Experience Cadini di Misurina: How to Visit the Mountains of Mordor in the Dolomites

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Kate + Vin

Cadini di Misurina in the Italian Dolomites
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Deep in the Dolomites towers the haunting Cadini di Misurina — a mountain range at war with all that is above and below. Here’s how to visit this ravishing spectacle of Italy including the “Punto panoramico vista Cadini” (the mindbending Cadini di Misurina viewpoint).

No other mountains in the world ravage the skies like Cadini di Misurina. Their black-boned peaks appear as serrated spears heaved into the belly of heaven. You look at them and can’t help but wonder if each summit is hellbent on pillaging and plundering the very vault of God.

Indeed, these are not mountains merely content to brush passing clouds. No, they loom with bloodlust. Hunting the heavens with a maniacal devotion to defiling each whispy angel one by one until they smolder like the plumes of war.

Laying your eyes upon Cadini di Misurina for the first time leaves no doubt — if Mordor has a home on Earth it is here. What other mountain range rouses such a stirring sense of menace and marvel all at once?

⇒ DOWNLOAD OUR STEP-BY-STEP CADINI HIKING GUIDE (WITH MAP)

About Cadini di Misurina

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Cadini di Misurina may very well be the peaks that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s dark vision of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. He visited the Dolomites as a young man.

The Cadini di Misurina Group is a part of the Sexten Dolomites (also known as Dolomiti di Sesto and Sextener Dolomiten), which encompasses a motley of mountains including the most famous peaks in the Dolomites: Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen). Beyond a vast bounty of breathless beauty, the Sexten Dolomites possess a deep storied past; both bewitching and tragic.

Burial finds verify the existence of ancient settlements in the region dating to the Mesolithic Age (approximately 10,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C.). In fact, the intact skeleton of an ancient lost soul known as the Mondeval Man was found in a grave along with antlers and stone tools, not far from Cadini di Misurina, several years prior to the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman in the Ötztal Alps. Amazingly, the Mondeval Man roamed the mountains more than 2,000 years before Ötzi.

mondeval man
Ancients roamed amid the peaks. Here lies the nearly 10,000-year-old skeleton of the Mondeval Man.

The Celts eventually settled the area, reigning for several hundred years, until the Romans conquered the Alps in 15 B.C. Roman rule gave rise to the Ladin language — an ancient tongue still spoken today in five valleys in the Dolomites. Ladin culture is woven into the very fabric of the mountains.

The name “Cadini di Misurina” is born from the even more melodious, “Ciadìs de Meśorìna”, which is what the Ladin people call the mountain group.  “Ciadìs” denotes a deep ravine or valley. “Meśorìna” derives from “Meso ai Rin” meaning “in the midst of the streams”.

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Tip: After hiking Cadini di Misurina, stroll the shores of Lago di Misurina to see Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the Cadini Group from an entirely different perspective.

According to Ladin lore, Meśorìna was the demanding daughter of King Sorapiss who sought a magical mirror from a sorcerer high up on Mount Cristallo. Upon gazing into the mirror she saw her father metamorphosizing into a mountain. Horrified by the spectacle, Meśorìna fainted and fell into the abyss, lost to the world. Grief-stricken, streams of tears flowed from King Sorapiss giving rise to Lago di Misurina — an alpine lake beneath Cadini di Misurina often called the Pearl of the Dolomites.

Like nearby Lago di Braies and Lago di Dobbiaco, Lago di Misurina’s waters ripple a rare jade amid the pale peaks. In certain light, it even resembles the rainbow-shattered waters of Lago di Carezza located near Bolzano.

Sadly, the loss of a fair maiden is not the only tragedy to befall this part of the Dolomites. During World I, the Alpine front between Italy and Austria blazed through the summits of Cadini di Misurina. The senseless devastation amid the peaks overwhelms. More than a million soldiers died fighting in the Dolomites from 1915-1917 (689,000 Italians and 400,000 Austrians). Something never to lose sight of when hiking here.

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How to Visit Cadini di Misurina

Cadini Mountains on Tre Cime di Lavaredo Hike
Even when the weather is not gloomy Cadini di Misurina soars with unbridled rage.

The Sexten Dolomites straddle both South Tyrol and Veneto (Belluno), Italy, and are located in the Drei Zinnen Nature Park (Parco Naturale Tre Cime). Cadini di Misurina forms the southern end of the range —stabbing the slice of sky between Lago di Misurina, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Zwölferkofel (Croda dei Toni) and Auronzo di Cadore, a town situated in a valley southeast of the mountain group.

The best way to visit Cadini di Misurina depends on whether you are intent on hiking Cadini di Misurina itself or enjoying its jarring vista from a distance. Most visitors to the Dolomites are content with hiking to the famous Cadini di Misurina viewpoint. If that’s you, consider basing yourself in the towns of Toblach (Dobaccio), Sexten (Sesto), Innichen (San Candido) and Cortina d’ Ampezzo. Each is 30-40 minutes from Cadini di Misurina viewpoint trailhead located by Rifugio Auronzo beneath Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

The Cadini di Misurina viewpoint can be reached through a point-to-point hike that takes approximately 1.5 hours, making it a convenient bonus destination to tackle before or after hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop. See below for step-by-step directions.

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Want to stay in the mountains of Mordor? Rifugio Fratelli Fonda Savio is located in the heart of Cadini di Misurina (photo credit: Rifugio Fratelli Fonda Savio)

If you are compelled like a hobbit to walk into the depths of Mordor, consider staying at Rifugio Fratelli Fonda Savio in the heart of Cadini di Misurina. This mountain hut is perched at nearly 7,800 ft (2,300+ m) directly under the Cime Cadin dei Tocci peak of the Cadini Group. Fonda Savio has 40 beds and can be reached within an hour by hiking trail no. 115 from Pian dei Spiriti, which is a 20-minute walk above Lago di Misurina.

The hut is along the Alta Via No.4, which is a long-distance hiking route in the Dolomites that stretches 50+ miles. Staying at Fondo Savio puts a number of Cadini Group hikes right out the front door including Vai Ferrata routes if you are up for a climbing adventure.

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What Makes Cadini di Misurina so Mesmerizing?

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No ordinary mountains here.

Everywhere the Dolomites tower they seemingly defy alpine convention. It is as if they simply chose to ignore nature’s rule book for mountains. Nowhere is this more evident than Cadini di Misurina (although Seceda is a close second). To the unknowing eye, its hellish labyrinth of spires, towers, crevices and crags appears fashioned by an entity most unholy. The truth, however, is much less sinister, but just as fascinating.

The Dolomites’ origin story begins beneath a tropical sea 250 million years ago during the Triassic period. Their creation involved several enigmatic geological processes, each leaving its indelible mark on the landscape.

Over millions of years, the remains of shells, sponges, algae and other sea life accumulated on the sea floor creating atolls and coral reefs. During the Jurassic period, the age of dinosaurs, the seabed sediment slowly began to compress and congeal into solidified rock.

Next came a tempest of tectonic activity ravaging the seabed and tilting it skyward into mountains. Finally, the restless forces of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, glaciers and the ruinous hand of wind, ice and rain sculpted the peaks we see today. All dramatic, beautiful and bizarre, but none possessing a profile as spellbinding and visceral as Cadini di Misurina. If Orcs do not call Cadini di Misurina home then Krampus certainly do.

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One does not simply walk into the Dolomites…without knowing its peaks.

The range contains more than a dozen daunting peaks. The three highest, Cima Cadin di San Lucano, Cima Eötvös, and Cima Cadin Nord Est, stand nearly 10,000 ft (2,700+ m). Other notable peaks include the arrowhead-like Cimon di Croda Liscia and the Torre Siorpaes, a mountain tower surely holding the all-seeing eye of Sauron.

It’s interesting to note that before the 19th century, the Dolomites were called the “Monti Pallidi” (Pale Mountains), a moniker as ghostly as the mountains themselves. However, in the late 1700s, a French geologist named Déodat de Dolomieu was the first to delve into the region’s geologic secrets with scientific rigor. He made a world-changing discovery as a result.

Through chemical reaction tests using hydrochloric acid, Dolomieu discovered the mountain rock did not bubble and fizzle like limestone. He concluded the Pale Mountains must be comprised of a unique mineral and published his observations in a well-respected French science journal. Less than a year later, in March 1792, Swiss chemist, Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure, confirmed Dolomieu’s findings and named the “new” rock type “Dolomite”. By the way, you can dive into the fascinating life and discoveries of Deodat De Dolomieu by visiting the Messner Mountain Museum located on Mount Rite, which is less than an hour south of Cadini di Misurina.

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How to Hike to the Wildest Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint

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Without a doubt, the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint offers one of the best views in the Dolomites.

A trip to Tre Cime di Lavaredo is not complete without taking the time to fully appreciate the grandeur of Cadini di Misurina. You can begin enjoying the mountain range’s chaotic profile as soon as you arrive at the Rifugio Auronzo parking lot, which is the most popular starting point for the Tre Cime loop hike and also happens to be the trailhead for the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint or Punto Panoramico Vista Cadini as you may see it called out on maps.

Note: See our post about visiting Tre Cime di Lavaredo for detailed directions and options for reaching Rifugio Auronzo by car or public bus. Or you can download our step-by-step hiking guide for access at your fingertips.

As we pointed out earlier, the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint is a 2-mile (3.2 km) out-and-back hike that takes roughly 1.5 hours. It is a relatively easy hike, but the final stretch to the viewpoint is not for those uneasy about heights. That said, you can still enjoy 90% of this hike without making the final walk to the famous viewpoint if you are not surefooted or comfortable. The views of Cadini di Misurina and the southern faces of Tre Cime di Lavaredo are astounding throughout much of the journey and you will encounter multiple lookout points and photo hotspots along the trail.

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Step-by-Step Directions to the Viewpoint

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  • To begin the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint hike, look for the trail no. 117 signpost set along the paved path right beneath Rifugio Auronzo.
  • Take trail no. 117 downslope, which will lead you in the direction of Cadini di Misurina and Rifugo Fratelli Fonda Savio. This stretch carries you over the Forcella Longeres saddle towards Monte Campedelle, which is more mound than mountain by the Cadini Group’s standards. Photo Tip: On your left side, will be the Vallon di Lavaredo, a yawning chasm that tumbles south deep into the Marzon Valley. On a clear day, you can see Lago di Auronzo shimmering in the yonder.
  • The Cadini di Misurina viewpoint is not signposted so when you eventually come to a fork in the trail stay to the right and continue hiking gradually upslope. The trail branching to the left is nerve-racking and should be avoided. Photo Tip: Be sure to turn around to snap the southern faces of Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Yes, you will face the peaks on the return hike, but if you’re visiting on a cloudy day the mountains can be shy in the blink of an eye so take in the views while you can. [su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Once you summit the slope, the Cadini Group will return to view and you will be able to spot the Punto Panoramico Vista Cadini, which looks like a strip of land made for launching mountain bikers into the hereafter. Photo Tip: If hiking to the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint makes you nervous then consider soaking in the peaks at the saddle summit instead of trekking down. The saddle summit viewpoint is breathtaking in its own right. [su_spacer size=”10″]
  • To reach the viewpoint, carefully follow the main trail downslope. When you arrive at the trail branching to the viewpoint be sure to wait if there is already another hiker on it. A) It is narrow, and B) the polite thing to do is always take turns whenever visiting a photo hotspot. [su_spacer size=”10″]
  • To return to Rifugio Auronzo, retrace the path you came. Moment of Zen Tip: We recommend sitting atop the saddle and refueling with a South Tyrolean apple before heading back. The views will make every bite sweeter.

⇒ DOWNLOAD OUR STEP-BY-STEP CADINI HIKING GUIDE (WITH MAP)

Cadini Di Misurina Hiking Map

cadini di misurina viewpoint hike map

Our Favorite Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint

When hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop trail you can admire Cadini di Misurina from a number of jaw-dropping vantage points. But the viewpoint we love the most is on the final stretch of the circuit hike. As you begin rounding Cime Ovest, the westernmost peak, a spectacular panorama of Cadini di Misurina unfolds before you.

From here, you can appreciate the entire northern face of the mountain range. Soaking in all the jagged wildness of Cadini di Misurina in one glance is a sight you will not forget.

Cadini di Misurina from Drei Zinnen hike

A few more stunning viewpoints of the Cadini Group are also nearby. As you begin the journey up the toll road to Rifugio Auronzo, you will pass Lago Antorno, a small lake that makes for a great photo stop.

The lake offers a Shire-like setting to capture a different side of Cadini di Misurina, as well as a wholly different perspective of Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which looks like two ancient pyramids stacked one in front of the other.

If you want to enjoy the sight of Cadini with another outing, consider hiking Prato Piazza. This sprawling meadowland is located to the north in Val di Braies. The plateau is easy to hike and is like a vast balcony to some of the most breathtaking peaks in the Dolomites.

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Cadini di Misurina and Tre Cime di Lavaredo as seen from Lago Antorno.

When to Visit Cadini di Misurina

The toll road to Rifugio Auronzo opens at the end of May and closes at the end of October assuming heavy snow is not forecasted. You can begin driving the toll road at 7 a.m. each day after paying a fee of €30 per car. Like every popular destination in the Dolomites, if you want to experience the raw beauty of nature without crowds, arrive early. Once all parking spaces are taken at Rifugio Auronzo, the road can be closed to private cars. Another option is to take a shuttle bus from Toblach for €15 per person.

Trip Planning Made Easy: In addition to providing an easy-to-follow guide to hike Cadini di Misurina and Tre Cime di Lavaredo, our South Tyrol Travel Resources show you how to travel affordably, as well as how to use the public transit system so you can confidently plan your routes. LEARN MORE

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Additional Tips to Make Your Hike More Enjoyable

  • Plan to hike to the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint on the same day you intend to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo circuit. The loop around the Three Peaks takes roughly 4-5 hours so expect to spend a minimum of 6 hours adventuring once you arrive at Rifugio Auronzo. If you are hiking when the huts are not open yet for the season or have closed, pack a lunch and water.
  • If you arrive at Rifugio Auronzo and encounter a herd of people embarking on the Tre Cime loop hike, give yourself some space and privacy by visiting the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint first rather than afterward.
  • If you arrive on a day when it is lightly raining or the trails are wet from previous rainfall, hike the Tre Cime loop first to give the Cadini di Misurina trail a chance to fully dry out. The last stretch of the Cadini hike is not safe when the trails are slick. On our first visit, we did not venture out onto the viewpoint because the trail conditions were sketchy. The sight was still awe-inspiring without taking a silly risk. Never leave your common sense at home when hiking in the mountains.
  • If you spot an Orc lurking amid the Cadini peaks, alert the proper authorities. Do not engage.

SAVE TO YOUR TRAVEL BOARD

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