The Dolomites: hiking in an incredible paradise – in the only fossilized archipelago on this planet!
Experiencing the Dolomites is the adventure of a lifetime for both, hikers and climbers. It’s an El Dorado for nature lovers from all over the world. Here you’ll find stunning views of pinnacles and towers, roofs and pylons, terraces and walls. Breathtaking walls: some of the highest walls in the Alps with up to 1.500m in height. Here you will experience nature at its purest.
Hi, I am Gerd, and I'm a local Dolomites hiking guide specializing in guiding English language hikers. Originally, I am an Austrian national, but I have been living in the small village of St. Lorenzen on the northern edge of the Dolomites for more than 20 years. My mother tongue is German (the main language spoken in the northern part of the Dolomites), but I also speak English and Italian.
Guiding people around in these most dramatic mountains is a favourite pastime of mine. For this reason, some time ago, I took a special training course for hiking guides focused on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Dolomites. That training, combined with my personal interest on that matter, broadened my knowledge about the Dolomites. So, when we hike together across these very scenic mountains, I will be happy to pass this knowledge on to you. So, really, I promise you not to bore you with my silence. I will provide you with countless details and information about the global importance and uniqueness of the Dolomites in geological terms. How did these mountains develop, what caused their appearance, what’s so important about them. Then there is also a very sad and tragic story to be told about the Dolomites: the battles of World War I incl. very interesting facts about how the war was brought into the Dolomites, under what circumstances and when the Italians declared war on Austria-Hungaria, etc. Other themes worth giving an account of are how we South Tyroleans gained our autonomy - which explains why we speak German in South Tyrol – and the many languages and cultures in the Dolomites.
I promise you: if you come and experience these mountains, you will be enchanted by this rugged place, the peaks and pinnacles, the towers and the deep valleys, the stunning height of many vertical walls, and the colors and beauty, as well as the stories and legends that go with them.
Hiking and trekking in the Dolomites - an unforgetable experience
Best time to visit the Dolomites
The very best time is from mid July. Then flowers are blooming and all the pastures are full of colors. Thunderstorms are not so frequent yet, but you notice that their numbers are increasing already.
In August, the Dolomites are rather crowded. It’s the main holiday-season in Italy, peaking around August 15, so there are a lot of hikers and climbers around. The weather is warmer and thus more pleasant than in July and wildflowers are still blooming. However there is a greater likelihood for thunderstorms in the afternoons
September is normally a good time for hiking, too. Thunderstorms have receded again, and the crowds have gone home. There is a good chance of experiencing a cold snap, so keep an eye on the forecasts. It's the time when the huts start to close. Most huts close between mid/end of September and mid-October, few stay open until the end of October. Alternatively, you can start and finish your hikes in the valleys.
October is just like September, however, the green pastures may have turned brown and the first snow may have already fallen.
In November limited hiking in the Dolomites is possible if the first snowfalls aren’t too heavy, but by then you ought to have a guide with you who knows the trails. From that time onward, you’ll hardly meet anybody in the mountains.
December through March is very interesting too, but again, you’ll need a guide for most areas. Some huts open during this time of the year providing shelter for the many snowshoe hikers and skiers. It certainly is the most dangerous time of the year due to the possibility of avalanches. Then of course, you need to have proper clothes and boots.
Spring is the most difficult time for hiking in the Dolomites. Toward mid/end of March the snow is getting too soft and it won't carry a person’s weight anymore, so even I avoid the area during this time.
In June things change for the better again, but you may have to wait until the end of June for extended hiking due to odd patches of snow particularly in the shady places. Most of the huts reopen mid-June.
Essential hiking equipment and gear
To hike in the Dolomites in Italy you will need at least:
• stable backpack (30-40l) with weatherproof cover
• hiking boots (good quality has its price, but it always pays)
• hiking socks
• weatherproof jacket and pants
• 2 t-shirts
• 1 top with long sleeves
• light jacket
• hiking pants
• hat (in this altitude the sun can be merciless at times)
• sun lotion for high altitude
• 2-3l of water a day (in the rugged Italian Dolomites you do not always find water)
• first aid kit
• pocket knife
• small head lamp
I always put my dry clothes in a plastic bag, so if my backpack does get wet my clothes stay dry.
Since you do get rather sweaty or sometimes wet from the rain; it is advisable to have clothes that do dry quickly. That way you sometimes can rinse your sweaty clothes at the huts and stand a chance to slip into dry gear the next morning. It's never a bad idea to take a bivouac-sack along.
For your overnight hikes you also need at least:
• sleeping bag liner (no thermal sleeping bag)
• slippers to use in the hut
• clothes to wear in the hut
• extra underwear and t-shirts
• toiletries and towel
Make sure your gear is in excellent condition. Something that breaks might not be repairable during your hike.
UNESCO World Heritage - the Dolomites fulfill the following criteria as a World Heritage site:
Criterion (vii): The Dolomites are widely regarded as being among the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world. Their intrinsic beauty derives from a variety of spectacular vertical forms such as pinnacles, spires and towers, with contrasting horizontal surfaces including ledges, crags and plateaux, all of which rise abruptly above extensive talus deposits and more gentle foothills. A great diversity of colours is provided by the contrasts between the bare pale-coloured rock surfaces and the forests and meadows below. The mountains rise as peaks with intervening ravines, in some places standing isolated but in others forming sweeping panoramas. Some of the rock cliffs here rise more than 1,500 m and are among the highest limestone walls found anywhere in the world. The distinctive scenery of the Dolomites has become the archetype of a “dolomitic landscape”. Geologist pioneers were the first to be captured by the beauty of the mountains, and their writing and subsequent painting and photography further underline the aesthetic appeal of the property.
Criterion (viii): The Dolomites are of international significance for geomorphology, as the classic site for the development of mountains in dolomitic limestone. The area presents a wide range of landforms related to erosion, tectonism and glaciation. The quantity and concentration of extremely varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, including peaks, towers, pinnacles and some of the highest vertical rock walls in the world. The geological values are also of international significance, notably the evidence of Mesozoic carbonate platforms, or “fossilized atolls”, particularly in terms of the evidence they provide of the evolution of the bio-constructors after the Permian/Triassic boundary, and the preservation of the relationships between the reefs they constructed and their surrounding basins. The Dolomites also include several internationally important type sections for the stratigraphy of the Triassic Period. The scientific values of the property are also supported by the evidence of a long history of study and recognition at the international level. Taken together, the combination of geomorphological and geological values creates a property of global significance.
The Dolomites in Italy - impressionsYou find many more photos on www.flickr.com/photos/hiking-in-the-dolomites/albums
Dates and prices
- hiking fee for your guide; accommodation and meals as set out in the descriptions of the hikes
- where appliccable: transport between the hikes; tickets for cable cars, toll and special guide (Vajont)
!!!!! SEE YOU IN THE DOLOMITES !!!!!