If the Dolomites in Italy an the South Tyrol are on your hiking trip list, you’ll want to put the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop at the very top. Of the many appealing day hikes in the southeast corner of the Alps for its jagged peaks and high alpine meadows, it’s 6 miles and mostly flat, making it accessible to most people.
There are a couple options for hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop in the Italian Dolomites: hiking up to Rifugio Auronzo (a mountain refuge or hut) from Misurina, or if you’re short on time for your trip, driving up to Rifugio Auronzo mountain hut on the toll road. For our purposes, here, we’ll assume you have the time for the full hike. Want to spend even more time? You can camp or stay in one of the mountain huts (more on that below).
The highlight of the loop hike is the three towers of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, jagged peaks that rush out of a lush landscape dotted with alpine lakes. Don’t forget your good camera! The views along the circuit hike are some of the best in the Dolomites, made even better with sweet little churches you’ll come across and dramatic ridgelines.
Here is what you need to know to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop:
Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop Trip Overview
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,115 feet
Time: 3-4 hours
When to go: Summer (road to Rifugio Auronzo opens in June)
Starting point: Misurina
Distance from: Cortina d’Ampezzo (14.2 miles); Selva di Cadore (32.9 miles), Bolzano (94.4 miles)
Choose which direction you’d like to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop. The most popular way it counterclockwise. You’ll start at Rifugio Auronzo and take the trail to the right toward Rifugio Lavaredo. This way, you’ll only encounter 950 feet of elevation gain. If you’d like to catch some beautiful sunsets over the lakes, go clockwise instead.
Start at the parking lot at Rifugio Auronzo. Follow Path 101 and head east past the rifugio, keeping the towers on your left. You’ll walk gently downhill to a small and picturesque chapel (Capella Degli Alpini) and Rifugio Lavaredo. A number of paths converge here. Turn left onto Path 101 and climb up to the Forcella Lavaredo ridge. This is one of the best viewpoints on the entire hike, with jagged peaks of Tre Cime looming above you. Continue on Path 101 as it descends under the peaks of Croda Passaporto and Monte Paterno. Climb up to Rifugio Locatelli.
After Rifugio Locatelli, take Path 102 in a small clockwise loop, then down the rocky valley. Notice the Laghi dei Piani, a set of alpine lakes, just below the Rifugio Locatelli. At the junction, take Path 105 to the southwest, climbing up out of the valley past Malga Langalm and up to the Forcella col di Mezzo ridge. Take Path 103 around Tre Cime and back down to the parking lot.
When Is Hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop the Best?
The best time for hiking Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop in the Italian Dolomites is late July or early September. By this point in the summer, the snow has melted and you won’t have the crowds of mid-summer. The cable cars and the rifugios/huts will still be open.
The hiking season in the Dolomites is from late May to early October, depending on the previous winter’s snowfall and the elevation of your hikes.
Tip for History Buffs
If you’re a hiker with a penchant for World War history, you’ll remember that the front line between Austria and Italy ran through the South Tyrol area. As a result of the fierce battles, the Tre Cime area has numerous fortifications, trenches and tunnels. Most of them are at the base of Monte Paterno and can be accessed near Rifugio Locatelli. Explore on your own or take a guided Via Ferrata tour. One of the most famous of the trenches sits above Rifugio Locatelli and affords you an incredible view of three peaks.
Where Should I Stay for Hiking the Tre di Cime Lavaredo?
Stay in charming Cortina if you plan on hiking the Tre di Cime Lavaredo loop. Choose a centrally located hotel with parking so that you can easily walk into town. If you don’t mind going a bit farther out, stay in Dobbiaco. From here, this is a more direct shuttle bus to the Rifugio Auronzo trailhead than from Cortina.
Can I Spend the Night in the Tre Cime Area?
If you would like a longer backpacking trip, you can hike the area in three days, staying overnight in two mountain huts. This route would include the popular Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop.
The first evening, you can circle around Tre Cime and choose to sleep at one of the famous rifugios: Auronzo, Lavaredo or Locatelli (the farthest from the trailhead, but the one with the best Tre Cime views). The next day, hike all day, down into the Fiskalina Valley, through Rifufio Fendovalle and around Cime dei Tre Scarperi/Dreischusterspitze, and climb back to Rifugio Auronzo, and through Rifugio Loctelli, which looks down on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Nature Park.
A Shorter Option
For those seeking an even quicker hike in the Dolomites, consider the Cadini di Misurina hike (or add this one on before or after the other loop). You’ll start at the Rifugio Auronzo, just like for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike. You can hike up from Lake Antorno, take a bus or drive up.
For those seeking the easiest option, drive up to Rifugio Auronzo. This toll road charges about USD $30 (cash only). Consider going early in the morning to avoid crowds and to easily find a spot in the parking lot, which can get quite crowded later on.
From Rifugio Auronzo, take Path 117 to the Insta-famous viewpoint (just 1.2 miles away). Follow the red and white trail markers until you reach the ridgeline. If you wish, take the small path to the right that goes down and loops around the mountain, getting narrower as it goes. It’s an incredible vantage point and makes for an epic photo.