The tunnel system within Monte Lagazuoi created during World War I, known as the Lagazuoi tunnels, is one of the most extensive in the Dolomites. Thanks to a European Union grant it’s one of the safest, most well-preserved, and most educational hikes you can do around here.
Everything to know about the Lagazuoi Tunnels Hike
1. What are the Lagazuoi Tunnels?
The area around Monte Lagazuoi was a fierce battleground between the Italian and Austria-Hungarian troops prior to and during World War I.
The story behind the engineering of the tunnels is incredibly shocking and at the same time, intriguing. A group of soldiers just guesstimated which direction they needed to go, mined the tunnels until they saw sunlight, judged their location, and repeated the process.
Tunnel collapses were common and dust inhalation due to lack of ventilation was a huge problem but the strategic advantage of Passo Falzarego was so important that the sacrifice of a few lives didn’t matter. Today the tunnels serve as a Museum site reminding of the atrocities of the War times.
2. Lagazuoi Tunnels Hike: The stats
- Distance one way: ca. 3km / 2 mi
- Walking time one way: 1.5-2 hours
- Type of hike: Challenging
- Elevation gain: 673 m / 2200 ft
- When to go: June – October
- Map: Tabacco 03 (Dolomiti Ampezzane)
3. How to get to the Lagazuoi tunnels trailhead?
The trail starts directly on the Falzarego mountain pass. The pass lies 15 kilometers (ca. 9 mi) west of Cortina D’Ampezzo or 15 kilometers southeast of the town of San Cassiano in Alta Badia.
It takes around 20 minutes to get to the pass from either of the towns. The drive involves many hairpin turns on sometimes narrow roads. There is a large parking area right beneath the Cable Car going up to Monte Lagazuoi, where you can park for the duration of the hike.
TIP: If you need to hire a car try Discover Cars – the best rental car search engine on the internet.
- From San Cassiano take bus no. 465. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes. Check the bus schedule on the Sued Tirol Mobil site.
- From Cortina D’Ampezzo take bus no. 030 to Passo Falzarego. Check the Moovit app to view the timetable.
4. What equipment to bring on the Lagazuoi tunnels hike?
The route within the tunnels can be steep at times, and the use of a handrail makes for an easier ascent, but you will need gloves to protect your hands from abrasions. As it is cold, and wet inside the tunnels, make sure to also have some extra layers with you.
5. Lagazuoi Tunnels Trail Description
The route starts on path no. 402. A wide gravel path begins at the far end of
the parking lot. The first 20 minutes of ascent are on scree switchbacks. The initial views are very rewarding, and I’d advise you to breathe them in
whilst you can because soon you’ll be underground.
When the path reaches a fork, the route up to the tunnels goes to the left. Don’t worry, it’s well-signposted. Once you reach the tunnel entry, put your helmet and your head torch on.
The tunnels are very well signposted to prevent hikers from getting lost.
Several different routes and vantage points can be taken and informative
placards adorn the most striking features such as former sleeping quarters, lookouts, and the mistakes soldiers made when mining their way through.
The tunnels inside the mountain are sometimes at a 45-degree angle and the
old wooden relics can still be admired alongside new safety grids and supports.
The tunnels are now well-ventilated and regularly checked for safety.
You can tackle the route in roughly 90 minutes but if you’re a keen history buff and want to read every single sign then it could easily take over 2 hours. Once you emerge from the tunnels the rest of the route up to Rifugio Lagazoui is up a few switchbacks, along former WW1 trenches.
From the top gondola station, the Lagazuoi hut is only 5 minutes
away. This is a fantastic spot for a luxury dining experience. Its views are
remarkable and I couldn’t stress an overnight stay more.
Another 15 minutes up from the refuge will lead you to the summit of Piccolo Lagazuoi, the highest point of the loop, where the views in all directions are classic Dolomiti sheer rock faces and peaks.
6. Possible descend routes
I do not recommend going back down the same way you came. Going down the tunnels is significantly harder than going up. To descend to Passo Falzarego you can pick one of these two routes. Both will take around 90 minutes.
Via ferrata Kaiserjäger
One of the descent routes from the summit of Monte Lagazuoi is known as Sentiero Dei Kaiserjäger. Some stretches along this route can make those with vertigo quite uncomfortable.
Sections of cable are readily available for those with Via Ferrata equipment
or for those who want to hold onto something professionally secured.
After the scenic suspension bridge along the Sentiero dei Kaiserjäger, the hardest part of the route is a downclimb of a few meters followed by a ladder. After this, it’s plain sailing continually switchbacking until you reach the car park at the bottom of the cable car station.
Again, if you aren’t the most surefooted or are new to hiking then I suggest you pack Via Ferrata equipment. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
Through Travenanzas saddle
The easier route back to Passo Falzarego takes you down path 401 to Forcella Travenanzes then follows path 402 along a ski slope all the way to the pass.
7. Staying overnight in Rifugio Lagazuoi
As mentioned previously, Rifugio Lagazuoi is one of the most photogenic huts in the Dolomites. The hut lies along the Alta Via 1 traverse, but you can also visit it as a day guest or book an overnight stay. This way, you will get to experience not only the tunnels but also sunset and sunrise at Rifugio Lagazuoi and the nearby summit of Piccolo Lagazuoi.
TIP: If you do plan on staying overnight, then send your bag up
with the cable car for a few euros, hike up through the tunnels, and then pick up the bag at the top of the gondola station. This way you can hike with only the essentials which will make up for a more enjoyable trip.
8. Where to stay in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Other hikes and via ferratas to do near Cortina
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