The summit of Dürrenstein was on my list from the first moment I set my 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!
Dürrenstein summit hike: the stats
- 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
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
Below 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?
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
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 kilometres 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 a 30-minute interval.
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 the departure times.
You can reach the Brückele bus stop by public bus from Monguelfo or Villabassa.
When to hike to the summit of Dürrenstein?
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 colours in the surrounding valleys.
In fact, 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 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.
Facilities along the trail
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
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 definitely 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 really 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 favourite 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 dark olive colour.
Hydrapak water bladder – Make sure to bring lots of water on this hike. I always carry a minimum of 3 litres with me and another 0.5-litre pouch for my dog – Jasper. There is no possibility to fill up water along the trail.
Where to stay nearby
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 mids of nature with beautiful surrounding mountains views, then check a few of my recommendations below! I would really appreciate it if you use my affiliate links to support my site!
Other things and hikes to experience nearby
- Lago Di Braies circuit
- Seekofel summit
- Lago Dobiacco
- Val Fiscalina day hike
- Monguelfo Chocolate Festival