The Italian Dolomites are one of the most dramatic mountain ranges in the world, featuring limestone towers, vertical rock walls, imposing cliffs, alpine lakes and green meadows. Nestled in the northeast of the country, close to the Austrian border, the Dolomites span across the Italian regions of Trentino-Alto-Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.
A very popular European winter destination ―boasting the world’s largest ski area: the Dolomiti Superski―, the Dolomites are quite less-visited during the summer and spring months. With tons of flowers in bloom, longer days and cool but still pleasant temperatures, this time of the year provides a myriad of adventures for outdoor lovers.
Besides the awe-inspiring mountains, a trip to the Dolomites is also about visiting charming villages with jagged peaks at the background, walking on historical paths from World War I, enjoying first-class accommodations, a rich culture and an exciting gastronomic scene.
Going on a hiking tour with a certified mountain guide is an amazing opportunity to explore beautiful mountain sceneries and get a glimpse to the local culture and lifestyle.
Feeling inspired already? Check out all the hiking trips in the Dolomites available at Explore-Share and keep reading to find out which are the best trekking spots in this Italian mountain paradise!
Best hikes in the Dolomites
Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Sexten Dolomites
This three limestone peaks rising to the sky ―also known by their German name, Drei Zinnen― are one of the most legendary landmarks in the Dolomites. They are part of a section of this mountain range called Sexten Dolomites. In the past, the border between Italy and Austria run across this peak. The area was a battlefield during World War I and many old trenches, fortifications and tunnels can still be found in the surroundings.
Those seeking for an off-the-beaten-tracks experience will be allured with Marmarole, a wild, isolated and fairly unexplored section of the Dolomites. These mountains lie to the west of the Cadore Valley and close to one of the Dolomites’ major peaks ―Antelao (3,263 m)―. Some of the oldest and most beautiful mountain huts of the range are found here, so it’s a great place for a hut-to-hut hiking tour.
Friulian Dolomites, getting close to the Adriatic Sea
This is the most southern section of the Dolomites and a very famous ski area during winter. The closest getaway to visit this area is the famous holiday resort of San Martino di Castrozza. Majestic peaks and deep valleys are the main features of this area, which can be explored through the ‘Alta vía 2’, a historical route which offers breathtaking views and follows the trace of ‘the pioneers’, the first alpine climbers to attempt these peaks. Check out this 3-day hike around Pale di San Martino departing from Agordo, as well as this 4-day guided hike from San Martino di Castrozza.
Brenta Dolomites, to the west
This group of majestic towering peaks lie in Trentino, to the west of the rest of the Dolomite mountains. They are comprised in the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park, surrounded by lakes and the Adamello glacier. They are home to many via ferrata routes, like the famous“Via della Bocchette”.
The Dolomites are the place where via ferratas were born. Don’t miss this guide to find out which are the best guided trips on the iconic Italian protected routes!
The most usual starting point for trips in this area is Madonna di Campiglio. Some itineraries, like this 3-day hut-to-hut program include an exciting mix of hiking, stargazing and via ferrata.
The Catinaccio or Roserganten Group
The Catinaccio massif is an iconic sight of the Dolomites. Also known by its German Name ‘Roserganten’, these are the peaks that make the backdrop of Bolzano, considered the gateway to the Italian Dolomites. In a similar way than the ‘Tre Cime di Lavaredo’, the Catinaccio mountains also glow and turn of an orange pink at dawn and sunset. Surrounded by emerald lakes and green pastures, the place is the ideal setting for a multi-day hiking tour, staying at some of the many mountain huts in the group.
Alta Vía 1: the Dolomites Haute Route
This is the classic long-distance hiking route in the Dolomites. It takes between 10 to 15 days to complete this 150 km trail, that goes along the Eastern section of the Dolomites. Of course, you can also choose to hike just a section of the Haute Route and combine it with a visit to specific landmarks, like the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This 6-day hike departing from Alleghe goes along a part of the Alta Vía 1, climbs a vía ferrata and reaches the summit of Mount Civetta. For those who enjoy vigorous hikes and panoramic views, here’s a 1-week hike from Cortina d’Ampezzo. If you are ready to tackle the whole trail, here’s a 10-day hiking traverse on the Alta Vía 1 trail.
Mount Pelmo, the peak shaped like a throne
Mount Pelmo is one of the giant massifs of the Dolomites, rising in complete isolation between the valleys of Ampezzo, Zoldo and Cadore. Starting from Staulanza Pass, a stunning high mountain pass which connects the Zoldo and the Cadore valleys, the are many hiking trails that explore Mt Pelmo and allow incredible views of the surroundings. Here’s a 2-day guided hike that will take around the north and south walls of this majestic peak of the Dolomites.
When is the best time to hike in the Dolomites?
Unlike other parts of Italy, the Dolomites boast a cool weather during summer, with temperatures never surpassing 25°, so this is a great time to head there for a hiking adventure. All the mountain huts are open during this months, so it’s recommended for multi-day activities. Not only hiking, but also rock climbing, via ferrata, biking…everything is possible in this amazing Italian destination!
The fall season (September-October) is also an incredible time to visit the Dolomites, because larch trees turn yellow, the alpenglow on the mountains is at its very best (you’ll get insanely beautiful pictures!) and there are fewer tourists.
Spring (May-June) is also highly recommended, specially if you enjoy alpine wildflowers (totally in bloom in July too) and very green valleys!
The Dolomites stretch along the provinces of Trento, Belluno and South Tyrol, so there are many towns and mountain villages where you can stay. The best option for you will depend on your itinerary. Here’s our selection:
South Tyrol: Bolzano, Ortisei, Corvara.
Belluno: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Auronzo di Cadore, Agordo, Alleghe.
Trento: Canazei, Campitello di Fassa, San Martino di Castrozza, Madonna di Campiglio.
If you need accommodation in Val di Fassa (Trento), here are some places recommended by local guide Etienne: