The 11 Best Autumn Day Hikes in The Italian Dolomites.

Autumn is my favourite hiking season in the Dolomites. The summer haze is finally gone and the sunrises are back to sociable hours, which means I don’t have to be up at 4 AM to capture a decent photo or to escape the heat.

With daytime temperatures still hovering in the high teens during October, there is a plethora of autumn day hikes in the Dolomites to be tackled. Below I present to you some of my personal top picks!

If you are planning a visit to the Dolomites during the fall and don’t know where to start, a lot of these hikes feature in my Dolomiti autumn road trip itinerary.

When is the best time to see autumn colours in the Dolomites?

Having spent two autumn seasons in the Dolomites I can safely say that the best time to see the foliage is between mid-October and the first week of November.

The peak colours usually appear between October 20th and October 31st. This can shift slightly from year to year depending on how hot and dry the summer season was.

It is also dependent on elevation. In higher places such as mountain passes autumn arrives earlier. In the valleys, the foliage comes a week or two later.

1. Dürrenstein / Picco Di Vallandro

Best Autumn Day Hikes In The Italian Dolomites

Dürrenstein (in Italian Picco Di Vallandro) reaches the height of 2842 m a.s.l. (9324 feet) and it is one of the most accessible mountain summits in the South Tyrol region of the Italian Dolomites attracting hundreds of visitors each day during the summer season.

This hike was sitting on my to-do list for a couple of hiking seasons. I knew it is very sun-exposed and unfortunately, the sun and I aren’t the best of friends. The same goes for my furry best friend pictured above.

I also wanted to hike the Dürrenstein when the crowds subside a bit hence I chose the second part of October for it.

My timing couldn’t have been better. The valleys filled with yellow larch trees and the peaks covered in light dust of fresh snow definitely make Picco Di Valandro a must-do autumn day hike.

The highlights of the Dürrenstein hike

Durrenstein 29

The summit of Picco di Vallandro offers 360 degrees views over the surrounding peaks. To the north, the snow-covered Austrian Alps are stretching for kilometres. 

To the east, you can spot Tre Cime – the iconic Dolomiti photo spot, as well as some of Dolomite’s highest peaks: Monte Pelmo or Civetta. My favourite however is the view of the Monte Cristallo range to the south (pictured above).

The Dürrenstein hike stats:

  • Total distance: 10,2 km / 6.3 mi 
  • Elevation gain: 873 meters / 2582 feet
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Time required: 5-7 hours 
  • Nearest towns: Monguelfo, Dobiacco, San Candido

2. Sassolungo Circuit

Sassolungo Circuit 93

Circuit-type hikes belong to my favourites. The ever-changing mountain scenery and the undulating nature of these trails are what appeal to me the most.

Sassolungo circuit, though long and with a quite significant elevation gain never feels too strenuous.

Sassolungo stands high above two valleys: Val Di Fassa and Val Gardena. Thanks to hiking above 2000 meters for the entirety of the trail you are always looking at fantastic views below.

The highlights of the Sassolungo Circuit Hike

Sassolungo Circuit 3


Marmolada – Dolomite’s highest peak, Rosengarten group and the 90-degree walls of the Sella group are just some of the views you will get to admire on this hike.

At halfway point of the hike, the plane of the famous Alpi Di Siusi will be right ahead of you. You probably have seen photos from it countless times. It’s a beloved autumn photography spot amongst travellers visiting the area.

Brief info for the Sassolungo circuit hike:

  • Total distance: 16.7 km / 10.4 mi 
  • Elevation gain: 787 m / 2720 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required: 5-6 hours
  • Nearest towns: Canazei, Campitelo Di Fassa, Santa Cristina, Ortisei

3. Vallunga

Vallunga 1

Sometimes your knees need a break from those challenging summits and downhill battles when hiking back down. I know mine do.

Vallunga is a perfect choice for an autumn hike in the Dolomites, especially if you need to give your legs a rest, but still want to see some stunning scenery. You won’t break a sweat on this one, I promise!

The Lunga valley branches of the famous Gardena valley. It seems to have escaped from under the tourist radar. During Fall I only met a few locals walking their dogs or riding their bikes along the trail.

Why is Vallunga a great autumn day hike?

Vallunga 12

From the moment you step onto this trail during the autumn season, you will experience the colourful foliage, as thousands of larch trees grow on the steep slopes of the surrounding peaks.

With plenty of extension possibilities to turn it into a full-day circuit hike or even an overnight hut stay, the great thing about the Vallunga trail is that you can make it as long or short as you want it.

Brief info for the Vallunga hike

  • Total distance:  9 km / 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 230 meters /  755 feet
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 2-3  hours
  • Nearest towns: Santa Cristina in Val Gardena, Ortisei

4. Monte Castellaz

Monte Castellaz 13

Let’s travel to one of my favourite regions in the Dolomites – the Pale Di San Martino range.

Monte Castellaz is a neat little summit in the northern part of the range. The hike is accessible from Passo Rolle.

With only circa 450 meters of elevation gain, it might not sound exciting enough, but the views from the summit prove otherwise.

Why is Monte Castellaz a great autumn day hike?

Monte Castellaz 6

A beautiful panoramic view over the famous Cima Della Palla and Cima Della Vezzana in the Pale Di San Martino Range will stretch right ahead when you stand on the summit of Monte Castellaz. If you are lucky dust of fresh snow will already be covering the peaks.

Below the summit is the Venegia valley, where Larch trees grow in abundance. During autumn they turn into a golden carpet made of trees.

The fact that you stay above the treeline for the whole hike means that you will be in the sun a lot and trust me, there is nothing better than a warm autumn sun!

Brief stats for the Monte Castellaz hike

  • Total distance:  9 km / 5.6  mi
  • Elevation gain: 468 meters /  1535 feet
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate
  • Time required: 3 – 4 hours 
  • Nearest towns: San Martino Di Castrozza, Fiera Di Primero

5. Val Venegia

Val Venegia Hike Dolomites 49
photo: Oliwia Papatanasis

Another gem with jaw-dropping views of the Pale di San Martino range and yet a great and painless autumn day hike is the Val Venegia trail in the Italian Dolomites.

Val Venegia hike can actually be classified as a simple walk. It doesn’t require much preparation and it’s one of those hikes where people won’t look at you in a weird way if you show up in your jeans and trainers.

The elevation gain is hardly noticeable along this trail, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it!

Why is Val Venegia a great autumn hike?

Val Venegia 11
Photo by Oliwia Papatanasis

I know I will repeat myself when I say this, but larch trees are the reason you should hike this trail during autumn.

Larch trees are the only coniferous trees in the World which lose their needles in preparation for the winter season. This is preceded by them turning from golden yellow to bright orange during the Fall.

It seems like every square meter of the slopes surrounding Venegia valley is covered by larch trees. This paired with the jagged peaks of the Pale di San Martino range, peaking above, creates stunning views.

Brief stats for the Val Venegia hike

  • Total distance:  6.6 km / 4.1 mi
  • Elevation gain: 150 m / 492 ft
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 1.5-2 hours
  • Nearest towns: San Martino Di Castrozza, Fiera Di Primero, Pie’ Falcade

6. Col De La Puina

Col De La Peina 153

Col De La Puina is a ridgeline located just north of Mount Pelmo, one of the highest peaks in the Dolomites. To the east, it looks into the Fiorentina valley and to the North into the Zoldo Valley.

This autumn day hike is perfect for an afternoon outing when the sun is hovering low over the surrounding peaks, creating a beautiful golden hour atmosphere.

Make sure to study the map in my Col De La Puina hiking guide before you venture on this trail, as it’s rather easy to veer off the unofficial path.

The highlights of the Col De La Puina hike

Col De La Peina 327

Standing on the Col De La Puina ridgeline with the towering Monte Pelmo above me or watching the last light hitting the pyramid-shaped Monte Antelao were some of the best moments I experienced on the Col De La Puina hike.

I stayed until the blue hour and captured very candid images on the ridgeline that are now some of my favourite shots from the Dolomites.

A brief info for Col De La Puina hike

  • Total distance:  7.2 km / 4.47 mi
  • Elevation gain: 550 m / 1800 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required:  2.5 – 3 h
  • Nearest towns: Pescul, Selva Di Cadore, Mareson-Pecol

7. Croda Da Lago Circuit

Lago Federa Autumn 1

If you are looking for the ultimate autumn day hike in the Italian Dolomites this is it. It’s always my number one recommendation!

In recent years this hike has risen to fame significantly and it is not as quiet as I remember it. Most people only hike to the lake and back to the trailhead. If you have the day to spare then do consider doing the whole Croda Da Lago circuit.

Why is Croda Da Lago a great autumn day hike?

Croda da Lago Circuit 2 1

Can you guess it by now? The larch trees of course! But not only that. Lago Federa, one of the stops along the circuit is definitely the most photogenic place offering reflections of the surrounding peaks.

The added bonus is the Palmieri mountain hut built on its shoreline. It remains open as far as early November allowing hikers to stay there overnight before continuing with the hike the next day.

If you would like to experience a night in a mountain refuge learn the ins and out of staying in the alpine huts in the Dolomites.

Brief info for the Croda Da Lago circuit hike

  • Total distance:  12.5 km / 7.8 mi
  • Elevation gain: 759 m / 2500 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required: 5-6 hours
  • Nearest towns: Cortina D’Ampezzo

8. Lake Sorapiss

Lake Sorapiss Monte Cristallo viewpoint 1

I am going to sound very cliché when I write this, but sometimes the hike isn’t about the destination, but about the journey.

Whilst the turquoise Lake Sorapiss is the ultimate target for hundreds of people who do this trail daily during the summer season, for me, it’s the views along the way that make this trail a perfect choice for an autumn hike in the Dolomites.

The highlights of the Lake Sorapiss trail

The best viewpoint along the Lake Sorapiss trail is of Monte Cristallo circa 30 minutes into the trail.

During autumn the mountain is beautifully framed by the sea of yellow and orange larch trees. There are also several more viewpoints along the trail which look down into the valleys.

The water in the lake itself has a very low level during autumn, sometimes it almost disappears completely. This is something you should bear in mind when hiking this trail during Fall.

A friend of mine and a fellow blogger, Paulina, captured some awesome shots of Lake Sorapiss during the Fall season.

Brief stats for the Lake Sorapiss hike

  • Total distance:  14 km / 8.7 mi
  • Elevation gain: 460 m / 1500 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required: 4 hours
  • Nearest towns: Cortina D’Ampezzo, Misurina

9. Croda Fiscalina Circuit

Croda Fiscalina Circuit 1 2

This is the longest and toughest autumn day hike on this list. Croda Fisalina is located in the North part of the well-known Tre Cime National Park.

This part of the park receives a lot fewer visitors than its southern counterpart, where the Three Peaks are located and during autumn almost none.

You can expect to spend the whole day hiking this circuit with tons of breaks you will be taking to capture the magnificent views along the way.

Why is Croda Fisalina Circuit a great autumn day hike?

Croda Fiscalina Circuit 1 3

My favourite thing about the Croda Fisalina circuit is that it gives one the ability to hike to rifugio Locatelli and its famous deck-view of the Three Peaks along a much quieter path compared to Tre Cime Circuit.

The first couple of hours of the hike is spent in the larch-filled Fisalina valley and the last two in the equally beautiful Sassovecchio valley.

Brief info for the Croda Fisalina circuit hike

  • Total distance:  19.2 km / 11.9 mi
  • Elevation gain: 1180 m / 3870 ft
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Time required: 7-8 hours
  • Nearest towns: Sesto, San Candido, Moos, Dobiacco

10. Lago Di Braies Circuit

Lago Di Braies Circuit 1

If you haven’t heard of Lago di Braies then you must have been living under a rock.

Lago di Braies together with Tre Cime and Seceda ridgeline are the holly trio of must-see places amongst the first-time visitors to the Dolomites, with the lake being the busiest of all.

The only way to experience a bit of solitude by the lake is to venture on the easy circuit trail which runs along its shoreline.

Why is the Lago di Braies circuit a great autumn day hike?

Lago di Braies autumn 2

The calm and mirror-like waters, the crispy mountain air and the sun rays cutting through the peaks, this is why you should put off hiking the Lago di Braies circuit until autumn.

If that’s not enough you can expect a significantly lower visitor number to Lago Di Braies during the Fall.

Need I say more?

Brief info for the Lago Di Braies circuit

  • Total distance:  4 km / 2.5 mi
  • Elevation gain: 50 m / 165 feet
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Nearest towns: Monguelfo, Dobiacco, San Candido

11. Passo Falzarego to Cinque Torri via Lago Limedes

The explosion of autumn colours in the area of Passo Falzarego is unreal. There are so many trails around here leaving in all directions that it might be difficult for a first-time visitor to pick just one.

I recommend parking your car at Passo Falzarego and heading in the direction of Lago Limides first along path no. 441.

Whilst the lake won’t be there anymore (it dries out), there are plenty of fantastic viewpoints along the way of Sass De Stria or Tofane Di Rozes.

Path 441 will take you all the way to the Averau Refuge around Monte Averau. From here you can descend down to Cinque Torri on path 439. Spend some time exploring the area and the war trenches, before returning to Passo Falzarego first on path 440 then 424.

This will form a nice circuit and will give you plenty of opportunities to photograph autumn foliage around the Passo Falzarego area.

Brief info for the hike

  • Total distance:  ca. 10km / 6.2 mi
  • Elevation gain: ca. 400 m / 1312 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 3-4 hours
  • Nearest towns: Cortina D’Ampezzo

More travel resources for the Italian Dolomites

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.

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