Today I will transport you to one of my favourite corners of the Dolomites. A corner I knew very little about until I spent a week skiing in a little town called Madonna di Campiglio overlooking the dramatic Brenta mountain group.
From that time I promised myself to come back in the summer and cross this range on foot. I already had a very busy summer planned out with 4 Alta Vias totalling in over 500 kilometres and many via ferratas from my never ending bucket list.
A few months after the ski trip, whilst on a conference in Trento, a mere 70 kilometres away from Madonna Di Campiglio, I picked up a map of the Dolomiti di Brenta and with a sharpie in my hand I outlined a 5 day long route plan including 8 via ferratas!
I was super determined to complete this route and I am so glad I did! This 5 day backpacking trip turned out to be my favourite one of the summer 2019!
Dolomiti Brenta Traverse - A 5 Day Hut To Hut Backpacking Guide
Considering you will need a help of a cableway at the start and the end of this trip, the time window for tackling this route is relatively short.
It stretches between the end of June, when the paths finally clear of snow, and the third week of September, when once again the snow starts to fall at higher altitudes and mountain huts close to tourism traffic for the season.
The trek starts and ends in the same location which means you don't have to worry about relocating your car or working out the public transport in between trailheads.
This traverse does include multiple via ferratas so you will definitely need to pack full ferrata gear and know how to use it. I have written a complete packing guide for hut to hut treks as well as the beginner's guide to via ferrata climbing in the Italian Dolomites. Make sure to check out those articles!
Where does the Dolomiti Brenta traverse start?
Madonna di Campiglio is a small ski resort located in the heart of the Brenta Dolomites and surrounded by the Adamello Brenta Nature Park! In the summer the whole area transforms into hikers paradise! Sounds idyllic doesn't it?
To start this 5 day traverse you will need to take the Groste Cableway located at the northern end of the town in Campo Carlo Magno. The gondola costs 20 Euro return and you can find its opening times here. The gondola will whisk you up to Passo Grostè at an altitude of 2435 m a.s.l. (7990 feet).
There is a big paid parking lot next to the gondola station where you can leave your car overnight (10 Euro/Night) I parked my campervan there for the entirety of the trip and I am happy to report everything was the way I left it upon my return. Sometimes it's worth paying for having a peace of mind.
Madonna di Campiglio is well connected by public transport with the nearby cities of Trento and Verona. Shuttles run to Madonna from Venice and Milan (Bergamo) airports.
I highly recommend staying here the night before and after your trek. Since it's a resort there are plenty of accommodation options fitting any budget and below I am enlisting some of my suggestions.
If you follow my guide and find it useful I would appreciate if you use the links when booking your hotel (even if you don't opt into the ones I recommend)! For each booking I get paid a small commission at no additional cost to you!
Accommodation in Madonna Di Campiglio
The Map Of The Traverse
I thought it might be a good idea to show you a rough outline of the route. The map you can find below is interactive which means you can click on it and see the hikes, via ferratas and huts which are all part of the itinerary.
Whilst pretty accurate please bear in mind this is not a topography map and it should not be used to navigate in the mountains. For this I highly recommend purchasing the Tabacco map no. 053 and familiarising yourself with the route.
Day 1: Passo Grosté to rifugio Tuckett along the via ferrata Sentiero Alfredo Benini
9.5 km / 5.9 miles
580 m / 1900 feet elevation gain
740 m / 2430 feet elevation loss
Hiking section - easy to moderate
Via ferrata section - beginner
PATH NUMBERS: 305 --> 315 --> 303
Via ferrata Sentiero Alfredo Benini is the perfect warm up day. If you've never done a via ferrata in your life this is a great route to practice clipping in and navigating through the cables.
Once you reach Passo del Grosté you will have to start heading South along the path no. 305 following the way marks painted on rocks. For the first 30-40 minutes it's a gentle incline until you reach limestone slabs followed by a memorial plaque a further 20 minutes away. Put your via ferrata gear and let the fun begin!
The ferrata runs along the east side of Cima Groste then drops down gently to Bocchete dei Camiosci and continues up below Cima Falkner to its highest point marked with a memorial plaque. From there it's an exposed but well-protected down-climb.
The path eventually turns West and traverses underneath Cima Sella then descends to Vedretta di Vallesinella Superiore. Even though I did this excursion at the end of August we encountered a lot of remaining snow on this section.
Thankfully the path is well marked and we didn't have any trouble navigating it. In adverse conditions however a GPS will come in useful.
Right ahead you will see a distinct pinnacle. It's called Castelletto Superiore (see photos above). After you reach a fork and a sign for rifugio Tuckett, where you will be spending the first night, take the path no. 315. It descends all the way down to the hut and for the most part it's a sharp descent with some cable protected sections so keep that ferrata gear on.
Ca. 10 minutes before reaching the hut you will get to another fork. Path no. 303 will take you straight to the hut. You will be able to see the refuge from a long before though.
Night 1: Rifugio Tuckett
This cozy mountain hut, run by an Italian family offers 115 beds to the backcountry hikers. The hut belongs to the SAT club (La Società degli Alpinisti Tridentini) meaning if you are an alpine club member you receive 50% discount on accommodation.
You can find all prices and contact info on the official website of rifugio Tuckett.
I have a whole article about what to expect when staying in an italian refuge. It will answer all questions you may have regarding this topic.
Day 2: Rifugio Tuckett to rifugio Alimonta along via ferrata Sentiero SOSAT
10.5 km / 6.5 miles
3.5 - 4 hours
560 m / 1840 feet elevation gain
260 m / 850 feet elevation loss
Hiking section - easy to moderate
Via ferrata section - intermediate
PATH NUMBERS: 303 --> 305B --> 323
Start the day by retracing your steps from the previous day along the path no. 303. Around 10 minutes into the hike you will reach a fork. This time you will you need to take the path no. 305B pointing toward via ferrata SOSAT.
After crossing a glacier moraine you will reach first ladders. For the next hour you will be circling around the western face of Punte Di Campiglio. For the most part it's just a hike with an occasional cable protection until you reach the ferrata SOSAT.
The ferrata starts with a narrow gully with fantastic views towards Cima Tosa. At 3173 m a.s.l (10410 feet) it is the highest peak in the range. There are quite a few ladders and stemples, including a 20 meter high vertical ladder, but the whole route is very well protected and you can stay clipped in for the entirety of time .
For the most part you will be down-climbing this via ferrata, rather than going up. The whole route is marked with red paint marks and both ends are noted with a plaque.
After climbing up the long vertical ladder you will follow a narrow ledge for about 20 minutes-25 minutes followed by a wider path and finally a fork. Follow signs for rifugio Alimonta continuing up on path no. 323. Further 30 minutes along the route you will face a mountain that reminds me of a deer hoove. From here the refuge is only 5 minutes away.
It may seem like a short day, but don't worry the next 3 days will be a lot more demanding so it's good to take is easy at the start.
Night 2: Rifugio Alimonta
Rifugio Alimonta was my favourite hut on the traverse and I was glad I stayed here for two nights (the 2nd and the 4th night of the traverse).
It's located in a stunning setting at an altitude of 2580 m a.s.l. (8464 feet). Unfortunately their website is extremely outdated, but phone number and email are provided. If you are booking within the summer season it's better to call directly. Outside the official season you can send an email.
Make sure to try their homemade cakes baked by the hut owner. They were delicious and very different to the cakes you normally get served at other mountain huts (usually limited to Apfelstudel, Linzertorte or Sachertorte).
It's also a great hut for shower! One token gets you 30 litres of hot water. I really had to try hard to use it all! In the end we ended up splitting the shower between the two of us.
Day 3: Rifugio Alimonta to rifugio Agostini along via ferratas delle Bocchette Centrali and Sentiero Attrezzato Brentari
16 km / 10 miles
710 m / 2330 feet elevation gain
905 m / 2970 feet elevation loss
Hiking section - moderate
Via ferrata section - intermediate
PATH NUMBERS: 323 --> 305 --> 358
The weather looked promising as we were leaving the refuge but as soon as we reached the first pass the clouds rolled in and for the next two hours we hiked in the clouds. Even though we didn't get the views I have hoped for, the mist created an unearthly atmosphere and made for some great photos.
Day 3 is really exciting but challenging so make sure to get a really good rest the night before. The first objective is the via ferrata delle Bochette Centrali, one of my favourite intermediate via ferratas in the Dolomites!
After leaving the Alimonta hut head for the Vedretta di Sfulmini glacier (or what's left of it) on path no. 323. A well trodden path goes mostly around the remaining ice. We didn't need any additional equipment to cross it. In around 20 minutes after leaving the refuge you will reach the Bocca dei Armi pass where the ferrata starts.
Starting with a series of ladders, followed by a course of ledges the route will carry you into the incredible landscape of the Dolomiti Brenta with beautiful rock formations. Via ferrata delle Bochette Centrali bears no. 305 and as per usual the whole traverse is signalled with painted red marks.
In approximately 3 hours you will reach rifugio Pedrotti, a great place to stop for a break and grab lunch before you continue with the second part of the day.
From rifugio Pedrotii to rifugio Agostini, your accommodation for the night, you have to follow the path no. 358. For the first 45 minutes of the hike you will have Cima Tosa directly in front of you.
Around one hour after leaving rifugio Pedrotti you will reach Sella di Tossa pass. From here follow a series of well protected ledges then descend down the stemples and ladders onto Vedretta Di Ambiez glacier.
Once again this is not the Mount Everest type of glacier for which you need special equipment to cross. A good pair of hiking boots and hiking poles for stability will do. There is no crevasse danger.
From here it's another 30 minutes down to the refuge following glacier moraines. Pay attention to the red marks! Just as we descended we got caught in a big rain storm. With the visibility down we had troubles following the signs. My GPS definitely came in handy at the time.
Night 3: Rifugio Agostini
Another cozy hut along the traverse! It was also very quiet in comparison to the other two! Due to its location in the southern part of the Brenta Dolomites and with great access to many climbing routes it is favoured amongst the climbers.
Rifugio Agostini's website is available in english and you can place your booking request through their contact page. During the opening season I would recommend calling directly.
The hut belongs to the SAT club and offers discounts on accommodation to the alpine club members.
Day 4: Rifugio Agostini to rifugio Alimonta along via ferratas Castiglioni, sentiero attrezzato dell Ideale, sentiero alp. Martinazzi
16.5 km / 10.5 miles
1300 m / 4260 feet elevation gain
1120 m / 3670 feet elevation loss
Hiking section - moderate to challenging
Via ferrata section - intermediate
PATH NUMBERS: 321 --> 304 --> 327 --> 323
Rifugio Agostini is the southern most point of this traverse. For the next couple of days you will be slowly making your way back North to Passo Grosté where this trip began.
Another awesome day awaits, this time with not 2 but 3 via ferratas to tackle. Don't worry though 2 of the 3 iron paths are very short and combining all three you will spend a lot less time attached to a cable, comparing to the previous day and more time just hiking.
From rifugio Agostini you have to take the path no. 321 in the direction of rifugio XII Apostoli. The first via ferrata for the day is called Ettore Castliglioni. Even though technically quite easy, there is a lot of vertical ladders on this route so I hope you don't suffer from vertigo.
If you are lucky with the weather, be prepared to get distracted by the awesome views! The highest point on this ferrata is Bochetta dei Due Denti pass (2859 m a .s.l. or 9380 feet). It took me approx. 1,5 hour to reach it from leaving the Agostini hut.
The descent from the pass involves a short cable protected section (after that you can take off your via ferrata kit) and then a downhill hike on a scree and rocky slopes all the way to the XII Apostoli hut. On A good weather day the hut is visible from the pass so you know exactly where you are heading. Otherwise just follow the red paint marks.
Take a break at the hut before continuing on a path no. 304 in the direction of rifugio Brentei and via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato dell Ideale - the second iron path of the day. For the first 40-50 minutes you will be ascending gently to Bocca dei Camosci Pass. Once you reach it, it's time to kit up again.
From the pass it's a 10 minute descent on a well protected cable route to Vedretta Dei Camosci glacier. Keep your gear on, because the next ferrata is close by.
A short and uncomplicated glacier crossing going north, undernearth the western face of Cima Tossa, will take you to path no. 327. and the third and last via ferrata for the day - Sentiero Attrezatto D. Martinazzi.
Similar to the previous one the ferrata part lasts only a few minutes and takes you down a few ledges. We spotted a big herd of Chamois on the ridgeline of Cima Francinglo. It's not uncommon to see them in these mountains so keep your eyes peeled!
Keep following path no. 327 all the way to rifugio Brentei. You should reach the hut in around 2,5 hours after leaving XII Apostli hut.
This is a good spot for a second break before the last push up on path no. 323 to rifugio Agostini. The difference in elevation between the two huts is around 400 meters (1300 feet) and it will take another hour to reach your final destination.
You might recognise that you have done a short section of this path on the second day of this traverse.
Night 4: Rifugio Alimonta
This is the same refuge you will have stayed at on day 2. There are three reasons I have decided to stay in this hut twice.
First one it's because I knew the last day of the traverse will be the most scenic and at the some time demanding so I wanted to be as close as possible to the start of the last via ferrata.
The other two reasons were the awesome shower and of course the homemade cakes! I even ordered a couple of pieces to take away with me and had them as a snack on the last day!
Day 5: Rifugio Alimonta to Passo Grosté along via ferrata Bocchette Alte
14 km / 8.7 miles
790 m / 2600 feet elevation gain
1000 m / 3280 feet elevation loss
Hiking section - moderate to challenging
Via ferrata section - advanced
The last day did not disappoint in the views department! We were lucky to wake up to clear blue skies . To make the most of it we skipped breakfast at the refuge (I stocked up on the cake the night before. You can't beat having cake for breakfast) and left right after sunrise to catch the good light.
It turned out to be the perfect decision. By late morning we were in the cloud and I felt sorry for the people who were passing us, going in the opposite direction. I knew they won't witness what we did just a few hours before. Remember early bird catches the worm!
PATH NUMBERS: 323 --> 305 --> 303 --> 316
Via ferrata Bocchette Alte is a high alpine traverse, but if you completed all the other iron paths along this backpacking trip, you won't have any troubles with this one. Only tackle it when the conditions are right though, because even the simplest of routes can turn deadly in adverse weather.
The path starts behind the refuge and follows track no 323. After the first few minutes however it breaks away and turns onto path no. 305. The climbing along cables and ladders starts very early with some great views towards Cima Dei Armi right behind you.
My favourite sections of the route were Bocchetta Bassa dei Massodi pass, around 1 hour into the ferrata, and the long ladder leading to Bocchetta della Valazza with dramatic views of one of the spires of Cima Brenta right ahead. Refer to the photos above. You can find those places in the photo descriptions.
We reached the second pass in around 2 hours after leaving the refuge. From the Bochetta della Valazza pass it is another hour traversing along the ledges of the western face of Cima Brenta. On a good weather day you can look down towards Lake Molveno, close to 2000 vertical meters below!
The last 45 minutes of the ferrata consists of a sharp descent to Bocca del Tuckett. From there as you enter the sentiero attrezzato della Sega Alta (O.Orsi) you will face the most tricky part of the traverse - a descent down Vedretta di Tuckett - a year round snow field.
Take extra care when going down and make sure to place your steps securely. Whilst it's not a sharp descend you want to avoid sliding down as much as possible. This is the only time I wished I had crampons but my hiking poles definitely helped with keeping my balance.
40 minutes after leaving Bocca del Tuckett you should arrive at rifugio Tuckett, where you had spent your first night! Don't drink that victory beer yet though!
From rifugio Tuckett take path no. 316 to Passo Grosté, where you started the traverse! Aptly named rifugio Stoppani is a great location to stop, celebrate and reflect back on the awesome adventure you just had, before you take the gondola back down to Madonna di Campiglio!
Stoppani hut can be reached within 60-90 minutes after leaving rifugio Tuckett. Luckily it's a gentle ascent. My knees were killing me from already descending 1000 meters that day. Pain was quickly forgotten though and looking back at it today I would do this traverse again in a heartbeat!
If you have any questions about this traverse post them in the comments below. I answer all the comments personally. Please do read the post first before posting any questions! Go to my independent Italian Dolomites guide for more multiday backpacking trip, day hikes or via ferratas!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.