The Dolomites Alta Via 2 must easily be one of the most beautiful treks in the world. For any hiker seeking the best European experiences, this should be very high on your list. The Dolomites are a mountain range in North-Eastern Italy, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to their rugged, natural beauty.

The Dolomites really are a unique part of the world well worth visiting both in the summer and winter. In the summer it’s a paradise for hikers and climbers and in the winter it turns into a ski paradise.

Alta Via 2 crosses a very popular, very large ski area – Dolomiti Superski, that’s spread around the Sella Massif and the valleys around it.

There are several Alta Via’s (or High Trails) that cross the Dolomites from North to South. They’re numbered 1-6. Unofficially there are probably more, I’ve seen references up to AV8. Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2 are the most popular ones.

Alta Via 1 seems to be easier and more crowded, whereas Alta Via 2 is more rugged and hence less walked.

This planning guide gives you the facts you need to know to get on the Dolomites Alta Via 2.

Please also take a look at my own personal experience walking 6 days on this trail from Brixen to Passo San Pellegrino – you’ll get a good feel for what it’s like on the trail!

 

Dolomites Alta Via 2:

Quick Facts

  • Situated in Süd Tirol (or Alto Adige), in the Dolomites of Northern Italy
  • The AV2 starts in Brixen (Bressanone in Italian), which is on the A22 – the main corridor across the Alps in this region – and is easily reachable by train or car.
  • Closest International Airports to Brixen are: Venice and Innsbruck (only intra-European connections). Munich is a little further away but I recommend considering it as your gateway. Read here why.
  • AV2 ends at Croce d’Aune, near Feltre (roughly 100 km or 60 miles North West from Venice)
  • Length: about 160 km, or 100 miles
  • Duration: 13 days is suggested. Can be done in less if you’re fit.
  • Rated Difficult / Demanding
  • Total ascent: about 12000 meters / 39400 ft. (Daily average about 950 meters / 3120 ft)
  • When to go: During the summer. Snow can be found late in to the summer in some places. Read here about our snowy crossing of the Sella Group.

Overview of Dolomites Alta Via 2

Dolomites Alta Via 2 runs through across the beautiful part of the Dolomites. It is fairly long and demanding and, as such, should not be underestimated. However, it runs through populated areas so even though you will be alone in the mountains, you’re really not very far from civilization.

The trek starts close to the border with Austria, with Austrian Tyrol on the other side. I was told that local like to refer to the starting point as Brixen, not Bressanone. This is natural since the local language is German.

By the way, all the literature I can find suggests that this is normally walked from North to South. Not really sure why that is, but maybe the scenery ahead is more impressive this way!

Brixen

Brixen is a beautiful, historical city worth visiting by itself. It lies just south of the Brenner Pass, the main transport corridor into Austria and Germany beyond which makes it easily accessible from either north or south by car or rail. The best airports to fly in are be Munich (why?), Innsbruck and Venice.

The northern part of the trail from Brixen first climbs up on the Plose mountain. There’s a ski area so you don’t quite get the feeling of solitude but it is, nevertheless very beautiful and from the top you have beautiful views in all directions.

Puez Odle and across the Sella Massif

Soon enough you will enter the magnificent Puez Odle Natural Park. You’ll get wonderful views down the Badia valley. After crossing Puez Odle, you will cross Passo Gardena and the northern part of the Sella Ronda ski circuit. Passo Gardena is served by public transportation and there’s hotels so it would be an option to start or end your trip.

After Passo Gardena you cross the magnificent Sella Massif to emerge to Passo Pordoi on the other side. From the Sella, in good weather you’ll get your first glimpses of the Marmolada – the Queen of the Dolomites! Passo Pordoi is another option to begin or end with hotels and public transportation.

Around the Marmolada

From Passo Pordoi you will continue on the Viel del Pan, an ancient route that links Passo Pordoi to Passo Fedeia, used historically for transferring flour by the merchants of Belluno. All the while on the Viel del Pan, the might Marmolada keeps you company.

From Passo Fedeia you descend to Malga Ciapela, a small ski resort town with some hotels. Alta Via 2 now takes you around the Marmolada from the eastern side and then behind it in the South, to Passo San Pellegrino, where again are some hotels, a small ski area and a bus stop.

If you decide to spend time in Malga Ciapela and it’s a beautiful day, I recommend taking the lift up to the Marmolada. The views are totally worth it. If you spend the night at Malga Ciapela you can visit Marmolada in the morning and you still have good time to make it to Passo San Pellegrino for the night. (That’s what we did!)

Pale di San Martino

Descending to Passo San Pellegrino, you’re awarded with beautiful vistas into the exceptional Pale di San Martino, which Alta Via 2 crosses next. Pale di San Martino is the southernmost of the big Dolomites groups, at the borders of the Trento and Belluno provinces.

It will take you a few days on rugged terrain to cross this range before you arrive at your final stages.

Vette Feltrine & Feltre

The final days of the AV2 will be spent crossing the Vette Feltrine, the last mountains of the Dolomites before the Veneto plains. Being the first obstacle for the warm air that rises from the South and the Mediterranean, this stretch is often covered in mist, and the local flora is quite impressive as you gradually descend towards sea level.

The final stage takes you to Croce d’Aune, a short way from the walled renaissance town of Feltre. From there it is easy to get where ever you may want to go by public transport.

“It’s very long & I only have a week. I really, reaaally hate dormitories. Etc.”

If you don’t have the time or will to walk the entire length, there’s several places to get on and off along the way. If you want to spend some nights in hotels instead of mountain huts – that is, private rooms and long, hot showers –  there’s options for that, too, along the way in some places.

To adjust, you just need to plan accordingly.

Please read through our 6 day Alta Via 2 experience. We split our trek differently from what the typical suggestion is and spent several nights in hotels. You’ll miss out on some beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and the encompassing mountain hut atmosphere but you gain uninterrupted sleep and, well, the hot showers.

Proper hotels at Passo Pordoi on the right. I recommend booking beforehand… We stayed at the Hotel Savoya and had a truly wonderful dining experience there! We were so ready for it after 4 days on the trail…

How to Get There and Back

Organizing your transport depends on you. If you’re planning on doing this entire walk, I recommend using public transportation. If you drive to Brixen, you’ll need to park your car somewhere (and pay for that, practically) and then go back to get it.

Getting to Brixen

Getting to Brixen is easy: Fly to Munich, Innsbruck or Venice and hop on a train. There’s continuous connections from all these places. Check out train schedules at

Starting Somewhere in the Middle

If you want to start somewhere other than Brixen, I still recommend getting on a train either to Brixen or Bolzano. From either of these places you can then take a bus to, for example, Passo Gardena, Passo Pordoi, Passo San Pellegrino and so on. Check out https://www.sad.it/

Make sure you understand how much time these connections will take. For example, last time I checked Passo San Pellegrino was far away measured in hours to get there.

Ending Somewhere in the Middle

Basically, same story as above but in reverse. Get to one of the places where you can take a bus. It could be one of the passes, or it could be a town off the AV2. For example, we hiked to Moena – west of Passo San Pellegrino – and got a bus from there.

Ending in Feltre

From Feltre you can hop on a train and get to Venice. Or, you can hop on a bus and get to, for example Trento and then hop on a train from there.

If you left your car in Brixen or flew in via Innsbruck or Munich, riding a bus to Trento and getting on a train there is probably the best choice. If you flew into Venice, the train is obvious.

Venice?

Sure! Venice is worth a visit if you have some time to spare! You’re in the neighborhood We visited before our trek and it was worth it.

To be honest, though, after fully packed and overly crowded Venice, getting to the mountains was a real relief.

Check out some hotel deals for Venice here. I recommend also checking out the hotels in Mestre, on the mainland just next to Venice. It’s cheaper but still convenient. Of course, not as wonderful as Venice proper, but especially if you’re on a budget, I’d check it out.

Alta Via 2 Itinerary

Now let’s get back from thinking about Venice, to the Dolomites Alta Via 2 itinerary!

Here’s how to do it. The following day stages have you sleeping in mountain huts, which is great! I really recommend you do because it’s the authentic experience and there’s really nothing quite comparable to a beautiful sunset, and a beautiful sunrise on the mountain. However, to spend some nights in hotels, see how we did it for the first 6 days to get an alternative approach.

  • Stage 1: Brixen to Plose Hütte (5:30 hours)
  • Stage 2: Plose Hütte to Rifugio Genova (4 hours)
  • Stage 3: Rifugio Genova to Rifugio Puez (5 hours)
  • Stage 4: Rifugio Puez to Rifugio Pisciadu (5 hours)
  • Stage 5: Rifugio Pisciadu to Rifugio Castiglioni (6:30 hours. There’s other places to stay around Lake Fedeia you can consider, too, e.g. Hotel Rifugio Dolomia or Rifugio Fedeia
  • Stage 6: Rifugio Castiglioni to Passo San Pellegrino. Choices at Passo San Pellegrino include Albergo Miralago and a few hotels
  • Stage 7: Passo San Pellegrino to Rifugio Mulaz (5:15 hours)
  • Stage 8: Rifugio Mulaz to Rifugio Rosetta (4:15 hours)
  • Stage 9: Rifugio Rosetta to Rifugio Treviso (6:15 hours)
  • Stage 10: Rifugio Treviso to Passo Cereda (4:30 hours)
  • Stage 11: Passo Cereda to Rifugio Boz (7:15 hours)
  • Stage 12: Rifugio Boz to Rifugio Dal Piaz (6 hours)
  • Stage 13: Rifugio Dal Piaz to Croce d’Aune (1:30 hours)

Some Considerations

  • This is a long trek, don’t underestimate it. You can squeeze in longer days but I advise to build in some slack.
  • As always, weather can be tricky. Read about our snowy experience on the Sella Massif in July here.
  • There’s not many places to get supplies along the way. If you stay on the route, after Brixen the first shops are in Malga Ciapela. That’s on the 6th day according to the schedule, unless you make a detour to, for example, Selva Val Gardena near Passo Gardena.
  • While on the trail, you can get off and get a bus in these places:
    • Passo Gardena
    • Passo Pordoi
    • Rifugio Castiglioni
    • Passo San Pellegrino
    • Passo Cereda
    • To get off the trail elsewhere, you will need to walk somewhere.

I strongly recommend reserving your nights at the mountain huts beforehand. It can get very crowded at times. Even though you probably won’t be left out in the cold, sleeping in emergency shelters or on a filthy mattress somewhere is not necessarily very enjoyable!

Even More Information

Being as popular as they are, there’s all kinds of information available on the Dolomites all over the Internet. Just google up Dolomites Alta Via 2.

So, before contact information to all the Rifugios on the Alta Via 2, here’s some stories to check out:

There’s some discussions going on Summitpost: http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/alta-via-2-dolomites-t66942.html

There’s also commercial options if you would like to explore with a group and/or with guidance. The two companies I seem to run across are:

If you book from them, say “Hello!” from Gohikealps!

Contact Info for the Mountain Huts

Here’s the contact info to the mountain huts on the Alta Via 2. There’s also links to hotels along the way. All in order of appearance as you walk from North to South. I’ve gathered this information from various sources and cannot guarantee it’s all 100% up to date so please check before you go! (I did do my best, though!)

By the way, I’ve found that often these huts are easier to reach by phone rather than email. This is especially true during the summer when they’re all busy catering to guests.

(Note: info listed has been checked in january 2017)

Plose Hütte

Rifugio Genova / Schüterhütte

Rifugio Puez

Hotels at Passo Gardena

  • Check at Booking.com
  • We stayed at Hotel Cir and liked it!

Rifugio Pisciadu

Rifugio Boè

Hotels at Passo Pordoi

 Rifugio Castiglioni

 

Hotels at Malga Ciapela

Hotels at Passo San Pellegrino

Rifugio Capanna at Passo Valles

Rifugio Mulaz

Rifugio Rosetta

Rifugio Treviso

Rifugio Passo Cereda

Rifugio Boz

Rifugio Dal Piaz

Enjoy it!

If you’re in doubt, I say GO! The Dolomites Alta Via 2 is unique in so many ways that it is worth it to go. If you’re flying from overseas it’s far away but you can easily combine this once in a lifetime trek with other great things – such as Venice, and other wonders that Northern Italy has to offer. Lake Garda is nearby, as is Milan. Or if you want to experience Austria and Germany, just hop on a train.

I started this site to give ideas to hikers and trekkers who may not yet be familiar with the Alps. When friends or acquaintances ask me what is the best and most beautiful place to go to, I always respond: The Dolomites. The Dolomites Alta Via 2 is the best of it.

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Thanks for reading, happy hiking !

Pekka