Looking for the best hikes in the Dolomites? Our handpicked list will help you confidently plan your adventure-filled holidays in South Tyrol.
We know how hard it is to plan a trip to the Dolomites when every mountain and valley seems like a must-see. Especially if you only have 2-3 days to visit.
With 26 majestic ranges emblazoned by more than 3,600 trails, it’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed by the hiking possibilities. Yet, amid this vast hiking wonderland, some routes rise above the rest — trails that capture the very essence of the Dolomites.
Whether you’re a thrill-seeker chasing the next ascent or a casual hiker longing for a meander amidst wildflowers, snowy peaks and babbling brooks, the Dolomites can be your alpine playground. And while the options are abundant, our carefully curated list distills the best of the best, ensuring every step you take is a doctorate study in the meaning of epic. To elevate your wandering soul even further, we’ve sprinkled in some invaluable tips to help you craft the ultimate Dolomites itinerary.
⇒ Download step-by-step guides to hiking in the Dolomites
#1 Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen)
The first hike on our list might strike some as the proverbial “no-brainer.” But, believe it or not, during our trip consultation calls with travelers heading to the Dolomites, a surprising number are unaware of Tre Cime di Lavaredo — also known as Drei Zinnen and Three Peaks of Lavaredo. To avid mountain addicts, this may seem almost criminal given they’re likely the world’s most storied trio of rockstars minus ZZ Top, The Police, and Motörhead.
Nestled in the embrace of the Drei Zinnen Nature Park, deep in South Tyrol’s Sexten Dolomites, trying to articulate the sheer splendor of Tre Cime di Lavaredo feels almost sacrilegious. Its monolithic spears — Cima Piccola, Cima Grande, and Cima Ovest — thrust upwards, defiantly challenging the heavens at an altitude teasing 10,000 ft (3,000+ m). If their silhouettes don’t send a jolt through your core at first sight, we’d question whether you’re still among the living.
A mostly level hiking trail loops around the Three Peaks making these three amigos of the Dolomites incredibly popular with hikers of all ages and experience levels. The circuit hike takes roughly four hours beginning from the parking lot near the Rifugio Auronzo mountain hut. Our Tre Cime hiking guide gives you step-by-step directions, including a hiking map, so you can easily meet these giants of the mountain world up close.
In addition to admiring the famous Three Peaks up close, you will also encounter military remnants from World War I including tunnels and trenches as the Front tore directly through here. By the way, if you are not familiar with the war’s impact in the region, see our award-winning story: Forest of the Fallen.
#2 Lago di Braies
It’s no surprise one of the most beautiful lakes in the world is among the best places to visit in the Dolomites. A jewel of Italy, Lago di Braies (also known as Pragser Wildsee, Lake Braies and Lake Prags) attracts throngs of visitors from around the world each year.
Regardless of the season, the lake set against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains is a sight to behold. But to see it sparkle like a rare emerald, plan to visit between May and early November.
A hiking trail encircles the lake beginning from Hotel Braies. It is an easy 2-hour hike that does not require any skill or feat of fitness.
But the trek may require you to dodge other hikers as this gem becomes incredibly busy. See our complete guide to hiking Lake Braies for details on how to enjoy the “Pearl of the Italian Dolomites” without the crowds. And if the sight of Lago di Braies leaves you aching for more Alpine blue, consider adding a visit to Lago di Dobbiaco as part of your lakes adventure.
For our money, the crown jewel of this list has got to be Seceda Mountain (also known as the Seceda Ridgeline or Fermeda Towers). This rugged beauty stands defiantly above Val Gardena in the Puez-Odle Nature Park, its fractured spine stretching serenely across an Alpine meadow before erupting into a jagged fury of peaks that tear a rift in the sky.
Seeing these serrated crags up close is a must for mountain lovers. Plus, the sweeping views of other famous South Tyrolean peaks from the seat of Seceda are astounding. Hiking here is pure, unadulterated mountain magic.
A series of lifts make reaching Seceda rather easy. The level of difficulty a hiker encounters depends on the route they choose to take down the mountain. Plan on 4-6 hours if you choose to wander from Seceda to the Twin Peaks of Pieralongia and beyond. You can find all the details and options in our hiking Seceda guide.
#4 Alpe di Siusi
We adore hiking Alpe di Siusi (also known as Seiser Alm). Think of it as Europe’s loftiest Alpine lounge. The plateau unfurls jaw-dropping mountain vistas in the most dramatic way. This vast pastureland is framed by some of the Dolomites’ most iconic peaks: Schlern, the Rosengarten, and the ever-imposing Sassolungo. If mountains were on a Monsters of Rock tour, these would be the headliners.
Thanks to its many gently rolling hills, Alpe di Siusi is a walker’s paradise. It’s also one of the best hikes in the Dolomites for beginners. Several hiking trails crisscross the plateau making it one of the more popular day hikes in the Dolomites.
In addition, a network of mountain huts allows you to savor some of the best traditional South Tyrolean fare in the region. Our favorite hut is the Malga Schgaguler Schwaige. This family-owned gem (pictured above) offers the best views of the Sassolungo Group. Plus, all of their food comes directly from their own farm.
Plan to spend a minimum of a half-day hiking. Our Alpe di Siusi hiking guide gives you step-by-step directions to this Alpine wonderland. Should you find yourself here in autumn, plan to pair your hike with some hoof-stomping fun at an Almabtrieb festival. Just make sure your hike comes first.
#5 Cadini di Misurina
Part of the allure of Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the opportunity to soak in a number of other big-league mountains. Amid the vast stretch of the Dolomites, the group that stands out the most is the enigmatic Cadini di Misurina. Nowhere else in the region will you find mountains casting shadows as menacing as these.
In fact, these tortured peaks are said to have inspired Tolkien’s Mordor in Lord of the Rings. When you first spot Cadini flashing its fangs amid the clouds, it’s easy to see why. This group thirsts for the veins of Heaven.
While you can enjoy Cadini’s sinister grin from afar at several points along the Tre Cime loop hike, the most dramatic way to see the mountain group is by hiking to the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint, a harrowing strip of rock that looks like a launching ramp for Evil Knievel. The trail is a manageable 2-mile (3.2 km) out-and-back hike that clocks in at about 1.5 hours.
Most of the hike is a breeze. However, the final push to the viewpoint might test those with a fear of heights. If you’re hesitant about the last stretch, fret not; you can still relish sensational views of Cadini without taking that last leap. The trail is generously sprinkled with prime photo ops. See our Cadini di Misurina hiking guide for detailed instructions on how to enjoy this unearthly spectacle.
#6 Lago di Carezza
Another lake not to miss in the Dolomites is Lago di Carezza (also known as Karersee, Karer Lake, or Lake Carezza). Even more magical than Lago di Braies (if you believe the legends), Lake Carezza shimmers beneath the Latemar mountain range of the Dolomites in Val d’Ega. Less than 40 minutes from the charming city of Bolzano, it is a convenient hiking destination for anyone staying in the “Gateway to the Dolomites”
Lago di Carezza is often referred to as the Fairytale Lake of the Dolomites. Its ever-changing rainbow of emerald colors inspired legends long ago of a wizard and nymph. You can attempt to spot both myths by hiking an evergreen-forested loop around the lake. It is only a 30-minute hike, but with plenty of opportunities to explore nearby, a visit can easily turn into a full day.
If you are in South Tyrol during the holidays, be sure to visit the Lago di Carezza Christmas Market as well. Set along the shoreline, the market brims with the cozy tidings of the season. And somehow the frozen lake still dances with a theater of icy hues. That is, until a riotous horde of Krampus shatters the peace, turning the seasonal tranquillity into thrilling pandemonium.
While Lago di Braies might steal the spotlight when it comes to lakes in the Dolomites, you might find yourself more drawn to the perplexing beauty of Lago di Carezza and its mighty backdrop. If you time your visit right, Carezza can be an introspective escape that other lakes simply can’t replicate. Our Lago di Carezza guide provides all you need to immerse yourself in this ethereal gem of the Dolomites
#7 Sassolungo & Sassopiatto
Sassolungo and Sassopiatto (also known as Langkofel and Plattkofel) are jagged behemoths making up the Sassolungo Group of the Dolomites. The sight of them from a distance commands reverence. Up close, they are jarring. In a way that enlivens all your senses.
From traversing the boneyard of the Dolomites, “The City of Stone”, to taking in the undulating expanse of Alpe di Siusi from their slopes, hiking amid the raw beauty of these peaks is a surreal rendezvous with nature at its most grand. For us, the Sassolungo Group encapsulates what we love about the Dolomites more than any other mountains in the world — the ability to experience their entirety from so many different vantage points.
A lengthy hiking trail of varying difficulty runs around Sassolungo and Sassopiatto. Trekking the Sassolungo circuit will take your breath away in more ways than one.
Fortunately, a handful of mountain huts dot the route allowing you ample opportunities to rest and recharge with food and drink. We suggest beginning the hike at the Passo Sella parking lot in Selva (Wolkenstein). The loop takes 7-8 hours to complete, but you do not have to trek the full circuit to experience this imposing empire of stone. See our guide to Sassolungo for a couple of fascinating hiking routes.
#8 Geisler Group of Val di Funes
While researching hikes in the Dolomites, chances are you have come across the picturesque scene of the Church of St. Maddalena against the roaring backdrop of the Geisler Group (also known as Odle Group). If not, scroll back to the top to see the lead image in this post. Anchoring the southern flank of Val di Funes, a side valley of Valle Isarco, these mighty peaks are among the most photogenic in South Tyrol.
In addition to visiting Val di Funes for such saintly vistas, you can embark on a hike that carries you directly to the foot of the Geisler Group and the famous Geisler Alm. The Adolf Munkel Trail is often touted as the most beautiful of the Dolomites’ hiking trails. Hard to argue with the claim once you see its storybook setting.
This 3 to 4-hour hike runs through sleepy pastureland and old-growth forests allowing you to experience the wide variety of landscapes and nature adorning the Dolomites. The trail is not difficult to traverse making it a popular choice for families.
You’ll find the trailhead for the Adolf Munkel Trail at the Zanser Alm parking lot, which is about 15 minutes past the tiny Chapel of St. Johann. See our guide to visiting Val di Funes for more about this enchanting valley.
#9 Rosengarten Group
The Dolomites’ Rosengarten Group (also known as Catinaccio) has been the muse of poets, painters, and wanderers for centuries. Its peaks and spires seem to spike endlessly across the horizon — allowing you to admire the massif from many points in South Tyrol including Bolzano.
The range is at its most stunning during sunset when afire with a red glow. This natural phenomenon known as alpenglow or “Enrosadira”, as it is beautifully referred to in Ladin (Ladin is an ancient language still spoken in the Dolomites), inspired a legend about a dwarf king and his rose garden hence the mountain group’s name.
Those wishing to tread deeper into this rugged dreamscape should add a hike on the Hirzelweg trail to their travel plans. Unlike the well-trodden paths frequented by the casual tourist, the Hirzelweg takes you nose-to-nose with the Rosengarten’s formidable facade. Every twist, every turn grants you an audience with the mountains including the hulking Latemar Group, which can be spied on as you peer to the south.
The Hirzelweg is a moderate 5.5 mile (9 km) out-and-back hike that can fill up your morning or afternoon with a dose of the Dolomites so intoxicating — it’s like a shot of Schnapps for the soul. Speaking of this alpine elixir, the trail offers a number of mountain huts along the route where you can actually throw back a snort of Schnapps or simply nurse a frothy beer while nibbling on a Marende spread. Our favorite mountainside haunt here is Laurins Lounge. It boasts the highest panoramic lounge in South Tyrol.
#10 The Vajolet Towers
If you really want to appreciate the grandeur of the Rosengarten, consider hiking to the group’s most famous summits: the Vajolet Towers (also known as Torri del Vajolet and the Violet Towers).
Another famous trio of the Dolomites, the Vajolet Towers thunder skyward in Val di Tiers — a valley of pure wild-hearted beauty. The three dolomitic towers, Delago, Stabeler and Winkler (named after the first climbers to conquer their summits), reign over a surreal, barren landscape. So barren in fact, you may even wonder if you wandered through a portal to Mars when you approach them on this 5-7 hour hike.
The hike to the Vajolet Towers is by far the most difficult hike on this list, which is why this corner of the Dolomites is less well known thus fewer tourists. Naturally, fewer tourists means a more intimate experience with the mountains and the kind of tranquility that often eludes more popular trails. But you will have to have the nerve and the knees to earn such solitude.
The trek is nearly 10 miles one way (16 km) and is an extension of the Hirzelweg hike mentioned above. Instead of returning to Laurins Lounge, you will set your course for Rifugio Gardeccia and then Rifugio Vajolet. Along the route, you pass by the Christomannos Monument, an enormous bronze eagle perched atop the Rosengarten. It is dedicated to Theodor Christomannos, a prominent pioneer of South Tyrol tourism.
Given the length of this hike, be sure to book a night at Rifugio Vajolet or Rifugio Gardeccia. We recommend Rifugio Gardeccia as they provide comfy private sleeping quarters and do not require you to lug around a sleeping bag, unlike Rifugio Vajolet. If you are keen on hiking hut to hut in the Dolomites, this route is one not to miss. It offers a number of multi-day hikes to fill out your itinerary.
By the way, if your heart is intent on seeing the Vajolet Towers up close, but you do not want to embark on a long, grueling hike, consider driving to Rifugio Gardeccia. From the hut, it is a 2.5-mile (4 km) trek to Rifugio Vajolet.
How to Experience the Best Hikes in the Dolomites
Truth be told, neither we nor anyone else can define what the best hikes in the Dolomites are for you. That’s a journey you’ll embark on yourself. At the end of the day, you might fall for the sprawling vistas of Alpe di Siusi while others find they prefer the more secluded pastureland of Prato Piazza.
When planning your hiking outings do not let the “fear of missing out” on a trail or sight muddle your time in the Dolomites. Cramming in destinations is a mistake. South Tyrol is a land of slow travel.
Beyond enjoying the breathtaking scenery, take the time to experience the enthralling culture of the region from its savory cuisine to its riveting history to its heart-warming traditions such as woodcarving.
If you’re like us, you may just find the best hike is each and every outing no matter where you roam.
What to Know Before Hiking in the Dolomites
Before planning your trip and embarking on hikes in the Dolomites you should know the following:
- As the “best” in the Dolomites, these hiking destinations can at times be bustling with other hikers, especially during the peak season of summer. Consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. However, be sure to check the lift station operating schedules for any hikes requiring a cable car ride.
- Weather can be unpredictable and change quickly in the Dolomites. Make sure you sport proper clothing, footwear and gear before venturing into the mountains.
- Understand how to read the trail signs. Review the trail sign guide in our Dolomites Travel Guide to become comfortable with their instructions.
- Consider using South Tyrol’s affordable public transportation system to hike the Dolomites in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Buses regularly bring hikers to these destinations.
- If you plan to embark on a Dolomites road trip, see our Driving in Italy guide to understand what is legally required and the rules of the road.
- The Dolomites are as much fun to shoot as they are to hike. Review these 6 travel photography tips to make sure you are capturing the best pictures possible.
- While you may encounter English-speaking staff at the restaurants and resorts, it’s helpful and respectful to know some basic German or Italian. You can find guides to both languages in our Travel Guide mentioned above.
- Consider picking up a physical map of the Dolomites before your trip. It will come in handy for trip-planning purposes as well as when you are on the trail without cell service. Also before your trip, you may enjoy reading some novels about the region. Check out our list of wonderful books about the Dolomites.
- In 2009, the Dolomites earned their title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a nod to their unparalleled beauty, unique geology, and diverse ecosystem. As visitors, the onus is on us to safeguard this pristine landscape. Remember to embrace the Leave No Trace ethos, tread only on designated paths, honor private lands, and always, always clean up after yourself.
Creating Your Perfect Dolomites Itinerary
Creating a realistic Dolomites itinerary can be overwhelming. The geography of the region is complex and the sheer volume of sights would require a lifetime to see. If you are a do-it-yourself planner, stop the overwhelm by grabbing our Travel Resouces & Hiking Guides. Our expert recommendations will save you heaps of research time and ensure a positively awesome time in South Tyrol and the Dolomites.
For every Dolomites itinerary, we recommend selecting one hiking destination per day. Each region of the Dolomites offers much more to see than these hiking routes. But if you’re set on embarking on as many of these outings as possible, here are the ones you can plan together as day hikes in the Dolomites:
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo & Cadini di Misurina – These two mountain groups stare at one another.
- Lago di Carezza & Vajolet Towers – Since the hiking trail at Lago di Carezza is quite short you can also trek to the Vajolet Towers on the same day. The lift station is just 10 minutes from the lake.
- Seceda & Alpe di Siusi – The lifts to each destination are opposite of each other in the village of Ortisei. If you time the lifts wisely you can see the iconic sights of both.
Where to Stay in the Dolomites
To get the most out of your holidays in the Dolomites, consider staying near the region where you will be hiking the most. From luxury resorts to mountain huts to farm stays for as little as 50 EUROS per night, you will have no problem finding accommodations that fit your budget and desires.
Find your ideal getaway by searching the region in the Dolomites that appeals to you the most.
ALPE DI SIUSI
If you would like a 5-star experience while in the Dolomites, check out our detailed reviews of Romantik Hotel Turm, Hotel Quelle Nature Spa Resort, Fontis Luxury Spa Lodge and Hotel Gfell. These properties dazzle with a host of Alpine wellness amenities and treatments that perfectly complement a long day of hiking.
Experiencing South Tyrol Beyond the Dolomites
No doubt the Dolomites are a tremendous draw for South Tyrol. But the Dolomites make up only part of the region’s mountain story.
After you have conquered the best hikes in the Dolomites, set your sights westward and consider hiking in the Italian Alps. Here, a mesmerizing blend of Mediterranean and Alpine terrains awaits. See our guide to visiting South Tyrol for more about this rare corner of Italy.