Alta Via 4 (days 5 & 6): Rifugio San Marco to Rifugio Antelao to Pieve di Cadore
Alta Via 4 comes to an end over the next day or two as you meander through a stark glacier valley and begin dropping into the forest to eventually return to town. This too is an incredibly quiet section of trail, and the en route via ferrata offers plenty of intrigue up and over Forcella del Ghiacciaio; this is among the wildest and most challenging sections of AV4, but certainly presents a scenic and remote conclusion to one of the best multi-day treks in the Dolomites!
*It’s entirely possible to tackle the remaining kilometres from San Marco to Pozzale in a single day, but the expense of staying a night in town compared to spending another pleasant evening in a trailside rifguio may encourage budget travellers (or those looking for one final taste of Italian hut culture) to linger a little longer and spread the return to civilisation over two undemanding days.
This comprehensive guide to Days 5 & 6 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!
All my AV4 knowledge in one place: Alta Via 4: complete hiking + via ferrata route guide
Alta Via 4: Days 5 & 6 overview
- Trail hours: 6.25hrs
- Distance: 20km
- Elevation gain & loss: 1310m up & 1980m down
- Huts: Rifugio Antelao
Rifugio San Marco to Rifugio Galassi (1hr)
Setting off from the quiet bliss of Rifugio San Marco, join first a pleasantly level trail before eventually climbing up steep scree to gain Forcella Piccola at 2,120m.
This is actually the starting point for the climb to Antelao— in stable weather (which I was unlucky not to have, with afternoon storms forecasted), you can summit the second highest mountain in the Dolomites as a long day and then stay at Rifugio Galassi just below this point. If weather does not allow a full ascent, I still recommend climbing up part of the trail for beautiful views!
Descending the other side of Forcella Piccola, arrive shortly to Rifugio Galassi, just under an hour from Rifugio San Marco. Although this is a feasible alternative for last night’s stay, it doesn’t have quite the charm of little San Marco, but it may be a good spot to stop for a morning snack break for the onward journey.
Rifugio Galassi to Forcella del Ghiacciaio (1.5hrs)
Continuing beyond the white and blue shutters of Rifugio Galassi, the more challenging ascent to Forcella del Ghiacciaio begins. Closely follow red dots and occasional cairns for the easiest route through the scree and over the glacier moraine. It’s not the climb itself that’s necessarily difficult, it’s the romping through rubble that ensues when you inevitably lose the path— keep a watchful eye on that red paint!
This is among the most wild sections of AV4 and it gave significant pause to a pair of young male hikers who, despite being objectively quite fit, were underprepared for the challenging terrain and steep cables on either side of Forcella del Ghiacciaio, as well as the navigational demands through the moraine.
Inexperienced trekkers should avoid hiking this part of the trail alone, as there are times you’ll need to make judgement calls on the safest route and, as I saw the aforementioned hikers careening wildly down a scree slope that terminated abruptly into a pile of sharp rocks, it occurred to me that not everyone is equally prepared to make those judgment calls. Exercise additional caution today.
About 1hr after leaving the hut, arrive at the base of the via ferrata that will carry you the remaining distance up to Forcella del Ghiacciaio. I didn’t gear up for this because I was moving at a quick pace, but you may want to; it’s about 30min of fun near-vertical climbing to reach the pass.
Forcella del Ghiacciaio to Rifugio Antelao (2.25hrs)
Descend from the Forcella over loose scree and talus for about 10min (again, choose your line carefully, those hikers were lucky not to be more than just shaken up by their risky descent) before connecting with a vertical cable that will bring you down the steepest part of the rock for a further 10min.
Once off the via ferrata, a pleasant trail drops several hundred metres into the valley for a little under an hour, stopping just short of becoming a knee-ache to climb gradually up to Forcella Piria (20min). Meander on an enjoyable trail around the hillside to arrive at Rifugio Antelao 40min later.
Night 5: Rifugio Antelao
With a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, quaint Rifugio Antelao is perched in the forest just before the official end of AV4. There’s plenty of time to hike out to Pozzale and Pieve di Cadore today (I left Rifugio San Marco at 9am, had a 2hr lounge at a viewpoint, and still arrived to Antelao before 4pm), but the accomodation here is comfortable and frankly SO MUCH cheaper than what you’ll find in town. Take one extra night on the trail, hike out tomorrow, and zip off on public transport to the next destination!
Rifugio Antelao was super quiet when I stayed (literally me and one other couple) and the owner was so delighted to receive a solo female hiker that he poured me a huge free beer on arrival and brought a selection of grapa to dinner. It was a very friendly experience and a lovely final night on AV4. Reserve Rifugio Antelao by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rooms: 29€ (dorm) OR 55€ half board (dorm)
- Food: a la carte lunch menu, half-board is the only enticing dinner option
- Showers: 5€ for 6min
- Connectivity: strong mobile signal
- Alpine club discount: -8.5€ half board
For more information on what to expect in a mountain hut & how to prepare for your stay: Everything you need to know about mountain huts (rifugi) in the Italian Dolomites
Rifugio Antelao to Pieve di Cadore (1.5hrs)
Either late on day 5 or the morning of day 6, depart Rifugio Antelao on a Jeep track, eventually following signs onto Trail 253. Descend on a narrow dirt path through the trees that seems very lightly trafficked, connecting onto a steep and rocky road for the final drop into Pozzale about an hour after leaving the hut.
From Pozzale, it’s an easy 20min walk on the road (without any real footpath) into next town, Pieve di Cadore, the official end of AV4!
*If you’re travelling to Venice for an onwards train or flight, walk 15min further (this time on a nice footpath) to the neighbouring town of Tai di Cadore, where you can catch a Cortini Express bus direct to Venice Mestre Train Station in under 2hrs (tickets 22€; recommended to book online).
Read more about Alta Via 4
- start here ->Detailed AV4 Route Guide
- 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