It sees much less footfall than other parks, but it definitely doesn’t lack in the splendid views department.
I spent two weeks exploring the trails and via ferratas of the Rosengarten going from South to North and then back again staying at all the different backcountry huts.
Backstory of the Rosengarten Nature Park
A mythical King in South Tyrol by the name of Laurin, who was rather keen horticulturalist, admired and loved roses to death. He had such an expansive rose garden that stretched out almost 17,000 acres.
Unfortunately, it was the Kings rose garden that caused his demise. After kidnapping another kings daughter (as one does) he put on his invisibility belt (as one does) and ran away through his rose garden. The soldiers, hot on his tail, managed to track him by the footprints he left on the way.
When he was caught and banished from the realm, he put a curse on the rose garden making it disappear from day and night. Luckily for us, this curse does not apply to the transition periods of sunrise and sunset and when the sky lights up, red, orange and pink, it’s the roses trying to come back down to where they once nestled.
After a long time passed the mythical kings rose garden became known in German as the Rosengarten even though the roses don’t grow there anymore.
Interactive map of the trek across the Rosengarten group
This map will help you visualise my plan and follow along the daily descriptions below.
Disclaimer: Whilst this map is fairly accurate and allows you to properly visualise the route. It should not be used for navigating whilst in the mountains. For this you should buy Tabacco map number 029.
Getting to the trailhead – the Paolina hut
If you’re doing this trail from south to north then you need to start at the bottom of the Paolina Chairlift in Karersee (or Carezza al Lago in Italian). It’s a cute town that has plenty of accommodation options.
The chairlift runs from the end of May to the middle of October, starts at either 08:00 or 08:30 each day and costs 11 Euros one way. You can check lift info here.
Alternatively, there is a hiking route that leaves from Karersee. It’s on path number 6a then 552, encompasses 400m of elevation gain and should take around 60 – 90 minutes, depending on how heavy your backpack is.
I have also written an article about everything you need to pack for a hut to hut trip in the Dolomites. If you’ve never stayed in a backcountry hut before, my blog post about what to expect when staying in an Italian refuge, explains it all.
The reason this route is better south to north is that some parts of it include scrambling along via ferratas and it’s usually better (and safer) climbing up than down. Though going from north to south is also possible, it will certainly require more caution on your side.
Day 1: Via Ferrata Roda de Vaél and Via Ferrata Masaré
Walking time: 5-7h
Elevation gain: ca. 900 m
Elevation loss: ca. 900 m
Hiking difficulty: moderate
Via ferrata section: intermediate
Both of these via ferratas can be done as a loop from the Paolina Hut where you’ll be spending the first night. Once you get to the hut, it will probably be too early to check in.
You can store some of your stuff at the hut leaving only enough supplies in your backpack for a day excursion. Head out to complete these ferratas before returning to the hut in the afternoon.
Individually they are marked as a 2B (lower – intermediate) and a 1A (Beginner) routes so as long as you’re sure footed and have the right equipment, you should give them a try.
Follow the path 539 then 549 eastward toward rifugio Roda da Vaél (named the same as the Via Ferrata). It’s a flat jaunt and a great warm up. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the start.
Once you get to the hut, which by the way makes a great alternative to stay in if Paolina hut is full, turn left and look at the ridgeline high above you. This is where the via ferratas run, first to the unnamed peak on the left, then to the summit of Roda da Vaél.
At the highest point you’ll be able to see far northward into the Rosengarten Nature Park where you’ll be spending the next 3 days. Exciting huh?
I’ve written a more in-depth breakdown of the combination of both via ferrata routes in a separate article.
The loop takes around 5-7 hours so providing you get an early lift, once you’re back at the Paolina hut you’ll have plenty of time to relax and regain your strength for the following day.
Rifugio Paolina Information
Opening dates, prices, accommodation options and a booking portal for the Paolina Hut can be found here. It’s a well situated hut but because of the chairlift access, does become quite busy with people dining there for lunch.
Make sure to book as far as you can in advance, especially when travelling during July and August.
Day 2: Rifugio Paolina to Rifugio Passo Principe
Distance: 9 km
Walking time: 6-8h
Elevation gain: ca. 950 m
Elevation loss: ca. 500 m
Hiking difficulty: moderate
Via ferrata section: beginner
This is an exciting day so pray for good weather conditions!
In general, the mornings in the Dolomites tend to be really sunny with blue bird skies, so leave straight after breakfast and pack everything up the night before.
Head northward away from the refuge on path number 552 which naturally turns into no. 549. This part of the trail is easy, undulating gently along the western slopes of the Rosengarten Massif. Once you reach the Kölner (Rosengarten) Hut at the top of the King Laurin chairlift, swing a right and follow signs for Via Ferrata Passo Santner.
TIP: If you need to shorten this multiday traverse, consider starting it from the top of the König Laurin chairlift and skipping the first 2 via ferratas. It will cut one day out of this itinerary. Refer to the Tabacco map for this.
A brief overview of the Passo Santner ferrata is that it’s short, roughly 2 – 2.5 hours, has a decent approach, but when the climbing starts, it’s really rewarding. The spires and rock formations on the western slopes of the Rosengarten group pose enough of a challenge to be demanding but ladders and pegs make sure it’s never too strenuous.
The end point of the via ferrata is Rifugio Passo Santne pictured below.
Although the sight of the picturesque hut is incredible, it does come second to the view into the Gartl Valley and of the prominent Vajolet Towers (pictured below). On a good visibility days try to find climbers making their way up the towers.
Below the towers you’ll also be able to spot Gártlhuette (Rifugio Re Alberto) which is roughly 20 minutes away and makes for a great spot for lunch. It’s much larger than rifugio Passo Santner.
Before reaching the hut though you can admire the reflections of the Vajolet Towers in the small pond (as the season progresses the ponds slowly disappears) or walk up to Passo Laurin, named after the Dwarf King with the magic invisibility belt (did I forget to mention they were Dwarves?).
Both are less than 5 minutes away from the Re Alberto hut.
To continue the route then heads steeply downhill, still on path 542, where a series of cables have been provided for those of you who aren’t sure footed. After another 45 minutes (roughly 5 hours after starting at Paolina hut including time for lunch) you’ll be at Rifugio Vajolet.
Another mountain refuge I’ve stayed in whilst spending a week going hut to hut in this park. In fact the only hut I haven’t visited on this traverse was rifugio Passo Santner because it was under renovations. As if I didn’t already have a thousand reasons to go back!
Most of my readers inquire about 3 to 4 day traverses, but I would like to say that if you have the luxury of time, try and stay in as many huts as possible.
Let’s continue with the route. From rifugio Vajolet follow the signs for rifugio Passo Principe (route no. 584). Another 60-90 minutes later you will be at my favourite hut in the whole park!
Passo Principe is my top choice for several reasons. Firstly it’s built into the side of a cliff, secondly its owner is a convivial guy who brings the place alive, thirdly they have a border collie hut dog called Chiaco (I am dog obsessed) and finally it’s where via ferrata Catinaccio d’Antermoia starts. Oh and they bake their own fresh bread every morning!
If that doesn’t convince you to stay here then I don’t know what will!
It’s going to be a long day for you, between 6-8 hours so spend the evening relaxing, playing cards and eating goulasch with dumplings. Try and save as much energy as possible for tomorrow.
Rifugio Passo Principe Information
Because the hut is small, it’s generally considered the toughest to get reservations at. Try and book this one first and fit the rest of the trip around it.
Unfortunately, their website (link takes you to their photo gallery), is only in Italian and German but to make a reservation you need to send your enquiry to Sergio & Daniele Rosi (The Hut Owners) who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. They both speak english.
In your enquiry include, your name, the dates you’d like to stay and the number of people in your group.
Day 3: Rifugio Passo Principe to Rifugio Alpe di Tires
Distance: 7 km
Walking time: 6-8h
Elevation gain: ca. 800 m
Elevation loss: ca. 1150 m
Hiking difficulty: moderate
Via ferrata section: beginner
After waking up to the smell of fresh bread and good strong italian coffee, there is one more thing that will keep you on your toes for the rest of the day – a good via ferrata! Luckily, you will have immediate access right at the hut’s doorstep.
Today’s via ferrata is Catinaccio d’Antermoia. Since it’s a loop there is no need to carry all your equipment with you. If you ask nicely, you should be allowed to leave some of your stuff at the Principe hut for a few hours lightening your load, before continuing to the next hut.
I did this climb a couple of times in order to get the right photography conditions, even missing my goulasch and dumpling dinner! Thankfully my friend saved it for me for when I arrived back.
The Via Ferrata d’Antermoia is a beginner route which should take around 3 – 4 hours in total to complete. Its highest point is the summit of Monte Catinaccio, the tallest peak in the Rosengarten Group.
From here everything in the immediate vicinity is below you. It’s almost weird looking down on the Vajolet Towers after straining your neck looking up at them from Rifugio Re Alberto.
When you get back to the hut, grab anything you left behind and wave goodbye to Chiaco. I really hope he is still alive, he was old when I first met him in 2018.
You will now be heading to rifugio Alpe di Tires. Continue northward on path 11a following the signs for Passo Molignon.
Initially the path drops into a wide bow only annoyingly regaining all your elevation on the other side where path 11a turns into 3a. This part of the route should take no longer than 2 hours.
Once you’ve made it to the top of Passo Molignon, you’ve done the vast majority of effort for the day. The last final push is a little traverse, then a short downhill spurt, where a few protective cables have been installed (rather unnecessarily) before arriving at the most luxurious refuge in the Rosengarten group – Rifugio Alpe di Tires.
Rifugio Alpe Di Tires information
Since this hut was renovated in 2016, it has become one of my favourites with a very Scandinavian interior feel, a wide open space café and lots of light coloured wood.
The food is to die for and the beds are very comfortable. Something I have learned not to take for granted by now.
This hut does cost slightly more than the others but it’s definitely worth it. On their website, you can do everything from browsing the menu to reading about the huts history.
Day 4: Via Ferrata Sentiero Massimiliano
Distance: 4km (not including exit strategy)
Walking time: 3-4 hours (not including exit strategy)
Elevation gain: ca. 400 m
Elevation loss: ca. 400 m
Hiking difficulty: easy
Via ferrata section: intermediate
The via ferrata Sentiero Massimiliano starts next to the Alpe di Tires refuge. Although I do class it as an intermediate level ferrata, it’s only because of a very short section that may be challenging to a total beginner. If you have no problems with balance and heights though, then give it a go.
The route heads up a narrow gully (it was filled with snow ice when I did it, see the photo above) then traverses the Terrarossa ridgeline between the Dente Grande di Terrarossa and Terrarossa Peak.
It’s a rewarding ferrata that’s easy to follow and a great way to spend the morning. The whole route, which returns to the hut, takes around 3 – 4 hours. Again take only what’s necessary for the ferrata because you will be returning to the hut.
Day 4: Exit Possibilities
There are now 4 possibilities to end this traverse. Personally, I think the first two heading north on to the Alpi di Suisi, Europes highest alpine meadow and one of the most iconic photography locations in the Dolomites, are the best choice.
Especially if you plan on exploring other parks such as the famous Puez Ödle Nature Park.
Option 1 – Siusi (seis Am Schlern)
Once you’ve done the via ferrata, head eastward from the hut on path number 2, after hopping over the Forcella Denti di Terrarossa, you’ll drop into the meadows. It takes around 2 hours to get to Compatsch, where you can take the Seiser Alm gondola (11.50 Euros) down to Siusi.
Alternatively, if it’s after 5pm and you have a friend with a car, you can be picked up. The road up to Compatsch is closed to public traffic between 9am and 5pm and the fine for driving on the road outside of these times is around 100 Euros. There is also a regularly running bus down to Siusi.
Option 1a – Ortisei
If you carry on all the way across the meadows pass the Siusi gondola, you can get the St Ulrich Seiser Alm gondola down to Ortisei (The upper terminal is roughly 3-4 hours hiking from Rifugio Alpe di Tires).
The gondola costs 13.90 Euros (one way) and closes at 6pm for most of the summer and autumn. This route is completed by first following exit strategy 1 then continuing over the meadows. Ortisei is a great town to stop if you plan on hiking to the Seceda Ridgeline or completing via ferrata Sass Rigais.
Option 2 – Campitello di Fassa
Another potential end to this traverse is heading east on the access road (path 532) all the way to Campitello di Fassa, one of my favourite little mountain towns in the Dolomites. It should take around 3 hours and doesn’t include any gondolas.
Campitello Di Fassa is the closest town to Karersee where you started this traverse. They are connected with a local public bus. In case you left your car parked at the gondola station on day 1 and need to get back to it, go for this exit option.
Option 3 – 1 day Extension
If you haven’t had enough of the Rosengarten Park and are confident you can tackle an advanced via ferrata, you can turn around head back up to Passo Molignon and then complete the Via Ferrata Laurenzi.
This follows the Molignon ridgeline up to the summit of Molignon di Dentro before dropping into the Valon di Antermoia. Refer to the map for this one. You can spend another night at Rifugio d’Antermoia before descending to numerous towns in the Fassa valley, including the aforementioned Campitello di Fassa.
What to do if you have a group of climbers and non-climbers
The beauty of this multiday traverse is that it can be tailored to meet individual groups and parties needs. On the first day when the climbers are doing Via Ferrata Roda da Vaél and Via Ferrata Masaré, the non climbers can do a day trip to Passo Delle Coronelle.
On the second day the group splits up but agrees to meet for lunch at either Rifugio Vajolet or Rifugio Re Alberto. The climbers take the route suggested above (Via Ferrata Passo Santner) and the non climbers hike around to Rifugio Roda da Vaèl, over the Passo delle Cigolade to Rifugio Vajolet or Re Alberto. You can see the photos from this hike below.
Logistically the hut where it makes the most sense to meet is Rifugio Vajolet but it deprives the non climbers a chance to see the Vajolet Towers from their most picturesque side.
The group then continues together, the climbers doing the Via Ferrata extensions and the non climbers admiring the views or getting a head start.
If anyone has any questions, that aren’t answered in the post, then please drop them in the comments below. I always take the time to write in depth answers.
If you need any other guidance on your dolomiti trip, check out the rest of my Italian Dolomites Guide.