The cool mountain air, blue-bird skies, solitude, and a wide array of autumn colours.
They say perfection doesn’t exist but when it comes down to hiking in the Dolomites, there is no better time for it than October. At least in my humble opinion.
Having spent a significant amount of time in the Dolomites during the autumn seasons I finally came up with the perfect Fall itinerary, incorporating some of my favourite photography spots and hikes.
Dolomites 7-10 days Fall travel plan overview
- Total kilometres/miles: 554km / 344 mi (excluding distance from and to the airport)
- Day hikes (more than 5 hours): 3
- Half-day hikes (less than 4 hours): 5 – 6
- Number of towns and hotels: 6
- Photography spots: 13
Where does this itinerary start and end?
The first town you will stay in is Dobiacco in the Pusteria valley in the North part of the Dolomites.
You will then make your way South all the way to Fiera di Primiero in the Pale di San Martino range before heading North—West to Val Gardena and ending in Santa Maddalena in Val Di Funes.
What are the best airports to fly into?
You can either choose to fly to Innsbruck in Austria or one of the airports near Venice (Marco Polo or Treviso)
The distance from Innsbruck is 137 km and it takes 2 hours to drive from Innsbruck airport to Dobiacco.
If you are flying to Venice the journey by car to Dobiacco will take approximately 2.5 hours.
When is the perfect time to follow this Dolomiti autumn itinerary?
Between October 20th and October 31st. A few days before or after will be ok too, but from my personal experience the above dates mark the peak of autumn colours.
How to get around the Dolomites?
For this road trip, you will need a car. I do not recommend renting a campervan during this time of the year. Most campsites are already shut, and the nights can get frigid cold.
You will appreciate the warmth of a hotel room to recharge after the days out in the mountains.
If you need a car, I highly recommend Discover Cars – a search engine comparison site for the best car rental deals.
If you book through the link above I receive a small commission which helps me run this site and create more itineraries like this one.
What type of traveller is this itinerary perfect for?
An active one! If you spent the last few months on a couch in front of Netflix then I can tell you straight away you will suffer when following this road trip.
But if like me, you can’t stay put in one place and sweating bucket loads doing cardio is your idea of a fun afternoon then you just hit the jackpot! You will love this autumn hiking itinerary around the Dolomites!
What kind of weather can one expect during autumn in the Dolomites?
Albeit short, the days are still pleasantly warm and you can expect to hike in a t-shirt or long sleeve, but as soon as you stop you will feel the cold air running across your body. October is a relatively dry month. The summer storms are long gone, and the winds calm down.
As soon as the sun sets in October the nights get frigid cold with temperatures dropping way below zero.
Snow starts to appear at higher elevations, but I have never needed hiking spikes in October.
It’s important to carry layers with you on a hike, especially a well-insulated jacket, a hat and gloves.
How much time will one need to complete this itinerary?
Ideally, you can come for 10 days. However, I will give you some hints on how to shorten it to a week, if you don’t have that much time on your hands. Just scroll down to the end of this post.
The map of the autumn road trip itinerary around the Dolomites
Below you can view the map of the itinerary, where I marked the trailheads for the hikes, photography spots as well as the towns that you will be visiting.
Cling on the top left of the map to reveal the layers. You can switch the layers on and off per your liking to make the map easier to read.
Day-by-day Dolomiti fall road trip breakdown
Day 1: Dürrenstein & Lago Di Braies
Morning: Dürrenstein summit hike
We are kicking off this Dolomiti fall itinerary with a summit hike. Go big or go home, right?
Dürrenstein is one of the busiest hikes during the summer season, but once autumn hits, its slopes become deserted.
When I hiked it for the first time in October last year I only met a handful of locals on the trail and had the summit all to myself!
Why is Dürrenstein summit hike great in autumn?
Mainly for two reasons:
Firstly it is sun-exposed. This can be problematic in the summer. Personally, I don’t like hiking in the scorching heat.
However, during autumn the cold breeze mixed with sunshine is the perfect combination making this hike very enjoyable. Thanks to sun exposure the trail is also not prone to icing.
The second and more important reason is the views! You can look down into the larch-filled valley for almost the entirety of the hike. An odd larch tree here and there will guide you along the trail and offer perfect photo opportunities.
Head over to my detailed post about the Dürrenstein summit hike to learn everything you need to know about this trail.
Afternoon: Lago Di Braies
If you still have some steam left in your legs, you can go on a 2-hour stroll around Lake Braies. There are some fantastic viewpoints along the way.
If your legs are done for the day, then just go to the jetty, sit down and enjoy the views! With some luck, you will see Seekofel – the mountain, at which foot lies Lago di Braies, reflecting in the lake.
Lake Braies is a tourist hot spot and quite frankly I am not a big fan of this place, but I understand it attracts hundreds of tourists per day for a reason. Access to the lake is very easy. You can just drive up to it and park your car at one of the (overpriced) parking lots.
Getting a parking spot in the height of the summer season borders a miracle, but during Fall you shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever.
Couple it with the fiery larches gracing the slopes of the mountains right down to the lake and you will quickly forget about the rest of the crowds roaming around the lake.
Read my post about Lago Di Braies for tips about visiting this magical place.
Day 1 total driving distance: 51.9 km
- Dobiacco to Durrenstein trailhead (rifugio Pratto Piazzo parking lot) – 20 km
- Durrenstein trailhead to Lago Di Braies – 16.2 km
- Lago Di Braies to Dobiacco: 15.7 km
Day 2 – Tre Cime National Park and Croda Fiscalina Circuit
Today will be another intensive day following one of my personal favourite hikes in the Dolomites: The Croda Fiscalina circuit.
It will be a day packed with fantastic views of Croda Dei Toni, Croda Rossa, Monte Paterno and most importantly – Tre Cime – the iconic photography spot of the Dolomites!
On top of that, you will visit Val Fiscalina and Val Sassovechhio – two larch-filled valleys through which the hiking path leads.
What’s great about this hike is that it offers a great alternative approach to the Locatelli hut, where you get the famous views of the Tre Cime.
Day 2 total driving distance – 34 km
- Dobiacco to Val Fiscalina – 17 km
- Val Fiscalina to Dobiacco – 17 km
Accommodation in Dobiacco for nights 1 and 2
Day 3: Lakes, viewpoints & Cortina D’Ampezzo – the crown jewel town of the Dolomites
After two intensive hiking days, it’s time for a more relaxed one. Today it will be mostly about driving and visiting some of the easy to get to scenic locations before another action-packed day.
Today’s most important stops will be:
If I was to pick a favourite lake in the Dolomites, Lake Dobiacco would be a big contender for being at the top.
There is a great walking path which takes you around the lake and requires ca. 1 hour to complete. A great option for families with small kids!
Lago Di Landro
Drive further 10 minutes along road no. 51 and you will see parking on the left-hand side with a beautiful turquoise lake right next to it. That’s Lago di Landro. Blink and you will miss it.
In October the water level in the lake might be very low but the turquoise colour remains and it contrasts beautifully against the larch trees growing along the slopes of the surrounding mountains.
Another famous alpine lake in the Dolomites and a great autumn photography spot.
Lake Antorno offers reflections of the southern side of the Tre Cime peaks. They look nothing alike in comparison to the famous northern view.
This is a beloved photo spot for many photography tours so you might have to scramble a bit for good photo composition.
Cadini Di Misurina viewpoint
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked about this viewpoint I would be rich (or at least could buy myself dinner).
If it comes down to Instagram-able spots in the Dolomites, this one is number one. Now before you get too excited I do have to tell you that to get to this spot you will have to hike again and after two intense hiking days, you might want to stick to roadside viewpoints.
To get to the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint you need to start the hike at rifugio Auronzo and follow signs for rifugio Fonda Savio along path 117. The path is extremely easy to follow and well-marked. I explain it in more detail in this post.
The road to the Auronzo refuge is a toll road only opened at certain hours of the day (exit is possible at any time). It also isn’t cheap. At ca. 30 Euros/car, it’s one of the most expensive stretches of road you will ever drive on.
The drive is beautiful though. Particularly in October. There are several viewpoints, where you will be able to capture the beautiful autumn colours, like in the photo above.
Monte Cristallo’s viewpoint (optional)
After visiting the area around Lake Antorno and rifugio Auronzo keep driving towards Cortina D’Ampezzo. Ca. 14 kilometres into the drive you will find yourself on the Tre Croci mountain pass.
This is where you will find the trailhead for the famous hike to Lake Sorapiss. During the autumn season, the lake almost completely dries out, hence I don’t recommend hiking all the way to it.
However, I do encourage you to walk the first 30 minutes of the trail to get to the beautiful viewpoint of Monte Cristallo, pictured above.
Day 3 total driving distance – 48.9 km
- Dobiacco to Lago Di Dobiacco – 3.8 km
- Lago Di Dobiacco to Lago Di Landro – 8.6 km
- Lago Di Landro to Lago Antorno – 9.1 km
- Lago Antorno to Rifugio Auronzo – 5.6 km
- Rifugio Auronzo to Passo Tre Croci – 13.7 km
- Passo Tre Croci to Cortina D’Ampezzo – 8.1 km
Day 4 – Croda Da Lago Circuit
I hope you are well rested for another adventure. When people ask me about the absolute-must-do fall hikes in the Dolomites, the Croda Da Lago circuit is always my first answer.
The Croda Da Lago circuit leads through a dense larch forest eventually bringing you to the shoreline of Lago Federa. Thousands of larch trees grow along the shoreline of the lake creating a beautiful atmosphere during autumn.
There is a mountain refuge built right near the lake. Whilst most huts close for the season by the third week of September, rifugio Palmieri usually stays open all the way till November!
This is your chance to experience the Dolomiti mountain hut culture and even stay in the hut overnight, should you wish to do so. Just make sure to reserve it before!
Day 4 total driving distance: 20 km
- Cortina D’Ampezzo to Croda Da Lago Circuit trailhead – 10 km
- Croda Da Lago Circuit trailhead to Cortina D’Ampezzo – 10 km
Accommodation in Cortina for nights 3 and 4
Day 5 – Col De La Puina
The hike to Col De La Puina was my recent discovery thanks to a fellow local traveller and his youtube channel – Bruno Pisani. If you would like to see some stunning video footage from the Dolomites make sure to check it out.
Col De La Puina lies within very close proximity to rifugio Citta di Fiume and offers killer views of one of the highest peaks of the Dolomites – Monte Pelmo.
This area really comes to life during autumn when the valleys below turn bright yellow and orange thanks to (you probably guessed it by now) many larch trees.
Head over to my article about the hike to Col De La Puina to learn all the details and view more photos.
Day 5 total driving distance – 53.7 km
- Cortina to Passo Giau – 18.9 km (31 min)
- Passo Giau to Col De La Puina trailhead – 18.1 km (28 min)
- Col De La Puina trailhead to Alleghe: 16.7 km (22 min)
Accommodation in Alleghe on night 5
Day 6 – Alleghe & Val Venegia
Alleghe is a small Dolomiti town and home to a beautiful glacial lake of the same name. The turquoise waters of the lake contrast beautifully against the yellow and orange trees growing along its shoreline.
You should stroll around the lake to get to the viewpoint of the town pictured above. I’ve marked it on the map. Monte Civetta, which can be seen across the lake, raises sharply 2000 vertical meters above it!
The walk along the shoreline is mostly flat and will only take an hour but make sure to also accommodate some time for photos.
After staying in Alleghe for a night and a morning stroll along the lake, you will make your way towards the Pale di San Martino range. Next on the itinerary is the walk through Val Venegia.
After hiking for the past two days you will appreciate the easy grade of this trail. It goes gently through the valley and even though the effort is minimal you will still be rewarded with amazing views of the jagged peaks of the Pale di San Martino range.
It only takes a couple of hours round trip with minimal elevation gain to complete the hike through Val Venegia. Consider day 6 to be another rest day.
Bring some food with you and have a picnic near rifugio Venegia. Unfortunately, it will already be shut at this time of the year, but there are still benches outside for you to take a break and enjoy the views.
After break head back to the car the same way you came and keep driving to Fiera di Primero across Passo Rolle.
Day 6 driving distances
- Alleghe to Val Venegia trailhead – 33 km
- Val Venegia to Fiera Di Primero – 33 km
Accommodation in Fiera Di Primero on night 6:
Day 7: Lake Welspberg & Monte Castellaz
Morning: Lake Welspberg and Val Canali
Begin day 7 of this autumn Dolomiti itinerary with a morning visit to Lago Welspberg. This little lake is only 10 minutes away from Fiera di Primero.
You can either walk around this tiny lake (ca. 20 mins) or drive further into the valley and spend some time within the towering southern peaks of the Pale di San Martino range.
Afternoon: Passo Rolle and hike to Monte Castellaz
Return to Fiera di Primero for lunch before driving back up to Passo Rolle for the afternoon hike.
Next on the itinerary is the little summit of Monte Castellaz connected with late afternoon or sunset at Baita Segantini before the descent back to the car.
Keep driving to Val Gardena.
Day 8 driving distances
- Fiera Di Primero to lake Welspberg and back – 10 km
- Fiera Di Primero to Passo Rolle (Monte Castellaz trailhead) – 22 km
- Passo Rolle to Ortisei in Val Gardena – 79 km
Day 8: Val Gardena
Today will be relaxed, but you should take it easy and regain your strength for the following day, which I will get to soon.
Begin with the gondola right up to Seceda ridgeline’s viewpoint. Spend some time taking photos before descending back down to town.
For absolute hiking freaks, you can still plan a hike around the Puez Odle altiplano, but the Seceda viewpoint is definitely a highlight.
There is a cable car from Ortisei up to the viewpoint which now stays open until the beginning of November. Check its official website for times and prices.
Drive to the trailhead of Vallunga and take a walk for an hour or two through the stunning valley, which comes to life during the autumn season.
How long you choose to walk is entirely up to you. When I followed this itinerary I gave myself an hour there and an hour back.
Similar to Val Venegia this is a very easy walk with minimal elevation gain, so you won’t break a sweat. Visit my guide to the Vallunga hike to learn all the details.
Sunset at Passo Gardena
End day 8 with a sunset on Passo Gardena with a view down into the valley and towards Sassolungo. This is the mountain you will be circling around on the next day’s hike.
Day 8 total driving distance – 39.8 km
- Ortisei to Vallunga trailhead – 9.2 km
- Vallunga trailhead to Passo Gardena – 12.2 km
- Passo Gardena to Ortisei – 18.4 km
Day 9 – Sassolungo circuit
Begin the day with a drive to Passo Sella, where the trailhead for your next hike is – the Sassolungo Circuit.
This is a full-day excursion so come prepared! Unfortunately, all mountain huts along this route will already be closed for the season, so it’s essential that you carry enough water and food to last for the day.
Sassolungo circuit has quite a bit of elevation gain and loss, but because it spreads across 17 kilometres it never gets too steep.
Enjoy the views of Marmolada, Rosengarten, Alpi Di Siusi, larch-filled Val Di Fassa and Val Gardena. A feast for the eyes!
Day 9 driving distances total – 34 km
- Ortisei to Passo Sella – 17 km
- Passo Sella to Ortisei – 17 km
Accommodation in Val Gardena on nights 7,8 and 9
Day 10 – Val Di Funes
You made it to your last day. It’s time to unwind a bit. After all, this was quite an intense week and a half.
I thought long and hard about how to wrap this autumn road trip plan across the Dolomites and thought that Val di Funes cannot be left out.
Morning: Santa Maddalena village in Val Di Funes
The view of the Seceda ridgeline from the Santa Maddalena village during autumn is special as the yellow larch trees weave through the pine forest. Due to the lower elevation, compared to other locations included in this itinerary, autumn comes here a little later.
That’s why it’s good to leave it for last.
When you get to the Santa Maddalena village, first make sure to check out the view of St Giovanni chapel.
Afterwards, you have a couple of options:
- Head onto the easy panorama trail through the village.
- If you are still up for a hike, I highly recommend tackling the Adolf Munkel Trail.
Afternoon/evening: sunset at Passo Delle Erbe
End your autumn road trip through the Dolomites with a sunset at Passo Delle Erbe and watch the last light hitting the peaks of Sass Di Putia. Passo Delle Erbe is another 30-minute drive from Santa Maddalena village on a windy mountain road.
Day 10 total driving distance – 73.1 km
- Ortisei to Santa Maddalena – 33.7 km
- Santa Maddalena to Passo Delle Erbe – 19.7 km
- Passo Delle Erbe to Santa Maddalena – 19.7 km
Accommodation in Santa Maddalena on night 10
How to shorten this itinerary to 7 days
As mentioned previously, whilst I think 10 days is an optimal time for this road trip I understand that not everyone can travel for an extended period of time. Here are 3 options for you to make the trip shorter:
Option 1: Follow the itinerary as normal for the first 4 days then from Cortina head straight to Val Gardena and stay here for the next 3 nights.
Option 2: Start your itinerary in Cortina instead and cut out the first 3 days.
Option 3: Finish the road trip in Fiera Di Primero and from there head back to the airport or wherever you started.
The summary of towns visited along this itinerary
|Name of the town||Number of nights|
|Fiera Di Primero||1|
|Ortisei in Val Gardena||3|
That’s a wrap! I hope you will have an amazing time following this epic autumn road trip plan around the Dolomites. If you have any questions make sure to post them in the comments below! I answer all comments personally.
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