Hiking in the Dolomite Mountains

Many readers have asked me to write about the experiences of hiking in the high mountains in northern Italy, and in adjacent Austria and Switzerland, a subject where my wife and I have 15 years of experience in many different places.

The most important conclusion is that it is an exhilarating and hard experience that can suit anybody between any age. There is no lower or upper limit! 

Babies can be kept in special rucksacks on father’s back, or they can be rolled up and down good paths in prams with high wheels. We have seen both. 

Older folk also manage well but generally miss out on the steeper climbs because they require the hiker to be sure-footed. They generally take hiking sticks with them more often than younger folk. 

Hiking sticks are great for extra traction on steep slopes and when you go downhill they can be used to balance and brake a walker…

The great thing about hiking is that you can see big huge mountains on the right and left of you all day and they are so impressive. The clouds, the mists, the bright sun in the clear blue sky, the dark green forests with giant spruce, pines and larch stretch as far as you can see. Above the tree line are long, worn hiking tracks cutting across rising grasslands where marmots, goats, crows, eagles and many others hang around.

In this region the tracks are well-marked and safe – they come in two main types:

  1. Where a Hütte is found high above the villages, parking spaces and roads, you will find a wide stoney path for tractors and cars belonging to farmers who keep cows, horses, sheep and lamas on the upper pastures. The owners and workers of the Hütte also use the same roads each day and for supplies. If there are no roads then they walk up and get supplies using long cable lifts high above the tree tops.
  2. The rest of the paths are rather narrow stoney paths that require hikers to be careful. Erosion and usage take their toll on the paths. If cows are found on the same pasture you can be sure that they use them with their heavy hooves creating an uneven path with occasional pancakes of dung.

All the paths are well signed and it is almost impossible top get lost. The only problem is estimating the time it will take to cover each section.

Your stamina, experience and the weather can make a huge difference from one day to the next, and many of the time indicated on the sign posts are imaginary! But so far we have never been concerned about getting lost or running out of time. Planning a day’s track is important and worth the time. Locals are always willing to give good advise but they are also normally rather fit and used to hiking so plan to spend at least double the time they say a track with take…

Another thing about the paths is that you can go on the same path a dozen times and never be bored… Each time you walk along there is just too much to take in!

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