A trip to the Dolomites is incomplete without witnessing the staggering Geisler Group. And what better vantage point than Geisler Alm? Discover how to hike the Adolf Munkel Trail to reach this awe-inspiring panorama, where the soul of South Tyrol is revealed in every crag and crest, and every sip and bite.
Geisler Alm first seized our alpine appetite the moment we came across an image of some lucky devil sprawled lazily on a log-hewn lounger, basking not just in sunlight, but in the damn near spiritual silhouette of the Geisler (Odle) Peaks. The sight was utterly captivating. It screamed of stories yet to be told and adventures waiting to be had.
Perhaps the very same snapshot landed you right here. And if that’s the case, you’re in luck. We made it our goal to experience Geisler Alm, also referred to as Malga Geisler, Rifugio Odle and Geisleralm, and pass on the roadmap so you can visit Val di Funes and follow in our Dolomites-dusted footsteps.
How to Visit Geisler Alm
With a bit of local help, we discovered the best way to reach Geisler Alm — and its panoramic terrace known as the “Cinema delle Odle” or “Geislerkino” — is by hiking the Adolf Munkel Trail (also called Adolf Munkel Weg and Sentiero Adolf Munkel). This circuit trail curls through a picturesque swath of the Puez-Geisler Nature Park (Parco Naturale Puez Odle), a vast nature preserve protecting more than 26,000 acres in the Dolomites and encompassing other renowned destinations such as Seceda.
About the Adolf Munkel Trail
For more than a century, the Adolf Munkel Trail has welcomed the tread of countless hiking boots. It was created in 1905 by the Dresden Alpine Association and christened in honor of the association’s first chairman, a notable German mountaineer. Adolf sought to carve out a trail, not just to guide feet, but to stir souls, leading them straight into the heart of South Tyrol’s treasures. He certainly succeeded — crafting what many consider the Dolomites’ most breathtaking route.
How Long is the Adolf Munkel Trail?
Depending on your chosen path, the Adolf Munkel Trail spans either 5.5 miles (9 km) or extends to 10.7 miles (17 km). The shorter route will take you roughly 3-4 hours from start to finish. If you are feeling a bit more ambitious, embark on the extended stretch, but be ready to commit a good 6 hours. It leads toward Val Gardena and Alpe di Siusi until you reach Rifugio Malga Brogles (Brogles Alm). At that point, you will descend back into the valley. Tip: On the shorter route, we recommend planning a half day at a minimum to enjoy all the adventure and beauty the Adolf Munkel Trail has to offer.
How Far is the Hike to Geisler Alm?
Geisler Alm is 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from the Adolf Munkel Trail starting point. With a casual pace, you can be lounging in its “cinema” enjoying a front-row seat to the Geisler Peaks in two hours or less.
How Hard is the Adolf Munkel Trail?
The Adolf Munkel Trail is an easy to moderately challenging hike with an elevation gain of 1,404 ft (428 m). If you hike the extended route, it is a challenging excursion with an elevation gain of 2,474 ft (754 m). The bulk of the difficult elevation is mainly on the latter half of the route after Geisler Alm.
Adolf Munkel Trail Map
Step-by-Step Directions to Geisler Alm
In order to visit Geisler Alm, you need to first reach Val di Funes. See our post on visiting Val di Funes to understand where this fairytale valley is located in the Dolomites, as well as directions on how to arrive.
Once you are in Val di Funes, navigate to the Zanser Alm parking area (Parkplatz Zanser Alm), which is situated next to the Adolf Munkel Trail trailhead. When you arrive at Zanser Alm, you will see parking spaces and then a sign pointing to two different parking areas. If parking is not immediately available, head to one of the other designated lots. The cost to park for the day in 2023 is 8 EUR.
Money-saving Tip: If you are staying in Val di Funes, check to see if your hotel offers a DolomitiCard. It is provided to guests at no charge and provides discounts including up to 50% off the parking fee at Parkplatz Zanser Alm.
Right next to the Zanser Alm parking area, you’ll stumble upon Treffpunkt Zan, an artfully shaped structure that is the launch pad for hiking the Puez-Geisler Nature Park from Val di Funes. The Treffpunkt Zan is a Dolomites UNESCO Infopoint — featuring an exhibit that traces the creation of the Dolomites over the course of 270 million years. It’s also a great spot to grab a coffee and a pastry before hitting the trail.
Begin on Trail No. 6
When you’re ready, begin the hike by taking trail no. 6 towards Zanser Schwaige — designated by a series of signposts. This direction will have you hike the Adolf Munkel Trail in a clockwise manner. You will first walk on a paved road that eventually becomes gravel. Within no time, you will be passing by the Zanser Schwaige, your inaugural mountain hut on the hike. If you didn’t fuel up yet, slide into a seat here before continuing on.
Hop on the Adolf Munkel Trail by Taking Trail No. 35
When you press on past Zanser Schwaige, an old-growth pine forest soon lines the trail as it begins leaning more mountainward. On this stretch, you can let the babbling rhythm of the Rio San Zenòn stream sync with your footsteps. Eventually, you will come to a small stone bridge. Cross it, and just to your left, the Adolf Munkel Trail beckons, marked as trail no. 35.
After splashing past the stream, you’re thrust right into the heart of the forest. Here, the Adolf Munkel Trail seems to pull a bit of a vanishing act as you find yourself occasionally tangoing with some gnarly tree roots.
Eventually, you will come to a crossroads with a trail signpost. One trail beckons towards Geisler Alm and Dusler Alm (trail no. 36A), while the other tempts you towards Brogles Alm and Gschnagenhardt Alm on trail no. 35 and trail no. 36 respectively. Stay on the Adolf Munkel Trail by following trail no. 35 to the left. Even though the sign doesn’t call out Geisler Alm you will still reach the hut and soak in much more scenery in the process.
Before long, you emerge into a clearing, and there they stand the Geisler Peaks, in all their awe-striking majesty. When we arrived at this point, we were rendered speechless. These rugged crags are where the legendary mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, honed his climbing skills as a child. As a young man, he would etch his name in history by being the first to ascend Mt. Everest without the aid of supplemental oxygen. Val di Funes is in fact where he was born.
Switch to Trail No. 36 to Hike to Geisler Alm and Gschnagenhardt Alm
As you continue on trail no. 35, you will tread a gentle incline until coming to another crossroads. From here, take trail no. 36 to the right towards Geisler Alm, Gschnagenhardt Alm (Malga Casnago) and Dusler Alm. This segment is the steepest part of the Adolf Munkel Trail if you opt for the shorter route. Note: If you are hiking the longer route, continue following trail no. 35 to reach Rifugio Malga Brogles.
Soon, the steep incline levels out, and suddenly, you’re standing amidst a rolling alpine expanse. The trail then leads you gradually down the mountain meadow to Gschnagenhardt Alm. As we discovered, this rustic gem offers a vista of the Geisler Group that rivals, if not surpasses, the views from Geisler Alm. If you are ready, the hut is a fine place to take a seat and enjoy a meal or refreshments. Helmed by the Profanter family, Gschnagenhardt Alm prides itself on serving weary wanderers South Tyrolean cuisine crafted from age-old recipes native to Val di Funes.
After Gschnagenhardt Alm, hop back on the trail and meander downslope to Geisler Alm. Approaching the hut, you will spot a hill rising behind it dotted with wooden loungers. This is the iconic Cinema delle Odle. While you may be tempted to dart for a seat, a delightful surprise lies just ahead. Soon, you will reach Geisler Alm’s charming petting zoo. We challenge you to race by here! The endearing goats and bunnies we chanced upon were more than enough to captivate us for a moment.
If Gschnagenhardt Alm wasn’t your culinary stop, we’d suggest settling into a spot on Geisler Alm’s sun-kissed terrace before making your way to the open-air cinema. It radiates whimsical Tyrolean charm. From the handcrafted wooden tables to the woodcarvings adorning the walls, every detail creates a jovial alpine vibe — the perfect prelude to the cinematic experience ahead.
Owned and operated by the Runggatscher family, the motto at Geisler Alm is “Eat with gusto”. Their hearty homemade cuisine ensures that will not be a problem…especially when it comes to dessert. The hut is especially well known for its sweets, which include our favorite mid-hike sin: Buchteln.
Take a Seat in the Cinema delle Odle
After savoring your final morsel, trek up the hill to the Cinema delle Odle and find a lounger to recline on. If they’re all taken, follow our lead and claim a patch of grass. Then, let your eyes drift over the Geisler Peaks, moving from left to right, where the majestic Furchetta and Sass Rigais stand tall, reigning supreme at an impressive 9,900+ ft (3,000+ m). Your gaze will then be drawn to the Fermeda Towers, the helter-skelter spires that make hiking Seceda a must. After the show, you can let your eyes slip into a snooze if so inclined.
Once you’ve indulged in a much-needed respite and feel the call of the trail again, rejoin trail no. 36, directing you towards Dusler Alm (Malga Dusler). Less than an hour into your stride, Dusler Alm emerges, offering a perfect spot for a quick bite or refreshing sip. From there, you will continue on trail no. 36 which gradually descends until arriving back at the Zanser Alm parking area.
Next, we recommend swinging over to the Zanser Schwaige, where you can raise a glass in tribute to finishing one of the best hikes in the Dolomites. While it’s a teaspoon less jaw-dropping than hiking the vast mountain world of Tre Cime di Lavaredo or Cadini di Misurina, the Adolf Munkel Trail offers something they can’t: a chance to walk amid ancient forests and hunting grounds once trodden by Tyrolean royalty.
When to Visit Geisler Alm
When is the best time to visit Geisler Alm? Our preference is late September / early October. However, like many Dolomite treks, your choice hinges on what you seek from your vacation in South Tyrol.
What makes the Adolf Munkel Trail relatively unique is that it does not require zipping up a mountain on a gondola, freeing you from the constraints of cable car timings. This means you can explore this alpine wonderland throughout much of the year, winter included. The caveat is that the huts do not remain open year-round.
If you are looking to experience culinary treasures on your adventure, plan to hike the Adolf Munkel Trail from the end of May through the end of October. Mountain hut opening and closing dates can change from year to year so be sure to consult each establishment’s website, especially if your trip aligns with the season’s start or end. Geisler Alm takes a brief hiatus but welcomes visitors post-Christmas, staying open until mid-March. Time your visit right and you can visit Geisler Alm and South Tyrol’s Christmas markets.
As for the best time of day to hike the Adolf Munkel Trail? Embarking in the morning offers the chance to watch the dawning sun pour through the Geisler Peaks. The sight is a rare kind of magic. However, if you’re keen on seeing the mountains bathed in golden light, then plan to hike here in the afternoon.
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Additional Tips to Enjoy Your Hike
- Like many routes in the Dolomites, if you arrive at the trailhead and there is a crowd, consider walking the Adolf Munkel Trail counterclockwise for a more peaceful excursion.
- Mountain huts along the Adolf Munkel Trail observe rest days. If there’s a specific hut you’re keen on visiting, it’s wise to check its website to confirm its operational hours.
- The Adolf Munkel Trail is interspersed with numerous offshoots, which might be perplexing for novice hikers. To reach Geisler Alm as we described above, stick to the specified trail numbers.
- Geisler Alm isn’t the only hut to offer cinematic loungers. You will also find plenty sitting around Gschnagenhardt Alm. Take advantage of them too.
- As previously mentioned, if you’re lodging in Val di Funes, inquire with your hotel about the DolomitiCard. Offered complimentary to guests, this card grants various perks, including a potential 50% reduction on parking fees at Parkplatz Zanser Alm.
- Either before or after your journey on the Adolf Munkel Trail, make time to witness Val di Funes’ hallmark vistas: the St. Magdalena Church and St. Johann Chapel. For insights on how to experience these, refer to our Val di Funes guide.
⇒ DISCOVER MORE HIKES IN THE DOLOMITES: Dolomites Trip Planning Resources
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