For all the thousands of kilometres of incredible mountains that comprise the European Alps, there’s hardly an equal to the Italian Dolomites. Characterised by jagged limestone (dolomite) peaks, dramatic glacier-carved valleys, and the kind of alpine lakes that seem painted from the pages of a storybook, this jaw-dropping mountain range in Northeastern Italy is quite unlike anywhere else on the planet and, as such, is one of the world’s premier hiking destinations.
The best way to experience the splendour of this region is along Alta Via 2, the longest of the “high routes” that cut across the Dolomites. Often overshadowed by the popularity of Alta Via 1, AV2 presents an altogether different experience— crowds are low, the diversity of scenery is unparalleled, and frequent via ferrata ensure that this is so much more than just a garden variety hike.
This guide will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about planning and embarking on a truly epic adventure along AV2, from booking mountain huts and seeking out the best via ferrata to daily route descriptions and a detailed packing list.
What's in this travel guide
About Alta Via 2
Stretching from Bressanone/Brixen in the north to Croce d’Aune (near Feltre) in the south, Alta Via 2 is a spectacular long-distance route that incorporates as much as 200km of scenic trails and long stretches of exposed cables as it meanders through alpine meadows, wraps around dramatic cliffs, and conquers high mountain passes.
The first half of AV2 journeys through the northern province of South Tyrol—annexed by Italy following WWI, this historically Austrian region has retained much of its heritage and the influence is still profound, with locals speaking German as a first language (indignant correction: they speak Austrian!) and food that is a blend of mountain Italian/Austrian (less pasta and pizza, more sauerkraut and polenta).
Around Marmolada at the midpoint of the hike (day 5/6/7, depending on your exact itinerary), Av2 crosses into Belluno, a distinctly more Italian province that represents a change in language, cuisine, and culture. Remain curious and you’ll get a lot more out of AV2 than just incredible scenery!
AV2 is in many ways the most challenging of the 6-10 Alta Via that zig-zag across the Dolomites— this route is long, gains a significant amount of elevation, navigates often rough terrain, and has frequent unavoidable sections of via ferrata that necessitate careful footwork and a good head for heights. All that combines to make it one of the most exhilarating routes of all time!
- Trailhead: Bressanone/Brixen (ending in Croce d’Aune, near Feltre)
- Time to complete: 10-14 days
- Distance: 160km (100mi) OR 200km+ (125mi) with the side-trips recommended in this guide!
- Elevation gain: 12,500m (41,010ft) + much more with side-trips!
Alta Via 2: is it for you?
- You can hike up to 8hrs for 10-14 days in a row, often on very steep or uneven terrain
- You have experience climbing via ferrata, scrambling, or basic mountaineering— at a minimum, you have steady footing and a solid head for heights, plus all the necessary via ferrata gear (see Packing List below)
- You are able to carry 10-15kg in your backpack for the entire duration of the trek
- You have basic navigational skills and know how to read a map and/or GPS
- You know what to do in the case of a medical emergency and you have a way to call for help (e.g. Garmin In-Reach Mini)
To characterise this as a “just a hike” would be to do AV2 a disservice, but it’s an experience that defies simple classification— a combination of protected scrambling, long-distance trekking, and the feeling of a rugged backcountry journey with all the convenience of mountain huts and hot food. It’s no small task and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, but with careful preparation, this is sure to be a favourite.
Planning your Alta Via 2 hike
When to go
Most huts in the Italian Dolomites open for the season in mid-June and close again by mid-September, coinciding with the best weather window for AV2. Here’s a little bit of what you can expect during each month of summer in the Dolomites:
- JUNE: lingering spring snow keeps crowds very low & you’ll likely get away without hut reservations; temps are lower & afternoon showers are common
- JULY: with the snow gone, trails & huts become busier; possibility of thunderstorms, but also the possibility of 30C bluebird days!
- AUGUST: the absolute busiest time to be in the Dolomites, as Italians flood the trails during their holiday period; hut bookings are essential, but weather also tends to be very stable
- SEPTEMBER: crowds wane, particularly later in the month, and hut booking may not be necessary; pack & prepare for possible snowfall, which adds difficulty but also a lot of beauty to the landscape!
The Dolomites are known to be somewhat wild when it comes to weather and it’s not uncommon to experience several seasons in a single day, even during July & August. Whatever your dates, prepare for sporadic and often unpredictable thunderstorms (by bringing rain gear and adequate layers)— if it rains in the morning, the afternoon tends to be clear and I never experienced more than a few hours of uninterrupted precipitation, but expect to get wet at some point.
For reference, I hiked AV2 from 4-17 July 2022.
Essential resources & maps
GPS is fantastic, but there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned paper maps, particularly when it comes to planning your route. For Alta Via 2, you’ll need a stack of maps (but if you’re on a budget, you can visualise 85% of the route by purchasing only Map 07 and 022).
- Tabacco Map 030 (Bressanone)
- Tabacco Map 07 (Alta Badia)
- Tabacco Map 015 (Marmolada)
- Tabacco Map 022 (Pale Di San Martino)
- Tabacco Map 023 (Alpi Feltrine)
You can also download the TabaccoMapp app on your phone to access map data. I didn’t test this out, so I can’t comment on usability, but it’s another option if you aren’t keen on carrying half a kilo of paper with you on the trail!
Cicerone guide books
The only official publication for Alta Via 2 is the Cicerone guidebook, which underwent a much-needed update in late 2022 and now provides current and very thorough information on the entire route. If you buy any book, this will surely be the most useful.
- Alta Via 2 – Trekking in the Dolomites: Includes 1:25,000 map booklet. With Alta Via 3-6 in outline by Gillian Price
Split across 2 volumes, these guidebooks also contain detailed route descriptions for all of the via ferrata along AV2, among many others:
- Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 1: 75 routes-North, Central and East Ranges by Graham Fletcher & John Smith
- Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 2: Southern Dolomites, Brenta and Lake Garda by Graham Fletcher & John Smith
The best via ferrata guide for use in the Dolomites is disappointingly (but understandably) all in German. I came across it in one of the mountain huts on the route, and although I could not actually read the route description, it is still a fantastic resource with excellent maps on more than 100 via ferrata routes across South Tyrol.
- Klettersteigatlas Südtirol – Dolomiten – Gardasee: 111 Klettersteige für Einsteiger und Könner by Thomas Zelger
Via ferrata on Alta Via 2
For those unfamiliar with via ferrata, this may be the part of AV2 that prompts the most uncertainty, but it’s also what makes the route so spectacular. Translating to “iron route” in Italian, via ferrata is a form of protected climbing that was invented during WWI as a means of getting soldiers up and over challenging peaks with minimal technical experience or equipment. Today, it’s an amazing form of recreation, with more than 700 via ferrata in the Italian Dolomites alone!
Clipped into a fixed cable for continuous protection, via ferrata routes (sometimes denotes as Klettersteig or EEA) ascend steep rock faces and traverse exposed ledges through the use of ladders, pegs, stemples, and even the occasional bridge, bringing those with limited climbing experience to incredible heights.
My adventure route of AV2 describes numerous side-trips that incorporate occasionally challenging and always exciting via ferrata, but it’s super important to note once again that Alta Via 2 has unavoidable sections of cable, meaning you will HAVE to do some via ferrata if you want to complete this route, even if you skip every side-trip.
These en route ferrata are typically rated as a 1 or 2 in difficulty (out of 5 or 6, depending on which rating system you’re using) and they are certainly manageable for those without prior experience, but I’ll reiterate that you DO need a strong head for heights, proper gear, and knowledge of how to use it.
To learn more about via ferrata in the Dolomites, check out this post: Via ferrata in the Italian Dolomites: the ultimate beginner’s guide
Mountain huts on Alta Via 2
As wild camping is not permitted along Alta Via 2 (or anywhere in the Dolomites), you’ll have the distinct treat of sleeping in a warm bed every night as you hike from Bressanone to Croce d’Aune. Mountain huts, or rifugi, are such a wonderful part of the Alta Via experience, typically offering a mix of dorms and private rooms for ~25-35€ and half-board (accommodation that includes a 3-course dinner and brekky) for ~50-75€. Be sure to check out my section on Alpine Club membership below for info about how you can save as much as 18€ per night on hut accommodation!
I collected heaps of specific details on all the mountain huts along AV2 and collated it in a table for easy reference; those included in my recommended itinerary are marked with a star 🌟. Follow links for each hut to find out more about their booking process.
If you want to learn more about mountain huts in the Dolomites and what to expect during your stay, including details about food and facilities, be sure to check out this specific post: Everything you need to know about mountain huts (rifugi) in the Italian Dolomites
|Schlüterhütte Rifugio Genova 🌟
|26/34€ (dorm/small room)
54/62€ half board (dorm/small room)
|A la carte (approx 10-15€ for dinner, 9€ brekky), great selection of food, wine, beer
|3€ for 5min
|Wifi & strong mobile signal
|Rifugio Puez 🌟
|31€ (12pax dorm only, 3-level bunks are not a fave)
74€ half board
|A la carte or half board
|4€ for 4min
|Rifugio Piscadiu 🌟
|33/39€ (dorms/small rooms)
70/75€ (dorms/small rooms)
|A la carte (approx 10-15€ for dinner, 14€ for 1L of wine, 4.5€ Aperol spritz, 12€ breakfast) or half board
|3€ for 4min (4-6pm only)
|Wifi & weak mobile signal
|-10€ discount (-14.5€ room only)
|38€ (dorms only, smallest 4 person)
69€ half board
|A la carte or half board, extensive menu with great lunch!
|1€ for 1min
|Rifugio Capanna Piz Fassa (Piz Boè) 🌟
|70€ half board (rustic shared rooms, smallest 3ppl)
|A la carte or half board (super large 3-course, could share between 2 people)
|Weak mobile signal
|Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada 🌟
|31/42€ (dorm/ private)
58/69€ half board (dorm/ private)
|A la carte (approx 10-15€ for dinner, add 6€ for breakfast); half board includes 3-course dinner and breakfast
|Unlimited & free!
*Washing machine and dryer (4€ for each, must have 2€ coins)
|Wifi & very weak mobile signal (go 100m outside for better signal)
|Rifugio Volpi al Mulaz 🌟
|34€ (dorm room; privates only for half board)
74/69€ half board (private room/dorm)
|Half board with 3-course dinner; get the vin brûlée (hot wine)!
|Not open due to water limits
|Weak mobile signal outside
75€ half board (only shared rooms, but some as small as 3ppl)
|Half board for dinner, a la carte option for lunch only
|7€ (frequently out of water)
|No wifi, mobile signal outside the hut
|-17€ discount (-20€ room only)
|Rifugio Pradidali 🌟
|75€ half board
|No mobile signal
|Rifugio Treviso 🌟
|36€ (only shared rooms, but as small as 4ppl)
65€ half board
|Half board, great lunch options (10-15€; try the spicy veg sandwich!)
|6€ for 30L of water (no time limit—best shower in the Dolomites)
|Wifi, weak mobile signal outside the hut
|-15€ discount (-18€ room only)
|Rifugio Cereda 🌟
|45€ (dorm; 160€ for 4pax room)
65€ half board (dorm)
|A la carte or half board, outstanding brekky + 2.5€ Aperol Spritz!
|Wifi & strong mobile signal
|Rifugio Boz 🌟
58€ half board
|Half board only, limited food & drink menu
|5€ for 25L of water
|Wifi, no reception
|-10€ discount (-13.5€ room only)
|Rifugio Dal Piaz
55€ half board
|-11€ discount (-14€ room only)
Booking mountain huts
The process of booking these mountain huts is fairly simple once you decide where you want to stay— depending on the hut, you’ll either need to send an email request or fill out a contact form on their website with your dates and party size. Follow links for each hut in the table above to find out more about their booking process.
Things can become more complicated when the huts require a deposit, as several do, but my best advice is to use the app/website Wise for all of your international transfers! I’ve been using this for over 10 years (since I first moved to Australia) to send money overseas; it’s fast, reliable, and WAY cheaper than traditional wire transfers.
Do you need to reserve mountain huts in advance? Alta Via 2 is only gaining in popularity, so you should absolutely reserve spots in mountain huts several months in advance to avoid disappointment and guarantee the itinerary you want, with a couple exceptions:
* solo hikers: if you’re hiking alone, even during the busy season, it is almost always possible to arrive without a reservation and find a bed. The risk isn’t zero, but you can aim to arrive early at popular huts for a better chance of snagging a cancellation; even then, the worst case is that you’ll probably have to sleep in the dining room.
*early season: if you’re hiking outside of peak season (late June to mid-July seems to be the quietest time), you’ll also have good luck finding space in most huts without a reservation. I absolutely wouldn’t risk this with a large party, but a group of 2-3 should fare reasonably well without advance bookings.
Alpine Club membership
The CAI (Club Alpino Italiano, or Italian Alpine Club) operates a staggering 433 mountain huts and 224 bivouacs throughout the Italian Alps, offering discounts to its members that range from approximately 10-18€ per night. My top hack for saving money along Alta Via 2 is to join an Alpine Club— it doesn’t even need to be the Italian Alpine Club, as most European Clubs offer reciprocal discounts!
The best reason to become an Alpine Club member, though, is for the emergency medical insurance, valid anywhere in the WORLD (yes, you read that right). In the case of the Austrian Alpine Club, this includes 25,000€ in emergency rescue costs, 10,000€ in medical coverage, and unlimited repatriation, among other benefits.
I personally joined the Academic Section of the Austrian Alpine Club (Alpenverein Österreich, Akademische Sektion Innsbruck) because they were offering subsidised membership in 2022 for just 18€— annual dues have since increased to 69€ (+ add a partner for 53€), which is comparable to other clubs, but I find the Austrian website particularly easy to use and you can sign up entirely online, no need to visit an office!
Staying at the huts I recommend in my AV2 itinerary, alpine club membership saves you a whopping 80€! Considering that the hut savings on AV2 alone PAYS for an entire year of club membership and therefore a year of worldwide mountain insurance, there is absolutely no reason not to join. These discounts and benefits extend all over the Alps— I recently used my membership for massive discounts in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, though thankfully haven’t had to access any emergency insurance yet. I’d highly, highly recommend this before any embarking on any adventures in the Dolomites and beyond.
Getting to & from the trailhead
Alta Via 2 begins just outside of Bressanone, Italy (which you’ll also see written as Brixen, since this part of South Tyrol is historically Austrian). It’s a descent sized town with good connection to larger cities nearby, so the easiest way to get to Bressanone/Brixen is to fly into either Munich, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; Venice or Milan, Italy and then catch a train or bus.
Getting to Bressanone/Brixen
- Train company: Deutsche Bahn
- Route: München Hbf to Bressanone/Brixen
- Time: 3.5hrs direct
- Cost: 39.90€
- Train company: Deutsche Bahn
- Route: Innsbruck Hbf to Bressanone/Brixen
- Time: 1.5hrs direct
- Cost: 23.15€
- Train company: Trenitalia
- Route: Venezia Mestre to Bressanone/Brixen
- Time: 2hrs direct
- Cost: 44€ (specials from 19.9€)
- Train company: Trenitalia
- Route: Milano Centrale to Verona OR Bolzano/Bozen to Bressanone/Brixen
- Time: 4hrs with 1 stop
- Cost: 32.90€
For mobile service in the Dolomites, I use Airalo, an amazing app that offers data eSIM packages for nearly every country in the world— you can activate the eSIM entirely from your phone, so you’ll have service as soon as you land in Italy without needing to track down a local mobile shop! Whether you’re a full-time traveller or casual explorer, this app is a game-changer.
Use code BROOKE2994 for $3 off your first eSIM with Airalo!
Where to stay in Bressanone
Getting from Croce d’Aune to other destinations
AV2 officially ends in the small mountain town of Croce d’Aune and, in all likelihood, your first step for onwards transit will be to get to the larger town of Feltre, either by walking 1.5-2hrs (8km), catching a local bus (with 1-2 transfers), or sharing a taxi (6 of us split the 40€ fare).
Once in Feltre, it’s easy to connect to other locations across Italy— direct buses (Brusutti SRL) run to Venice airport or train station and a (confusing) network of local buses also link to towns across the Dolomites, such as the major hiking hub of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Getting to the Alta Via 2 trailhead
Alta Via 2 officially begins at the top of the Plose Gondola above Bressanone/Brixen. You can access the lower gondola station by taxi or local bus (number 321 from the bus station) in about 30min and then ride the gondola to the upper station, where a network of trails lead off into the surrounding mountains.
A one-way ticket on the Plose Gondola costs 19€, but it’s totally free if you have a BrixenCard— this is a local discount card that provides free access to transport, issued as a complimentary perk from a number of hotels in Bressanone/Brixen. Be sure to check the list of participating hotels before you reserve accommodation to see if you can score a free bus and gondola ride!
*Detailed Alta Via 2 itinerary
13-day Alta Via 2 itinerary (recommended)
Described below (and in great detail within daily posts) is my ultimate Alta Via 2 itinerary, incorporating as many side-trips and via ferrata into the route as possible over the course of 12 or 13 fantastic days. The absolute BEST way to experience AV2 is to get off the main trail as often as possible— there are so many opportunities to mix up the standard route and inject a little magic into your hike, so that’s what I recommend here!
- Day 1: Rifugio Genova + Via Ferrata Sass d’Putia (19.5km, 8hrs)
- Day 2: Rifugio Puez + Via Ferrata Piz Duleda (12km, 6.5hrs)
- Day 3: Rifugio Pisciadú + Via Ferrata Gran Cir, Piz da Cir, Brigata Tridentina en route (13km, 8hrs)
- Day 4: Rifugio Piz Boè + Cima Pisciadú (5.5km, 3.25hrs) ~consider adding Via Ferrata Vallon
- Day 5: Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada (9.5km, 4.5hrs)
- Day 6: Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada + Via Ferrata Punta Penia (6.5km, 5hrs) ~optional
- Day 7: Passo San Pellegrino + Via Ferrata delle Trincee (14.5km, 6hrs)
- Day 8: Rifugio Volpi al Mulaz (13km, 5hrs)
- Day 9: Rifugio Pradidali (16.4km, 7hrs)
- Day 10: Rifugio Treviso + Via Ferrata Porton & Nico Gusella (10km, 9hrs)
- Day 11: Passo Cereda + Via Ferrata Canalone (8km, 5hrs)
- Day 12: Rifugio Boz (12.5km, 6.5hrs)
- Day 13: Croce d’Aune (21km, 7hrs)
9-day Alta Via 2 itinerary
Fast hikers who are short on time and willing to sacrifice many of the spectacular via ferrata and other side trips along AV2 can certainly shorten their trip by several days. This speed-itinerary of AV2 condenses sections into a full 9-day hike (but I’d still encourage you to add in via ferrata if time allows!):
- Day 1: Rifugio Puez (27.5km, 9.5hrs)
- Day 2: Rifugio Pisciadú + Via Ferrata Brigata Tridentina en route (12km, 6hrs)
- Day 3: Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada (12km, 7hrs)
- Day 4: Passo San Pellegrino (24.5km, 6hrs)
- Day 5: Rifugio Rosetta (23km, 9.5hrs)
- Day 6: Rifugio Treviso (13km, 6.5hrs)
- Day 7: Passo Cereda (7.4km, 4hrs)
- Day 8: Rifugio Boz (12.5km, 6.5hrs)
- Day 9: Croce d’Aune (21km, 7hrs)
Stats quoted below and throughout my AV2 posts are for my recommended “adventure route” that incorporates side trips, summits & via ferrata whenever possible (in brackets, see stats for the standard AV2 route with no additions).
Day 1: Bressanone to Rifugio Genova + Via Ferrata Sass d’Putia
The first day of Alta Via 2 is one of the longer stages of the trail— although not overly demanding, it racks up nearly 20km with an easy via ferrata taking you up your first summit for amazing views of Puez-Odle Nature Park. It’s an excellent introduction of what’s to come over the next two weeks on AV2!
- Trail hours: 8hrs (5hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 19.5km (15.5km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 1450m up & 1200m down (990m up & 730m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Sass d’Putia (up & back; 1B)— refer to Tabacco Map 07 & Cicerone Vol.1 (route 22)
- Huts: (Rifugio Plose), Schlüterhütte-Rifugio Geneva
Day 2: Rifugio Genova to Rifugio Puez + Via Ferrata Piz Duleda
The second day on AV2 is incredibly scenic and features some of the best views in Parco Nazionale Puez-Odle within the first couple hours. If you’re looking to add a bit of extra adventure, there are also 3 short side trips and a great via ferrata easily incorporated into the day’s itinerary as the scenery gets more striking with every step.
- Trail hours: 6.5hrs (4.5hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 12km (12km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 850m up & 700m down (900m up & 750m down)
- Side trips: 3 quick viewpoints described below, Via Ferrata Piz Duleda (carry-over; 2C)— refer to Tabacco Map 07 & Cicerone Vol.1
- Huts: Rifugio Puez
Day 3: Rifugio Puez to Rifugio Pisciadú + Via Ferrata Gran Cir, Piz da Cir, Brigata Tridentina
Day 3 is where via ferrata along AV2 really take centre stage, with three excellent climbs possible throughout the day. Even if you aren’t tackling my “adventure route” on your own hike, you’ll still have some unavoidable via ferrata cables today and may just find that it’s more fun than you’d thought!
To the eager climber, I’d also give the following advice: today’s via ferrata get bigger and better as you go, so assess how you’re tracking when you arrive to Jimmi Hütte and cut the first via ferrata if you have any concerns about fitting all 3 into the day. Whatever you do, don’t miss Brigata Tridentina up to Pisciadú; this is one of the best via ferrata in all of the Dolomites!
- Trail hours: 8hrs (4.5hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 13km (10.5km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 1450m up & 1155 down (945m up & 645m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Gran Cir (up & back; 1A), Via Ferrata Piz da Cir (small loop; 2A), Brigata Tridentina (en route; 3B)— refer to Tabacco Map 07 & Cicerone Vol.1 (routes 27, 26 & 28, respectively)
- Huts: Rifugio Pisciadú
Day 4: Rifugio Pisciadú to Piz Boè + Cima Pisciadú
Following the traditional AV2 route, day 4 is very short and not terribly remarkable, but there’s a wonderful addition that might just change that— Piz Boè.
Rather than stopping in the midst of the barren, lunar landscape of Rifugio Boè, ascend further to the summit of Boè and sleep among the stars at 3,152m. If you don’t climb Marmolada, this is the highest point of the entire route, replete with panoramic views and a rustic, sure-favourite hut!
- Trail hours: 3.25hrs (1.75hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 5.5km (4.5km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 915m up & 350m down (855m up & 290m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Piz Boè (either sleep here at Campanna Piz Fassa or add as a side trip from Rifugio Boè)
- Huts: (Rifugio Boè), Campanna Piz Fassa
Day 5: Piz Boè to Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada
Drop from the highest point on AV2 to the shores of Lago di Fedaia beneath Marmolada, the tallest mountain in the entire range and aptly named Queen of the Dolomites, enjoying spectacular views and flower-filled meadows en route. The day has a wonderfully scenic lunch spot and an exciting alternative to the busy trail, but isn’t overly demanding, so take the time to soak it all in!
- Trail hours: 4.5hrs
- Distance: 9.5km
- Elevation gain: 580m up & 975m down
- Huts: (Rifugio-Hütte Forcella Pordoi, Rifugio Maria, Rifugio Sass Bece, Rifugio Fredarola, Rifugio Viel dei Pan, Rifugio Luigi Gorza), Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada
Day 6: Marmolada
Now at the midpoint of AV2, day 6 can be one of several things:
- a rest day at Passo Fedaia to do washing (the hut here has coin-operated laundry on-site), restock on food or other supplies in the charming holiday town of Canazei, enjoy a day hike in the surrounding area, or simply bask in the sun.
- an opportunity to climb the highest mountain in the Dolomites at 3,343m! Punta Penia is a moderate to difficult (4C) via ferrata route that takes you all the way to the summit of Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites. Days before I began AV2 in 2022, an unexpected avalanche on Marmolada killed 10 people and shut down all of the via ferrata routes on the mountain; as of late 2023, Punta Penia is still closed as experts monitor ongoing risk of collapse. If and when this route eventually re-opens, this would be the absolute top pick for how to spend a day in Passo Fedaia, staying a second night at Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada.
- removed from the itinerary completely, shifting Day 7 forward to shorten the overall hike to 12 days rather than 13 as it’s described here. The choice is yours!
Day 7: Lago di Fedaia to San Pellegrino + Via Ferrata delle Trincee
Today’s recommended route features a wonderful via ferrata just out the door of Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada. Ascending and eventually wrapping around the distinctive Padon Ridgeline, its volcanic rock at immediate odds with the limestone (dolomite) that dominates this region, Via Ferrata Della Trincee is an extended and challenging route that offers as much in the way of wartime history as it does in views— most notably of Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites.
This marks the approximate mid-point of AV2, but more significantly, crossing from South Tyrol into Belluno represents an immediately perceptible shift away from Austrian language and cuisine towards more Italian culture (basically: less guten tag, more pasta).
- Trail hours: 6.25hrs
- Distance: 14.5km
- Elevation gain: 950m up & 1465m down
- Side trips: Via Ferrata della Trincee (loop; 4B)— refer to Tabacco Map 07 & Cicerone Vol.1 (route 33), Cima Mesolina
- Huts: (Rifugio Castiglioni Marmolada, Rifugio Padon), Hotel Costabella (& others) in San Pellegrino
Day 8: Passo San Pellegrino to Rifugio Volpi al Mulaz
Following what may have been a large day yesterday, day 8 is short and undemanding as it journeys through the Pale di San Martino to charming Rifugio Mulaz. Aside from a few short trails you might wish to scamper up, there isn’t much in the way of extension or side-trips (and only a short, easy section of cable), so enjoy a relaxing day in anticipation of the via ferrata to come!
- Trail hours: 5hrs
- Distance: 13km
- Elevation gain & loss: 1130m up & 470m down
- Huts: (Rifugio Valles), Rifugio Volpi al Mulaz
Day 9: Rifugio Mulaz to Rifugio Pradidali
From the lunar landscapes of Cima Rosetta to the striking tower of Cima Canali, the Palo di San Martino are on full show today as you journey towards Rifugio Pradidali. There are several sections of cable along the standard AV2 route, as well as a quick side summit to enjoy, making this another excellent day on the trail!
- Trail hours: 7hrs (6.5hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 16.4km (12.2km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 1225m up & 1525m down (990m up & 1280m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Cima Rosetta
- Huts: (Rifugio Rosetta), Rifugio Pradidali
Day 10: Rifugio Pradidali to Rifugio Treviso + Via Ferrata Porton & Nico Gusella
Today is an interesting contrast, with truly spectacular views from both the trail and via ferrata routes (which are among the best on AV2, yet woefully underrated and very quiet!), followed by an absolutely miserable 1,300m descent that will traumatise even keen hikers. Enjoy the highs and power through the lows— by all accounts, it’s a memorable section of AV2!
- Trail hours: 8.75hrs (4.25hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 9.8km (7km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 880m up & 1525m down (490m up & 1130m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Porton (upper loop; 3C), Via Ferrata Nico Gusella (lower loop; 2B)— refer to Tabacco Map 022 & Cicerone Vol.2 (routes S.Mar 3 & 4)
- Huts: Rifugio Treviso
Day 11: Rifugio Treviso to Passo Cereda + Via Ferrata Canalone
Climbing gently out of the forest into a spectacular landscape of verdant foliage and misty Dolomite pillars, today marks a distinct change of scenery from the first 2/3rds of AV2. Gone are the arid lunarscapes and high-altitude peaks, but so are the bustling mountain passes, leaving you to enjoy the beauty of the route without hardly another hiker in sight.
Today also presents the final noteworthy side-trip, a short but exhilarating 4A via ferrata straight up the side of the mountain above Rifugio Treviso!
- Trail hours: 5hrs (4hrs standard AV2)
- Distance: 8km (7.4km standard AV2)
- Elevation gain & loss: 815m up & 1075m down (715m up & 975m down standard AV2)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Canalone (loop; 4A)— refer to Tabacco Map 022 & Cicerone Vol.2 (route S.Mar 12)
- Huts: Rifugio Cereda
Day 12: Passo Cereda to Rifugio Boz
Today is slightly longer than the previous day’s leisurely stroll, with the initial climb up to Passo Comedon presenting the greatest obstacle. Once over the pass, descend through wildflower-dusted meadows and lush mountains, savouring the peaceful setting and the feel of an almost entirely different mountain range from the arid, rocky trailscapes that characterised AV2 initially.
Tonight’s accommodation feels more like an Italian farmhouse than an alpine hut, tucked away between rolling pastures in a valley that sees precious little foot-traffic beyond AV2 hikers and a few locals. It is the very definition of idyllic.
- Trail hours: 6.5hrs
- Distance: 12.5km
- Elevation gain & loss: 1175m up & 825m down
- Huts: Rifugio Boz
Day 13: Rifugio Boz to Croce d’Aune
The final day of AV2 features dramatic and often unexpected views of yet another spectacular National Park, Dolomiti Brunello. At 21km, it’s no slouch for a final day, so soak in the final stage of this epic route before finishing in Croce d’Aune, a tiny town just outside of Feltre, where pizza and chilled Aperol Spritz await. You’ve made it!
- Trail hours: 7hrs
- Distance: 21km
- Elevation gain & loss: 915m up & 1585m down
- Huts: (Rifugio Dal Piaz), Croce d’Aune & hotels in Feltre
What to expect on the trail
Like most popular hiking areas in the Dolomites, Alta Via 2 is very well marked, with frequent signposts providing directions and sometimes even time estimates to relevant waypoints, such as mountain huts, high passes, and nearby townships (typically located at low passes). Between these signposts and particularly through rough terrain where it can be more challenging to follow a trail, red and white flags have been painted onto the rock to aid in navigation.
Using this combination of signs, flags, and occasional cairns (small rock piles), AV2 isn’t overly confusing to follow and should be very manageable even for those without extensive backcountry navigation experience.
All that being said, it is still essential to carry a GPS and/or paper maps along the route. Even with frequent trail markers and signposts, it’s possible to stray off-course, and particularly for those leaving the standard AV2 trail to tackle interesting side-trips and via ferrata, having your own navigational reference will be essential.
I worked with an incredibly skilled TOPO-team (my parents) to build a comprehensive GPS track for my adventure route along Alta Via 2, including all of the side-trips and via ferrata recommended in my itinerary. This GPX file will be available to purchase SOON and will be a fantastic resource for those undertaking AV2!!
Alta Via 2 is anything but a typical “hike”— for all the time you spend on a distinct, well-graded trail, you’ll spend just as many hours hiking through rough and rocky terrain, traversing across scree fields, and scrambling with the protection of a fixed cable (whether you clip in or use the cable as a handline will be a matter of personal comfort).
Particularly in the latter half of AV2, which is notably more rugged and far less busy than the section from Bressanone/Brixen to Marmolada, you’ll hike almost exclusively on steep, rocky trails and encounter plenty of exposed sections that exceed the usual demand of a “hike”. Sturdy boots and hiking poles are essential for coping with the characteristically challenging terrain of Alta Via 2.
Food & other supplies
With an extensive network of mountain huts along Alta Via 2, hot food is always close at hand.
- All overnight huts offer a very basic breakfast (that I often found to be poor value for money and therefore skipped). This is usually bread, spreads, tea or coffee, occasionally yogurt, and if you’re lucky some meat and cheese for about 10-15€.
- Some huts offer hot lunch options for those passing through (for about 10-15€, you can enjoy a hot pasta dish or a pizza, which is particularly enticing if you’ve skipped brekky), while others will sell you a packed lunch to-go (typically consisting of a sandwich, apple, granola bar, and chocolate for about the same price).
- Simple snacks like chips and chocolate bars are available for purchase at some of the busier huts, but this will become less likely as you cross into the second-half of AV2.
- All overnight huts also whip up excellent evening meals, either included as part of half-board lodging (50-75€ including a bed, 3-course dinner, and breakfast) or a la carte (10-15€ for most dishes). This is where mountain huts in the Dolomites really shine— an example of a standard evening meal would be soup and bread as a starter, hearty goulash and polenta as a main, and some sort of pastry as dessert. Rest assured, you will not go hungry (even as a vegetarian!).
- Read more about hut food in this post: Everything you need to know about mountain huts (rifugi) in the Italian Dolomites
Alta Via 2 also crosses through several mountain passes, where you can occasionally find dry goods for purchase, though this is admittedly limited— the absolute best opportunity to restock on snack food (as well as personal items and pharmaceuticals) will be at the half-way point of Passo Fedaia, where you can find small supermarkets and pharmacies in the nearby town of Canazei.
Thanks to the dry, rocky landscape of AV2, water along the trail is somewhat limited and at best unpredictable, so I’d definitely recommend filling up each morning with enough water to get you through the day.
Water is available in all of the mountain huts along Alta Via 2, but there is ongoing debate as to whether the tap water is safe to drink in all of these rifugi. Out of an abundance of caution, some of the hut staff will advise against drinking water directly out of the sink, but given that much of the water is either rain-collected or glacier-fed, I personally filled up my water bottle in the bathroom of every single hut I stayed in and had no issues.
For those unwilling to take the risk, bring a lightweight filter (which will also serve you well along the trail, filling up in occasional streams)— I implore you not to buy the plastic water bottles for sale in the huts, as it’s an incredible source of waste and altogether unnecessary with proper planning!
Essential gear for Alta Via 2
Below is a very short list of essential gear for AV2, including your via ferrata kit and your most crucial safety equipment!
For a full Alta Via 2 packing list: Complete Alta Via packing list: what to pack for hut-to-hut hikes in the Dolomites
Choosing a backpack is about as personal as it gets, but I’d recommend something in the 25-35L range with sturdy hip belts, a good suspension system, and some back venting. I used the Osprey Talon 33L unisex pack and comfortably carried 16kg on Alta Via 2 (much of which was camera gear, so you can expect your pack to be ~10-12kg!).
via ferrata lanyard: Black Diamond Iron Cruiser
A via ferrata lanyard connects to your climbing harness and is then used to clip into the cable for continuous protection along exposed or challenging routes; the shock absorber helps distribute force in the event of a fall. After trying several different styles, I personally prefer these flick-lock carabiners for ease of use and this bungee-style lanyard for improved mobility on the rock.
For via ferrata routes, a light climbing helmet is essential to protect against rockfall, which might come from other climbers above or even unstable areas of the mountain. And for routes that wind through dark tunnels, it can also be handy for protecting your head against bumps.
climbing gloves: Metolius Half Finger Climbing Gloves
Although not technically required, you’ll enjoy via ferrata a lot more with climbing gloves to protect your hands from cable-burn, particularly when down-climbing. I like these half-finger gloves, which maximise dexterity for climbing— plus, I can still operate my camera/phone with them on!
I saw hikers on the Alta Via wearing everything from lightweight runners to (my) mid-weight mountaineering boots, so footwear choice is incredibly varied and there’s no one “right” shoe for everyone. Personally, I loved the stiff soles of my boots for via ferrata and rough terrain/scree; the trade-off is that they are heavier and not quite as comfortable for long kilometres on a flat trail, but I was very happy with my decision and will wear these same boots on my return to the Dolomites this summer!
PLB: Garmin In-Reach Mini
Never, EVER hit the trail without a satellite communicator— whether you’re sending messages back home, checking the weather, or communicating with emergency services, this small device can literally save your life.
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