Alta Via 4 (day 1): Rifugio Tre Scarperi to Locatelli Tre Cime + Via Ferrata Torre di Toblin & Innerkofler
Following the traditional AV4 route, today is neither long nor difficult— but there are two spectacular via ferrata and a handful of small sidetrips within Parco Naturale Tre Cime that absolutely shouldn’t be missed! Get an early start to allow 8hrs of trail time, not counting breaks.
It should also be noted that this is far and away the busiest section of AV4, crowded from about 10am-3pm by eager day-trippers. The route I’ve recommended below gets you up and away from the crowds (yet another reason to hike early and tackle the via ferrata during peak hours), but ultimately, the views are worth the nuisance of several hundred tourists. It’s short-lived, after all!
This comprehensive guide to Day 1 of Alta Via 4 contains detailed section times, route recommendations, adventurous side trips, via ferrata, and heaps of insider tips— use it to plan your hike & then refer back on the trail so you always know what to expect!
For a complete Alta Via 4 planning guide, check out this post: COMING SOON
Alta Via 4: Day 1 overview
Stats quoted here are for my recommended “adventure route” that incorporates side trips, summits & via ferrata whenever possible (in brackets, see stats for the standard AV4 route with no additions).
- Trail hours: 8hrs (3hrs standard AV4)
- Distance: 15.5km (6.5km standard AV4)
- Elevation gain & loss: 1735m up & 975m down (850m up & 90m down standard AV4)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Torre di Toblin/delle Scalette (up & back; 3B); Via Ferrata De Luca/Innerkofler (loop; 2B), Via Ferrata delle Forcelle (down; 1B) — rating system
- Huts: Rifugio Locatelli, (Rifugio Laverado—30min)
Rifugio Tre Scarperi to Rifugio Locatelli (3hrs)
Departing Rifugio Tre Scarperi, walk up the valley on a pleasant trail, ascending slowly at first but soon with an increasing grade. The path is straightforward and time passes easily as you hike towards the jagged Monte Mattina and up the rocky pass until the dramatic towers of Tre Cime finally come into view about 2.5hrs from your starting point.
The three peaks are among the most iconic mountains in the Dolomites, a sight recognisable around the world. And yet, nothing quite prepares you for their grandeur!
Continue for another 20min on a gentle downhill path to reach Rifugio Locatelli Tre Cime— expect there to be about 400 people crammed onto the balcony, queuing inside to order, and milling about in the general proximity.
Things do quiet down in the afternoon as all the day trippers leave, but at mid-morning, it’s not a given that you’ll be able to lighten your backpack by dropping off unneeded items at the hut— just know you may be carrying a full pack for your via ferrata!
*if you only have time (or interest) for one via ferrata…
Via Ferrata Torre di Toblin is a better climb, with more continuous cable, challenging vertical sections, great features, and heaps of exposure! It’s rated 3B and takes about 1.5hrs from the hut.
Via Ferrata De Luca/Innerkofler is a more interesting excursion, with 600m of WWI tunnels at the start and a staggering panorama from the summit of Monte Paterno, which I also think is a more appealing objective. It’s rated 2B and takes 2hrs, or when linked with delle Forcelle, 3.5hrs. (see photos below for what you’ll be climbing vs what the view looks like)
Via Ferrata Torre di Toblin (3B; 1.5hrs)
The first (and most highly regarded) of the via ferrata routes that depart from Rifugio Locatelli is Torre di Toblin, also called Via Ferrata delle Scalette.
Facing out from the Rifugio, begin hiking north towards the nearby rocky hill (Sasso di Sesto), following a wooden sign that points you around to the right for about 10min until you reach the saddle between Sasso di Sesto and Torre di Toblin.
From the saddle, continue on a path around the left side of the tower to connect with the cable. The thrilling ascent takes about 45min, featuring countless ladders and quite a few narrow squeezes to gain the summit of Torre di Toblin. Even at 3B, this is a challenging and very entertaining climb!
Walk along the summit a short distance to find another set of cables, descending for just 20min to connect with a path marked by red triangles. From here, it’s an easy 10min back to Rifugio Locatelli.
Side trip: Sasso di Sesto (10min)
Just before returning to the hut, you can detour quickly from the saddle to the top of Sasso di Sesto for another viewpoint of Tre Cime and Rifugio Locatelli below. This takes less than 5min each way and is worth the quick excursion— notice the postcard tent site right on the top!
Via Ferrata De Luca/Innerkofler & (link to) Via Ferrata delle Forcelle (2B & 1B; 2-3.5hrs)
Taking off from Rifugio Locatelli in the opposite direction (heading towards the spindly cross-topped tower), ascend 5min on a high path to reach the Frankfurter Wurstel rock formation, which does bear striking resemblance to a hot dog.
The route begins with a 600m tunnel constructed during the First World War, which takes about 15min to climb through on a mix of stairs and inclined dirt, with frequent carved windows offering a view of the surrounding mountains.
Pop out of the last tunnel to connect with the start of the true cable section ascending up the rock. After 25min of fun and fairly easy climbing, reach Forcella del Camoscio.
Here, follow the wooden sign to the right to climb Monte Paterno (the cross-marked summit visible from the hut)— allow about 15min up to enjoy the best views of Tre Cime, Rifugio Locatelli, Monte Mattina, Lagos dei Piani Superiore, and even some of Cadini di Misurina. After a snack break, drop back to the Forcella in just a few minutes.
*depending on how much time you have, you can choose to skip Via Ferrata delle Forcelle and the large loop, instead finishing Via Ferrata De Luca at Forcella Lavaredo (20min) and hiking back to Rifugio Locatelli on the main trail (20min). This would put your total excursion just under 2hrs!
If time allows for the full loop: from Forcella del Camoscio, cross to the opposite side via a small wooden bridge and connect with cable for about 10min. Now traverse and descend around another rocky spire, following a mix of red arrows and red dots to stay on the path.
The cable continues intermittently up and down until Forcella dei Laghi. About 45min from the summit, turn right and switchback steeply down a nasty scree field for a further 20min to connect with the wide trail below (if you’re not a fan of scree, you can continue farther to connect with an actual trail, but it will definitely extend your day).
Follow the busy path up to Forcella Lavaredo at 2,454m, which is reached about 1.5hrs from the summit of Monte Paterno. Avoid the crowds rounding towards Rifugio Locatelli and instead head sharply right and upwards on path 101b towards Cime Passaporto.
A tunnel is visible in the rock just above the trail (see the photo below) and this is where you’ll meet up with the south end of Via Ferrata De Luca, just 5min above crowded Forcella Lavaredo.
Walk through a very low tunnel, banging your head several times, and then finally pass through a stone archway that brings you to the opposite side of the mountain, wrapping around the rock on a narrow ledge for several minutes.
Take the lower path at the junction, climbing up a scree slope and then enjoying a fun scramble to Forcella del Campscio, marked frequently by red triangles. 30min after you first hopped on the cable, reconnect with familiar terrain on a descending cable for the next 20min and then make a sharp right turn to drop down to the tunnels.
Descend for 10min through the same tunnels you ascended earlier and then drop back to the hut a few minutes later.
*I followed a trail on my GPS straight at the junction in an effort to find a different down-route, but after about 20min of Class 3-4 scrambling without protection (and absolutely zero sign of a trail), I decided that teasing out a route here wasn’t worth being late for dinner. I’d recommend just descending through the tunnels, unless you have solid beta for an alternate route!
Night 1: Rifugio Locatelli
This is far and away the busiest hut I’ve seen in the Dolomites and, I’ll be honest, it’s a little off-putting when you arrive before midday and find several hundred people on the balcony. BUT, Rifugio Locatelli is equally one of the most scenic huts, so to be here in the early morning or late afternoon without the crowds is quite special!
I found the rooms comfortable and the food excellent, though the breakfast was a bit scant. I’d recommend paying for your dinner a la carte and skipping breakfast, instead spending your money on a large lunch at tomorrow’s Rifugio Fonda Savio. Thankfully, the dinner menu at Locatelli is long and the a la carte orders seem to come out much quicker than the half-board meals! Reserve Rifugio Locatelli by emailing email@example.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rooms: 72€ half board or 31€ dorm room only
- Food: A la carte (approx 15€ for dinner, 13€ brekky); extensive menu of food, wine, beer
- Showers: 8€ for 5min (regularly runs out in the summer; there are also large sinks in the women’s bathroom that hikers regularly use to wash off)
- Connectivity: None
- Alpine club discount: -13.5€ room or -12€ half board
RIFUGIO GUIDE COMING SOON
Read more about Alta Via 4
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAY 0): SAN CANDIDO TO RIFUGIO TRE SCARPERI
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAY 1): RIFUGIO TRE SCARPERI TO LOCATELLI TRE CIME + VIA FERRATA TORRE DI TOBLIN & INNERKOFLER
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAY 2): RIFUGIO LOCATELLI TRE CIME TO RIFUGIO FONDA SAVIO + VIA FERRATA MERLONE
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAY 3): RIFUGIO FONDA SAVIO TO RIFUGIO VANDELLI
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAY 4): RIFUGIO VANDELLI TO RIFUGIO SAN MARCO + VIA FERRATA GIRO DE SORAPIS
- ALTA VIA 4 (DAYS 5 & 6): RIFUGIO SAN MARCO TO RIFUGIO ANTELAO TO PIEVE DI CADORE
- MORE COMING SOON