Easy Hiking the Dolomites, Italy

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14640A, International

Highlights

  • Enjoy leisurely hikes and explorations in breathtaking mountain and valley scenery
  • Spend the night in picturesque hotels and a comfortable mountaintop refugio
  • Savor remarkable and delicious regional cuisine and beverages

Includes

  • All but two meals, lodging gratuities, admissions
  • All on-trip transportation, including luggage transfer

Details

DatesJun 23–Jul 6, 2014
Price$3,775 (11–14)
$4,295 (or fewer)
Deposit$200
Capacity14
StaffLynne Simpson

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The Dolomites are famous for their white color, vertical vistas, green valleys, and climbing routes. They form the southern half of the Alps. During our 14 days together, we’ll be hiking with day packs through the dramatic beauty of these grand mountains and lush alpine meadows, with their abundance of wildflowers and clean air.

The Dolomites are famous for their contrasts: the geologic composition of the mountains includes both dolomitic and volcanic formations, and the cultural heritage of the area includes Italian and Tyrolean influences due to a boundary relocation at the end of World War I. In fact, each village or town has an Italian, German, and Austrian name. There are also pockets in this area where the local language is Ladin, from an ancient culture underlying the whole region.

Our evenings will be spent in the charming family-owned inns in small hillside towns and a refugio (a traditional climber’s lodge with dorms and restaurants) perched on top of mountain cliffs, where we’ll enjoy the tasty regional cuisine, including fresh mountain cheese, speck (the mountain version of prosciutto), and fine local beers and wines. Carrying only our day packs (vans will transport our luggage), we’ll be free to hike and enjoy the scenery and villages of this captivating and historical area. Our experiences here will be made extra special by the welcoming and friendly nature of the people of this remote and unspoiled region of Italy.

Our hikes will take us through the three principle valleys of the Dolomites: Val D’Ampezzo, the most traditionally Italian of the three; the Val Badia, a Ladin area; and the Val Gardena, which is more Austrian in influence.

Generally, our daily hikes will range between 3-6 miles each day. While ski lifts will be used to allow us to gain altitude, all hikes will involve some climbing and descending. Generally, the trails are in good shape, but there are some rough sections of scree or stone.

Itinerary

Day 1: The group will gather at our hotel in Cortina at 5 p.m. After introductions, a trip summary, and a nice dinner, you are free to walk around this charming town before turning in for the night. You are welcome to arrive a day or two before the trip if you would like additional time to explore surrounding areas that we won't be visiting on this trip. It’s a good idea to resolve any jet lag issues before starting our scheduled outings.

Day 2: Today we will visit the Museum of Paleontology in Cortina to enjoy their collection and better understand the geology and formation of the Dolomites.  After lunch on your own, you will have time to explore the town of Cortina; this is a cosmopolitan town and there are many specialty shops offering a variety of merchandise. Our hotel is two kilometers out of town, along a pretty walking path, although there is also bus transportation available. The river coursing through Cortina also makes for a pleasant walk.

Day 3: Our destination today is the famous hiking area called Tre Cime, The Three Chimneys. We’ll hike around these extraordinary rock spires, stopping for lunch at a small refugio with a panoramic view of the Chimneys, and then catch the public bus back to Cortina and our hotel.

Day 4: We will leave Cortina and travel to the dramatic Cinque Torre. After a hike in this area we will proceed by bus and cable car to the refugio at Lagazuoi, perched high on a craggy mountain, offering unparalleled views of the whole Dolomite region.

Day 5: This morning we’ll wake up in the crisp mountain air at 9,000 feet and enjoy a great sunrise over the Dolomites. After breakfast, we’ll do a loop hike from our refugio. There is a huge sun deck at the refugio with amazing views of the Dolomites in every direction for your afternoon enjoyment, perhaps with a cappuccino in hand.

Day 6: Today we move to Corvara in the Ladin Val Badia. The Ladin culture dates from the 13th century and has a compelling history.  In this area, we will note signs in Ladin, Italian, and German. We’ll have time to explore the town and enjoy our comfortable hotel with a unique spa and swimming pool. A good soak or even a massage are possible here. After meeting with our host, we will enjoy our dinner in the hotel restaurant, which includes a salad bar of many diverse ingredients.

Day 7: Currently the Sella Ronda Bike Day is scheduled for this day. This is a bike race that will pass through Corvara from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., closing the roads to all motor traffic. We will hike a trail close to town that takes advantage of this silence and then enjoy the festivities of the day.

Day 8: We’ll take a lift straight from our hotel and then hike across a long, broad plateau to the refuge of Pralongia. There, we will lunch and enjoy meadow vistas before returning to Corvara and dinner in our hotel.

Day 9: Today we hike with a local guide; a woman deeply invested in the community and a member of the family that owns our hotel. She is also an avid hiker.  

Day 10: Our move to Selva, in the Val Gardena, will be accomplished with some hiking and the use of lifts. After we settle into our centrally located hotel, there will be time to explore this small town, perhaps enjoying a gelato, before dinner at our hotel.

Days 11-12: While we are in the Val Gardena area, we will have the opportunity for two hikes in the area; one in the Sassolungo, the other in a hanging valley, which we will access by a lift. On both nights we will return to our comfortable family-owned and run hotel.

Day 13: Today we bus to Bolzano, our final stop on this trip. Our hotel is centrally located; after checking in you will have free time to explore the town. Today, lunch is on your own before we visit the remarkable Otzi Archaeological Museum, home of the famous “iceman,” Otzi. This 5,000+ year old’s body was found on a mountain pass in 1991 in nearly perfectly preserved condition. Archaeologists and forensic scientists continue to learn a great deal about primitive man by studying him and his tools, clothes, and the vegetable matter he was carrying. The cause of his death remains a mystery, although there are many opinions on how this occurred.  We dine together for the last time tonight.

Day 14: After breakfast this morning, we check out of our hotel, to either return home or continue travels to other destinations. Bolzano is located on a major railroad line where trains are available going either north into Germany or south to Verona or Venice.

Photos

Details

Getting There

Our adventure will begin on June 23rd, with introductions at our hotel in Cortina at 5:00 p.m. If you wish to arrive early to see more of this charming little city, you can make arrangements with the leader for an extra night or two at your own expense. Cortina is accessible by bus; either from the Venice airport or other bus transfer locations.

On the last day, our outing will end after breakfast at our hotel in Bolzano. This city is accessible by train from any nearby major city, including Venice, Milan, and Munich.

Accommodations and Food

Accommodations will be double-occupancy in hotels but will be dormitory-style in the refugio. Every effort will be made to match single participants with compatible roommates. Typically a double room features two twin beds in a room. Each bed is made up individually. For those who wish a single, accommodation arrangements can be made in advance with the hotels and the extra charge will be the responsibility of the participant. In each hotel, we will be accommodated in rooms with en suite bathrooms. Each hotel has been selected for its location, good food, and historic interest. Our hotel in Corvara is a larger, more traditional hotel, but with the feel of a village inn. This hotel features one of the most complete and interesting spas you will find anywhere, in which all guests are free to relax.

At Refugio Lagazuoi, we will stay in either quad rooms or in the dormitories, both with bathrooms down the hall. The dormitories are co-ed and you should expect coming and going during the night. Ear plugs are a good idea if you are a light sleeper.

All meals, except two lunches, are included in the trip cost, beginning with dinner on day 1 and ending with breakfast on day 14. Our lunches will be either picnics or taken in refugios along the route of our hikes. This combination gives us the opportunity to sample the excellent varied foods of the region. This region boasts some of Italy’s finest cheeses and wines—and don’t forget the (in)famous digestive, grappa! Vegetarians can easily be accommodated at all hotels; if you have other dietary restrictions, please contact the leader before signing up for this trip.

Trip Difficulty

This is a relaxed leisurely outing, intended for the intermediate hiker who is comfortable walking four to five hours each day, with stops for photography, scenery appreciation, snacks, and lunch. Our terrain includes pastoral rolling hills, broad meadows, some fairly steep ascents and rocky paths, where we might encounter patches of snow even in June and July. Valley elevations are 4,000 to 5,000 feet and hikes will normally take us no higher than 9,000 feet, the elevation at Refugio Lagazuoi. Everyone should plan on carrying day packs with water, lunch items, rain gear (tops and bottoms), hiking poles, and personal items. It is recommended that you prepare for this outing by taking regular day hikes at altitudes similar to the ones we will encounter, carrying your day pack and two liters of water. We will be hiking at a moderate pace and taking breaks.

Adequate preparation for this trip and good physical condition is important for the enjoyment of the outing; this is a group experience, and we want to be in the good health and ability that lets us enjoy ourselves and each other.

The weather in the Dolomites can be variable during the summer and as a result we may well experience everything from still, sunny warm days to snow storms and lightning storms. The schedule for any one day will be modified if we encounter stormy or unsafe conditions.

Equipment and Clothing

It’s important to have good quality equipment in good condition, including boots, rain gear (tops and bottoms), day packs with rain covers, poly clothing, waterproof hats, and the willingness to hike with them everyday. Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing for the weather. If one person doesn’t bring adequate protective clothing, it can significantly impact the whole group and the hiking plan for the day. There is no climbing equipment or climbing experience required for this trip. However, experience with scree, rocky trails, and snow fields can be a plus. An extensive packing list will be furnished to participants. Hiking poles, as well as well broken-in boots, are required.

References

Maps:

  • Tabacco Carta Topographic #s 03,05,06 & 011-1:350000 Series (available in Cortina). The leader will make a laminated copy of the hike route available to the group each day.

Books:

  • Stedman, Henry, Trekking in the Dolomites.
  • Price, Gillian, Walking in the Dolomites – A Cicerone Guide.
  • Goldsmith, James and Anne, The Dolomites Of Italy, A Travel Guide. (Out of print but worth the effort if you can find a used copy.)

Websites:

Conservation

This mountainous region has been the center of human activity for thousands of years, since the days when hunters established seasonal hunting camps in the valleys. Beginning in the Middle Ages, programs were instituted to protect grazing and wood-cutting rights. Today, more and more tourists are attracted to this beautiful area, both in summer and during the skiing season, and the Italian government is working actively to preserve the area, as well as to assure responsible tourism. Two systems of land management in the Dolomites ensure that land cannot be subdivided or reassigned to a new owner without permission.

Staff

Leader:

Lynne Simpson went on her first outing with the Sierra Club in 1968 and so enjoyed that experience that she signed on to cook and to lead for the National Outings program. In her time with outings, she has led in Hawaii, Europe, Asia and Africa. She has also led backpacks, river trips, and service trips within the United States. Part of her college education included a year in France; she speaks fluent French and so her Italian can be classified as "Itfranglais." In 1990 she had the privilege of organizing the first club outing in the Dolomites, encouraged there by Jim and Ann Goldsmith, California authors of a book on that region. Their family connection led to an introduction and enjoyment of the refugio Lagazuoi, a unique inn owned and run by the same family for several decades. For her, the Dolomites have retained their mountain beauty and charm...as have the people of this area. Lynne's other interests include art (she is a printmaker), cooking, snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding and French poodles.

Associate Leader:

Jan Torrey

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