Alta Via 4 (day 2): Rifugio Locatelli Tre Cime to Rifugio Fonda Savio + Via Ferrata Merlone
Today is the most visually spectacular day of AV4, with a meandering path that parades around Tre Cime, leading to the serrated peaks of Cadini di Misurina and finally taking in the dramatic beauty of Torre Wundt from above.
It’s not a terribly long or difficult day, but with the requisite excursion up Via Ferrata Merlone (and the hundreds of photo opportunities from start to finish), expect a full day on the trail!
This comprehensive guide to Day 2 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 2 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: 6hrs (3.5hrs standard AV4)
- Distance: 11km (9.5km standard AV4)
- Elevation gain & loss: 855m up & 915m down (580m up & 640m down standard AV4)
- Via Ferrata en route: Sentiero Attrezzato Alberto Bonacossa (one-way; 1B)
- Side trips: Via Ferrata Merlone (up & back; 3B) — rating system
- Huts: Rifugio Auronzo, Malga Langalm, Rifugio Fonda Savio
Rifugio Locatelli Tre Cime to Rifugio Auronzo (1.5hrs)
Start the morning by dropping along a rocky path into a cow-filled meadow under the three peaks and then scend steeply back up via another rocky trail as you make your way gradually around the right side of Tre Cime.
From Forcella del Col de Mèdo at 2,315m, continue on a flat and very busy path for 15min to reach Rifugio Auronzo and its tour-bus-filled carpark.
Rifugio Auronzo to Cadini di Misurina viewpoint (30min)
From the Rifugio, follow a well-marked path for a little over 20min before catching your first unobstructed views of the Cadini di Misurina range, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular views on AV4— and in all of the Dolomites!
The Flying Banana viewpoint, pictured below, is an iconic photography location, but there are dozens of unnamed grass patches or rocky outcroppings along the trail from which to admire the Cadini di Misurina. Stick to the farthest right path (there are several branching trails here) and plan to stop often!
*I spent well over an hour running around taking photos in this area and that’s obviously not factored into the hiking time I’ve quoted, so if you’re a keen photographer, be sure to build in plenty of extra time this morning!
Cadini di Misurina viewpoint to Rifugio Fonda Savio via Sentiero Bonacossa (1.5hrs)
Leaving the day-trippers behind at the viewpoint, pass a small tunnel and connect with Sentiero Bonacossa, an easy via ferrata that will carry you all the way to Rifugio Fonda Savio (and onwards to Rifugio Col de Varda tomorrow morning).
The via ferrata begins in earnest about 15min after leaving the viewpoint, descending down switchbacks and finally a vertical drop through a wet overhang. I didn’t put gear on here, but you may want to— at least gloves for the slick cable.
Hop on and off cable for about 30min, finally reaching Valon del Nevaio an hour after leaving the viewpoint. Begin a steep climb through the rocks up to Rifugio Fonda Savio— the ascent takes less than 30min and features a mix of cables and unprotected scrambling.
Via Ferrata Merlone (2.5hrs)
This afternoon’s via ferrata is, in my opinion, one of the best in the Dolomites! The exposure is constant, the views superb, and after ascending a great height on ladders, the route relies heavily on natural hand and footholds in the rock for more of a true climbing experience.
Departing from Rifugio Fonda Savio, hike up the boulder field for about 15min to reach a signed trail junction, continuing left a further 5min to connect with cables opposite the snowfield.
The route begins gradually, and where there are lapses in cable, blue flags mark the scramble route upwards until you reach the ladders that will carry you a majority of the way up to Cima del Cadin.
The final stretch necessitates frequent contact with the rock. Reach the summit just over an hour after leaving the hut and descend via the same route, returning in slightly less than an hour.
Night 2: Rifugio Fonda Savio
Named for three brothers who fought in the war and run for the last 55 years by a lovely local family, Rifugio Fonda Savio is an absolute gem. It’s located in one of the most photogenic ranges of the Dolomites, but manages to be a world away from the crowds at Rifugio Locatelli or Rifugio Auronzo. The hut is fairly small, very welcoming, and serves some incredible food!
I’m especially fond of this hut because the owner fixed my malfunctioning camera clip AND gave me two servings of desert— what more can you ask for?! Reserve Rifugio Fonda Savio by emailing email@example.com.
- Rooms: half-board 62/65€ (dorms under the roof/smaller room)
- Food: A la carte for lunch (meals 10€, beer 5€), half-board only for dinner
- Showers: none, but there is a large sink for washing
- Connectivity: none
- Alpine club discount: -9€ half-board
RIFUGIO GUIDE COMING SOON
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