5 Things to Know About Hut-to-Hut Hiking in the Dolomites
Many of our favorite journeys travel inn-to-inn or lodge-to-lodge, such as our Salkantay and Everest treks, but we’re currently loving a new hut-to-hut adventure in the Dolomites. Set in spectacular locations, Italy’s rifugio (mountain huts) are mostly owned by the Club Alpino Italiano and run by local families. To learn more about rifugios and hut-to-hut trekking, we turned our field expert and Europe Program Director, David Martin, to give us the lowdown.
1. Why hike in the Dolomites?
The Dolomites comprises a beautiful mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, with 18 peaks above 9,800 feet. Not only is it a UNESCO-listed wonder with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys, it is interlaced by a series of well-appointed mountain huts, or rifugio, which make perfect rest-stops for weary hikers.
2. What are rifugios like?
Rifugios are sturdy, well-built mountain lodges made of stone and wood. Most were built in the last century. Their location, high in the mountains, gives them a charm and unmatched beauty that few hotels can rival. While the accommodation at rifugios is basic, with varying levels of comfort and often shared bunkhouses, the warm welcome and hot food is a reward for Alta Via 2 hikers. There is generally no Wi-Fi, so rifugios are the perfect place to unplug and get away from it all. To get more details on rifugios you can check out the Club Alpino Italianio or the Dolomites tourism board websites.
3. How easy is it to get to each rifugio?
Most rifugio are only accessible on foot and located around three hours’ walking distance apart. This means that hikers can stop at one rifugio for lunch and then hike another three hours to the next hut. The trails between each rifugio are clear but the hiking is strenuous, and at elevations between 4,000 and 8,000 feet.
For our hut-to-hut adventure, we’ve chosen rifugio based on distance on the trail and the overall accommodation level—opting for the highest level of comfort available. On our 11-day Dolomites hut-to-hut trek we sleep at rifugios for five nights. This affords a great opportunity to really experience the mountain huts—and life in the mountains. On clear nights the landscape is awash with stars.
4. Do I have to carry my gear from hut to hut?
While some hikers opt to carry their own packs, arrangements can be made to ensure that you gear (beyond your day bag) can meet you at the next rifugio. This helps you to focus on your step and on the surrounding mountain beauty.
5. What is the best time to go to the Dolomites?
The best time to visit the Dolomites is early Fall when the summer crowds have gone and before the snow falls. In addition to our classic, family and wellness trips in the Dolomites, we have one very special hut-to-hut adventure in September 2019, which is confirmed to run. This is being led by top MT Sobek guide Sergio Fitch-Watkins. Check out the itinerary here!