Via Ferrata Merlone To The Summit Of Cima Cadin Near The Tre Cime National Park

Cima Cadin has gained a lot of fame on Instagram. It serves as the dramatic backdrop for many adventurers who want to recreate the same photograph they saw on another popular account. 

Few realize that one of its summits, Cima del Cadin NE is relatively easily accessible thanks to a network of ladders installed along one of its faces.

Via Ferrata Merlone: The Stats

Time required: 3-4 h from the Fonda Savio hut

Elevation gain: 421 m / 1390 ft

Route difficulty: intermediate

Cima Cadin, Tre Cime National Park, Italian Dolomites
Cima Cadin makes for a perfect Instagram background

Getting to the Start of the Via Ferrata Merlone

The ferrata starts at rifugio Fonda Savio. To reach the rifugio, when driving from Misurina (the nearest town) follow the road to Lake Antorno.

Before reaching the lake, you will see a sign for Rifugio Fonda Savio leading onto an unpaved forest road. There is an ample free parking area where you can leave your car. 

From the parking lot follow the hiking path nr 115 for about 1,5 hours to reach the rifugio. It’s very well maintained and signposted, so getting lost is almost impossible.

Around two-thirds of the way up you will be able to see the hut. It’s a steep hike so be prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen.

rifugio fonda savio and cima cadin in Tre Cime National Park.
The first stretch of the path past Rifugio Fonda Savio.

Accommodation in Misurina Or Cortina D’Ampezzo

Although Misurina is the closest town, it’s tiny and the hotels here book out well in advance. If you want to be as close as possible, make sure to make a reservation early.  

Alternatively, you can book a hotel in Cortina D’Ampezzo, the next biggest town and a great hub to base yourself in if you plan on exploring the Dolomites. It takes around 30 mins to drive from Cortina to the Fonda Savio car park.

Below are a few of my recommendations for hotels in Cortina.


International Camping Olympia

Via Ferrata Merlone: Route Description

From Rifugio Fonda Savio you will need to follow the signs for via ferrata Merlone. Start walking up along a scree path away from the hut.

Make sure to look back. Fonda Savio is one of the most photogenic mountain huts I have stayed at when researching for my guide to the Italian Dolomites.

After a couple of hundred meters, the South face of the Tre Cime will slowly emerge from behind the spires (see photo above). 

The views along the via ferrata Merlone
The views along the via ferrata Merlone. Rifugio Fonda Savio in the far distance

The path eventually comes to an abrupt stop and the markings aren’t clearly visible. The route is there, you will just have to pay attention not to veer off it.  

Up until now, you were walking on the right side of the gully, but you will have to cross to the other side and keep your eyes peeled for the ladders and cables attached to the face of Cima Cadin – your objective for today. 

Hint: Keep a look out for rock cairns guiding the way to the first cable. 

The start of the cable section on the via ferrata Merlone
The start of the cable section on the via ferrata Merlone

Once you get to the cable you will start gaining elevation quickly. It’s like climbing on huge scaffolding.

The wall of Cima del Cadin looks intimidating, but in comparison to via ferrata Torre Di Toblin, which I completed only a few days before, I found via ferrata Merlone to be very straightforward.

The only real obstacle may be in your head. If you are scared of heights, then being on a ladder attached to a wall, hanging a couple of hundred meters above the nearest flat area, may not be for you.

The exposure is real! Make good use of those cables! 

views along the via ferrata Merlone in Tre Cime National park
Views along the way

Eventually, the seemingly endless ladders and cables come to an end. Ca. 30 minutes away from the summit you will come across an airy pathway (photo below). Enjoy a few minutes of rest from climbing and a great view of Cadin di San Lucano to your right. 

Continue following the red paint marks before you reach the last section of cables and ladders leading right to the top. 

Via ferrata Merlone information
A short break from the cables and ladders. Cadin di San Lucano in the back

As per usual, the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. The Fonda Savio hut, where you set off from, is a tiny dot far below. The famous three peaks are visible straight ahead. To your left and right, a sheer drop a few hundred meters. 

Give yourself a pat on the back, you just ticked off another one of the most exciting intermediate via ferrata in the Dolomites! 

At the top of Cima Cadin
At the top of Cima Cadin
Views from the top of Cima Cadina looking toward Tre Cime National Park. Via Ferrata Merlone
Views from the top looking toward Tre Cime

Now it’s time to retrace your steps. The way down follows exactly the same path. Make sure to be aware of what’s happening below. Via ferrata Merlone is quite popular, so don’t expect to be alone.

If you see other people ascending make sure to give each other space, use the ladders only one at a time and if you happen to set off any rocks flying, shout “below” loudly to give a proper warning.

If you hear someone shouting “below”, “Achtung” or “Attenzione”, be aware that some rocks might be falling down.

To ensure an early start I highly recommend an overnight stay in the Fonda Savio hut. The total time, including the ascent and descent to and from Fonda Savio Hut, will take 5-6 hours.

Shop my via ferrata gear essentials

Black Diamond Helmet

Rockfall is a major concern on via ferrata routes. Unbeknownst to you, other climbing groups above you may accidentally dislodge a small rock and send it hurtling down the mountain. If it hits you on the head it could have serious consequences. A helmet placed on your head (not inside your backpack) is a must! 

Shop on: Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

71gKk4U+f2S. AC SL1500

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

Another must-have on a via ferrata route is a climbing harness. A harness works as an anchor point for your via ferrata lanyard. Make sure to try it on first before your trip to ensure it fits snugly without limiting your movements. Aim for a lightweight harness, that will be comfy to wear between the cable-protected sections when you are hiking.

Shop Women’s on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

Shop Men’s on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

edelrid basis cable kit special via ferrata set

Edelrid, Camp or Black Diamond Via Ferrata Lanyard

A via ferrata lanyard connects the climber and their harness to the cables along the route. Its two arms and a hidden extra coil work as an energy absorption system in case of a fall, by reducing the stress on the climber. The two carabiners at the end of the lanyard are used to clip into the cable. Make sure the carabiners are equipped with the palm squeeze mechanism. It’s the safest and most comfortable.

Shop on Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

91P0f6XnFML. AC SL1500

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

The gloves are meant to protect your hands from any cuts and scratches you may otherwise get if you haul yourself on the cable without them. Personally, I prefer full-fingered gloves for extra protection against blisters.

Shop on: Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)

salewa womens wildfire edge approach shoes detail 6

Salewa Wildfire Edge Approach Shoes

My go-to pair of hiking shoes for easier trails or via ferrata, where I don’t need extra ankle support. They provide excellent grip on the rock and are very durable.

Shop on: Amazon / Backcountry (US) / Bergfreunde (Europe)


Reeloq Smartphone Securing System

If you want to be able to take great photos on a via ferrata and not worry about losing your phone, Reeloq is the best tool for it. It’s a smartphone-securing system, that will allow you to use your phone on any of your adventures. This has been a great addition to my tool arsenal.

Shop on: REELOQ (Europe only)

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Hi! I am the photographer and creator of I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.


  1. Hi Marta,
    The information you provide regarding the Alta Via 4 as well as the Dolomites in general is invaluable! Many thanks for that. I have one particular question in regards to the via ferrata Merlone. Me and my partner are doing the Alta Via 4 in mid September and our second day stage is Rifugio Auronzo -> Rifugio Citta di Carpi. I wonder if going the path of via ferrata Merlone one way to the top we can continue from there to our final destination for the day – Rifugio Citta di Carpi. Obviously, returning back to Fonda Savio and going from there to Citta di Carpi would be too much for one day.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Ilya. Thanks for stopping by. Amazing that you are doing AV4. As for your question, yes once you descend from VF Merlone you can head up to Forcella (saddle) de la Neve over the snowfield and emerge on the other side of the saddle then descent down on path 118 to Rifugio Citta Di Carpi. I did not do this route, but from looking at the map it is a much quicker way to Citta di carpi from Fonda Savio, rather than continuing along Sentiero Bonacossa. However after the saddle it looks like there is another via ferrata section after the saddle. I would recommend that you get the maps to outline the route. I hope that helps!

  2. Hello!
    Which direction has the best views? Going from Fondo Savio all the way to Tre Cime the other way?


    • Hi Amrutha. Thanks for stopping by. I am sorry, but I don’t really understand your question. Via ferrata Merlone is an ‘out and back’ type route, meaning it goes the same way up and down from rifugio Fonda Savio.

      • Sorry! Trying to decide if I want to tackle vf merlone and then take the trail from fando savio (trail name starts with an s) to rifugio auronzo or the other way around. Thoughts?

        • Hi Amrutha. You are referring to Sentiero Bonacossa. I did it when I was traversing AV4 (You can actually look at the photos from this traverse in my Alta Via V4 guide). I think it’s better to start at rifugio Auronzo. You can leave your car at the bottom of the trailhead to rifugio Fonda Savio, then walk to the bus stop and take the bus to rifugio Auronzo. Do Sentiero Bonacossa which will getyou to Fonda Savio, then Merlone and then hike down from Fonda Savio to your car. Just bear in mind that you are looking at a full day of adventuring.

  3. Hi Marta 😊
    I was wondering what time of year these images from merlone ferrata are from?
    I am hoping to go in the next day or two and hoping the remaining snow won’t be an issue.

    5th June today..


    • Hi Jeffrey. I hardly doubt it, it will be doable. I actually had someone writing to me that they tried it a couple of weeks ago and had to turn around. If you go to my Alta Via 4 guide (scroll down to day 2 extension) You can see a photo there taken on the approach to the start of via ferrata Merlone, when two hikers are crossing a snowfield. This pic was taken on July 8th 2019. Whilst this year was significantly less snow than 2019 or last year even, the snow in that snowfield lingers well into July, because it’s really shaded and it makes it difficult to find the start of the ferrata.

      • Thanks for the quick reply!

        Just to clarify, when you say “I hardly doubt it, it will be doable” – are you saying it won’t be doable as there will be to much snow on the snow field?

        Is the snow field low angle and potentially okay to cross without axe/ crampons?

        I am using FATMAP gps which has the route well drawn to make it easy to stay on the correct trail.

        Quick question- do you have any other gps/ topo apps you recommended for this area?

        Thanks a bunch!!

        • Hi Jeffrey. Yes, the snowfield, particularly where you will cross it is at a low angle and it should be pretty packed. However, as you can imagine, I can’t tell you whether it will be safe or not 🙂 I recommend getting the Dolomiti Sesto Map Tabacco no. 10 I always use paper maps or my GPS watch fenix 6

  4. Hi Marta,
    Thank you for the excellent information and amazing photographs! When you mention these free parking lots. Can you leave a rental car there for multiple days while going hut-to-hut? Would you recommend a rental car or bus for the area? Rental car was my first thought, but parking seems to be 30 euros per day in some places. I’m planning to go climbing with a guide near Cortina and then do hut-to-hut VF. Either AV4, or use your four day example and add a few extra days on that.

    Hoping to be there for 2-3 weeks starting in mid-June. Do you bring microspikes that early in the season? Really appreciate your website. So helpful for planning and breathtaking photographs!


    • Hi David. Thanks for your visit. I hiked AV1 starting mid-June and did not bring microspikes with me and was totally fine. Gaiters did come in handy in places though. The remaining snow was very slushy and wet.
      As for your other question. It really depends on the parking lot. To give you an example when I did AV2 I left my van parked at a hotel in Bressanone, where I paid 5 Euro/night for the possibility. I thought it was money well spent as I didn’t have to worry about the car. I have contacted the hotel first prior to my trip to make sure this will be possible. I have noticed that parking lots that were free of charge just a couple of years ago are now collecting fees, but they are usually 5-10 euros a day. The most expensive one is near rifugio Auronzo which is indeed 30 euros a day, but that is an exemption. Generally, it’s ok to leave them overnight, but that really depends on parking lots and I don’t know the rules for them all. I reckon contacting a hotel is your best bet.

  5. hola voy a hacer esta via ferrata, pero es mi ultimo dia en dolomitas y el dia de la ferrata parto desde el refugio auronzo que hasta el incio de la ferrata seran 3 horas andando, mas las 5 o 6 de ferrata. crees que sera posible hacerlo todo en un dia?

    muchas gracias


    • Hi Roberto, Whilst I did understand your question I feel more comfortable answering in English. Yes it is possible to do via ferrata Merlone leaving from rifugio Auronzo. You will first need to traverse via ferrata Sentiero Bonacossa. I did that when doing Alta Via 4 and you can view pics from this section in my article about alta via 4 (day 2) which you can find in the category” hut to hut treks in the Dolomites’. This will take 2.5-3 hours. Via ferrata Merlone takes around 3-4 hours from rifugio Fonda Savio depending on your speed. Then descending down from rifugio Fonda Savio to Lake Antorno is another 1hour to 90 mins. All in all you are looking at 7-8 hour day but if the weather is in your favour this is definitely doable. The second time I did via ferrata Merlone I first hiked all the way from rifugio Locatelli around Tre Cime then to Fonda Savio. Then in the afternoon we did the via ferrata Merlone. I hope that helps!

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