When I first planned my visit to the Italian Dolomites I knew I wanted to spend a lot of time in the mountains hiking, but when I picked up a few guidebooks to see the available trails I was overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time.
Overwhelmed due to the sheer number of day hikes enlisted, underwhelmed because of the lack of photographs available.
As a photographer, I wanted to see what views I can expect so I did what any hiker should do. I purchased a few hiking maps and off I went.
The below list is the result of many days spent on hiking trails in the Dolomites and my attempt to narrow it down to my favourite routes.
1. Croda Da Lago Circuit
This 5-hour-long day hike circumnavigates around the jagged peaks of the Croda da Lago.
Best walked clockwise the trail passes along Lago Federa – one of the iconic photography spots in the Dolomites, as well as the cosy rifugio Palmieri, where you can stay the night and experience the typical mountain culture of this area.
For more information about the trailhead, distance and route description go to my article dedicated to the Croda da Lago Circuit.
2. Cinque Torri
This one is for the history buffs. The remains of the trenches at the foot of Cinque Torri (from the Italian – Five Towers) remind us of all of the atrocities of the First World War and the horrendous conditions the soldiers had to live in.
The whole area can be reached via a cable car, but the hike is so easy and enjoyable, that you should just walk it.
The aptly named Cinque Torri means exactly what it is – The Five Towers. They serve as climber’s playgrounds. On a sunny day, you will be able to see plenty of climbers trying to scale them.
I covered everything you need to know about this hike in a separate article.
3. Lagazuoi Tunnels
The Lagazuoi tunnels are another very important reminder of the First World War. Due to the strategic position of this area, the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers battled fiercely for it. Eventually, it fell into the hands of the Italians.
Some mountain towns though have prevailed their identity and even now, over 100 years later, german remains the language that is often spoken around here.
The hike through the Lagazuoi tunnels starts at Passo Falzarego, a mountain pass connecting the towns of Cortina D’Ampezzo with Selva Di Cadore. It eventually finishes on the top of Mount Lagazuoi (photo above), with the famous rifugio Lagazuoi standing on its top.
4. Lake Sorapiss
If you plan on basing yourself around Cortina D’Ampezzo during your stay in the Dolomites then reserve a day to do the hike to Lake Sorapiss.
Although elevation wise it’s a pretty easy hike, you shouldn’t underestimate it, especially if you don’t have a head for heights.
A decent section of the trail scales along a rock shelf, on one side protected by a cable on the other side a couple of hundred metres sheer drop.
A prize in the form of a turquoise, glacier-fed lake surrounded by dramatic peaks awaits you at the end.
Not too far from the lake, there’s a mountain hut where you can stay overnight. It’s run by very friendly and helpful locals. It’s called rifugio Vandelli. I stayed there a couple of nights when tackling the via ferrata Giro del Sorapiss.
5. Tre Cime Circuit
If you are coming to the Dolomites for just a few days and are looking for a hike that shouldn’t be missed then this is it.
The Tre Cime circuit circumnavigates around Dolomite’s famous Three Peaks. The highlights include passing through the iconic Forcella (saddle) Lavaredo and rifugio Locatelli.
If you are feeling adventurous you can combine the hike with two famous via ferratas in the area: Innerkofler/De Luca and Torre di Toblin, but to do that, I’d highly recommend spending a night in the nearby mountain hut.
6. Lago Di Braies Circuit
Overcrowding is an issue that is starting to have a negative impact on many places around the World and Lago Di Braies is certainly one of them.
90% of the tourists who flock to this lake don’t go further than 100 meters away from the parking lot, just to snap the famous Instagram shot right next to the boathouse.
Few realize that there is a pathway you can take, which skirts the lake, taking you away from the craziness of it all and it only takes 1 hour to complete!
It’s best to do it early in the morning when the light rays hit the mountains and light up Seekofel – the peak which reflects in the lake. For more information and photos of the Lago di Braies circuit see this article.
7. Vajolet Towers
When I first saw a photograph of the Vajolet towers I couldn’t believe this place was real, let alone it was only an hour’s drive from where I was based at the time.
Then I learnt that there was a mountain hut right beneath the towers and I thought my day can’t get any better! I ran to a store-bought topography map of the Rosengarten Nature Park, where the towers are located and planned my next adventure.
There are two ways to reach the towers, first through the via ferrata Passo Santner, second through a less demanding day hike. If you are an adventurous spirit go for the first one, but if you just want to hike, here is everything to know about the hike to Vajolet towers.
8. Passo Mulaz
The hike to Passo del Mulaz definitely qualifies as an off-the-beaten-path experience in the Dolomites.
Located in the lesser-known and much quieter Pale di San Martino group this one-way in and out hike will take you to a dramatic mountain pass, which overlooks the many spires of Forcella (saddle) Farangole.
If you want you can easily extend it into a 3-day loop staying at two of the most photogenic huts in the Dolomites: rifugio Volpi Al Mulaz and rifugio Rosetta.
The hike starts at Passo Rolle near the town of San Martino di Castrozza, but before I reveal too much, just head over to my other detailed article about this day hike to learn more.
9. Lago Coldai
Lago Coldai is a small but mighty alpine lake located at the foot of Mount Civetta. The lake is also one of the highlights of the Alta Via 1 – a multiday traverse across the Dolomites. No need to hike the whole traverse though, as the lake can easily be reached via a day hike.
There are a few ways to do it, but for the purpose of this blog and to avoid any confusion I will include just two of them.
The first and the easiest is to catch the two-tier gondola from the town of Alleghe: Alleghe – Pian di Pezze – Col Dei Baldi. In the summer season, the gondola operates between the end of June and the end of September.
From the top of the gondola station you have to follow the signs for rifugio Coldai on paths nr 561 then 556. For the majority of the hike, you will have beautiful views of Mount Pelmo (photo top right).
Once you reach the refuge it’s another 10 minutes uphill to Forcella (saddle) Coldai, where you will get the first glimpse of the lake. The whole hike will take between 3 and 4 hours.
If you want to avoid the cost of the gondola and being tied to its schedule you can park your car near rifugio Palafavera located close to the town of Mareson in Val di Zoldo and from here hike path 564 then turn onto 556. Again just follow the signs for rifugio Coldai. This way is a bit longer and in total it will take around 5 hours.
To all of you adventure seekers! Consider staying overnight in rifugio Coldai and summiting Mount Civetta via the exhilarating via ferrata Degli Alleghesi.
10. Seceda Ridgeline
The Seceda ridgeline must be one of the most photographed mountain ridgelines in the World. It’s the symbol of the Puez Ödle Nature Park and everyone coming to the Dolomites should plan to see it.
The majority of hikers just trek from the top of the gondola to the ridgeline and back but I highly recommend doing a whole loop around the area to see other interesting rock formations. Also, don’t forget to check out rifugio Firenze.
You can find all the detailed information about this day hike here.
11. Rifugio Fonda Savio
The location of rifugio Fonda Savio puts it on par with other most photogenic mountain huts I had the pleasure to visit during my stay in the Dolomites. It’s also one of the easiest to reach.
This 3-4 hour round trip hike starts at the parking lot (parcheggio) Libero Cadini near Lago (lake) Antorno and for the first hour stays within the tree line. The hike is really straightforward and follows path nr 115 the entire way up. The elevation gain is circa 500 meters.
Rifugio Fonda Savio is a great place to stay for the night if you want to tackle the via ferrata Merlone to the top of Cima Cadin NE.
12. Croda Fiscalina Circuit
Starting at the Dolomitenhof hotel near the town of Sesto (Sexten) in the northern parts of the Dolomites, this hike is one of my personal favourites.
The Fiscalina valley is the epitome of what you can expect here in the Dolomites – the dramatic spires and sheer walls skirting the deep valleys. With each step, the views just get more exciting! Trust me when I say it, this hike should not be missed!
13. Adolf Munkel Trail
The Seceda ridgeline has grown to an icon thanks to the endless photos of it posted daily on Instagram. 99% of those shots are taken from the same viewpoint.
The Adolf Munkel Weg (trail) lets you experience the ridgeline from a different angle.
The route takes between 3-4 hours to complete and it starts at a parking lot near rifugio Zanser Alm located around a 10-minute drive from the town of Santa Maddalena (Bring cash to pay for the parking).
It’s a loop and can be done clockwise or counterclockwise. To go clockwise from Zanser Alm, follow the path nr 6 then number 35. The trails are signposted and easy to follow. You will be hiking right underneath the sheer walls of La Furchetta and Sass Rigais – the two highest peaks in the Seceda Ridgeline.
After around 1,5 hours you will reach a big pasture where you can find Malga Geislerarm. It’s the perfect spot for lunch and if you have a sweet tooth like me then I highly recommend ordering Kaiserschmarrn – a local pancake type speciality. Eat it on the outside terrace and watch the world go by.
To get back to your car take the path nr 36 all the way down to the car park.
14. Piz Boé Summit
Piz Boè is the highest mountain in the Sella group in the central Dolomites. At 3152 meters a s.l. it’s one of the highest, yet easiest summits to reach.
All of this is thanks to the cable car taking passengers from the nearby Pordoi mountain pass all the way to the top of Sass Pordoi. From here you can see the Capanna Fassa mountain hut built right on the summit of Piz Boè. It takes around 1-1,5 hours to reach it.
I spent a night here and have taken hundreds of photos during the beautiful sunset and sunrise combo I got to witness.
15. Tofane Di Rozes Summit
Another summit reaching over 3000 meters can be found in the Tofane mountain range near the town of Cortina D’Ampezzo.
There are two ways to reach the summit of Tofane di Rozes. The first is through a very scenic, but challenging via ferrata Giovanni Lipella, the second via a hiking path.
The hike starts near rifugio Dibona located around 20-minute drive from Cortina D’Ampezzo. The last 5 minutes of the drive are on an unpaved mountain road. The access is limited to vehicles no higher than 2,5 meters limiting the access to campervans or trucks.
From the hut follow the signs for rifugio Giusanni along the path nr 403. The path zig-zags all the way to the hut and doesn’t pose any challenges. However, once you reach rifugio Giusanni prepare for a battle along a scree slope all the way to the summit.
It’s certainly not the easiest of hikes. In fact, it’s the most difficult one enlisted here, but it’s also one of the most rewarding ones thanks to the views waiting for you at the top!
It takes around 6 hour round trip so make sure to leave early in order to get to the summit before it gets covered by the early afternoon clouds. Otherwise, all that work you’ll put into it will go to waste!
16. Seekofel Summit
Almost everyone who is coming to the Dolomites for the first time has put Lago di Braies on their ‘must-see’ list. I get the hype surrounding this lake. It’s beautiful. Unfortunately, over-tourism isn’t doing it any favour.
If you want to escape the crowds and see the lake from a different angle, consider hiking up to the summit of Seekofel also known as Croda Del Becco. It’s the famous mountain which reflects in Lago di Braies!
Summiting Seekofel is no easy feat. With over 1500 meters of elevation gain, it’s one of the tougher hikers on this list.
17. Sassolungo Circuit
Circuit-type hikes belong to my favourites. The ever-changing mountain scenery and the undulating nature of these trails are what make them so appealing to me.
Sassolungo circuit, though long and with a quite significant elevation gain never feels too strenuous.
There are a total of 5 mountain huts along the trail, which means you can make it into a challenge and try local food or have a drink at each one of them whilst enjoying the views from their terraces.
Sometimes your knees need a break from those challenging summits and downhill battles when hiking back down. I know mine do.
The hike through Vallunga is a perfect choice if you need to give your legs a rest, but still want to see some stunning scenery.
Vallunga is a beloved walk amongst the locals and their pooches. You can make it as long or short as you want it, with a couple of extension possibilities to turn it into a full-day circuit hike or even an overnight hut stay.
19. Val Venegia
The hike through Val Venegia has, in my opinion, the best views to effort ratio in all of the Dolomites.
From the moment you enter the trail until the moment you reach Malga Venegiotta you will be collecting your jaw off the floor because of the views of the Pale di San Martino range stretching ahead of you. All this within a 2-hour walk with a mere 150 meters of elevation gain.
My favourite time of the year for this hike is the second part of October when all the larch trees in the Venegia valley turn bright orange. This has put it onto the list of my favourite autumn day hikes in the Dolomites.
20. Monte Castellaz
A hike to Monte Castellaz is a great half-day summit hike that won’t leave you breathless.
The hike starts on Passo Rolle, one of the most photogenic mountain passes in the Dolomites and takes you to the top of Monte Castellaz from where you can admire the dramatic peaks of the Pale Di San Martino range.
You can even kill two birds with one stone and connect the previously mentioned hike through Val Venegia with the summit of Monte Castellaz. Hiking options in the Dolomites are endless!
21. Col De La Puina
Another autumn favourite! Col De La Puina is the only hike on this list, that isn’t official. What it means is that there are no proper trail markings which normally lead the hiker’s way.
Let that not put you off though. The path is well boot beaten and easy to follow and with the help of my hiking guide to Col De La Puina you will be able to reach it without an issue.
Don’t miss out on a chance to get a photograph of yourself standing on this beautiful ridgeline with the sheer walls of Monte Pelmo, one of Dolomite’s highest peaks, as your backdrop!
The last entry on my list of top day hikes in the Dolomites. I hope you are still with me already making notes for your trip.
Dürrenstein is probably one of the most popular summit hikes in the Dolomites and for a good reason. For the most part, it’s a pretty straightforward journey to the top with uninterrupted views of the surrounding valleys and peaks.
The real challenge can be sun exposure. For this reason, I recommend this hike to anyone who visits the area later in the season. Dürrenstein and a few more hikes on this list feature on my autumn road trip itinerary across the Dolomites.
Shop My Favourite Hiking Gear
At only 150 grams per pole these light, yet incredibly durable and sturdy carbon hiking poles are my constant companion on trails.
Great for day hikes and big enough for overnight hut excursions. Osprey backpacks have been with me from the humble beginnings of this website.
Staying hydrated during hikes is very important! I always hike with the Hydrapack water bladder in my backpack for easy access to water!
An absolute must-have on a hiking holiday. They are breathable and comfy, but most importantly don’t pick up the smell even after a few days of wearing
If you have any questions about the hikes on this list or need help with planning your road trip around the Dolomites, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments below. Go To my Italian Dolomites guides for my articles about hikes, via ferratas descriptions.