An intensive 13 days filled with some of the best vistas found in the Italian Dolomites. That's the quickest way I can describe my experience on Alta Via 2. Do you plan on hiking it yourself? I have written this comprehensive guide to help you tackle one of the most intense multiday traverses of the Dolomites. It will be your best online resource, I promise!
In the first part of my guide you will find:
- An overview of Alta Via 2 (distance, elevation gain and time required to complete it),
- Information on arrival and departure details at the start and end of Alta Via 2,
- The optimal time of the year and the cost for hiking Alta Via 2,
- An interactive map including each stage,
- Summaries of days 1-6 including my GPS data on distance, elevation gain and the time it takes to complete each stage (not including the breaks).
Alta Via 2: Total Distance, Elevation Gain and Time Required to Complete The Route
There are quite a few online and printed sources citing that Alta Via 2 is anywhere between 160-200 kilometres long.
I have hiked the whole distance with my Garmin Fenix 6s watch measuring the distances and elevation gain each day. After adding it all up here are the stats:
- The total length of Alta Via 2 is 192.5 kilometres or 120 miles*, excluding the extensions,
- The total elevation gain on the route is 10547 meters (34600 feet),
- The total elevation loss is 11450 meters (37565 feet).*
I know it sounds like a lot but if split across two weeks Alta Via 2 is manageable even for those who don't have a lot of backpacking experience.
Alta Via 2 can be completed from anywhere between 10 to 16 days. It took me 13 days to hike the whole distance with 2 shorter days weaved in between the longer ones, to allow rest, especially since I have hiked both Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 4 within just 4 weeks prior to starting AV2.
* according to the Garmin website there is a 5% margin error on the devices, when calculating the distances and elevation gain.
Where does the Alta Via 2 start? ArrivaL Details
Alta Via 2 starts at the top of the Plose gondola station near the city of Bressanone (in german Brixen), in the South Tirol region of northern Italy.
Bressanone has a train station which means an ease of transport between the major airports or cities in Italy. The town is also one of the stops on the European budget bus network called Flixbus.
To get to the bottom of the Plose gondola station (Plose Cabinovia) you need to take bus no. 321 leaving from the main bus station in Bressanone. The journey takes only 23 minutes.
I recommend staying in Bressanone the night before. It's a quaint little town with ca. 20000 inhabitants where everything is within walking distance.
Some hotels offer public transport card, which also includes the gondola ride, within the price of their stay and below I enlist a few hotel options where you can take advantage of this deal.
Where To Stay In Bressanone
WHERE DOES THE ALTA VIA 2 End? Departure DETAILS
The end of Alta Via 2 is on the Passo Croce D'Aune, where you will find a bus stop of the same name. From here you can catch the bus no. 16 to Feltre.
Feltre is a town of the Belluno province in Veneto. It is similar in size to Bressanone and it also has a train station from where you can travel onward to either Treviso or Marco Polo airports near Venice or catch a train connection to any big city in Italy.
If you have time make sure to stay in Feltre for at least one day to explore its beautiful old town. Below are some of mine recommendation for where to stay in Feltre. All of them are very close to the main bus and train station so you don't have to walk any further!
Where To Stay In Feltre
The optimal time of year for hiking Alta Via 2
If you want to take advantage of the mountain huts along Alta Via 2 then you should plan your excursion anywhere between the 3rd week of June and the 3rd week of September.
Those dates mark the official hiking season in the Italian Dolomites. It's quite short, I know, but that's when the mountain passes are (mostly) clear of snow and the huts fully operational.
The summer weather in the Dolomites is quite tempestuous, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms, particularly in June and July. August tends to be quite busy, because of the Italian tradition, when everyone takes holidays.
Personally I find September ideal to hike. The days are cooler and the weather more stable with often sunny and dry days. The huts also tend to be a lot quieter in September.
The Cost Of Hiking Alta Via 2
The average cost of staying in mountain huts including the half board option is 55 Euros/night and if you are an Alpine Club member the price drops down to ca. 45 Euros. This however does not include lunches, drinks or any other snacks you would like to purchase.
You should calculate for spending minimum 55 Euros/person/day on average. This however is only possible if you don't spend a dime more than what's included in the half board option when staying at the huts.
I think 70-80 Euros/person/day is more of a realistic budget if you would like to enjoy a drink after a full day of hiking, or if you are like me and like to spoil yourself with a coffee and cake after each completed stage.
The above prices don't include the initial cost of travelling to and from the location, hotel stays on both ends of AV2 as well as the gear you will need to invest into to complete the traverse.
Make sure to jump to my article about the ins and outs of staying in mountain huts in the Italian Dolomites, where I go more into detail about the cost of a stay in a rifugio.
What To Pack For Alta Via 2
The amazing thing about the huts in Italy is that they allow you to carry as little as possible when on multiday backpacking trips, without sacrificing your wellbeing.
You should go as light as possible. If your backpack is larger than 38 litres, you are doing it wrong. You can always wash your socks and undies as you go. There is no need to carry food, just some snacks. You also won't need any backpacking equipment such as tents or sleeping bags.
The only thing that's required at the huts is the sleeping bag liner so you don't come in direct contact with the sheets and blankets provided at the huts.
I have a complete packing list for multiday hut to hut trips in the Dolomites including links to my favourite gear and a downloadable checklist!
Alta Via 2 - An Interactive Map
I created the map below to give you an overview of Alta Via 2. I marked all mountain huts as well as day routes and extensions. Click on the button in the top left corner of the map to see the different layers and names of the places.
Whilst pretty accurate this map should not be used when navigating through the mountains!
Throughout the article I will be sharing with you different path numbers which you need to take on each day. The best thing you can do to visualise the whole route is to purchase the Tabacco maps required for the traverse.
For crossing Alta Via 2 you need to purchase five different TABACCO MAPS numbered: 30, 7 (or 5), 15, 22 and 23 either online or in any sport, souvenir or cigarette shop in the local towns. Even some rifugios sell them!
Day 1: Bressanone to Rifugio Genova
21.4 km / 13.3 miles
1100 m / 3609 feet
800 m / 2625 feet
PATH NUMBERS: 3, 6, 4
After catching the Plose gondola your hike starts uphill on path no. 3 all the way to Plose hut (rifugio Bressanone).The hut can be reached within 1,5 hour of walking.
You can skip the gondola ride and start your hike directly from the bottom of the chairlift, however you won't be missing out in the views department, as most of the hike runs within the tree line. I have met people who went for this option and regretted it. My advice is to save your energy for later! You have an awesome extension coming your way!
If you started your hike late in the afternoon of the first day then you can stay in Plose hut for the first night. It has killer sunset views of the Odle group right from its terrace.
However if you started early then keep on hiking to rifugio Genova. After Plose hut the route drops all the way down into the valley, then crosses a road and enters the Puez Odle Nature Park. After a tiring ascent to Forcella di Putia you will be faced with a choice of tackling the first of many extensions on Alta Via 2: the summit of Sass di Putia.
From Forcella di Putia it's an easy 30 minute undulating stroll to rifugio Genova.
I have very fond memories of my stay at rifugio Genova (German: Schluetterhuette). The hut is very well managed and despite the fact that it's one of the busiest huts in the area, the staff were incredibly friendly.
Extension: Via Ferrata Sass De Putia
This 2 hour extension starting at Forcella di Putia takes you to the summit of the lone standing mountain - Sass di Putia (Peitlerkofel). 360 degrees panoramic views await at the top including the snowcapped mountains of the Austrian Alps!
You have a choice between two summits: Picollo di Putia and the true summit of Sass di Putia at 2875 m in elevation (9430 feet). To reach the latter you will have to tackle a 100 meter section of a beginner level via ferrata, stretching just below the summit. It will be a great warm to what's coming on subsequent days along the AV2!
I planned a couple of nights in rifugio Genova, just to be able to do this extension at my own pace. I left just after sunrise and spent the morning high above the clouds. My friend and I had the whole summit to ourselves.
Day 2: Rifugio Genova to Rifugio Puez
12.7 km / 7.9 miles
760 m / 2493 feet
600 m / 1968 feet
PATH NUMBERS: 3, 3A (or 3B)
Day two is a real contender in the views department! The day starts gently on path no. 3 as you cross flower covered slopes hiking towards a col from where beautiful views of the odle group stretch ahead.
Shortly after the path veers to the left with a towering Piz Duleda straight ahead. Today you will be crossing two saddles. First one - Forcella della Roa is reached via seemingly countless zigzags on a scree slope.
From the saddle the path continues underneath the Piz Duleda slopes until you reach a short via ferrata section. It's smart to gear up as loose rocks come flying down, set off by the hikers who are ahead.
After the cable section you will reach another saddle - Forcella di Sielles. It's a great spot for a longer break. You can leave your backpack here and head over to the summit of Piz Duleda, another extension to AV2.
The extension only takes 45 minutes round trip so if you skipped Sass di Putia the day before, you now have no excuse to miss this one. There is a log book hidden in a metal box at the summit! Make sure to put your name down!
From Forcella di Siellas you have a choice between paths no. 3A or 3B. They run parallel before eventually merging into one ca. 20 minutes before reaching rifugio Puez.
Rifugio Puez didn't really make a lasting impression on me. Maybe because we were crammed into a tiny room in the attic with 10 other people. To enter the room we had to crawl through a small door.
The overall stay was ok, the food was ok and the staff were courteous. I think they had big shoes to fill after our stay at rifugio Genova.
Day 3: Rifugio Puez to Rifugio Piscadiu
14.8 km / 9.2 miles
4h 30 min
790 m / 2592 feet
690 m / 2264 feet
PATH NUMBERS: 2, 666
A few minutes after leaving rifugio Puez you will get to a spectacular viewpoint of the U-shaped Vallunga. The direct translation is "The Long Valley". This view will set the bar high for what's to come.
Today you will be crossing Passo Gardena - one of the most photogenic mountain passes of the Dolomites. For the first half of the day you will be following path no.2 crossing three saddles: Forcella dei Campei, Forcella Crespeina and Forcella Cier Danter les Pizes.
Upon reaching the last saddle you will be graced with a view of the sheer walls and towers of the Sella Group - the destination for today.
After the descent from Forcella Cier make sure to stop for lunch at rifugio Jimmy, ca 15 minutes before reaching Passo Gardena. They have very comfy bean bags outside and I may or may not have spent a couple of hours snoozing away in the sun, trying to regain some energy for the next stage of the hike .
Once you cross Passo Gardena you will continue your journey on path no. 666. Majority of this section climbs through a very steep scree slope in Val Setus. 666 is a very adequate number for this part of AV2, the devil himself must have thought of this scree.
The last 30 minutes consist of cable aided section. I would highly recommend using your via ferrata gear on this section. Beware of hikers coming down. This is the exit route for the very popular via ferrata Brigata Tridentina which also ends at rifugio Piscadiu.
Rifugio Piscadiu is set on a high plateau right next to a small lake, which supplies the hut with water. When possible ask for a room instead of a bed in the attic.
My friend and I were very unlucky to have been put in the attic with 20 Italian man on a weekend getaway. I got very little sleep that night from the amount of snoring and drinking happening in the room.
Day 4: Rifugio Piscadiu to Rifugio Boe
5.2 km / 3.2 miles
480 m / 1575 feet
210 m / 689 feet
PATH NUMBERS: 666, 649, 647
With only 5.2 kilometres (3.2 miles) to hike, day 4 might seem not challenging enough to many backpackers. If you are keen to complete AV2 in less time, you can connect day 3 with 4, skipping a night at rifugio Piscadiu, or day 4 with 5, omitting staying at rifugio Boe.
The reason I have decided to stay in rifugio Boè on day 4 are the two excellent AV2 side trips which I wanted to tackle: Cima Piscadiu and Piz Boe Summit.
The hike between rifugio Piscadiu and rifugio Boè continues along path no. 666 through the barren moon-like landscapes of the Sella group. It then turns into paths 649 followed by number 647. The two huts are only two hours apart.
At the time of my hike (July 2019) rifugio Boè was undergoing renovations and a new and modern building was under construction right next to the old one. The new part of the hut is schedule to open in the summer of 2021 and I am sure it will quickly become one of the fanciest huts in the Dolomites.
Extension 1: Cima Piscadiu
Around 30 minutes into the hike between rifugio Piscadiu to rifugio Boè you will come across a sign pointing to the summit of Cima Piscadiu. It's a pretty straightforward scramble to the top and it takes around 90 minutes from the fork to the summit and back.
My friend and I decided to do this extension at sunrise when staying at rifugio Piscadiu. After completing it we hiked back to the hut, ate breakfast and continued on with our journey to rifugio Boè, repeating the first 30 minutes of the route from that morning.
Extension 2: Piz BoÉ Summit
Rifugio Boè takes its name from Piz Boè - the highest summit in the Sella group. The hut stands only 270 meters (885 feet) in elevation below the summit.
You can tackle Piz Boè as an extension on day 4, or as a detour on day 5.
To do it as an extension you can unload your backpack at rifugio Boè and with a much lighter load head onto path no. 638 following signs for rifugio Capanna Fassa. It will take around 90 minutes roundtrip.
If you prefer to do it as part of a detour on day 5 then you can ascent the mountain using path no. 638 then descent on path. 636 eventually rejoining the official Alta Via 2 route. The detour will only add an extra hour to your day, not including the time you will spend at the summit enjoying the views!
Another alternative is simply booking a night at the Capanna Fassa hut built right on the summit of Piz Boè. I had a chance to stay at this hut in September, a couple of months after completing Alta Via 2 and have captured some of my most memorable photographs from this summit.
Day 5: Rifugio Boe to Rifugio Castiglioni on Passo Fedaia
17.3 km / 10.8 miles
4h 30 m
380 m / 1247 feet
1170 / 3839 feet
Rifugio Castiglioni (Marmolada)
PATH NUMBERS: 627, 601
Today will be a tough day for your knees. It involves a lot of going down and not a lot of up. It's also an exciting day as you will be nearing to the Dolomite's highest peak - Marmolada.
After leaving rifugio Boè the path no. 627 undulates for around 45 minutes until you reach rifugio Forcella del Pordoi. From the saddle the route drops down sharply on a scree slope all the way to Passo Pordoi.
If scree slopes and you aren't friends, you can hike from Forcella del Pordoi up for ca. 20 minut on path 627A to reach the Sass Pordoi cable car upper station. By taking the cable car down to Passo Pordoi you will save yourself a painful hour on a scree slope.
Once you reach Passo Pordoi Alta Via 2 continues on path no. 601 through scenic green alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers, a complete contrast to the barren landscapes of the Sella massif.
The day ends at the scenic man made Lake Fedaia at the foot of Marmolada. There is a variety of accommodation on Passo Fedaia. I stayed at the budget friendly rifugio Castiglioni and although the beds have seen better days, the location and the friendly staff made up for it.
There is a pizza place right near the refuge, where you can eat something other than pasta and polenta served at the huts. If you still have some energy to explore you can walk across the dam and find a restaurant which serves ice cream desserts!
Day 6: Rifugio Castiglioni to Passo San Pellegrino
24.5 km / 15.2 miles
1080 m / 3543 feet
1200 m / 3937 feet
Passo San Pellegrino
PATH NUMBERS: 610, 689, 694, 670, 607
Day 6 is a demanding day distance wise so I recommend leaving as early as possible. My friend and I have asked for breakfast to go, settled out bill the night before and set out shortly before 6am.
The first stage of the day takes hikers along the paved road all the way down to Malga Ciapella. During the summer season a bus operates between Passo Fedaia and Malga Ciapella, so if you are not up for hiking along the road, take the bus.
This tiny seasonal village is known for the gateway to Marmolada's second highest peak - Punta Rocca, which can be reached via the two tier gondola leaving from the centre of the village.
Apart from a few hotels and a campground there is not much else around here, but we did stop for a nice cup of capuccino before venturing onto the next stage of the day. I have noticed that Alta Via 2 became a lot quieter after Malga Ciapella and for the rest of the day we only met a handful of people on our hike.
For the next three hours you will be climbing up the path no. 689 to Forcella (saddle) Rossa, first through the conifer forest then across high alpine pastures. It's a tiring approach particularly on a sunny day, once you are out of the forest with no shade in sight.
The third and last stage of the hike from Forcella Rossa to Passo San Pellegrino is mostly downhill through beautiful alpine meadows, where you can meet some very friendly horses.
Passo San Pellegrino was a halfway mark for us and I've decided to treat myself to a nice stay in a hotel with a small spa. Exactly what my tired body needed after hiking for so long. I stayed in the lovely hotel Costabella and couldn't recommend it enough.
I particularly enjoyed the variety of food they served at dinner and breakfast. It was a lovely break from the sometimes blunt hut food.
Extension: Punta Rocca - Marmolada
Don't miss the chance to stand on one of the summits of the highest mountain in the Dolomites - Marmolada.
From Malga Ciapella you can catch the two tier cable car to the summit of Punta Rocca. The roundtrip cost of the gondola is 33 Euros and during the summer season it operates between 9AM and 4PM.
Another good reason to leave as early as possible from Passo Fedaia! Make sure to catch the first gondola of the day and reserve at least a couple of hours to admire the views at the top and to visit the War Museum located at Punta Serauta, the mid-station of the cable car.
This is the highest museum in Europe and a testimony to the atrocities of the battles held in these mountains during the first World War.
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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.