Hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo circuit is THE activity that has to be on your list if you’re visiting the Dolomites for the first time! In total I have been to the Dolomites 4 times and I already did this particular hike twice. It’s one of the most spectacular hikes in the Dolomites but of course also one of the most popular ones!
In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know so you’ll have the best time and so that you can fully enjoy this hike!
Hiking The Tre Cime Di Lavaredo Circuit – All You Need To Know
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit is one of those hikes that you have to do simply once in your life! Also known as the Drei Zinnen, these three distinctive peaks are one of the most known and important landmarks in the Dolomites. They are probably one of the most famous mountain peaks in the Alps and they are part of the Tre Cime National Park.
Starting Point – Rifugio Auronzo
End Point – Rifugio Auronzo
Distance – 10km
Duration – 3,5 hours
Elevation – 340 meters
Difficulty – Easy. There are two “steep” inclines but they don’t last long!
Best time to visit – June, September and October
How to reach rifugio Auronzo and start the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike
The rifugio Auronzo is located at a height of 2320m and the main starting point for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo circuit. During the Summer months the rifugio can host up to 104 people to spend the night but after the high season is over the rifugio remains closed.
BY CAR – The easiest way to reach rifugio Auronzo is to drive up one of the most scenic roads in the Dolomites. Simply follow the SS49 that leads you straight through the Tre Cime National Park and heads to Missurina. From here you follow the sign that says rifugio Auronzo. The last part is a private road and to go up you have to pay €30 (for cars). The opening hours for the toll booth are from 7AM – 7PM. As far as I know they only accept cash so make sure you have enough with you for that day!
Prices for Motorbikes is €20 and for large cars and camper vans it’s €45.
TIP – If you want to avoid the toll road fee you can also park you car at Lago D’Antorno and hike up to rifugio Auronzo from here! It’s a short but steep hike that has an elevation gain of 500m and will take you about 1,5 hours.
BY BUS – During the Summer months you can also take one of the shuttle busses from Dobbiaco, Missurina or Cortina to rifugio Auronzo to start hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit. The shuttle bus there and back costs €15 but is also included if you hold a Südtirol pass. If you’re staying in the area around the Tre Cime National Park make sure to ask the reception about this Südtirol Pass cause often it’s included in your room fee!
When to start hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit
Like I said before, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit is probably the most popular and most visited hiking trail in the Dolomites. So here are some of my tips to have a good time and not end up surrounded by hordes of people.
During the Summer months it can get very busy from 9AM. So much so that there is a traffic jam at the toll booth that can take up to 30 minutes! The best advise I can give you is to drive up at 7AM so you’ll be one of the first ones on the hiking trail. There’s plenty of parking space available but it tends to fill up pretty quickly.
Not to mention, the mountains in the Dolomites are at its most beautiful during either sunrise or sunset!
The best months to hike the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop are June, September and October.
Hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit – A step by step guide
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is a rather easy going hike. Besides a couple of steep inclines the hiking trail is pretty straight forward and should only take 3-4 hours to complete.
That being said, if you’re a photographer like me it might take you a little longer cause of the hundreds of photography opportunities that you’ll encounter along the way. Also don’t forget to stop at one of the rifugio’s along the way to have a snack or drink a beer. Do know that in October most of the rifugio’s close in the Dolomites so if you’re planning your hike around that time make sure to pack a lunch in your backpack!
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit can be divided into 4 sections.
Rifugio Auronzo to Forcella Lavaredo Viewpoint
After you’ve parked your car it’s time to put on your hiking shoes and head towards rifugio Auronzo. The hiking trail that you need to follow starts behind it trail n°101.
You’ll be walking on a wide gravel road and while the Drei Zinnen are towering over you on the left side you’ll have a spectacular view over the valley and the Cadini di Missurina on the right.
After a couple of minutes you’ll encounter the first rifugio but don’t stop just yet! Keep on hiking to the top to one of the most known and impressive viewpoint of this hike!
Forcella Lavaredo to Rifugio Locatelli
Once you’ve reached the top at Forcella Lavaredo you can already see the famous Drei Zinnen hütte, also known as rifugio Locatelli. You’ll be standing at a crossroads and several hiking routes start from here. You can even do a via ferrata on the Monte Paterno if you go to the right. Do know that you need the proper gear if you want to attempt this more adventurous route.
The other, more easy, way is to simply follow the gravel path that drops down into the valley below. After a while you’ll reach the famous Drei Zinnen hütte and now it’s time to enjoy that beer! Important to know is that they only accept cash so make sure to bring enough with you!
TIP 1 – Make sure to have a look behind the rifugio Locatelli cause it offers an amazing view over another valley with the laghi del Pani.
TIP 2 – Behind the rifugio Locatelli you’ll also spot a few caves carved out into the rocks when you look up. These trenches were part of the WW1 bunkers and they offer one of the most spectacular views over the three peaks.
Rifugio Locatelli – Malga Langalm
After a well deserved break it’s time to continue the hike! From Rifugio Locatelli follow trail 102 down into the valley.
Make sure to take a lot of photos along the way cause when you’re down in the ravine the three peaks are towering above you in all their glory. After this decline the hardest part of the hike starts and you’ll need to concur a very steep incline.
After the incline make sure to follow trail 105 to end up at Malga Langalm. This is another cute rifugio where you can eat or drink something. During the Summer months you’ll see a ton of cows grazing in the grass fields.
Malga Langalm – Rifugio Auronzo
This is the final stretch of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop and the hardest part is definitely behind you now. Simply follow trail 105 that will take you along the other side of the mountain and offer spectacular views over the Puster valley and the Cadini di Missurina.
Where to stay near the Tre Cime National Park
Well it kinda depends on the duration of your trip, your budget and if you want to experience sunrises or sunsets on top of the mountains.
If you’re a photographer and you want to capture the early morning light I recommend staying in one of the mountain huts at least once. Do know that these are only open during high season!
My personal recommendation – We stayed at a cute Airbnb in Sesto which was the perfect base to explore the area! It’s only 20 minutes driving to the Tre Cime National Park and plenty of other beautiful hikes are nearby.
Alternative Viewpoints of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
If you’re just passing by and you want to catch a glimpse of the beautiful three peaks then you can easily do so at the Tre Cime Official Viewpoint. It’s located on the way from Lago Dobbiaco to Lago di Landro and offers a spectacular view over the famous mountain tops.
If you’re an avid hiker and you want a more original and less crowded hike then I can recommend you to take the cable car up to the Stiergarten near Sesto and from there hike to the Tre Cime viewpoint. As if that isn’t enough this hike actually offers a view over pretty much the entire Tre Cime national park.
What to bring with you when hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit
- A refillable water bottle – Please don’t bring any plastic with you when hiking in the Dolomites. The nature here is beautiful and protected so make sure not to litter. You can refill your water bottle during your hikes at every stream with fresh mountain water.
- Polarised Sunglasses – This year snow came early to the Dolomites and also caught me by surprise. I did wear sunglasses while hiking but they weren’t strong enough and both my cornea’s got inflamed. I had blurred vision for over a week so make sure to protect your eyes from the sun.
- Sunscreen – Even on a cloudy day you can get a sunburn in the mountains so make sure to bring some sunscreen with you in your backpack.
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