The Alta Via 1 Trek in the Dolomites is one of 8 high altitude treks that run through the dolomites. Each of these treks varies in length and difficulty, but the Alta Via 1 tends to be the most popular. This is for good reason, because as long as your are reasonably fit, you can do this trek and the views along the way are some of the most remarkable I’ve ever seen. Some of the other high altitude treks require more technical skills or via ferrata.
There are 2 sections on the Alta Via 1 with Via Ferrata, but you can avoid and go around them. The refuges are all really nice and are spaced out so that most days you can walk between 4-8 hours depending on how you are feeling that day.
Through this blog post, I hope to give you some details about each section that I did and show the pictures of the way, and then at the end provide some FAQ about the trek to help you further plan your trip to this stunning part of the Dolomites.
Alta Via 1 Trek Itinerary
Day 1 – Lago Di Braes to Rifugio Biella
5km or about 3.5 hours
The first section of the Alta Via 1 begins at the beautiful Lago Di Braies. To get here, it is best to go to Cortina d’Ampezzo (a stunning resort town) first and then find buses to Lago Di Braies. First you should take a bus to Dobbiaco and then almost immediately get the bus to Lago Di Braies. I missed the connection though, so had to wait about an hour for the bus to Lago Di Braies. Once at Lago Di Braies, follow the right side of the lake and then start following the signs for the Alta Via 1 which is most cases is a triangle with a 1 inside of it. I found that along the way, there were plenty of signs for me to keep track of the trail.
At the end of the lake, the trail goes up the mountain rather steeply. If you are hiking during the summer and got to a later start like I did (because of missing the bus connection), do watch out for thunderstorms. About 1.5 hours into my trek a storm rolled through and I had no cover. So I got drenched (even with some rain gear) and it was quite scary and dangerous with the lightning. Thankfully I met another trekker and we both continued to the rifugio Biella.
Rifugio Biella is at 2327M and has a beautiful view of the mountains. At rifugio biella if the weather is good, you can challenge yourself and climb the Croda Del Becco just behind the refuge. Should take an hour or two, but it’s quite steep so be careful.
Day 2 – Rifugio Biella to Rifugio Lavarella
15km or 5 hours
The 2nd day started out snowy. Even in June and July, you can definitely get snow days here in the Dolomites. Thankfully, by morning the snow had finished and so it wasn’t too much of a hassle.
The trail at the beginning of the day continued through high terrain with great views of the mountains. Eventually going through forest and then down a road with a bunch of switchbacks to a rifugio where I took a small rest.
From the refugio it’s than a steep series of switchbacks again til you get to a plateau. From this plateau it’s a long slog to the refugio.
It was great reaching the rifugio as this day was hard. With it being only the 2nd day, my legs weren’t quite ready for all the hiking and switchbacks. However, I knew as the days would continue that I would become more accustomed to it and would have an easier time.
Day 3 – Rifugio Lavarella to Rifugio Lagazuoi
9km or 5 hours
While this section seems shorter at only 9km, don’t let that deceive you. The day starts out quite nice in relatively flat terrain.
However, you soon start to climb up and up till you get to a pass.
Once you reach the pass, you can look across and see your destination for the day at Rifugio Lagazuoi located on top of a mountain. However, to get there, you need to descend a steep path and then climb again up to the refuge.
Once you start you way up to Rifugio Lagazuoi, you start to get some incredible views over this section of the dolomites.
Upon reaching Lagazuoi at 2750m, you will have no regrets from the day. By far for me, this was my favorite place to stay. The refuge is incredible. The location couldn’t be better, perched on a cliff with outstanding views in all directions. The food they serve is delicious and the rooms and atmosphere is really nice. Do keep in mind though, that this refuge in particular gets busy in peak season, so you won’t feel like you are all alone.
If you have time while you are at the refuge, I highly recommend to walk behind the refuge towards the crosses out on the rocks. It’s only a simple 5 to 10 minute walk, but the views are out of this world. Especially at sunset and sunrise, it’s hard to find anything better.
Day 4 – Rifugio Lagazuoi to Rifugio Nuvolau
10km or 5.5 hours
This is another extremely beautiful day. The views all along the route are superb and can’t be beat. The day begins heading down the hill that you took the day before to get up to Lagazuoi. From there, you follow the trail and signs towards Nuvolau.
Eventually, as you get a bit closer to Nuvolau which is perched up on it’s own mountain of sorts, you pass through the Cinque Torri (5 towers) area. It’s an incredibly scenic area and there are a couple of refuges here as well. From here, it’s a steep climb up to Nuvolau, so I’d recommend stopping at one of the refuges for a rest and a snack or dessert.
From the refuges at Cinque Torri, it’s a slog up to Nuvolau. A steep rock face, but nevertheless, the paths are still well made and not incredibly difficult. Eventually at the top of the mountain, you will find Rifugio Nuvolau.
Rifugio Nuvolau is one of the most basic refuges along the Alta Via 1, but I recommend a stay here for its commanding views. There aren’t showers here, and don’t have quite the amenities that you had night before at Lagazuoi, however it’s warm with a fireplace and the food is delicious. There is a fully stocked bar too if you want to have a drink after your hike.
Like I wrote earlier, what makes this refuge exceptional are the views. Especially around sunset, the views of the dolomites are on par with Lagazuoi from the night before.
Day 5 – Rifugio Nuvolau to Rifugio Croda Da Lago
5km or 3 hours
Typically, this is not a normal day on the Alta Via 1. Most people do not include the rifugio Croda Da Lago on their itineraries. However, I had seen some pictures from this location and knew that I had to put it on my itinerary. Especially as a photographer. It’s right on a lake and is a great opportunity for reflection photos of the mountains. It’s not a long detour and isn’t really that hard to get to.
From Nuvolau though, you have 2 options. You can backtrack from the day before and eventually will find a split off to head towards Croda Da Lago or you can head straight down the back side of the mountain. This requires some gear though as its a via ferrata section. On reading about it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to try the via ferrata, so I backtracked. It added some time to my day, but since it was a short day anyway, it didn’t matter.
The path during the day wasn’t anything too strenuous and eventually got to the path leading down to Croda Da Lago (2045m).
The rest of the way was just continuing down the path until the refuge came better into sight.
Once at the Refuge, it was nice to just relax and spend the rest of the day admiring the scenery. This refuge is actually quite popular as it can be accessed as a day trip from Cortina. Best part of this refuge is its location right by the lake. So in the evening and morning, you can walk around the lake and get some great photos of the mountains reflecting in the water.
Day 6 – Rifugio Croda Da Lago to Rifugio Staulanza
10km or 5 hours
After a delicious breakfast at Croda da Lago, it was time to continue to the next part of the Alta Via 1 Trek. Originally I had planned to go to Rifugio Citta Di Fiume, however I arrived there in just under 2 hours.
So I decided to continue on to Pass Staulanza. So I had to call Staulanza first to make sure they had beds available and then cancel my booking at Citta Di Fiume.
The day wasn’t too difficult and as with all the other days had fantastic views. The views weren’t as dramatic as the days prior but were enough to distract from any difficulties in hiking.
On arrival to the refuge at Staulanza, it felt a bit more like civilization. It’s right along a road and you feel a bit more connected to the world at that time. This felt both good and bad. The refuge was really nice again though with comfortable beds and delicious food. It’s all you really need when on one of these treks.
Day 7 – Rifugio Staulanza to Rifugio Tissi
12km or 4 hours
The way rifugio Staulanza to rifugio Tissi requires a big uphill section near the beginning of the day. Then it’s downhill a bit and then another serious elevation gain up to Rifugio Coldai.
From rifugio Coldai, you pass some beautiful lakes.
Then after the lakes, you descend a bit and follow underneath the wall of Civetta Mountain. Be cautious in this area to take the lower path and not the upper one. The upper one may seem like a shortcut, however, you could be susceptible to rock falls.
Once you pass this section, you are in a safer area with amazing views down the valley to your right.
Finally after a bit more trekking, and a small uphill climb you reach Rifugio Tissi (2250m) and probably my second favorite refuge of the trip.
Reason being is because it offers both great views of the wall of Civetta and also phenomenal views down the valley after a small climb behind the refuge. In fact, I highly recommend the small climb up to the cross behind the refuge for sunset views that you will remember for a very long time.
Day 8 – Rifugio Tissi to Rifugio San Sebastiano
15km to 6 hours
This ended up being quite a long day as it covered a lot of distance. However, by this point in the trek, I was well accustomed to hiking, so it didn’t seem as long as some of the earlier days.
The day involved quite a bit of altitude loss, so there was quite a ways down at certain points in the trek. You can see the zig zagging path I took in the photo above.
The views though along the way were again spectacular.
Eventually after the long path, I made it to the lodge at San Sabastiano. The lodge here was quite nice and like a few of the other days, it was along a road at the passo duran.
Day 9 – Rifugio San Sebastiano to Rifugio Pian De Fontana
17km or 7 hours
Another long long day. Most of the trek was heading up higher into the mountains. A lot of the time, the path was over top of the rocks.
Eventually, the path came to what some consider the crux of this route. A narrow ridge up rocks with pretty steep drop-offs on either side. When I first read about this section in the guide book it made me quite nervous, however, once I got here, as long as you are careful, it’s not too dangerous.
The photo above doesn’t really do the ridge justice, but hope it helps some people out who are like me and weren’t sure what to expect from it.
From the ridge, it was a hike across some fields, before a really steep decent down to the rifugio Pian De Fontana (1630m). At this point clouds were starting to roll in and I was nervous I would get caught in storms again, but was early enough that I just had some clouds. The path down to the rifugio is really narrow and quite steep. Be very careful in this section. If you are caught in rain, it would make it a lot more difficult. There were people who were caught in a bad storm on their way down later that afternoon after I had already arrive. They made it safely but were quite scared coming down that section.
The rifugio was another very nice place to stay with good amenities and food. The views weren’t as impressive as some of the ones prior, but was still quite nice.
Day 10 – Rifugio Pian de Fontana to Belluno
The final day is a long trek down from Pian de Fontana to a bus stop called La Pissa. A lot of descent at around 1500m down. The day is mostly through the woods and forest and feels quite steep at times.
I felt rushed because I didn’t want to miss the bus to Belluno which only goes a few times a day. So by the time I got to the bus stop I was quite winded and tired, but I made it in time to catch it back to Belluno. From the bus stop it was only 30 minutes to Belluno where I checked into my hotel and celebrated the end of the trek.
Alta Via 1 Tips and Info
I’d like to offer a few of my tips and other things you may want to know in regards to the trek below:
If you are going in peak season, I highly recommend you book your rifugios in advance. You don’t want to get stuck without a bed. Some like Lagazuoi book up quite early in peak season. While they can’t deny you entry, if they are full, you may end up sleeping in the dining room or elsewhere.
If you want to book the rifugios in advance, check out this awesome site forBooking Rifugios on the Alta Via 1 Trek and find the email address for the lodge or website and book direct through the rifugio. This is how I did it and it worked out quite well.
Maps and Route Finding
Only one day did I get slightly lost and that was my own fault. Thankfully I found my way after about going off course for around 1 hour. Most of the other time I was easily able to find the route or negotiate where it was through the amazing Alta Via 1 Trek Cicerone Guide that you can purchase from Amazon.com below.
*Disclaimer: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases on the link below.”
When to go on Alta Via 1 Trek
I highly recommend to do this trek between June and September. Earlier than June and you are likely to find quite a bit of snow at the passes depending on the year and by October, it can start snowing again and get quite cold. Even during June to September though, prepare for anything. I had snow on 2 days and some other days I was in a t-shirt sweating. That’s how it is in these mountains and you should prepare for it all by packing and wearing layers.
Want some more info that wasn’t covered here? Let us know in the comments below.