To me it’s not just down to the obvious – the vast array of the fall colours and contrasts.
Not being a morning person, autumn usually allows me to sleep a couple of hours longer before the sun rises, because let’s face it, 4 a.m. sunrises in the summer are no fun!
With cooler temperatures, it also brings a relief from the summer. Who else doesn’t enjoy hiking, when it’s hotter than 20 degrees Celsius? Or I am just weird?
Last year when travelling through the Dolomites I made sure that the majority of my time spent there was during the Fall and today I am bringing you the countdown of my favourite autumn photography locations.
What’s the best month to see the autumn colours in the Dolomites?
Before I get to the countdown let me answer an important question to which a lot of you may seek an answer. When is the best time to visit to see the fall colours in the Dolomites?
This can slightly vary from year to year, depending on how the summer was, as well as how quickly the cold weather arrives.
From what I have observed and researched, the fall starts to slowly creep in at the end of September or early October at higher elevations. The peak autumn colours however appear between mid-October and early November.
That’s also when the majority of the photos in this post were taken.
If you plan an autumn hiking and photography road trip around the Dolomites, make sure to check out my itinerary!
My Favourite Autumn Photography Locations In The Italian Dolomites
1. Along the road to rifugio Auronzo
The road to the Auronzo refuge offers the easiest and quickest access to the most visited National Park in the Dolomites – Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Since it’s a private road, you have to pay 30 Euro (45 for a campervan) to drive on it.
What you will gain in return is access to the top day hikes, via ferratas and some of the most iconic photography spots in the Dolomites.
The road takes you from Lago Antorno, through the Cadin di Longeres valley filled with larches. There are a couple of viewpoints, where you can stop safely to snap a photo without interfering with traffic.
My favourite (pictured above) is located a short walk away from the parking lot near rifugio Auronzo, back toward the valley where the road runs.
In the summer season, there are buses operating a few times daily from Lago Antorno to Rifugio Auronzo, but if you want to visit in the Fall when the mountain huts are shut, you will either have to pay the fee or hike from the valley bottom.
2. Along the lake Sorapiss trail
When I first hiked this trail at the start of September I observed that the valley, where the pathway runs, is filled with larch trees.
Larches are actually very common in the Dolomites. For those who might not know, they are the only conifers, that loose needles for the winter. During the autumn transition, they bear the most incredible shades of yellows and oranges.
The Lake Sorapiss trail, the first half an hour of it in particular, crosses a couple of great viewpoints. The best one is Monte Cristallo framed with the larch forest, with a stream running below (photo above)
3. Val Di Funes
Val Di Funes is one of the most popular year-round photography spots in the Dolomites. Particularly the little church of San Giovanni with the Seceda ridgeline towering over it (photo bottom left).
There is a pine forest interwoven with larch trees in the background.
However, my personal favorite spot to give this place justice in autumn is the viewpoint of the second church – Santa Maddalena. To access it you will need to walk from town. The road you can see in the photo above is private and inaccessible to tourist traffic.
The good news is, it only takes around 20 minutes from the town’s parking lot to walk to this spot.
4. Along the hike to Cinque Torri
When hiking along the trail to Cinque Torri you will again pass through a larch forest. As you gain elevation the views will open up towards the valley unveiling some interesting photo compositions.
A dome-shaped peak going by the name Tofane di Rozes, famous for the via ferrata Giovianni Lipella going to its summit, will probably catch your eye too.
This is a spot, where you can let your creativity run wild. The Cinque Torri itself is worth exploring, but don’t obsess over it, when there is so much else you can photograph here, especially during the autumn season.
5. Alpe Di Siusi
During my 12 weeks spent in the Dolomites summer and autumn of 2018, I tried many times to visit this particular spot, but my plans were always crippled by bad weather.
In a way, I am glad it happened, because I finally ended up seeing it on the verge of autumn and winter after the first snowfall, when the autumn colours were still prevalent on the larch trees dotted around the area. I don’t have to tell you how amazing it all looked!
Alpe di Siusi is a tricky area to visit, especially if you want to get there for sunrise or sunset. The access road is only open for traffic within particular hours and if you are caught driving on it outside of those hours, you are risking a hefty fine.
If you want to learn how to avoid it, then see my article about the most iconic spots in the Italian Dolomites, where I explain in detail how to visit Alpe di Siusi.
6. Along the Lago Di Braies circuit
I think autumn is the only time when I actually enjoyed hanging out at Lago di Braies. This place is so busy in the summer months, that the access road leading to it is stuffed with car traffic by 10 am, or sometimes even earlier.
If you are not fond of crowds, you should plan your trip to the Dolomites in October, particularly if you want to spend some time at this lake, without fighting for a spot to take a photo.
With that said, don’t expect to be alone here either. The photography community is growing in numbers and photo tours are popping up like mushrooms after the rain.
Photography tourists tend to obsess about getting the same shot as everyone else though, so the majority of them can be found right at the boat jetty, 100 meters away from the car park. It doesn’t take much though to get away from the crowds at Lago di Braies.
Just hike the Lago di Braies circuit early in the morning, which only takes an hour and you will be amazed by how quickly you can be away from the crowds, enjoying the beauty of this place.
7. Passo Gardena
Whether at sunrise or sunset, Passo Gardena is a must-see spot, particularly if you are travelling around the Dolomites during the autumn season.
There is a great beginner via ferrata to the summit of Gran Cir starting right at the pass. From the top, you will be able to look down at Sassolungo and the Sella mountain group.
The connecting valley is filled with larches and as you have learnt by now, they bring another level of epic to photographs, during the fall.
Passo Gardena connects the towns of Corvara and Selva di Val Gardena. Both are around a 20-30-minute drive along a very curvy road.
8. Val Fiorentina
When I was shooting at this viewpoint of the Fiorentina Valley and Mount Pelmo towering over it, autumn was still a few weeks away.
I promised myself to come back here when the larch trees in the valley turn yellow. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for me. Nevertheless, I decided to share this spot with you, in case you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path spot.
The tiny town visible in the distance is called Selva di Cadore. During the shoulder season months (mid-September – November) it turns into a ghost town, just as many other Dolomiti towns do.
The photo was taken from a roadside stop very near to the Colle Santa Lucia church. This view is seriously difficult to miss when driving along this road.
Last but not least, my personal favourite autumn photography spot in the Italian Dolomites – Lago Federa.
This high alpine lake can be reached within a couple of hours of hiking along the Croda Da Lago circuit trail.
Most mountain huts in the Dolomites are closed by the end of September, but Rifugio Palmieri, built on the shoreline of the lake, remains operational until early November to cater to guests who flock to this lake during the autumn months.
If you have some extra time I highly recommend staying overnight in this hut to be able to enjoy sunset and sunrise at the lake. You won’t regret it!
If you have questions for me regarding any of these locations, would like to share your own discoveries, or are planning a trip to the Dolomites and need help, let me know in the comments below! I am always happy to hear from you.
For more posts visit my photography, hiking and via ferrata guide to the Italian Dolomites.