Awe-Inspiring Dolomites Alta Via 1 Hiking Hut to Hut Itinerary For families

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us.

Yes, that is a bandaid holding her glasses together. There was no way to fix them while on trail on the top of the Dolomites. Thankfully we had a first aid kit!

Let me share how to do it with kids. Tip #1: bribe with the best hot cocoa in the world to get to the top. Tip #2: take your time and enjoy this other worldy landscape with limited cell service allowing you to connect. Tip #3: If your kids “hate” hiking, that’s normal, but in the Dolomites it’s honestly SO astounding that even screens are second rate.

Quick Verdict: How Do you Hike the Alta Via 1 Route in the Dolomites?

You can do a short 4-5 day version, 7 or 10 days. You can make it really hard and do via ferrata (awesome rock climbing with helmets) or you can go the gentle meandering way like our family prefers.

Alta Via 1 Hike Overview

alta via 1

5 Day Section – Northern Half

Location: Dolomites, Italy

Distance: 32 mile Loop with Bus

Time: Approximately 4-6 hours daily

Elevation: 🔼9450 ft 🔽10,400 ft

Difficulty: Moderate due to rocky terrain and steepness 

Where to Stay on Final night: Spa Hotel in Cortina

⛰️ Looking for an epic yet accessible hiking travel adventure?

Unlock the secrets of hut-to-hut hiking in Europe with our FREE course! Transform the way you trek and prepare for the journey of a lifetime. Try my course What to Expect Hut to Hut Hiking to reduce fear and answer all your questions.

Enroll Now for Free

Free👉 Download my planner here: Alta Via 1 Planner.

Want more?

👉 Sign up for the newsletter and get more awesome mountain magic vacation inspo.

This article is the summation of my experiences doing the northern section with my family, kids and friends every summer for the past 3 years starting at Lago di Braies.

It’s not about difficult, taxing and spartan backpacking. We love food. We love Italian drinks. We love saunas. And Connection.

Family Friendly Dolomites Backpacking

A beach vacation is incredible. But there’s something special about stripping away the unnecessary and carrying your stuff on your back for 5 days and having limited cell phone reception.

The caveat is that on this type of adventure, there’s always good food, a warm bed and a place to connect each night over a cozy table despite walking through some of the worlds most incredible natural landscapes.

We can work hard and play hard, together.

You get your money’s worth, in more ways than 1 doing the Alta Via 1 hike.

woman hiking alta via 1

Benefits of Hut to Hut Hiking on the Alta Via 1

  • Get off the beaten path
  • Unplug from stress
  • Immerse in Nature that’s so pretty it’s literally a UNESCO heritage site in and of itself
  • Eat delicious Italian food in the middle of nowhere
  • Sleep in a warm bed every night
  • Sense of purpose to each day
  • All the benefits of backpacking in comfort

Does the idea of a long gorgeous hike followed by a stay at a hut with saunas and 3 course dinners on the top of a mountain, sound like something that is a dream?

lago di braies

Alta Via 1 Map

Here’s a free google map of the Alta Via 1 map with rifugios with the points of interest and huts linked in and how to use the car and bus to make it work from Cortina d’Ampezzo as your homebase.

How to use this map: Use your computer mouse or fingers to zoom in and out. Click on the icons to get more information. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the written index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your google maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open google maps, click the menu button, and go to “your places”/ “maps.”

The Alta Via 1 length for 5 days is 32 miles.

Alta Via 1 5 days Plan

Even better, it’s not all just Nature goodness. Along the way, you can learn a bit about WWI history when this rugged terrain was the front line between Italy and Austria-Hungary and the setting for one of Hemingway’s great novels, A Farewell to Arms.

Fair warning, it takes a bit of planning for this 5 stage hut to hut hike. But don’t worry, this article is the summation of 3 summer trips in a row to nail down backpacking the very best 5 days along the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites with our kids & friends.

Done for You Alta Via 1 Self Guided Tour

Alta Via 1 Booking can be difficult and time consuming.

There are excellent services that will take care of the logistics for you to book a self-guided tour where you can hike your own hike.

If doing hut boooking spreadsheets and booking your multiple mountain huts sounds like a huge pain in the butt, you can just hire someone to do it for you and take away all the stress. Read until the end to learn more about self-guided booking services that caters to English speaking North Americans.

Protip: At least with “self-guided” you only have to worry about the people in your own group. Tip: don’t invite people who don’t like hiking to do a hiking vacation with you.

Self Guided Dolomites Hut to Hut Backpacking

Want to experience the magic of the Alta Via 1 without all the stress?

Alpenventures Unguided does the heavy logistical lifting for you to plan a self-guided adventure in the Italian Dolomites so you can hike your own hike.  If you are limited on time, don't enjoy the endless back and forth emails, or don't want to get lost - this is a great affordable option for you.

What do they do:

  • Plan the route
  • Book all the accommodations for you on the trail
  • Deals with the non-English speaking hut owners for you
  • Provide GPS enabled app to never get lost
  • Provides custom eGuidebooks
  • Downloadable GPS Tracks for the entire Alta Via 1 to your phone
  • Distance, elevation gain and loss, profiiles and turn by turn directions.

    The Classic full AV1 is 10 days, but Alpenventures can help you plan shorter hikes if you've only got a long weekend too!  

The owner is from US so understands how to help those of us not used to the Alpine and Dolomites hut system of hiking and backpacking.

Wild camping is illegal in most of Europe.

If you would like to learn more about guided tours there are also reliable companies that do this as well.

You’ll be rewarded with dramatic and varied landscapes, delicious food and comfortable mountain huts to sleep in each night.

Check out my webstories here to get a video taste to hike Alta Via 1 and see the turquoise lakes and rocky pinnacles that are the Dolomites.

The fantastic Shan Subedi created this idyllic video of the entire Alta Via 1 that will make you salivate for how serene it is. He’s wild camping, but that’s technically illegal fyi. It’s the BEST video I’ve ever seen depicting what it’s really like on the trail.

from a family & friends trip on the AV1 summer of 2022

Alta Via 1 Rifugios – The Amazing Huts Where You Stay Each Night

My Favorites for delicious food

There are many rifugio options but these are our foodie favorites below. Other rifugio options are included in the the Alta Via 1 guidebook written by the amazing Ciccerone guidebook company and I’ve listed them below.

Once atolls and coral reefs from a tropical sea, it’s now 18 peaks of Dolomite spires and pinnacles over 9,800 feet.

🏔 🥾 Alta Via 1 Route – 5 Days

DayDistance HikedMountain Hut to SleepAlternative
0Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo or Dobbiaco*prehike will help
112kmStay Fodara Vedla Hütte Biella, Sennes
29kmStay Lavarella HütteFanes, Pederü
317kmStay Rifugio LagazuoiScotoni
412kmStay Cinqui Torri RifugioAverau, Scoiattoli
514km (or bus)Hike to Spa hotel In Cortina d’AmpezzoRecovery Night

Day 1 — to Fodara Vedla Rifugio

The Alta Via 1 trail starts at the surreal Lago di Braies. There are wooden boat rentals, a chapel, cafe, bathrooms and just incredibly clear aquamarine water framed by the Croda del Becco peaks.

The Alta Via 1 huts are a step above many other areas in the Alps. Family owned and operated since 1979, the year I was born. Expert mountain guides remark that it is the best mountain hut in the entire Dolomites, nestled in a plateau meadow valley away from everything. The first place to stop is Rifugio Biella and I prefer it for lunch vs the stop for the day.

Day 1: 12 km
Lago di Braies to Fodara Vedla 5-8 hours. Steep uphills, moderately strenuous.

Alternative places to stay include: Rifugio Biella (4 miles from the start) & Rifugio Sennes (5.6 miles from the start).

We made it just before the storm to Fodara Vedla hamlet.

Day 2 — to Lavarella Hütte

on the way up face.

Sitting in a high alpine pasture littered with adorable, bell clad cows, we LOVED the outdoor barrel sauna with a spring water fed bucket splash. Order your favorite bread for breakfast and try their home brewed beer.

Day 2: 9 km
Fodara Vedla to Lavarella 3.5-5 hours. Start steep downhill down an old military road, have lunch at Pederü then big up to mountain valley.

Alternative places to stay very close include: Rifugio Fanes, Rifugio Pederü

Day 3 — to Rifugio Lagazuoi

My absolute favorite section between Lavarella and Forcella Lagazuoi.

This clifftop rifugio is hard to get to – you’ve earned your night’s wine. With possibly the best view on the planet–weather dependent from the barrel sauna on the clifftop deck overlooking Passo Falzarego.

Day 3: 17 km Lavarella to Lagazuoi 6-8 hours. Flat valley, then steep uphill, steep downhill, then finish hard uphill to end day. Avoid “shortcut” up ski piste. Alternate to use bus if you want to avoid the 2 strenous uphills.

Alternative places to stay include: Scotoni Hütte, Sass Dlacia

Day 4 — to Cinque Torri Rifugio

We definitely played dressup on these rock cliffs. Yes, I packed this 15 ft satin dress. I think I’m crazy.

Nestled directly under the Cinque Torri rock formation, this hut makes the best veggie lasagna you can imagine.

Day 4: 7 or 12 km Lagazuoi to Cinque Torri.

Relaxed Hike (2-3 hours): Take ski gondola down mtn, hike 442 to Averau then Cinqui Torri

Adventure Hike (6-7 hours): walk standard AV1 downhill, then back uphill to the famous Cinqui Torri Outdoor history musueum.

Alternative places to stay: Rifugio Averau, Rifugio Scoiattoli, Rifugio Nuvolau

Day 5 — Cortina Spa Hotel

Hotel Cristallo Palace is well worth the luxury spend in the Italian Dolomites to recover after your awesome backpacking adventure. There are many other choices to book a stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo. I use booking to keep all of my hotel reservations organized. I’ve had only 1 problem over the past 7 years with this website in my apartment, hut, and hotel bookings.

Day 5 (Optional) Go to Cortina d’Ampezzo by bus or hike 14 km

Take hourly bus #30 (45 min walk down road from hut) from the Cianzope bus stop back to

Or walk down bucolic trails 5-6 hours downhill and end up in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Lessons Learned from 3 Years Doing it with Kids

5 Days Itinerary Hut to Hut Hiking

Here’s the lessons learned from doing the Alta Via 1 5 Day Itinerary with my kids…

I wanted to share some lessons learned from doing summer trips to the Dolomites over the past 3 years.  I actually messed the planning up pretty badly the first year, fortunately we were able to recover.

I’ve included spreadsheets, google maps and a mobile friendly planning app I developed to keep all your details organized.

💞 Podcasts?
Listen to our 3 different long form stories about hiking the Alta Via 1 on multiple trips that we’ve done with family and friends over the years.

🥾Trails Worth Hiking Spotify, Apple, Website. He takes a deep dive into long distance trails and the history and mythology behind them.

🎧 Amateur Traveler focuses on the practical travel and highlights history : Website, Spotify, Apple.

🍻 Streets and Eats is all about the food and experience : Website, Spotify, Apple.

Don’t make my mistakes on Dolomites Alta Via 1!!

The first thing:

This area is technically in Italy. However, it definitely feels more Austrian. Yet, the locals are Ladin. What the heck???

Don’t get confused about frequent language changes.

Mountain huts are also known as “Hütte” in German and “Rifugio” in Italian. You’ll see the languages change on signs and buildings all of the time. There are 3 official languages, German, Italian and Ladin (the local language).

The second thing:

Most people tend to hire a service like Alpenventures Unguided to plan a hut to hut trips that take all the stress and planning away. I was just super curious about the huts and wanted to try it myself.

Book your huts 6-9 months in advance. 

Create a spreadsheet to keep track of the dates, distances to walk and confirmations.  You’ll be doing a lot of emailing back and forth to people in other languages and it gets confusing really fast. 

The first year I accidentally booked 2 huts that were only 30 minutes walk from each other.  It was covid, so I was able to find another hut at the last minute that was a nice 4 hour walk, but those days are gone. 

The third thing:

It’s not a technical hike if you don’t want it to be.  It’s not really dangerous, but these mountains are steep.  So, if you’ve got a person in your group that is really out of shape they may not enjoy it.  If one of your kids has a bad attitude and complains constantly, it’s miserable.

The Alta Via 1 elevation profile is significant.

Attitude is everything. If you’re bringing friends, or your kids friends, do some test hikes ahead of time to ensure they can handle it. 

Pro tip: Bribing with hot cocoa seems to work when the hills get steep.

Alta Via 1 Planning Tool

I created this spreadsheet to help myself stay organized and wanted to share it with you.

Download it for free and make it your own. It’s scrollable and clickable.

Here’s a mobile friendly version for you high tech hikers.

I’ve linked up the hotels, huts, routes, on this spreadsheet to make it easier for you to plan.

We tend to stay in one of Cortina d’Ampezzo fancy SPA hotels the last night, to help recover.  The saunas, pools and luxury really make a nice contrast to the 5 days of backpacking. 

Hotel Cristallo Palace is our absolute favorite reward after the hike !!! A true luxury experience with fancy women with fancy white dogs and piano players in the lobby.  It’s so fun to come in all sweaty and dirty and glam it up.

Don’t Fail Like Me

The first year I went with my daughter and her friend. On the first day, we walked 7 hours uphill up a mountain) that should have taken 3 hours, but it took us 7. We had to turn around and go back to the trailhead, reaching it at 10 pm.

I gave up because she wasn’t prepared and she didn’t feel like she could do it even though she could.  Many non-outdoorsy types think they are holding you back and psych themselves out. Even though they are capable and strong.

I thought the whole trip was ruined, but her gracious mom and dad drove through the night from the KMC to the Dolomites and picked her up at 5 am. My daughter and I were able to catch up to our reservations by doing the first and second day’s hike all on the 2nd day.  We made it to the hut at 7 pm just in time for dinner service! 

alta via 1
The following year it was no problem with these kiddos!

Fortunately, we’ve had 11 year old friends join us each year after and it worked out great even with all of the elevation gain on the first day.

GPS Alta Via 1 Hike in Dolomites

GPS Guidance for Alta Via 1 in 5 days

The hiking app Komoot has GPS directions turn-by-turn not to get lost. The trail is really well marked, but getting the Ciccerone guidebook is really helpful and it’s compact and has a water resistant cover.

You really don’t need paper maps, unless you want to do extra hikes after you get to the rifugios each night. 031 pragser dolomiten is the map you should get to explore some side trails.

When to Hike the Dolomites

Mid-June to Mid-October is when the huts and trail are open.

The Dolomites in August can be Crowded

–August is Italian/French/German vacation time, so you’ll be fighting some crowds of scouts, family reunions keeping you awake and more.

–July has the best weather for families that need to do this trek during school break.

–Early June is chilly you can run into some snow. Same for late September and early October.

If you aren’t going with kids, early September would likely be the best as it’s least crowded and still warm.

However, there are absolutely no guarantees on weather. You’ll probably hit thunderstorms in the late afternoons so most people tend to get to their rifugios before 3 pm.

How to Pack: Alta Via 1 Dolomites

The Alta Via 1 can only be hiked through hut to hut hiking and that means you actually don’t need to carry very much, which really let’s you experience the magic of the mountains without having to rough it.

alta via 1
A rare view of Tre Cime from a place only hikers on the Alta Via 1 can view.

Alta Via 1 Packing List

Check out the full article on how to pack for the Alta Via 1. My hope is that this guide will help you be able to pack your things in 15 minutes into a backpack, feel safe and prepared, and know you have what you need to enjoy the magic Nature, wildlife, scenery and FOOD of the Alta Via 1 Dolomiti.

No special equipment is needed for the Alta Via 1 Itinerary.

The secret many pro backpackers know, is to quickly wash quick dry shirts/pants at the huts each night. You’ll arrive at the mountaintop hut and see people’s cleaned shirts drying on a line next to the hut or strung over railings.

That way we only need to bring one set of “hiking clothes” and one set of “dinner” clothes and almost everyone wears the same set each day.

Pro tip: don’t try to wash your undies or socks, they won’t get dry in time.

Stay under 20 pounds total if you can to make it more enjoyable.

How to Get to the Alta Via 1 Trailhead

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a natural starting point for the Alta Via 1 Hiking Trail and you’ll likely want to stay there the night before you begin and the night after you finish the AV1.

Transportation to Cortina d’Ampezzo

Venice Marco Polo is the closest large Airport

The closest large airport is Venice Marco Polo international airport 2.5 hours from Cortina. If you want to rent a car make sure you have an international driver’s license. This can be picked up at your local AAA office in the USA.

Innsbruck, Austria airport is a 2:15 drive.

Car Rental to Cortina d’Ampezzo

The best site to book your car is at Discover Cars.

They offer competitive rates and search multiple companies. Gas and tolls in Italy are not cheap so you’ll want to get a good rental rate. Also, many cars are standard so if you don’t drive a stick you’ll have to expressly request an automatic.

Public Transportation

If you don’t want to rent a car, the Cortina Express Bus goes from the airport to the Cortina d’Ampezzo central bus station and takes only 2 hours and 30 minutes and costs 20 euros. This website has prices, timetables and you can book your tickets ahead of time.

If you want to take away all the stress, book an English-speaking van to take you to the heart of Cortina directly from the airport.

The Alta Via 1 Route Trailhead is at Lago di Braies

Public Transportation is necessary to get to the trailhead unless you want to do some seriously expensive and difficult parking logistics.

alta via 1  the lago di braies
Your iphone will also get photos like this if you are on the first bus to Lago di Braies.

I would recommend to park your car near the Dobbiaco autostazione and it’s bus stop. Or use the bus to get to Dobbiaco.

Bus to Dobbiaco

To get to the Alta Via 1 Italy from Cortina d’Ampezzo take the SAD Bus 445 to Dobbiaco autostazione. It departs 6 times a day. (40 min)

From Dobbiaco autostazione – transfer buses to Pragser Wildsee.

Car to Dobbiaco

Park in Dobbiaco at free autoparks around town. You’ll see a blue parking symbol in one of sereral obvious parking lots.

● Take the 30 minute Bus 442 from the Dobbiaco Autostatione to Pragser Wildsee

Book bus ticket online here: It is currently 10 euros per person at takes you directly to the trailhead at Lago di Braies otherwise known as Pragser Wildsee.

Take hourly bus #30 (45 min walk down road from hut) from the Cianzope bus stop back to

Or walk down bucolic trails 5-6 hours downhill and end up in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

✨Unlock Europe’s best-kept secrets with our free bi-weekly newsletter.

Final Verdict: Why Spend 5 days Backpacking the Dolomites?

  • Create your own journey to include the nicest huts with delicious foods and the warmest hüttenwirten (hosts).
  • Spend quality time away from the reaches of the internet with yourself or your family.
  • Get away from the sound of cars for days on end in one of the most gorgeous mountain scapes in the world.
  • Take a week to get closer to Nature after a hectic trip to a place like Venice or Germany.

    But most importantly: Connect to what really counts.

Alta Via 1 Hike FAQs

Is it hard? Alta Via 1 Difficulty

Of course, but it’s not technical. This is so different for everyone, but it’s graded level 1 or 2 out of 3 (3 being the most difficult and most technical).

It does require a baseline level of fitness without major lower body injuries to have an enjoyable trip. If you regularly exercise and are fit, this isn’t too hard. But if you are like most of us with \ busy lives, jobs, and sit at a desk all day – please consider a training plan of strength and cardio to get ready 2-4 months ahead of time.

Alta Via 1 vs 2

The Dolomites Alta Via 1 is far more travelled and has many more amenities. The Alta Via 2 will likely provide less services but offer more solitude. You’ll find more via ferrata sections along the Alta Via 2.

What is the Local Cuisine?

It’s the people you meet and eat with that make it a memory you’ll never forget. The hearty, delicious food is Süd Tyrolean, locally sourced and made fresh daily with fresh herbs from the garden planted near each mountain hut. It’s amazing how they can create such amazing dishes at such high elevation.

Hiking Alta Via 1 and the History along the Trail?

Experience the place of tragic history during World War 1 on the Italian front and walk in the steep steps made infamous in Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”. Now it’s a hiking paradise and home to the Dolomiti SuperSki – Europe’s largest ski area with 14 resorts.
Lagazuoi WWI Tunnels Hemingway tried to embody the fears and hopes of the heroic battles for Falzarego pass. Get a helmet and headlamp to smell the dampness and carefully walk 3km in a tunnel dug in the face of a sheer rocky cliff during WW1. The battle here on the “Italian
Front” was possibly the most treacherous example of true human carnage. Here on the rooftop of the world 550,000 Italian and Austrian forces lost their lives.

Alta Via 1 Wild Camping is it legal?

No. This is within a national park and UNESCO world heritage site so it is not legal to wild camp along the Alta Via 1.

Do Rifugios accept credit cards?

Since covid, most of them do. There’s been a change in culture around credit cards in the region. However, service can sometimes be off and we bring at least euros just in case. You should have already paid some deposit for your beds to ensure a reservation.

The Alta Via 1 vs the Tour du Mont Blanc

Which one is better? This is completely up to your personal preference. The trail in the Dolomites is less elevation gain each day as compared to the TMB.

nature Travel Resources

Planning your trip?

Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites Free Course

Curious about hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites, but not sure where to start or what to expect? Sign up for our newsletter that simplifies and educates so you can focus on the views and vino. Get curious, get ready, and let’s get started! Sign up here👇🏼

We hope this guide filled with interesting information about the awe-inspiring Dolomites Alta Via 1 has given you the proper information to plan your next hiking hut to hut itinerary for your family.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.