Although it’s certainly a busy hike, the views along the Tre Cime circuit will more than makeup for it and because of the well-established infrastructure, litter and degradation are minimal.
8 Things You Need To Know About The Tre Cime Circuit Hike
1. Tre Cime Circuit: the stats
- Distance: 10 km / 6 mi
- Walking time: 4-5 h
- Hiking difficulty: Easy/Moderate
- When to go: June – October
2. Where does Tre Cime Circuit start?
The hike around the Three Peaks starts at rifugio Auronzo. There is an ample parking lot right next to the refuge and a few parking attendants who make sure that no space goes to waste.
Getting to the trailhead by car
The Auronzo hut is accessible via a 7-kilometer-long toll road. The toll varies between different vehicle sizes. A fee for a standard car currently stands at €30 and €45 for a campervan.
The road is open between the end of May and the end of October, weather depending. This means that it can close or open at a later date on short notice when snow or ice is still present.
The toll gate is usually manned between 6 AM and 5 PM, but during the summer peak times, you can enter earlier by collecting a ticket from the machine and paying at the exit. Cards are accepted. The outgoing traffic can leave at any time.
More useful info on the Auronzo toll road:
- Rifugio Auronzo Toll Road: Everything You Need to Know by Moonhoney Travel
- Toll road to the Three Peaks by the official South Tirol website
Getting to the trailhead by bus
If you want to save money (and the environment) there are a couple of different bus options depending on what town in the Dolomites you are staying at:
- If you are staying in Dobiacco (Toblach) take bus no. 444 from Toblach train station to Auronzohütte. Approx. journey time is 50 minutes and the ticket cost starts at € 7.50. There are 6 stops en-route
- If you are staying in Misurina walk to the Abzweigung Misurina or the Misurina – Genzianella bus stop. Those are 2 of the bus stops along the 444 bus route.
- If traveling from Cortina D’Ampezzo look for schedules on the Moovitapp by typing Cortina as your starting point and Rifugio Auronzo as your endpoint.
For the first two options use the Sued Tirol Mobil site to check the bus times.
Hiking to rifugio Auronzo
To avoid paying the steep toll fees, you can also hike up to rifugio Auronzo from either the free pothole-ridden car park at Lago d’Antorno or a small car park near the toll gate. The path runs parallel to the road.
This takes around 1.5 – 2 hours and involves a considerable amount of elevation gain (ca. 500 meters). If you still plan on hiking the Tre Cime circuit I would and are not a strong hiker then take the bus.
3. In which direction it is best to hike the Tre Cime circuit?
The route counter-clockwise around the Tre Cime is preferable because the views will be in front of you more of the time. This is the choice most hikers follow.
If you plan on doing the extensions, which I will talk about towards the end of this article, then it’s better to hike it clockwise.
4. Tre Cime Circuit Map
Above you can see the outline of the Tre Cime Circuit trail. The trail has been marked with yellow color. Purple lines are the extensions. Click on the arrow button in the top left corner to see different layers of the map.
This map is for showcasing purposes only. For navigation use the Tabacco Map no. 010.
5. Tre Cime Circuit trail description
Stage 1: Rifugio Auronzo to Rifugio Lavaredo:
- Hiking time: 20-30 minutes
- Trail number: 101
Hike to the right (east) of rifugio Auronzo and begin your circumnavigation on path nr 101. It’s well-maintained, flat, and wide.
Even wide enough for the farm vehicles herding the cattle and for the maintenance/delivery vehicles working at Rifugio Lavaredo.
Shortly after passing a scenic little chapel, you’ll be at rifugio Lavaredo. This part takes around 20-30 minutes.
Stage 2: Rifugio Lavaredo to Rifugio Locatelli
- Hiking time: 45-60 minutes
- Trail number: 101
From the Lavaredo hut, it’s a short uphill burst to one of the most iconic viewpoints in the Italian Dolomites, Forcella Lavaredo. This vantage point is the highest on the entire loop. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
From here continue on the upper or the lower path nr 101 toward Rifugio Locatelli which you’ll be able to see glistening in the distance to the north.
The upper path is considerably quieter and not that much harder. They run parallel to each other. Turn around and look at the three distinct peaks.
In roughly 45 minutes to an hour, you’ll be at the next hut – rifugio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte).
Stage 3: Rifugio Locatelli to Rifugio Auronzo via Malga Langalm
- Hiking time: 2-2.5 hours
- Path number: 105
To continue the circuit, from rifugio Locatelli the trail drops downhill towards the three peaks crossing sometimes waterlogged areas of grass and rock. You’ll have some serious neck ache if your eyes become captivated by the climbers seen attached to the faces of Tre Cime.
All too quickly you’ll be at Malga Langalm which unfortunately doesn’t have any overnight facilities but does have a great restaurant and bar. It is also situated next to three very photogenic reflective ponds.
The route then heads uphill to the Forcella del Col de Mèdo and then back round to rifugio Auronzo, where you started your journey.
6. Tre Cime Circuit extensions
For those seeking more adventure, the Tre Cime circuit offers many extensions and with the vast mountain hut network in the region, you can easily plan a couple of nights in the area and really take advantage of what this national park offers.
Extension 1: Cadini Di Misurina Viewpoint (60-90 minutes extra time)
The beloved viewpoint amongst photographers. The jagged Cadini di Misurina viewpoint lies only 30-40 minute walk from Rifugio Auronzo. If you have an extra hour to spare consider this little detour for a photo of yourself with this dramatic backdrop.
Extension 2: Via Ferrata Innerkofler (1.5 – 2 hours extra time)
The World War I tunnels and the summit of the dramatic-looking Monte Paterno. This beginner-level via ferrata is a great addition to the Tre Cime circuit as it runs parallel to the path between Forcella Lavaredo and rifugio Locatelli.
If you plan on tackling via ferrata Innerkofler then I recommend hiking the circuit clockwise.
It’s important to remember that to tackle via ferratas you will need to have special equipment. For more info check out my beginner’s guide to via ferrata climbing in the Italian Dolomites.
Extension 3: Via Ferrata Torre Di Toblin (2 hours extra time)
This 2-hour loop gives you an exhilarating glimpse into the history of World War I and the battles fought in these mountains between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops.
In addition, the views of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo from the summit of Torre di Toblin are worth the climb along ladders attached to vertical walls.
Both are excellent climbs and one can easily be added to your day trip. If you want to complete both I suggest booking a night in rifugio Locatelli.
Laghi dei Piani & World War I tunnels (30-60 minutes extra time)
If you are not a strong climber or don’t have the correct equipment, I suggest exploring on foot the nearby Laghi dei Piani (lakes) and the famous Tre Cime war tunnels. Both of which are only a few hundred meters away from rifugio Locatelli and clearly visible from the hut.
7. The huts along the Tre Cime Circuit
Even though the Tre Cime circuit can be tackled in a day, there is no need to rush! If you would like to complete any of the extensions, I highly recommend booking a night in one of the huts along this trail.
For more information on the ins and outs of staying in a mountain hut in the Italian Dolomites go to my other article.
This is where the trail starts and ends. Rifugio Auronzo is a great and affordable overnight option for visiting the Dolomites.
It can be reached by car, bus, or on foot.
The hut belongs to the Italian Alpine Club and offers 104 beds across rooms and dormitories.
The second hut along the Tre Cime circuit. Rifugio Lavaredo is privately owned and it was established in 1954.
The hut has amazing sunrise views of the dramatic Cadini Di Misurina and Marmarole mountain ranges.
Prices start at 72 Euro/per person for half-board in a dormitory and 78 Euro/per person for a private room.
To be close to all the action rifugio Locatelli is the place to be, but because of its fame, this is the toughest rifugio to get reservations at.
The hut lies along Alta Via 4 backpacking route, which has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years.
The price per night is 60 Euros for Alpine Club members or 72 for non-members.
8. Other activities in and near the Tre Cime Nature Park
- 4-day hut-to-hut Tre Cime Traverse
- Croda Fiscalina Circuit
- Via Ferrata Strada Degli Alpini
- Via Ferrata Sentiero Bonacossa
- Via Ferrata Merlone
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