Dolomiti di Brenta: Trekking the Trentino Alps, Italy

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14730A, International


  • Hike the craggy mountains of the Brenta Dolomites
  • Photograph dramatic alpine scenery along the way
  • Enjoy good food and a warm bed when the day is done


  • All lodging in hotels and mountain huts
  • Hearty meals and all gratuities
  • On-trip transportation


DatesJul 16–24, 2014
StaffStu Delacastro

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The Dolomites of northern Italy are among the most dramatic mountains on Earth. Though not as big as the nearby Swiss Alps, they are even more striking in their color and in the way they rise abruptly from the surrounding landscape. Their geologic composition includes both dolomitic limestone and volcanic formations. The Brentas are the largest and arguably the most rugged of the seven groups that make up the Dolomites.  On this trip, we will hike through one of the world’s most scenic areas. Indeed, this sunny corner of the Alps is beautiful, warm, and friendly, both in its scenery and its people.

Our route will take us high into the western side of the Brentas, under the shadow of Cima Brenta (10,247’). From there, we circle clockwise around the central core of the group. This is a rare opportunity, as most routes here require mountaineering skills, whereas our route is strictly hiking. And when the day is done we’ll stay at mountain refuges perched high in the craggy mountains. Besides the dramatic scenery and interesting local culture, we have a good chance of encountering ibex and chamois along the trail, as well as marmots and other wildlife. The rare European brown bear can also sometimes be seen here. 

As our mountain refuges provide bed, showers, and hot meals, we will only have to carry slightly more than a regular day pack, adding to it just some extra clothes and toiletries. The light packs will make our hiking easier, while the dining rooms at the refuges are great places to meet hikers from around the world. This is a hut-to-hut hike; we carry everything we need for the week. There is no luggage support, but you can leave bags at our start/end hotel.



Day 1: We meet this evening at our hotel in the resort community of Madonna di Campiglio. At dinner tonight -- our first included meal -- we’ll get acquainted and discuss the trip.

Day 2: After breakfast, we will hike the stunning Giro Dei Cinque Laghi (Walk of Five Lakes) route. The hike begins with a cable car lift to a panoramic trail that links the glacial lakes. After lunch at a mountain refuge, we will return to our hotel in Madonna di Campiglio for the night. Excess luggage may be left at the hotel, as we will be retuning here at the end of our trek. (Route: 7 miles, +1,050 feet, -2,300 feet)

Day 3: We start our trek with an ascent into the mountains to our first mountain refuge. Starting in the forest, we will break into the open halfway up and get our first views of the rugged terrain. We should arrive in time for lunch and an afternoon’s rest after our ascent.  (Route: 3 miles, +2,500 feet)

Day 4: Leaving our refuge, we hike north awhile before turning east and wandering through the rugged, stony landscape of the high karst plateau Campo Flavona. Our refuge tonight is small (only 20 beds) and rustic. (Route: 7 miles, +1,200 feet, -2,000 feet)

Day 5: Heading south, we take a winding trail between the tors of Pizzo Gallino (8,010’) before dipping down into the forest, then continuing on to our refuge for the night. (Route: 7 miles, +1,100 feet, - 2,300 feet)

Day 6: Today is our most challenging as we ascend the steep and rocky trail to Rifugio Pedrotti, a large refuge with a dramatic setting just below the east flank of the highest peaks. (Route: 5 miles, +3,100 feet, -450 feet)

Day 7: Today we cross the spine of the central massif, complete with dramatic views. Some steep trails down will soon lead us to a more gentle stretch, which we continue along until reaching our ascent to the final refuge of the trip. (Route: 3 miles, +2,100 feet, -1,700 feet) 

Day 8: We take a relaxing walk after breakfast back down to Madonna di Campiglio. The late afternoon is free for shopping, relaxing, and packing up. (Route: 7 miles, +600, -3,700 feet)

Day 9: Our trip comes to an end after breakfast. Ciao!



Getting There

This trip begins and ends in the village of Madonna di Campiglio, which is easily reached by bus -- a two-hour ride -- from Trento. Trento, the capital of Trentino, has regular train service from the major airports in Milan, Venice, and Munich. Allow about five to six hours for the train and/or bus from the major airports. Additional details will be sent to registered participants.

You are responsible for having your own passport and obtaining any necessary visas or other travel papers. Evacuation and trip cancelation/interruption insurance is strongly recommended. The leader will send out newsletters with additional travel information and ideas of things to do in the area before and after the trip. You are encouraged to arrive at least a day or two early to help overcome jet lag before we begin hiking. It would also help should your luggage be delayed in arriving -- unfortunately, not a rare occurrence.

Accommodations and Food

We will be staying at a mix of lodging types. In the town, we will be at a regular four-star hotel near the city center. We will stay in double rooms unless you request a single room at additional cost. The leader will assign roommates of the same gender for solo travelers. All rooms have toilets and a shower or bath.

In the mountain refuges, we will stay in dormitories with bunk beds (sometimes co-ed), with bathrooms and showers (sometimes at additional cost) down the hall. The dormitories range in size from double rooms (rare) to big enough for our entire group and maybe other hikers. We won’t know in advance which rooms we can get and single rooms are not possible. Otherwise, the term "mountain hut" is somewhat misleading; the quality of the dining rooms and other appointments in most is comparable to a two-star hotel. 

We’ll eat breakfasts and dinners at our lodgings. The group eats together as a whole. Breakfasts vary from simple continental meals of breads, jam and coffee, to heartier selections, featuring cheese, meat, yogurt, and fruit. For dinners, there will sometimes only be one or two choices. This is the norm at some refuges. Of course, when at the hotel, we will have more selection. You are free to order from the standard menu. While vegetarian meals are not the norm in this area, our hosts are willing to make a special effort to accommodate guests. Still, that’s no guarantee. The first round of drinks at dinner is included in the trip price; otherwise all drinks that carry a separate price are on your own.

When possible, we will stop at huts along the way for lunch. The huts serve soups, sandwiches, and pastas. However on most days, we will carry our lunches and have a group picnic, ideally on the top of a mountain ridge or some other scenic spot. Most of our picnic lunches will be ordered from the refuge we’re at the night before. They are typically sandwiches and a piece fruit.

Trip Difficulty

This is a hut-to-hut hiking adventure, where we will be well into the mountains and moving to a different hut every day. We will carry everything we need for the week; there is no luggage support. It is intended for the experienced hiker who is able to walk about seven hours each day over an average distance of eight or so miles and about 3,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. You need to be able to do this amount of hiking for several days in a row, without a rest day. If you can maintain one and half miles per hour uphill, you should be fine on this trip.  Our maximum daily hiking distance will be seven miles, with never more than 3,100 feet of elevation gain or loss. Expected daily distances and elevation gains are listed in the itinerary above, but may have to be changed depending on group abilities, weather, trail closures, etc.

Our walking will generally be on clearly marked but rocky paths, with some steep sections that will be more challenging. There are sections where the trail crosses scree.  It is possible to encounter patches of snow even in the heart of summer. On occasion, there may be cables to hold on to while we cross a short section of steep terrain. They are there more for psychological comfort than necessity. You will need to carry a large day pack with raingear, lunch, and personal items, to include toiletries and extra clothing for our overnight stays at the mountain huts (sleeping bags aren’t necessary). You should be able to get by with about 20-25 pounds.

It is best to prepare for this trip by keeping to a regular exercise schedule and taking frequent day hikes in hilly terrain -- preferably at altitudes similar to the ones we will encounter and carrying the same pack you will have on the trip. If you don’t live near hilly terrain, ask the leader for suggestions on a conditioning program. You need to be doing 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercises at least three times a week, and, if hill- or stair-climbing with a pack is not included in that, you should at least be doing resistance training for your legs and core.

This is the sunny side of the Alps, and, with a bit of luck, we will experience the blissfully clear, warm days that are the norm. Remember, though, that mountain weather is unpredictable and we may experience rain, fog, or even snow. Daytime temperatures will usually be in the 65-75 degree range, and nighttimes in the 40s or 50s. That said, it has gotten into the upper 80s and down to freezing on occasion on this route. In exceptionally bad weather, we may have to change routes -- your safety is always our highest priority.

Equipment and Clothing

No special equipment is required. You will need the gear you normally use on day hikes. Medium-weight, properly broken-in boots are the most important item. Besides that, bring a day pack with your hiking essentials -- water, raingear, and something to keep you warm should the weather turn cold. The leader will provide a more detailed list later. Be sure you have enough extra room for your share of the picnic lunches.

Besides hiking gear, you will have to carry whatever additional stuff you’ll need for overnight stays at the refuges. A sleeping bag is not necessary. Blankets are provided, so all you will need to bring is a sleep sack or bag liner. You should consider bringing toiletries, extra clothing, and a change of underwear -- possibly also a flashlight and slippers. Note: you will not have access to your luggage during the trip. Luggage will be left at our hotel in Madonna di Campiglio for the end of the trip. You will have to carry everything else.


Maps: Map #070, Dolomiti di Brenta 1:30,000, Meridiani Montagne. Available in Madonna di Campiglio.,544 Kompass map 688, Gruppo di Brenta, 1:25,000.


  • Price, Gillian, Walking in the Dolomites.
  • The Lonely Planet Guide to Walking in Italy.

Please note that our route is not listed in any book that the leader is aware of; these guides are only for general introductions to the area.



Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel, environmental concerns at home and abroad.

Europeans use an extensive hut system to enjoy the mountains.  The huts, along with associated roads and lifts, make a substantial impact, while also allowing greater access to remote places. We will observe these impacts and discuss the differences between Alpine and American "wilderness." If an English-speaking ranger is available at the park, we will have him/her accompany us on one of our day hikes.



Stu DeLaCastro has been leading Sierra Club trips for several years. A lifelong backpacker, Stu has hiked in the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. He has also spent time trekking in the Italian Dolomites and in the jungles and mountains of Nepal. Stu enjoys introducing people to adventure and looks forward to sharing his infectious love of the wilds. He is certified in wilderness first aid. Stu lives in the Omaha area with his wife and two daughters.

Associate Leader:

Mike Abbott

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