My Epic Adventure Along Alta Via 4 In The Italian Dolomites

Sometime in 2018, after my first season in the Italian Dolomites, I came up with the idea that I am going to hike all 6 of the official Alta Vias.  In the summer of 2019, after a year of meticulous planning, my plan finally came to fruition.

If I was to pick my favourite one by far, it would definitely be the Alta Via 4 and this guide will bring you a little closer to what I have experienced along the way and help you plan your own adventure! 

The Comprehensive Guide to Alta Via 4 in the Italian Dolomites

Alta Via 4 Extension Via Ferrata Merlone 8

Alta Via 4  – An  Overview

Alta Via 4 is a 92 kilometre (57 miles) long route in the Italian Dolomites stretching between the towns of San Candido in the North and Pozzale in the South. It can be completed in between 5 and 7 days.

There are a few via ferratas along the route which cannot be bypassed. It means you will need to pack essential equipment such as a helmet, harness and a special via ferrata lanyard. More on that later. 

What are the best months to hike Alta Via 4?

The route is accessible from the third week of June until late September. That’s when the mountain passes are mostly clear of snow and the mountain huts are open to tourist traffic. 

How to pack for Alta Via 4?

The general rule for any hut to hut treks in the Dolomites is to go as light as possible. Thanks to the well-equipped huts there is no need to carry tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment or even food! 

Since Alta Via 4 includes some via ferrata crossings you will need to pack dedicated via ferrata gear amongst other things. 

For your convenience, I have written a comprehensive packing list, including links to my favourite gear and a downloadable checklist!

Where does Alta Via 4 start and end?

AV4 starts near the Alte Säge restaurant along the road connecting two towns: San Candido (Inninchen) and Sesto (Sexten) in the northern Dolomites. San Candido can be reached via trains from Venice or Milan airports. The closest international airport however is in Innsbruck in Austria. It’s only 2,5 hours away by train. 

The tiny town of Pozzale close to Pieve di Cadore marks the end of the route. The latter also has trains going to major city hubs in Italy, or local buses if you wish to visit other great little towns in the Dolomites to do some more hiking. 

I recommend staying in San Candido the night before you set off on Alta Via 4 to be as close as possible to the trailhead .

There are over a hundred rental properties in San Candido so I am sure you will find something suiting your budget! By the way, I would really appreciate if you use the link above when booking your stay and help me make a small commission at no cost to you! 

Alta Via 4 – an interactive map of the route

I created the map below to give you an overview of Alta Via 4. I marked all mountain huts as well as day routes and extensions. Click on the button in the top left corner of the map to see the different layers and names of the places. 

Whilst pretty accurate this map should not be used when navigating through the mountains! For that, you will require a proper topography map. For crossing Alta Via 4 you need to purchase the TABACCO MAPS number: 010, 03 and  016 either online or in any sports, souvenir or cigarette shop in the local towns. Even some rifugios sell them! 

Day 1: San Candido to Rifugio Locatelli

Distance: 14.2 km / 9 miles

Walking time: 4h 30min

Elevation gain: 1220 m / 4000 feet

Elevation loss: 120 m / 394 feet

PATH NUMBER: 105

The hike starts from the Alte Säge restaurant. The location also serves as a bus stop for local public transport connecting the towns of San Candido and Sesto. 

Because there are some possible extensions to your first day on Alta Via 4 I always favour starting early and catching the first bus so you can squeeze in via ferrata in the afternoon. 

The first part of the hike leading to rifugio Tre Scarperi leads mostly through the forest and rises 370 meters over 6 kilometres (ca 1200 feet over 3.7 miles). Not very challenging or in other words a great warm-up!

The hut can be reached in around 90 minutes. Unless you start the hike in the late afternoon the Tre Scarperi refuge is too close to the trailhead to justify an overnight stay there. What it is good for is picking up some lunch and eating it on the terrace with a great view into Campo di Dentro valley and Mount Mattina (Morgenkopf) straight ahead. 

After lunch continue your journey onward to rifugio Locatelli. As soon as you reach the foot of Mount Mattina the path splits and starts going up for the next couple of hours until you reach your first hut – rifugio Locatelli. 

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Rifugio Locatelli is one of the busiest huts in the Dolomites so showing up without a reservation is out of the question! When I was planning my Alta Via challenge I booked the huts a few months in advance. Whilst this is not always necessary, booking ahead is definitely a smart thing to do.

At the end of this post, you will find a table with all huts along this route along with their contact info and other useful information. 

Extension day 1 : Via ferrata Torre di Toblin

Alta Via 4 Extension Ferrata Torre Di Toblin 4

It’s the first day so you probably are still full of energy and a 4,5-hour trek to the Locatelli hut might not be enough! I’ve got some good news for you. There are two great via ferratas starting near the hut: Innerkofler and Torre di Toblin

Torre di Toblin is definitely my pick and I’ve done it twice so far. It was actually my first iron path ever and almost a year later I introduced my friend who was accompanying me on Alta Via 4 to the World of Italian via ferratas by taking her on the exact same route!

You can check into your room, leave most of your stuff and head out again, this time with a much lighter load. Via ferrata Torre di Toblin can be done in around 2 hours and it will be a great warm-up for the other via ferrata routes you will be tackling in the next few days! 

Day 2: Rifugio Locatelli to Rifugio Fonda Savio

Distance: 12.5 km / 7.8 miles

Walking time: 4h 30min

Elevation gain: 685 m / 2250 feet

Elevation loss: 722 m / 2370 feet

PATH NUMBERS: 105, 117

Pray for good weather because today you will have some of the best views of the whole trek! The route continues on path no. 105 and circumnavigates to rifugio Auronzo. We took a longer break here and stuffed our faces with freshly baked croissants and a cappuccino. It was still early in the morning so a cappuccino was allowed in Italian culture! 

From rifugio Auronzo the route follows path no. 117. Half an hour after leaving the hut you will come across the instafamous viewpoint overlooking Cadini di Misurina range (see the 4th photo above).  

Shortly after the path will turn into a via ferrata called Sentiero Bonacossa. It follows a series of ledges and ladders and it’s a beginner level Ferrata however I still recommend putting your gear on. 

4.5 hours after leaving rifugio Locatelli (not counting the breaks) you should reach rifugio Fonda Savio. 

Rifugio Fonda Savio is one of the most photogenic mountain huts in the Italian Dolomites. I have stayed here 3 times already and I love its atmosphere as well as the friendly staff! My only recommendation is to avoid booking a place in their attic. It’s dark, has a very low ceiling and the mattresses have seen better days.  

Extension day 2: Via ferrata Merlone

I hope you still have some energy left in you because you should not miss the chance to tackle the via ferrata Merlone

It’s a 3 hour round trip from rifugio Fonda Savio to the top of Cima Cadin, the culmination of the via ferrata.

It encompasses 3 hours filled with exhilarating scrambling along countless ladders and jaw-dropping vistas towards the southern face of Tre Cime. Plus it overlooks much of the route you followed earlier in the day. 

Alta Via 4 Extension Via Ferrata Merlone 4

Day 3: Rifugio Fonda Savio to Rifugio Vandelli

Distance: 20.25 km / 12.6 miles

Walking time: 6h

Elevation gain: 965 m / 3166 feet

Elevation loss: 1371 m / 4500 feet

Alta Via 4 Day 3 1

PATH NUMBERS: 117, 120, 217

The day starts by continuing on path no. 117  on via ferrata Sentiero Bonacossa. The first part of the day takes you over two passes: Forcella Diavolo and Forcella di Misurina. There are some easy cable-protected sections when coming up and down from those passes so it’s smart to gear up. 

Approximately two hours after leaving Rifugio Fonda Savio you will reach rifugio Col de Varda. There is a chairlift that runs from the hut down to Lake Misurina, for that reason, the area is quite busy. 

You will now face two options. You can either take the chairlift down and from Misurina catch the bus to Passo Tre Croci where the route continues on path no. 215 all the way to rifugio Vandelli. 

This is the famous trail leading to Lake Sorapiss. Considering you will get to it later in the day you can expect it to be really crowded. 

Personally, I feel like taking a chairlift then a bus was cheating so I opted for an alternative, an albeit longer route which didn’t involve help from any mode of transport other than my legs.

This option is also a lot quieter. Isn’t the peacefulness what we are after when deciding to follow a backcountry route?  

From rifugio Col de Varda you can take the path no. 120 following the signs for rifugio Citta Di Carpi. 

By the way, this is a great refuge to stay at if you would like to break this day up or if you did the via ferrata Merlone extension early on day 3 rather than in the afternoon of day 2. 

Before reaching Rifugio Citta di Carpi, path 120 breaks away and drops down into the valley towards rifugio Cristallo (out of operation). 

Cross the road and follow path no. 217 which will take you all the way to rifugio Vandelli. The last 90 minutes is a pretty steep ascent so make sure to take a good break beforehand. 

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Rifugio Vandelli is run by a local Italian family. I have stayed there twice before and made friends with their lovely dog called Nutella! The location of the refuge is one of a kind. It’s only a 2 minute walk to the shoreline of the beautiful lake Sorapiss, one of the iconic locations of the Dolomites! 

Day 4: Rifugio Vandelli to Rifugio San Marco

Distance 19.6 km / 12.2 miles

Walking time 7h 30min

Elevation gain: 1185 m / 3890 feet

Elevation loss: 1310 m / 4300 feet

Alta Via 4 Day 4 6

PATH NUMBERS: 243, 226

Today is a true wilderness experience! Day 4 is undoubtedly the toughest on the whole route. There are two via ferratas to tackle both being part of the larger Giro del Sorapiss (Sorapiss circuit). 

Having done the circuit the previous year I knew what we are up against. It’s a good idea to start early.

I convinced my friend to get breakfast to go the night before and leave with the first light. We also stocked up on some chocolate at rifugio Vandelli to have something to snack on along the way. Pack extra water too as you won’t get a chance to fill up your bottle along the way. 

Leaving early turned out to be the perfect decision. We reached our next refuge 8 hours later just before a big storm. Others weren’t so lucky and arrived soaked to the bone. 

The first part of the day is along via ferrata Alfonso Vandelli. This is the toughest ferrata along the route and it climbs very steeply along the western face of Croda del Fogo. The second ferrata – sentiero Carlo Minazzio is mostly a hike along ledges with occasional cable protection.

Do not fear either of them! If you were able to complete the ferratas on the previous days you won’t have troubles with these ones either. The only thing I would worry about is sticking to the route. Although it is marked pretty well I was occasionally second-guessing myself. Don’t hike this part of Alta Via 4 without a map or GPS! 

For the majority of the day, you will be following path no. 243, before it breaks off onto path no. 226. 

Alta Via 4 Day 4 6 2

Rifugio San Marco is an old family-run refuge with fantastic views over Mount Pelmo. They served the best coffee and cakes along the whole route. Although after hiking for 8 hours my judgement could have been a bit impaired. There is a lovely outside area with an outdoor shower. The water is heated with solar energy so if you are one of the first people to arrive you might even get lucky and have a warm shower! 

Day 5: Rifugio San Marco to Rifugio Antelao

Distance: 17.5 km / 10.9 miles

Walking Time: 6h

Elevation gain: 1230 m / 4035 feet

Elevation loss: 1260 m / 4134 feet

Alta Via 4 Day 5 1

PATH NUMBERS: 227, 250

Today you will be hiking and scrambling on the slopes of Mount Antelao – the second highest mountain in the Dolomites! Albeit slightly easier than the previous, this day is still quite demanding. 

The day starts with a gentle hike up to the Forcella Picolla (Picolla saddle) then drops to rifugio Galassi. The hut is only 45 minutes away from rifugio San Marco and makes for a great overnight alternative if the latter is booked out. 

From rifugio Galassi the route climbs steeply then turns into a via ferrata which leads to Forcella del Ghiacciaio. Similarly to the previous day there isn’t many other people hiking on this route so you are up for some great backcountry experience! 

From Forcella del Ghiacciaio the path drops down to the Antelao valley before climbing up again to Forcella Piria. From here it’s smooth sailing to the last hut on Alta Via 4 – rifugio Antelao. 

Rifugio Antelao was the only hut that didn’t make a lasting impression on me apart from one fact. When we stayed there they were very short on running water and we weren’t able to flush the toilets after peeing. 

I know it’s a strange thing to remember, but considering how scarce the water can be in the Dolomites this wasn’t actually anything out of ordinary! 

Day 6: Rifugio Antelao to Pozzale

Distance 8 km / 5 miles

Walking time: 2h

Elevation loss: 730 m / 2395 feet

Alta Via 4 Day 6 1 1

PATH NUMBERS: 250

The last day is an easy 2 hour downhill hike to the village of Pozzale along path no. 250. For the most part, you will be walking through the forest along an old military road.

There are a few viewpoints along the way looking over Pieve di Cadore. Once you reach Pozzale you can jump on a local bus to Pieve di Cadore. From here you can either catch a train to Venice or take a local bus to Cortina D’Ampezzo where you can continue exploring the Dolomites. 

A list of all mountain huts along Alta Via 4

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If you are planning to hike Alta Via 4 this list of all mountain huts along the route will come in really handy. 

If this will be your first time staying in an Italian refuge make sure to check out my other article about everything you need to know before staying in a mountain hut in the Dolomites. It includes information about alpine club memberships, how to make reservations, the meaning of ‘half-board’ and much more. 

Mountain hutE-mailDistance From The Last HutPhone NumberCAI MemberShowersCredit/Debit cards accepted
Tre Scarperi info@drei-schuster-huette.com6km/3.7mi +39 0474 96 66 10 Yes 3 Euro / 5 minutes Yes
Locatelli dreizinnenhuette@rolmail.net8.2km/5.1mi +39 0474 97 20 02 Yes 8 Euro / 5minutes No 
Auronzo info@rifugioauronzo.it5.1km/3.2mi +39 0435 39 002 Yes N/AYes
Fonda Savio florian.poernbacher@rolmail.net7.4km/4.6mi +39 0435 39 036 Yes  No showersNo
Citta Di Carpi rifugio@caicarpi.it / rifugiocarpi@libero.it8.8km/5.5mi (2km off the track) +39 0435 39 139 Yes 8 Euro / 5 Minutes No
Vandelli rifugiovandelli@libero.it20.25km/12.6mi (from Fonda Savio)15.5km/9.6mi from Citta di Carpi +39 0435 39 015 Yes 6 Euro/5 minutes No
San Marco info@rifugiosanmarco.com19.6km/12.2mi +39 0436 94 44 Yes Outdoor shower (3 Euro) Yes 
Galassi info@rifugiogalassi.it3.7km/2.3mi +39 340 121 43 00 Yes5 Euro / 5 MinutesYes
Antelao liviozanardo2410@gmail.com13.8km/8.6mi+39 2119 68 41 Yes 5 Euro / 5 minutes Yes 

Do you have any more questions about Alta Via 4? Post them in the comments below. I am always happy to help! If you are planning a trip to the Italian Dolomites make sure to check out my guide.

Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

73 Comments

  1. Hi Marta,
    Thank you so much for all the info! This is really comprehensive and helpful. You got me in full planning mode 😀
    Best, Emmie

    • Hi Emmie! Thanks so much for the feedback! Let me know if you have any questions! I am working on reuploading the maps as I recently migrated my site and not everything is up to speed yet!

  2. Hi and thanks for the ton of information 👏🏻☺️
    I’m planing to hike the no 4 and then directly on the no 5 “the other way”
    My question is about the Ferrata? Are they like one way streets or can you go both ways ?

    THANKS 🏔

    • Hi Mads. Thanks for stopping by. I had the same plan as you, but after hiking AV1, 2 and 4 back to back I was too exhausted to continue 🙂 It really depends on a Ferrata, but I would say most of them should be done one way. Most of the time you climb the Ferrata and descend on a path. Climbing down on a Ferrata is not advisable and can cause traffic jams and danger to others. However, if you will be finishing AV5 with Via Ferrata Strada Degli Alpini then this one is totally doable both ways.

      • Hi Marta! Thanks for all of your info. I’m in the beginning stages of planning a hut to hut hike in the dolomites for this summer (end of June) and am trying to decide on a route! I’m planning to set aside 8 days for the hike.

        I’m looking for a route that is mostly along mountain peaks/summits with opportunities for via ferrata! I’ve never done via ferrata but would love to try and have no problem with bringing the necessary equipment. I’ve been debating between Alta via 2 and 4 for some time now. My heart wants to see tre cime, but I’m not sure I would be properly prepared for Alta via 4 as my first over-seas multi day hike? There are so many forums discouraging travellers from attempting it, would you agree that it’s significantly more difficult/ too difficult for a Canadians first dolomite hike?

        I also thought of combining Alta via 1 and 4 to see the best of both, I worry it wouldn’t quite be the mountain adventure I was hoping for and might have a few too many other tourists, which is what led me to look in to Alta via 2. Although the route of Alta Via 2 looks to be one Id be comfortable with, I would have to miss out on seeing tre cime since it isn’t close to the route – unless I did a separate day trip of course, but I’m not sure Id have enough time to squeeze it in to my itinerary.

        I’d love to hear your thoughts on the different routes and any advice you have for me!

        • Hi Jade. Thanks for stopping by and your lovely comment. Whether you can or cannot do Alta VIa 4 is entirely up to you and your skill and comfort level. I did AV4 with a friend of mine, who has never done a via ferrata nor a multiday hike through the mountains in her life and she did just fine. Of course I was there to guide her, but she carried herself from start to finish without complaining once. Backpacking in the Dolomites (and European Alps in general) is a completely different experience to backpacking in Canada. You can carry very little gear with you because everything is provided in the huts, which makes everything a lot easier. The great thing about AV4 is that you can tackle your first two via ferratas (Torre Di Toblin and Innerkofler) as extensions to the route, which will give you great practice for what’s to come later along the route on days 3,4 and 5. As for Tre Cime, whilst it is very unique and beautiful you also have to be prepared that it is very touristy. To the point that it’s a bit of a sh*t show, with hundreds (if not thousands) of tourists hiking it every single day. If you have done scrambling before and you have a good head for heights then AV4 is definitely doable, but again you are the one who knows yourself best. AV2 is amazing too and trust me, you will be blown away by the views. You can hike half of it then travel by public transport to Cortina and further with a bus to see the Tre Cime. Let me know if that helps and if you have more questions!

          • Thanks for the Info Marta! Im looking a little more in to AV2 and I think that might be a more promising route for me. So far my rough plan is to start at Cortina d’Ampezzo and head from there to do a day hike/via ferrata (or two) around Tre Cime. The next day I will take the bus from Cortina to Val Gardena, where I plan to start the AV2 from. Im planning for 6-7 days of hiking, ending at San Martino Castrozza where I will do a few via ferratas along the way. I’m finding the most difficult part to be figuring out the routes and Rifugios along the way for the hike. I’ve been using various itineraries as a guide to help plan but I’m finding most people keep itinerary details a secret and charge money for access unfortunately. Hopefully I can get something attainable worked out!

          • Thank you! Do you know if there is a bus line that directly connects the two? From what I’ve seen you have to take the long way around to dobiacco, Bolzano, and then passo Gardena. I was hoping the Cortina Express would have a bus line but the summer schedules aren’t yet available!

          • Hi Jade. I just had a look at the Sued Tirol Mobil and it says you would have to travel through Dobiacco and Bruneck (not Bolzano) but to be fair Passo Gardena is a part of a ski resort and it’s closed during the wintertime. I would check closer to the date in summer as I do see that Cortina Express operates between Cortina and Corvara (i would check Cortina – Corvara then Corvara – Passo Gardena). Even though the public transport around the Dolomites is very good getting information on it is somewhat frustrating but my advice would be to wait closer to the date when the actual schedules come up.

  3. Hi Marta (again!!)

    I’m now planning this hike but have realised I’m terrible with directions and noted for one section of it you strongly suggest having a Map/GPS. Just wondering what navigation/GPS map you would suggest (if any!) so I can pre-load the maps before departure.

    Thank you once again for your help 🙂

    Dom

    • Hi Domo. Please send me an email directly through my contact page and I will send you my GPX data for this trip done with my Garmin GPS. I also say in the text what number paper maps are required for this trip.

  4. Hi Marta,
    Thanks for the fantastic write up and amazing pictures! I’m trying to decide which Alta via to do this year and since you’ve done them all I thought I’d ask! You mentioned you liked this one the most, I was mainly wondering which one you thought had the best views overall and which was the most ‘wild’ and least trafficked? Thanks very much! I am relatively experienced so the difficulty is not too concerning, but I do enjoy via ferrata so this one looks really exciting.
    Best regards,
    Jason

    • Hi Jason. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, Alta Via 4 was my favourite. It wasn’t overly long, the via ferratas exciting and it offers great days in solitude, particularly once you pass rifugio Vandelli. Since you said you have lots of experience then also check out my Dolomiti Brenta Traverse itinerary. It goes over 5 days and includes 8 different via ferratas! A great challenge and very different to all the Alta Vias!

  5. Hey Marta, I’ve followed your blog here for a few years, I’m based in Canada but first found it when we were looking up some beta on NZ. Now we are off to Italy and it’s pretty funny that you;ve done the Alta Via’s that we’re scoping out. Wondering your thoughts – we’re doing the Alta Via 4 at the end of september, unfortunately, it seems that Vandelli hut is only open for lunch that late in the season. I’ve scoped out a few different options and it seems that there is a hotel on SR48 (Hotel Ristorante Cristallo) or a BNB in Passo tre croci. Thoughts? I’m thinking the hotel would be best since it is directly on the Alta Via route and both the day before and day after are decent size.

    Thanks,
    Will

    • Hi Will! Thanks so much for your feedback and welcome back to my blog! To be fair most of the huts along AV4 are already shut at the end of September, not just Vandelli. Have you checked the other ones? They usually stay open until the third week of September so if you still can change your plans and move your trip a bit or rethink AV4 and maybe do the Rosengarten Traverse instead. In Rosengarten Nature Park the huts stay open even until mid-October! If you stay in either of the accommodations that you are talking about you will be adding another 2 hours to an already long and demanding day. I hope that helps!

      • Thanks Marta, Believe it or not, I’ve secured all the huts except Vandelli, I’ve gotten a reply from another one Rif Marco that there’s a bivy hut near Vandelli so the route is now complete. Will just have to stock up on food for a day and sleep in a rat shack – I’ve stayed in worse ;). Really stoked. Thanks for the alternative suggestion.

        • That’s right Bivacco Comici. You can read about it in my post here https://inafarawayland.com/via-ferrata-giro-del-sorapiss/ It will still be a very long day for you, adding via ferrata Vandelli. Consider going a bit further the previous day and instead of stopping at rifugio Fonda Savio, try Rifugio Col de Varda. That way your days will be split up a bit more evenly. Bivacco Comici is very basic so you will need a sleeping bag, extra water and food. I am glad your trip is gonna work out!

  6. Hello, I am going to the Dolomites in August, and I will be doing the Alta Via 4. However it has been over a month at this point and I still have not heard back from either Rifugio Locatelli or Fonda Savio. What would you suggest I do? Should I maybe take a chance and just walk up to the huts and see if they have space available, or should I try to book a nearby rifugio.

    Thank You

    • Hi Maxwell! Thanks for visiting. Have you emailed them or sent them a request via their website? Locatelli has now info on their website that they are not able to respond to emails because they get over 10000 emails in the season and now ask people to send requests. Here is the link https://www.dreizinnenhuette.com/antonio-locatelli-hut.php
      as for Fondia Savio I would recommend calling. They have a winter phone number on their website. That’s usually a phone number for making reservations off season. Let me know if that helps! Fingers crossed.

  7. Hi! I’ll be doing Alta Via 4 later this summer! We’re flying into Venice from the US and are doing this as part of a longer trip. We’re trying to save a little money by not renting a car but, we will also be coming over with more clothes we don’t plan to hike with. Did you per chance find a place or lockers near the hike where you could leave baggage? Adding a car rental just to have a place to keep clothes seems like overkill.

    • Hi Abby. Thanks for stopping by. I would recommend that you stay the first night in a hotel near the end of the trek and leave your things in the hotel storage. Most hotels offer this kind of service but to be sure just reach out to them first. For example, stay in Pieve di Cadore the first night which is nicely connected by train, then leave your stuff at a hotel on the morning you start the hike. Bus to the beginning of the hike. Pick up your things at the end of the hike. I hope that helps!

  8. Hi again Marta!

    Just wondering if you bought or hired your via ferrata equipment?
    If hired, could you recommend anywhere where I could hire near the start of the hike?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

    Kind regards,
    Dom

    • Hi Dom. I have my own gear as I have now done over 50 via ferratas in the Dolomites. Do consider buying your own as the whole set costs around 200 Euros, whereas a full day rental ca. 25. So for 6 days you will already spend 150 Euros. Cortina is a place where they rent via ferrata gear but I also recommend that you look for noleggio shops online.

  9. Hi Marta,

    Thank you for the amazing overview.

    We planned almost everything for our Alta via 4 in July but rifuggio Vandelli is fully booked.
    Do you know an alternative? Hike down to a village or? We sleep in cita de carpi the night before so we don’t know if the distance is doable from that hut to a village down below?

    Ciao, Max!

    • Hi Maxime. If you are staying in Citta Di Carpi the night before then does it mean you are actually hiking the AV4 from South to North? A few alternatives to Locatelli are 1) rifugio Auronzo 2) rifugio Lavaredo 3) rifugio Pian Di Ciengia. If you stay in Lavaredo then instead of hiking clockwise around Tre Cime you will need to follow the route anticlockwise, meaning once you reach rifugio Auronzo, you need to follow the signs for Lavaredo going anti-clockwise around Tre Cime. As for Pian Di Ciengia it’s one hour further from Locatelli. If you stay in this hut you can exit AV4 through Val Fiscalina rather than Val Campo Di Dentro. To make it even more exciting you could spend the last day doing via ferrata Strada Degli Alpini (you can find a guide for it on my website). All this information applies if indeed you are hiking South to North?

      • Hi Marta,

        We are hiking him the same way you are doing. Starting from the parking lot going to Auronzo, Citta di Carpi to B&B passo tre cime up to San Marco and sleeping at Antelao the last night.

        Does this make sense?

        All the best!
        Max

        • Hi Maxime. Sorry for the late reply. I was off-grid for the past week. Yes, it makes sense, but you definitely have some long days ahead of you. Auronzo to Citta Di Carpi will be fun but challenging. As for B&B passo Tre Cime, do you mean passo Tre Croci? I have never heard of Passo Tre Cime 🙂 If indeed you are staying at Passo Tre Croci then make sure you leave really early because this is the most challenging day and you will have extra 2 hours on top of it. If I were you I would still try and get the reservation at Rifugio Vandelli. Cancellations do come up in these huts, and there are often no-shows. This will put you in a much better location to reach San Marco than from Passo Tre Croci. I hope that helps!

  10. Hi Marta,
    many thanks for the really comprehensive and helpful descriptions on your webpage!
    With a few friends I’m looking into Via Alto 4 for this summer. Unfortunately, we have only 5 days in total to spend. We have more than 15 years mountaineering experience in the Alps, Patagonia, Northern Europe, and the Rockies. Everyone is in very good shape. To do the entire route, I could see us following your description but essentially do days 2, 3, 4 in two days only, going from Rifugio Locatelli to Citta di Carpi and on the next day from there to Rifugio San Marco. Do you think that this is a somewhat reasonable split (I realize that both days would be challenging)? Do you see a different option? E.g. by following your itinerary entirely but descent on day 5 somehow? Many thanks for your perspective!
    Ciao
    Tilo

    • Hi Tilo. If you have 5 days only, the best way to shorten this trip is to connect day 5 with 6. Day 6 is only a 2 hour downhill walk back to the town. That will give you 5 days in total. Locatelli to Citta Di Carpi and Cita Di Carpi to San Marco are very ambitious. Particularly the latter.

  11. Hi Marta,
    Thank you for this very detailed guide! I was wondering if you followed a guidebook for this hike or just the TabaccoMapp? I only see books for AV1 and AV2. I’m also used to using Gaia GPS in lieu of a paper map but they don’t have detailed maps of Italy (has the main trails but no Via Ferratas routes or smaller trails). Was the trail fairly easy to follow? Is there another digital map you’d recommend?

    Also, I have only 8 full days in Italy so completing the entire AV4 is appealing. But the AV2 seems a bit more varied in terrain and also has more detailed guides. Would you recommend doing the entire AV4 (and with this I could probably squeeze a bit of time in Venice too) or part of AV2? Is the AV2 more crowded and difficult to book huts or is that not the case since the AV4 encompasses Tre Crime?

    How does AV4 vs AV2 compare?

    I have a decent amount of backpacking experience within Canada & the US so I’m not too worried about physical fitness and I love heights and would prefer more Via Ferratas (as long as they don’t require a guide).

    Thanks!

    • Hi Susan. I do own the Cicerone guidebook for AV1 and AV2 and it was handy, however, I did find many discrepancies with the distances given in the book. But I do recommend purchasing it all in all if you want to have something with you.
      As long as you know the trail numbers for each day and pay attention to painted marks on the rocks etc, the paths are very easy to follow. I am not a big fan of digital maps to be honest, I just use the paper maps most of the time, or sometimes maps on my watch (Garmin fenix 6Spro)
      AV4 is awesome and more adventurous than AV2. If you are after doing some via ferratas, AV4 is great for that. Yes, the Tre Cime area is busy, but you leave it pretty quickly on AV4. I would recommend going in September, it does get a lot quieter in the Dolomites then.
      I thought the terrain on AV4 is the most varied out of all Alta Vias I have done. I have a beginner’s guide to via ferratas in the Italian Dolomites which you should check out as it might answer some of your questions. Let me know if that helps!

  12. Hi Marta, This is an extremely helpful write up and guide. Thank you!! I have not been able to find much information on AV3 & AV4, so again thank you!. I am wondering if you could suggest an itinerary for 4 days? if that is not possible than 5 days? I solo hiked the AV1 in 4.5 days and the AV2 in 7 days so I don’t mind hiking all day to get to the destination hut. The problem with the AV4 is that i don’t know where the “trouble” spots are or the difficult sections where I will need to give myself some leeway. Thanks so much!!!

    • Hi Mike. Thanks for stopping by. If you want to do the AV4 in 4 days then I would suggest the following hut. Day 1 – Fonda Savio, Day 2, Vandelli, Day 3 San Marco, Day 4 hike all the way to Pieve Di Cadore. Vandelli to San Marco and San Marco to Antelao huts are the difficult parts so I would just leave them as they are on my site. I hope that helps! Have fun and stay safe!

  13. Hello, I will be doing the Alta Via 4 in the beginning of August and I have been able to secure reservations for all the huts except for the first day. Rifugio Locatelli never responded and both Auronzo and Lavaredo say they are full. Do you have any other recommendations as to where I can stay? Because as of now I have no where to stay on the first night.

    Thank you

    • Hi Maxwell. Thanks for your email. You could either stay in Rifugio Tre Scarperi in the Campi di Dentro valley, which will make your day 1 very easy, but day 2 will be more challenging, or you can start from Val Fiscalina and hike on the first day either to rifugio Comici or preferably Pian Di Ciengia and on day two From there to rifugio Fonda Savio. You van read about this approach in my guide to Tre Cime Traverse in the hut-to-hut category. Let me know if that helps!

      • Ok thank you. Both Tre Scarperi and Pian di Ciengia are also booked so I will try Comici and hopefully they have space. If I stay at Comici will I have time to Via Ferrata Torre Di Toblin?

        • Damn! It’s crazy. I would still try closer to the date as cancellations do come up. You can do Torre Di Toblin as an extension when hiking from Comici to Fonda Savio. A seasoned hiker/via ferrata adventurer can smash the Torre Di Toblin route in 90 minutes. It doesn’t really make sense to hike from Comici to Locatelli to just do Torre Di Tobling then hike back. This would make the first day unnecessary long.
          However, I do recommend that instead of doing Torre Do Toblin you can reach rifugio Comici via via ferrata Strada Degli Alpini (You will find the description for it on my site) The views along this route are spectacular, it’s a great via ferrata for beginners and a lot less people on it than Torre Di Toblin!

  14. Hi Marta,
    Just want to thank you for all the information about Alta via 4. Just completed it and it was a great adventure all the way. I was blessed with perfect weather and views were insane. I only did one part differently as you, went for Berti ferrata instead Vandelli. It was amazing 5 days and memories for the rest of life. Thank you for sharing. Kasia

      • I got converted😉 by crazy group of German hikers, claiming that it is better for me to go via difficult feratta with the group than alone via medium feratta 😀I couldn’t argue with that. I don’t regret, it was very long day with few ‘Alex Honnold moments’,😂fun, sun but satisfaction was high.

  15. Hi Marta!
    Thank you so much for the comprehensive review of the hike. We have a group of 8 heading for AV4 this July doing the same itinerary as you have done!
    Can you guide on the electricity for charging devices in the Huts?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Ted. There is electricity in all the huts. I would suggest that you head over to my post about everything to expect when staying in a mountain hut in the Italian Dolomites for the first time. You will find a link to it within this article, or just use the search in the top right corner of my site. Let me know if I can help further!

  16. Hi there! This website is AMAZING! A couple questions. We emailed Rifugio Vandelli and they are full on the night we’re hoping to stay. What would you advise? It doesn’t look like there’s another hut option so we’re uncertain of how to proceed. Can a hut turn you away if you show up?
    Thanks for the info! This has truly helped us plan!

    • Hi Sidney. Thanks for stopping by. It’s a tricky one because unless you carry a sleeping bag and food to stay in the Bivacoo Comici (A tiny bivouack hut after via ferrata Vandelli) or stay at a hotel on Passo Tre Croci, making the trek to rifugio San Marco the next day excruciatingly long, you don’t really have an option. As for the hut turning you away, I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that they do have quite a bit of no-shows. When I did the AV4 myself at the start of July in 2019 which was the high season, the hut was very empty because of all the no-shows. I say keep trying to get a reservation with them. Maybe a cancellation will pop up. If not you can trek to Passo Tre Croci, take the bus to Cortina and skip the 4th day of the trek then rejoin it at rifugio San Marco.

  17. Hi Marta,

    First of all, thank you so much for this guide! It’s by far the most comprehensive and detailed I’ve found on the AV4. I’m hoping to doing the AV4 with a friend at the end of August/beginning of September, and was wondering if you could help me with a few concerns:

    1. Via Ferratas: I do sports climbing so am not very concerned about the via ferratas myself, but my friend doesn’t. I showed her the video you linked to in your Beginners Guide to Via Ferratas (https://inafarawayland.com/beginners-guide-to-via-ferrata-climbing-in-the-italian-dolomites/) and she was really excited by it, so I think she has the right mindset 🙂 However, do you think that there are any stretches that are very technically difficult or require high levels of stamina? In particular, I’m wondering about the via ferrata on day 5, you didn’t mention its name or much about its difficulty level. (“From rifugio Galassi the route climbs steeply then turns into a via ferrata which leads to Forcella del Ghiacciaio.”)

    2. Long days: days 4 (Rifugio Vandelli to Rifugio San Marco) and 5 (Rifugio San Marco to Rifugio Antelao) are quite long and have significant elevation gain and loss. We were hoping to break them up so as not to be under pressure and stray into the late afternoon. I couldn’t seem to figure out a way to do that (day 4 has bivouac Comici but we were hoping to avoid carrying sleeping bags, and for day 5 there seems to be no clear way of splitting it since Galassi is quite close to San Marco) and was wondering if you know of any. If not, do you have any idea how long it would take a person in average shape to do these days? You wrote they took you approximately 6 and 7.5 hours respectively, but I’m assuming you’re incredibly fit so we’d probably take longer.

    Another thing I was wondering is if there’s anywhere with a comprehensive list of all the huts along the route (that would probably answer my question about breaking up the days).

    Again, thanks a million for the guide and looking forward to your response!

    Neta

    • Hi Neta. Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you found my AV4 guide to be useful! Now to your questions:

      1) I did the AV4 with a friend of mine who has never done any proper hikes nor did she do a via Ferrata before. She had a very good mindset and adventurous spirit. We did the via ferrata Torre di Toblin and then the via ferrata Merlone extensions to practice and see if she will be able to do via ferrata Vandelli and via Ferrata Antelao on days 4 and 5. She did fantastic on both so we kept going. The nice thing about practising on extensions is the possibility of going slower and more lightweight. We left all the gear at the hut, where we were currently staying and head out for the afternoon with just the via ferrata kit, snacks and extra layers. I would also recommend that you actually stay the first night at rifugio Tre Scarperi so you have less distance on day 2 to Locatelli which in turn will give you more time to practice on Torre Di Toblin or via ferrata Innerkofler. Via ferrata Vandelli is the most challenging along the route, but nothing technical.

      2) Sorry the only option is Bivacco Comici and there is no other option to split day 5. The time estimates I give on my site are usually longer than what it takes me to complete the routes, but I am not as fast as you might think. I take a lot of photos along the route. What is important to mention is that the times I give are walking times, not a total time. The total time is always dependent on a person and how many breaks they take etc etc. So for example when I hiked from rifugio Vandelli to rifugio San Marco my total walking time was around 6 hours, but elapsed time was 9 hours, because of all the breaks we did along the way. We left at 5am and made it to San Marco at 2pm (as far as I remember) and we just missed the afternoon storm which soeaked the hikers behind us. I am personally terrified of being cought in a storm in the mountains. They are very common in the Dolomites in the afternoons during the summer season, that’s why I always leave early to be safe in a refuge before the storm hits.

      Yes the list I made give you all the huts along the route 🙂

      Let me know if I can help you any further!

      Happy planning!

      • Thanks for the quick and detailed reply!
        I think we’ll go for the bivouac and plan to start day 5 really early. Do you know if we need to reserve the bivouac? Do you think there’s a chance that it will be full? What happens in that case?
        Thanks again,
        Neta

  18. Hello Marta!
    I really enjoy your blogs. They are so informative. Thank you so much!
    We are leaning towards Alta Via 4. Although I am a bit worried about Day 4, with the tough via Ferattas during a thunderstorm. Is there an alternate route than the 2 via ferratas during Day 4, just in case it becomes impassable due to a thunderstorm?
    Also on Day 5, you mentioned it is also challenging, which we don’t mind. However, if we decide we’re too tired to complete the trek from Rifugio Galassi to Rifugio Antelao, would we be missing out a lot on the views? Or is this part of Alta Via 4 okay to be missed?
    Another question I have is, did you ever feel unsafe from the via ferattas in Alta Via 4?
    Thank you so much!!
    Cherry

    • Hi Cherry. Thanks for your fantastic feedback. I am so glad to hear you are enjoying my page. Now for the questions. Thunderstorms occur at certain times of the year. I am not sure for when do you plan your trip, but if you go in September, the thunderstorms are gone by then. Yes, you can bypass day 4 but I reckon day 4 is actually the highlight of AV4. What you can do it to walk back out to Passo Tre Croci then take the bus to Cortina then San Vito di Cadore from where you can hike up (or use a chairlift to shorten the hike) to rifugio San Marco.
      Day 5 is fantastic too, but safety above all else. If you will be too tired to hike or the weather doesn’t play out then it is always ok to miss out on the part of the trek, no matter which part it is. As for your last question. No, I never felt unsafe, but I always put the gear on and before i did my first traverse I did quite a lot dayily via ferrata outings. The most important thing is to know how to use the gear. To go slowly and to follow certain rules, like for instance never to clip to the same cable section with another person, or always clip and unclip carabiners one at a time. Helmet is an absolute must. You would not believe how many other hikers without helmets I have seen on via ferratas.

  19. Hello,

    Thank you very much for your detailed guide! I will be doing this in September. But I have a small question. Your day 4 is 19.6KM but I am doing mine in Garmin Basecamp and from Vandeli to Refugio Galessi it’s 13.8KM following the same route. Via Feratta Vandeli and then 243 > 226 and finally 227 to the Hut. Why do you have so many km?

    Thanks

    • Hi Joao. I am sharing what my GPS device (from Garmin) measured when I hiked the distance myself. I often noticed that the distances which I found online or in guidebooks were shorter than what my GPS counted. Garmin shares on their website that there is a 5% error margin, but 13.8km and 19.6 km is indeed a big difference. Especially since my 19.5 is to San marco which is closer than Galassi.I would say focus mostly on walking time. This is a tough day and the longest one. Via Ferrata Vandelli will take around 2.5 hours on its own.

  20. Hi Marta –
    Firstly, I LOVE your guide. It is so comprehensive.

    Do you have a downloadable version of the trekking map that can be uploaded into one of the apps (eg AllTrails)?

    Thank you

    • Hi Bechar. Thanks, I appreciate it. I give tips on which maps to get within the post. As for the downloadable trekking map I am afraid I don’t have it. I don’t share my data with All trails as they do not link back to my site or give any recognition to the author.

  21. Hi Marta,
    This is a very nice read and the photos are stunning. You are a very talented writer and photographer. Thank you. I was planning my trip for next summer to do AV2 however when I read your other guides, I am getting more interested in doing both AV4 and Brenta. Is this something you would recommend? I have about 3 weeks next summer to do some trekking. I wanted to hike the Dolomites but with some challenging via ferrata. What would be the logistics? Which one would you recommend me tackle first and is the transportations from one trek to another easily accessible? This would be my first time reserving the huts. I did GR20 in Corsica, however, we didn’t reserve any hut in advance as we will just showed up with our tent and paid for bivouac. How long before should I contact the refugios to book if I want to go next July? Originally, I was thinking of camping, however, I know camping is prohibited in the Italian Dolomites and I want to respect that.
    Thank you very much again for your guides.

    • Hi Ha Phan, Thanks for stopping by and for your awesome feedback. Thank you for respecting the camping prohibition in the Dolomites. You sound like a very responsible traveller.

      Whilst AV2 is awesome, AV4 is definitely more exciting in terms of via ferratas etc. Brenta is my absolute favourite one because of all the fun via ferrata sections along the way. I definitely recommend bookings the huts in advance. I booked all mine between February and April by emailing the huts. Some of them required deposits. Brenta is a lot quieter and I actually only booked the huts in Brenta a day or two in advance. I did go there towards the end of the season though. Some huts were already really quiet.

      On AV4 both Locatelli and Vandelli can be challenging huts to book because they are next to two very popular attractions in the Dolomites. First one is Tre Cime and the second is Lake Sorapiss.

      As for AV4 I would also recommend an alternative start through Val Fiscalina instead doing the via ferrata Strada Degli Alpini and spending the first night in rifugio Zsigmundy or Pian Di Ciengia. This will be an added challenge and you will have absolutely amazing views along the way.

      As for the public transport it definitely won’t be straightforward and it will probably require a few changes between trains and buses but most definitely doable.

      AV4 is probably better to start with as it will be easier and you will get a chance to start with some beginner via ferratas before moving onto more challenging ones. Brenta includes ferrata after ferrata and though fun it is a challenge.

      If you choose to fly to Milan then starting with Brenta will be easier as it will be closer.

      Let me know if you have any more questions! Happy hiking

      • Hi Marta, Thank you for your detailed response. Just some follow up questions: would you happen to know if I would get a discount for accommodations if I have a membership from Canadian Alpine club? Also, would you mind sharing the gpx file for AV4 and Brenta. Thank you.

        • Hi Ha Phan. I am afraid I don’t know for sure if the discount will work. I did travel with an Austrian friend once in New Zealand who used her Austrian Alpine Club card and received a discount for a hut stay in New Zealand. Normally it’s a worldwide reciprocate thing, but at the same time, I couldn’t guarantee you that. You can always. try.

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