A Day Hike To The Summit Of Dürrenstein – One Of The Greatest Lookout Peaks In The Dolomites

The summit of Dürrenstein was on my list from the first moment I set foot in the Dolomites. I have heard and read about it countless times, but somehow always pushed it to the back of my never-ending Dolomiti bucket list. I always knew I wanted to do it in the fall to avoid the crowds and during my last autumn visit, I finally managed to tick it off. My only regret is not doing it sooner, because the summit views were so worth it! 

Everything to know about the Dürrenstein Summit Day Hike

Dürrenstein summit hike: the stats

Guide to Dürrenstein summit day hike in the Italian Dolomites
  • Distance roundtrip – 10,2 km / 6.34 miles 
  • Time required – 5-7 hours 
  • Total Ascent – 873 meters / 2582 feet
  • Type of hike – out and back
  • When to go: Mid-June – October
  • Parking 1: Brückele/Ponticello
  • Parking 2: Platzwiese
  • Trail number: 40
  • Map required: Tabacco 03 (Cortina D’Ampezzo) or 31 (Pragser Dolomiten)

About Dürrenstein

Durrenstein 27
photo: Oliwia Papatanasis

Dürrenstein or in Italian Picco di Vallandro is a mountain in the Fannes Sennes Braies Natural Park in the South Tirol region of the Italian Dolomites. The most famous landmark of the park, which I am sure you have heard of, is Lago Di Braies. 

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

The map of the hike

Above you can see the path I followed from the car park to the summit. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.

How difficult is the hike to the summit of Picco di Vallandro?

Durrenstein 25

For the most part, the hike to the summit is moderate. It’s certainly not the easiest of hikes, but thanks to the good boot-beaten path, the trail is very easy to follow. 

The challenge comes with sun exposure. The Dolomites can get pretty hot during the summer season. Hiking all day in a 20-30-degree sun can be exhausting. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to put off the Dürrenstein hike for later in autumn. 

Another obstacle is the summit push. There are some chains installed between the two summits (see photo above). If you are not comfortable with scrambling you can turn around on the first summit and skip the chains altogether.

How to get to the trailhead

Durrenstein 1

Getting to the trailhead by car

There are two parking lots for hiking the Dürrenstein. One is close to the rifugio Prato Piazza, only a few meters away from the trailhead and it’s free.

The second one is 6 kilometers lower at the Brückele/Ponticello Parking area (paid – bring cash), near Alpin Natur Hotel Brückele. 

Important: The parking lot directly near the trailhead can only be reached within certain hours. The road stays open to public traffic until 9 am. After that, the gates shut and the only way to reach the trailhead is by using the shuttle bus. 

Get there early as the parking spaces at the top are limited to around 100 cars. There is no access to large campervans. If you are driving an RV, leave it in the bottom parking lot and use the shuttle bus.

The road to Rifugio Prato Piazza is very windy and narrow. If you don’t feel comfortable driving on these kinds of roads, also consider using the shuttle. 

Getting to the trailhead by bus

During the summer season (end of June – ca. Mid September) a shuttle bus runs between the two parking lots at 30-minute intervals. 

The name of the departure stop is Ausserprags (Prags) Brückele and the arrival stop is called Ausserprags (Prags), Plaetzwiese. 

Check the Süd Tirol Mobil website for departure times. You can reach the Brückele bus stop by public bus from Monguelfo or Villabassa. 

When to hike to the summit of Dürrenstein?

Durrenstein 23

If you are using public transport to get to the trailhead then you are limited to hiking the trail between the end of June and ca. mid-September. 

If you hike it in the summer then make sure to go as early as possible to avoid the midday heat and the afternoon storms.

If you do have a car then you can hike it as late as October. I hiked it with my friend in the second half of October and we still had amazing weather conditions. We had the summit all to ourselves and enjoyed the autumn colors in the surrounding valleys.

I loved hiking Dürrenstein in October so much, that I decided to include it on my autumn road trip itinerary across the Dolomites.

What can you see from the summit of Dürrenstein?

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

To the east, you can spot Tre Cime – the iconic Dolomiti photo spot

My favorite however is the view of the Monte Cristallo range to the south. Monte Cristallo is home to two iconic Dolomiti via ferratas: Marino Bianchi and Ivano Dibona.

Facilities along the trail

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Rifugio Prato Piazza is located circa 15 minutes from the parking lot, however, like many other huts in the Dolomites, it only stays open from the end of June until the third week of September during the summer season. 

You can stay overnight in the hut, or use its restaurant facilities and try local Tyrolean cuisine after completing the hike.

Dürrenstein Summit trail description

The whole route from the parking lot to the summit follows path no. 40 and it’s marked with red and white paint marks. 

From the parking lot/bus stop first, follow the signs for Rifugio Pratto Piazza. The hut is visible from the bus stop. Once you reach the hut you will see signs pointing to the summit of Dürrenstein. 

The first part of the hike climbs steadily through the high plateau pastures, where you can spot cows grazing in the fields. If like me you hike with a dog, keep it leashed at all times. 

Around 1 hour into the hike the path steepens until it reaches a short ridgeline. From the ridgeline, the last few zig-zags lead to the first summit. 

From the first summit, you have to downclimb a short cable section to a col and follow the last hundred meters to the second summit with a big cross at the top.

What to bring and wear on a hike

Durrenstein 15

Trekking Poles – I never leave the parking lot without my trusted pair of Black Diamond Carbon trekking poles. They are extremely lightweight (only 300 grams a pair) yet easily handle any type of environment I find myself in.

Hiking Boots – There is a lot of scree the higher you go on the hike. You need a good and sturdy pair of hiking boots. I highly recommend the Hanwag Alverstone boots which I have been testing for the past year and am happy with.

Down jacket – even though the hike is very sun-exposed it still gets quite cold at the summit. I always carry my down jacket or down vest in the backpack with me. I’ve linked above to a few of my favorite down jacket brands

Revolution Race hiking trousers – my go-to brand for hiking trousers. They have an excellent price-to-quality ratio and their designs are innovative without compromising comfort or durability. In the pictures, you can see me wearing their GP Pro Rescue Pants in a dark olive color.

Hydrapak water bladder  – Make sure to bring lots of water on this hike. I always carry a minimum of 3 liters with me and another 0.5-liter pouch for my dog – Jasper. There is no possibility to fill up water along the trail.

Where to stay nearby 

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There are plenty of hotel choices in the nearby valleys, very close to all the attractions of the Fannes Senne Braies Natural Park. If you want to be in the middle of nature with beautiful surrounding mountain views, then check a few of my recommendations below! I would appreciate it if you use my affiliate links to support my site!

Other things and hikes to experience nearby

Alta Via 1 Extension Croda Del Becco 6
Sunrise from the summit of Seekofel with Dürrenstein in the background

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If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

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.

5 Comments

  1. Great information. I’m planning to visit Prato Piazza by car in the first week of October and I looked at the street view on the map for the road going from Ponticello to the upper 100 car parking at Prato Piazza. I have a question: Isn’t that road too narrow for a 2 way traffic, especially that buses go there too, these days I understood that bus 443 from Dobbiaco goes all the way up to the 100 car parking. Is 2 way traffic manageable on that portion of the road? Thank you.

  2. Hi Marta,

    Thank you very much for the very interesting article! I have one more question: How did you manage to hike this route with a dog? Especially the part where you have to cross the rope-secured spot. That looks pretty difficult with a dog to me. My dog is big and trained, but I’m still not sure how doable the hike is with dog.

    Thanks in advance and best,
    Nati

    • Hi Nati. Thanks so much for your feedback. My dog is way more agile than I am. He is a mountain goat in a dogs skin 🙂 Jokes aside though I always have him on a harness and a bungee leash and wear a harness myself which helps tremendously. There were times when I had to turn around when the route was too much, but Durrenstein was actually ok, and the cable protected section is not as tough as it looks on the photo. There were plenty of footholds that both Jasper and I could use to walk up and down on. In rare cases on some hikes I have to assist him or watch out that he doesn’t pull me off the ledge or anything like that. That was the case with Romsdalseggen in Norway which I wouldn’t do with a dog again. I also taught him to always stay behind me when we hike down. That way he isn’t pulling me.

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