By Michael Lanza
Hiking toward a mountain pass named Furcela dia Roa, on the first day of my family’s weeklong, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, we stopped in an open meadow of grass and wildflowers overlooking a deep, verdant valley in Puez-Odle Natural Park. Across the valley loomed a wall of cliffs topped by jagged spires, like a castle a thousand feet tall. I looked at our map and back up at the stone wall before us, puzzled. After a moment, I realized: We have to get over that wall.
Scanning the vertiginous earth before us, I eventually picked out the trail snaking across the head of the valley and making dozens of switchbacks up a finger of scree, talus, and snow leading to the lowest notch in that wall: the Furcela dia Roa, the pass we had to cross.
It was our first encounter with a lesson that would repeat itself many times over the course of our week of hiking on the Alta Via 2: These mountains are so steep and rocky that the trail often traverses ground that, from a distance, looks impassable without ropes and climbing gear.
But in reality, my family, including our young kids, were perfectly comfortable with the exposure, we never felt that any section was unsafe (although we avoided higher-elevation sections that were still snow-covered in July)—and our trek on the Alta Via 2, a footpath sometimes described as “the most beautiful trail in the world,” turned out to be a wonderful and unforgettable adventure .
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My family spent a week trekking hut to hut on a 39-mile (62k) section of the Alta Via 2, or “The Way of the Legends,” a roughly 112-mile (180k) alpine footpath through one of the world’s most spectacular and storied mountain ranges, Italy’s Dolomites.
The AV 2 is famous for attributes that possess even more allure than a steaming plate of gnocchi: incredible scenery, comfortable mountain huts with excellent food—and, for the type of trekker who’s drawn to challenge, a reputation for being the most remote and difficult of the several multi-day alte vie (plural for alta via), or “high paths,” that traverse the Dolomites.
That last point also makes the AV 2 less crowded (read: easier to get hut reservations) than the more-popular and easier AV 1 and other hut treks in Europe. But it’s the scenery that makes this trek world-class, as the photos below demonstrate.
Scroll below the photo gallery for the link to my full story about this trek.
I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable hut trek on the Alta Via 2.
Want my help with yours? Find out more here.
Read my story about that trip, “‘The World’s Most Beautiful Trail:’ Trekking the Alta Via 2 Through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains,” which has many more photos, a video, and expert tips for planning it yourself. (Like many stories at The Big Outside, reading that entire story requires a paid subscription.)
See all of my stories about international adventures and family adventures at The Big Outside.
13 thoughts on “Hike the World’s Most Beautiful Trail: The Alta Via 2 in the Dolomites”
I just stumbled across your blog article on hiking the Alta Via 2 with your family. We are three friends who love hiking. Two of us are 70 and one is 67. We did the Alta Via 1 in 2019 and loved it. We would love to do another Alta Via, but a bit concerned if there are via ferrata, which seems a bit scary.
Could you provide any info about the other Alta Vias or any other Alps treks that might be comparable to the AV1.
Thank you in advance,
P.S. I have subscribed to your blog and newsletter and looking forward to more.
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I have not hiked any of the other alta via routes but I’ve read about them. While the Alta Via 1 is the most popular and least technical of all of them, the Alta Via 3, 4, 5, and 6 are described as “more demanding and solitary” even than the Alta Via 2. They cross some well-traveled as well as “wilder” mountain chains within the Dolomites, with some via ferrata on them, and some of the huts are unmanned and primitive shelters where you’ll need your own food and cooking and sleeping gear. They also apparently have some variations which may be easier but I have not yet found (or looked for) much information about the routes. Not surprisingly, they see fewer hikers than the Alta Via 1 and 2.
Look at the story, photos, and trip-planning details of the Alta Via 2 in my feature story about that trip (linked in the above story). It has some beautiful variations that my family took because of snow at higher elevations (in the third week of July following a winter of huge snowfall) and it’s possible to hike several days without any via ferrata, although there are exposed sections where you can hold onto a chain for security but it’s not hard or technical scrambling. I’ve also helped many readers plan an Alta Via 2 trek through my Custom Trip Planning.
And see this menu of all stories about international trips at The Big Outside.
Thanks for the question and good luck.
I am hiking this in a few weeks time. I was wondering whether you know of any good spas near Croce D’Aune where I can reward my (likely) tired legs with a great massage etc? It would be great to hear from someone who may have been!
Hi Edward, enjoy the Alta Via 2, it’s incredible. Sorry, but I don’t know of any spas near Croce D’Aune. Good luck.
Looking at your pictures, it is indeed the world’s most beautiful trail. I can imagine you guys were greeted with amazing views all throughout your journey. One question though, was there any dangerous portions on the trail? Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks, Dakota. Much of the Alta Via 2 is a good trail that all hikers would likely feel comfortable on, although it gets very steep in places. There were a couple of sections my family avoided (taking public transportation to get around and rejoin the AV 2 farther along) because of dangerous snow crossings in mid-July after a winter of unusually deep snowpack. There are also some sections with exposure that I wouldn’t recommend for people uncomfortable with that. You can see some of those sections in the photos in my feature story about the AV 2 and I provide detailed explanations in a custom trip plan for the Alta Via 2.
Thanks for the question.
Amazing pictures, what a beautiful trail!
I have never been to Italy before, planning to visit when the pandemic ends.
Thanks, Paul, it’s one of the most spectacular trails I’ve ever hiked. Go there.
You shouldn’t waste people’s time by trying to trap them into subscribing to your blog in order to finish reading what would otherwise have been an interesting article.
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The Dolomites are really spectacular Michael, I just wonder if I could handle something like this. I am 89 now and recovering from double hip replacement surgery and several other prior surgeries as well. I am walking but not quite normal. My youngest Son working for the the State Department in Afghanistan is showing interest in your work and the trails you bring to our attention. Your work is outstanding and I think performs a great public service. I hope I can follow one or some of your trails. Thank you very much. Brad Corregan, Captain USMC(R) (ret), Naval Aviator.
Nice to hear from you, thanks for the comment. The Dolomites are truly one of the finest mountain ranges on the planet. I long to go back again I expect you are tougher and fitter than most people one-third your age, and I am not qualified to advise you on your condition for hiking, of course. I can tell you that the Alta Via 2 is known as the hardest of the multi-day trails traversing the Dolomites, but there are others, including the most popular one, the Alta Via 1, which I suspect is popular in part because many more hikers find it physically manageable for them.
Please thank your son for following my blog, as I thank you for the same reason. Tell him that he can reach out to me anytime. Thank you for your service to our country. Keep in touch.