One of the most spectacular and unique hiking trails in the Dolomites is the one leading up through the Lagazuoi Tunnels. The what now? I hear you thinking…🤔
Well the Lagazuoi Tunnels were constructed by the Italians during the first World War in order to undermine the Austrian emplacements. Currently, the completely restored Lagazuoi tunnel is an atypical Via Ferrata that runs inside the mountain for more than 1 km.
To top it all off, once you reach the top of Mount Lagazuoi you’ll be greeted by one of the most insane views in the entire Dolomites. At a height of 2.752 m you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world!
In this article I will include all of the details that you’ll need to have an amazing experience on the Lagazuoi Tunnel hiking trail yourself. And as usual you’ll find a personal retelling of my own solo adventure conquering this particular mountain.
The Lagazuoi Tunnels Hiking Trail – A Spectacular Hike In The Dolomites
The Lagazuoi Tunnels are actually a real life Open Air Museum in the middle of a mountain!
During World War I, the Lagazuoi mountain was located in the central section of the Dolomites front, where the Italian troops and the Kaiserjager (Austrian soldiers) confronted each other in the midst of a hostile Alpine environment.
Italy entered World War I in 1915, siding with Great Britain, France and Russia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany.
Soon after Italy entered the war, the Austro-Hungarian troops, who were inferior in numbers to the Italian army, retreated to the mountain peaks: the elevated position made for strategic lookouts.
The Lagazuoi played a major role in the war of mines. The tunnels were built with the idea to bring a large amount of explosives under the subpeak of the mountain (Piccolo Lagazuoi) and then blast it so as to dislodge the Austrian troops, which were occupying the Piccolo Lagazuoi.
But these days Mount Lagazuoi is only 18 kilometers away from one of the most popular destinations in the Dolomites: Cortina d’Ampenzo.
What was once a brutal battlefield and the backdrop for a deadly war is now a true hiker’s paradise. Hikers from all over the world now walk the same paths that were once walked by young, uniformed men, many of whom perished during one of history’s deadliest conflicts.
🗺 How to reach the Lagazuoi Hiking Trail
The hiking trail up to the Lagazuoi tunnels starts at the Passo Falzarego.
There’s a large parking lot located behind the cable car station.
When I visited at the end of October there were almost no other cars there but I can imagine that during the busy Summer months it can fill up quickly.
The hiking trail up to the Lagazuoi Tunnels starts behind the parking lot of the cable car station. I do advise you to use the All Trails Map when doing this hike. There are several trails leading up to the top of Mount Lagazuoi and I didn’t see any trail markers pointing out the route towards the tunnels.
I only saw the trail leading up to the base of the mountain when I had already hiked up a big part of the main gravel road and I had to shimmy over a part of the mountain to actually reach the correct trail.
I probably missed the correct turn off at one point so that’s why it’s a good idea to use the map so you can see wether you’re going in the right direction.
🕰 When to hike the Lagazuoi Tunnels
The best time of the year to hike the Lagazuoi Tunnels is from May through October. There might still be a little snow on the top but it won’t pose any difficulties for the hike through the tunnels.
If you want to take the cable car then you need to know the following details:
- Summer season 2022 – The Lagazuoi cable car will run every day from 30th May – 23d October.
- Price – €15 for one way and €21 for a round trip. Except for August when it’s a little more expensive.
- The cable car runs every 15 minutes and starts at 9am. The last cable car back down is at 5pm.
💡 TIP – You can spend the night at rifugio Lagazuoi, one of the most scenic mountain huts in the Dolomites and at an extra cost of €6 you can send your luggage up with the cable car so you don’t have to drag it with you along the hike.
The view on the top near rifugio Lagazuoi however will be the best on a clear day. It would be an absolute shame to arrive at the top and not see all of the mountain peaks surrounding you.
To check current weather conditions I love using the website yr.no. There information has been pretty much always accurate so make sure to check their website before starting your hike up.
I don’t recommend this hike for a sunrise mission. The tunnels themselves are already super dark inside! Instead, I suggest you start your hike in the afternoon and wait for sunset. Especially on a clear day the colors of the sky can become completely insane. You can then hike back down an easier way and avoid the tunnel section.
🏨 Where to stay when hiking the Lagazuoi Tunnels
There are several options!
You could stay in the famous town of Cortina d’Ampenzo from where it’s about 30 minutes driving to Passo Falzarego.
Another good option is the town of Selva di Cadore which is also only 30 minutes driving.
Lagazuoi Tunnels Hike Details
Hiking Distance – 6.1km (3.8 miles)
Elevation – 608m
Route Type – Circular Route
Duration – 3 to 4 hours
Level – Moderate to Hard. You’ll be hiking over 1km in a very dark tunnel and the inclination is very steep. This makes the hike a lot harder and more strenuous.
Location – Passo Falzarego
Starting Point – Passo Falzarego Cable Car Parking Lot
🥾 Essential Tips for hiking the Lagazuoi Tunnels
- Bring a decent pair of trekking poles with you! A lot of hiking trails in the Dolomites come with loose gravel and these will help you keep your balance. It’s also a lot less strenuous on your knees if you’re using trekking poles. I use the LEKI Anti Shock Trekking Poles and they’ve gotten me through some intense hikes in Norway, Iceland and Albania!
- Wear proper hiking shoes! I swear by my Danner Mountain Light boots to get me through all of my hiking adventures.
- Wear gloves! Like I previously mentioned the steel cables can become very cold and slippery. You’ll be a lot more comfortable holding onto the cables this way. I really like to wear special camera gloves, this way I can even keep them on while taking photos or using my phone along the way.
- Bring a head lamp! You can’t enter these tunnels without wearing a proper headlamp or you won’t see a thing ! I’ve been using this one from Petzl now during my last trip and highly recommend it. You can also use a flashlight but I prefer having my hands free.
- Make sure to bring enough water with you cause you’ll need it!
- I’ve read that a lot of people prefer taking the cable car up and hike back down through the tunnels. This is another option for you. I won’t lie, the hike up was very strenuous but it was also extra rewarding to finally reach the end of the tunnel and be up on the mountain.
- The steps in the tunnel are very high and not really made for short people like me. In some places they can be wet and slippery but there’s also a steel cable at all times to hold onto.
- The tunnel itself on the other hand is made for short people. Especially near the top the ceiling is very low so be careful not to hit your head when you’re making your way up or down.
- This hike is not for you if you’re claustrophobic! At times the tunnel can be very narrow and the darkness can feel pretty intimidating. Every 100 meters there’s a small window in the tunnel to let in some natural light but for the rest it’s pretty much pitch black.
- You’ll come across a lot of people wearing a helmet and a harness but in my personal opinion you don’t need them if you only do the Lagazuoi tunnels. If you also plan on doing the Kaiserjager path I do recommend bringing proper via ferrate gear.
🙋🏼♀️My Experience hiking the Lagazuoi Tunnels
I had originally planned to do this hike during sunrise but because of the upcoming snowfall I decided it wouldn’t be the smartest idea to hike up a mountain in the dark in the snow. So when I couldn’t figure out what to do on a sunny afternoon I decided to take my chances and drove up to Passo Falzarego.
I had seen rifugio Lagazuoi during my morning hike to lago Limides earlier that day and I was completely mesmerized by it. This mountain hut is nestled on top of a mountain cliff and overlooks some of the most beautiful mountains in the entire Dolomites.
But it was also located very high on top of a mountain and the cable car stopped running one week before my arrival. This also meant I had to conquer this mountain with my own strength and stamina. So I grabbed my trekking poles and my headlamp and off I went.
The first part of the hike is pretty straight forward and was simply up a gravel road. During the winter this becomes a ski slope.
After hiking up for a while I pulled up the hiking trail on my All Trails app and I noticed that I was actually not on the right trail at all. Somehow I had missed the turn off and I couldn’t figure out where I went wrong. Pretty much every other hiker kept on following the gravel path upwards but I knew that this wouldn’t take me to the entrance of the tunnel network.
According to the app I had to get more to the left side of the mountain so I started climbing and looking for signs. After scrambling around for a while I finally noticed some wooden beams. I scoured the area and all of a sudden I heard voices and I saw two people coming down the mountain on a trail that was lined off by said wooden beams.
I decided to simply climb up a little higher and that’s how I finally reached the correct hiking trail!
Not long after I also found the first trail signs and found the entrance to the Lagazuoi tunnels!
Leading up to the entrance there were a few parts which were secured with steel cables but nothing to high or scary. I was even carrying my trekking poles and it was no problem to do it at all.
Now it was time for the Lagazuoi tunnels! I was really curious about what it would be like and also a little nervous.
I put on my headlamp and off I went! The part through the tunnels is over 1100 meters long and goes up an average of 450 meters. To say it was very strenuous is an understatement.
I had to stop to catch my breath several times and at pretty much every small window I took a short break to drink some water.
I encountered a couple of people who were making their way down through the tunnel but I already knew that that’s not the way I wanted to go.
The steps are very very high. Like I had to pull myself up by the steel cable on several occasions. I think for me personally hiking down the stairs would be too painful on my knees.
Along the way there are a lot of signposted areas. For instance, you’ll come across the sleeping quarters of the Italian soldiers. Cause yes, they actually slept inside the mountain.
After about 50 minutes of sweating and heavy breathing I finally reached the exit of the Lagazuoi tunnels!
And I can tell you, noth ing could have prepared me for the incredible views that were waiting for me on the outside!
Once you’ve made it outside of the tunnel you’ll walk through former trenches but you’ll already be able to see the upper cable car station and rifugio Lagazuoi.
It’s only a short walk up to reach the summit. But make sure to take your time here to explore the area!
Unfortunately by the time I finally reached the top the sky became a little overcast. But nevertheless the experience on its own was so worth it!
I think I spent over an hour running from one side to the other trying to take it all in and take as many photos as I could.
Now for the hike back down I figured easy peasy lemon squeezy. Boy oh boy was I wrong. The trail itself is pretty straight forward and goes down the mountain with a couple of switchbacks. The only problem was that some parts of the trail were already covered in a thick layer of ice.
And it wasn’t the kind of ice were you could slowly walk across. Nope, as soon as I put both feet on it I immediately lost my balance and it kinda felt like I was falling in slow motion, straight on my butt. And I did so three times!
I was so relieved when I finally made it out of the snow and onto some regular gravel! Now all I had to do was follow the trail down which said Passo Falzarego! You can also take the wide gravel road down, but it’s pretty steep and the gravel is slippery. Believe me, I tried and fell on my butt immediately.
Yes, this was one of those hikes where my butt was black and blue after finishing it.
I have to admit, I was pretty relieved when I finally made it back down in one piece and I was very happy to see my car in the distance.
But all in all hiking the Lagazuoi trail was an incredible experience! One that I highly recommend you to do if you’re looking for a different and adventurous hike!
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
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