5 days hiking in the Dolomites in winter.
I had been living in Europe for a few years and was about to head home to Australia but there was a list of places I still had to tick off my list. The Dolomites was one of those places and I wanted to go in winter. I’d wanted to do some proper winter hiking and camping for so many years but being from Australia and an extremely warm part of Australia it was not really a thing that I ever had the chance of doing nor was I equipped for in anyway. After a few years in Europe I had finally gathered most of what I needed and was ready to go.
We flew from Copenhagen to Treviso airport. We landed in the afternoon. We had booked a car with Budget nothing major just a Fiat 500L (The large version) which actually went really well despite the fact we were driving on ice roads with summer tyres (yes stupidly I know!). We took the car and drove straight to the Dolomites heading in particular for Marmolada. The drive took about 3 hours in total and the view as soon as we hit the mountains was incredible the entire time!
We had already planned our route trying to pair things that were close together for the day and camp near one in the morning so it was only a short drive to the second site for the day. We had no phone when we arrived so everything was done offline on MapsWithMe. It was actually incredible how much detail it had. It had every ski slope and walking track, even small signs on the walking tracks were marked as tourist information.
When we arrived near Marmolada we drove down a few smaller roads looking for somewhere to free camp before we found something. It did not take long in an amazing spot surrounded by mountains. We set up our tent and cooked dinner.
Winter camping was intense and we were dealing with temperatures of minus 16-18 most nights. We had all our gear though. We had good sleeping bags with minus 10 and minus 20 ratings then we had in layers for the bags. We had thermal mats and then thermal reflector mats that we put between our mat and the snow to radiate more warmth. We slept with our underlay thermals on and something to cover our faces as well as good socks. We didn’t actually have a winter tent but the three season tent that we had from helsport did a pretty amazing job.
Camping in the Dolomites in winter.
Marmolada and Sass Pordoi
We set our alarms to be up before the sun so we could catch sunrise at the top of Marmolada. When we awoke we realised out tent was filled with ice from the condensation from our breath. We packed up as quickly as we could because it was freezing cold and we drive the 15 minutes back to Marmolada.
We were completely flawed by the mountains. This was one of our first real looks at the mountains and as the sun rose more and more became visible. I have seen a lot of mountain ranges but this was certainly one of the most incredible views I have woken up to.
When we got to Marmolada the cable car did not open until 8am so we had a little time to eat before we went up. Unfortunately this meant we missed the start of the sun rise but we still arrived in time to see some amazing colours.
When we got to the top the hiking track to the summit was closed due to snow. If you had the gear and experience then maybe it would be fine but we didn’t so we just followed the rules.
The cost of the lift pass was 27 Euro a lot of the time I would ask myself if this was worth it but it was 100% worth every penny.
After we left Marmolada we drove an hour or so to Sass Pordoi, which for me personally was one of the highlights. We took another cable car to the top and then just walked out into the snow and mountains. It was pretty strange because we could walk wherever we wanted to but not one single other person walked off the viewing platform. We eventually walked so far away we couldn’t see anyone. There was so many different views and each of them completely amazingWe headed down after a few hours and started the drive towards Seceda. Found a place to camp close by and went to sleep.
Seceda and Lago Di Braies.
We drove to Seceda and took the cable car up. Again we were the only ones that were not going skiing, meaning we would basically be the only ones at any of the hiking spots or vantage points. The cable car cost 22 Euro.
Once we were at the top of the cable car it was about a 20 minute hike to the first vantage point. After that it took about 45 minutes to get to the base of the peak. Again the track to the top was closed and we didn’t really have appropriate gear to be tackling any icy climbs. So we walked down around some log cabins took in the view and started the hike back. The whole thing took about 3-4 hours.
When we got back to the car we drove to Lago Di Braies for the sun set. When we arrived the sun was already well in the process of setting and it was already about -8C with in an hour the temperature had dropped to -14C and the sun was gone. We didn’t quite get what we wanted so we decided to wait for the sunrise. We drove out of the village and found a camp for the night.
Sunset at Lago Di Braies.
Lago Di Braies and Tre Cime Di Lavaredo.
We arrived well before sunrise and started a little hike around the lake. We got to a sign saying that the track was closed but we just sort of ignored it as we could see others had done the same in days past. The scene was a dense forest covered in snow surrounded by mountains that encapsulate the lake. The view was incredible and as the sun hit the mountain tops turning them orange everything started to come to life. We eventually got to a point where you could not progress further on the track because it had completely iced over and was not walkable so we headed back after a little encounter with a mountain goat.
After breakfast we headed towards Tre Cime Di Lavaredo. This is where I completely messed up. I had just dropped a pin on maps with me that I named Tre Cime Di Lavaredo. It was not the right peak I just dropped it there as a guide and never looked it up again stupidly. We arrived where we thought we had to be and started to hike. The hike was actually beautiful and we were surrounded by more mountains and dense green forest covered in snow. But after a while I realised I had made a mistake so we hurried the last hour or two of the hike and tried to make it to the actual Tre Cime Di Lavaredo.
The drive was super short on the map but of course the road was very icy and basically just a series of S bends and took much longer than I would have liked. We arrived at the actual spot and it looked like we could drive up to a certain point and then walk the hiking track from there. Well it was winter so there was about 5kms of road that was not drivable. It was covered in ice. So we parked at the next parking lot and got ready. We knew we might get trapped in the dark so we took an extra layer of clothes and out head torches. At this point we had the option to take snow mobiles to the actual starting point but it was 20 Euro per person and the hike looked beautiful and it was finally a spot where we could do a nice long hike up into the mountains on our own.
We set off walking through the forest following a lightly trodden path. After close to two hours we were approaching the mountain cabin and the actual start of the track to head around Tre Cime Di Laveredo. The sun had just dropped behind the mountains and we decided it was not a good idea to continue. This was actually heart breaking because it was the most amazing spot we had been to so far. We considered spending the night in the emergency shelter and doing the hike first thing in the morning but we needed to catch our plane and we were unsure of the time or distance. So we headed down in the dark.
Now if I was going to do this trip again I would start here and spend a day or two doing the entire hike around. After looking into it there are amazing lakes and a bunch of other amazing things to see if you are willing to spend a day or two hiking and camping.
We woke up in a spot with a nice view of the mountains, took a few photos and ate breakfast before we started the drive back to Treviso airport. We drove slow through the mountains stopping and enjoying our last few moments before we returned home.
The Dolomites was one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. It was close to Iceland as far as natural beauty and activities go and you don’t need the same amount of time to explore here as you do Iceland. It was a mind blowing part of the world that I would go back to in a second. The only thing I regret was not planning on seeing Tre Cime Di Laveredo first and spending the first 2 days there.
You really need a car here though to fully get the most out of it. A camper van would be nice or hotels as they are in abundance. But my plan was always to camp so that is what we did. Another thing I might have done slightly differently is to make sure the rental car had winter tires on it. The summer tires turned out to be fine but there were a few hairy moments where I had to push the car uphill because we could not get any kind of traction on the road. I don’t think we would have had this problem with the appropriate tires.
If you plan on going in winter take warm clothes. I looked up the average low temperatures before we left but it was so much colder than what it showed me. It was regularly between minus 5 and minus 10 in the day and between minus 10 and minus 17 in the night.
There was so many other places to visit when I looked everything up but this is what I narrowed the trip down to and I think for the amount of time you would not want to try and pack more in.
Cooking dinner at a camp spot.
Weird ice sculptures formed by nature.
Tea break on the side of the road.More of the view at Sass PordoiCabins at Seceda.The top of the hiking track at Seceda.Log cabins at Seceda.