over 500 meters in maybe 2 km. to reach our rifugio for the night - Rifugio Fodar Velda. Now a few pictures from this adventure:

Looking down the trail to Rifugio Pederu

Rifugio Pederu - again had some lemonade and a strudel (I think)

Looking down towards Pederu after much of the climb

Rifugio Fodara Velda - home for the night

We did a hike down a side trail but as is the rule, about 2 pm it started raining and we returned to the rifugio. Problem this time was it kept raining lightly all night.

Day 5: This day we hiked down down down to Cortina. We awoke to fog and a light mist which lasted most of the day. BTW, if it was sunny the highs would be in the low 70s but when it would be raining temperatures in the low 50s were common.

A few pictures down to Cortina:
Fog and clouds over the mountains - sometimes a bit of a break


Rifugio Sennes for a mid morning break

Chris drinking lemonade in the rifugio

Rifugio Stua on the way down for a snack

Ruins of an old WWI barracks. Evidently the Austrians and the Italians had a lot of battles in the area of the Dolomites. I have heard that Rommel fought here in WW1 as a mere Lt

There is Cortina. We hiked to the entrance of the Natural Area and as part of the package were picked up and transported to our hotel - Hotel Trieste in Cortina.

A few pictures from Cortina:

A neat hotel in Cortina

Street scene with church steeple in Cortina

Day 6: For the final day we were transported by private transfer about 30 miles NE to Tre Cime di Lavaredo - a famous natural area (3 tops) . I would compare it in visitation to say the Grand Canyon. So we were hiking with thousands of our never before seen best friends. The scenery was superb. This was a tough day of hiking as it was a constant up and down of 2-4 hundred m. The trail at first was like a road but did get rougher as one got further from the start. It was a long loop around the huge tops. The biggest problem was the lose gravel. Going down was difficult to keep from slipping on the lose stone.

A few pictures:

A neat view of some jagged mountains

Small chapel on the path - note the dress - it was COLD and WINDY

Another view down the trail - note all the people

A view of the trail and tops

A bunker from WW1

Rifugio for lunch

A small lake down from the lunch rifugio - note the ice/snow.

View of the Tre Cime

Final rifugio around the towers

One final picture

I hope this post isn't too much of a stretch of backpacking but I thought some of you might enjoy the scenes.

If anyone would like more information just leave me a note in your comments and we will figure out how to connect.

This is amazing. Such unique looking mountains. I personally find the culture just as interesting and worthy as the backcountry. Thanks!
thanks for the report, something like that is the only way I would ever get my wife to do a long outdoor trip :)

how crowded were the rifugios?
thanks for the report, something like that is the only way I would ever get my wife to do a long outdoor trip :)

how crowded were the rifugios?
They were full. I think all pre-booked. However the service was great.
thanks for the report, something like that is the only way I would ever get my wife to do a long outdoor trip :)

how crowded were the rifugios?
They were full. I think all pre-booked. However the service was great.