[VAL BADIA, ITALY] — I know that’s a mouthful. But I didn’t name it. But it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Dolomites are aren’t just one range, but dozens. Kinda confusing really, trying to piece it all together. It’s all called “Dolomites” or “Alto Adige” and “Süd Tyrol” … and in a part of Italy that was once part of Austria.

VAL BADIA location on map
You can see how the Val Badia is just a fraction of the great Dolomites. The lower righthand corner.

Some people speak German, some Italian and others, especially in the Val Badia, speak the local ancient dialect called Ladin, which dates back to Roman soldiers — and sometimes all at once, in the same sentence! So the names everywhere on all the signs and maps are always in three languages. It fries your brain a little bit. But no matter what you call it, go there.

I’ve previously posted pics from a hike in the Brenta range. These are just from the high end of the valley called Alta Badia, a spectacular valley that is just a fraction of the Dolomites greatness. Val Badia is one of the three major Dolomite valleys I’ve written about, each like a string of pearls along a two lane road that winds through the valleys and tops the mountain passes. Like Val Gardena, Val di Fassa and Cortina D’Ampezzo.

Alta Badia hiking map

In the winter, all those valleys are knitted together into the Dolomiti Superski, a giant network of lifts and runs, most above the treeline, that interconnect dozens of smaller towns. It’s true town-to-town skiing. BUT in the summer, all those runs are lush rolling hayfields that are perfect for a little Mountain Strolling™️ as I call it.

I recommend basing out of the cute as a button San Cassiano village, a glamorous little ski village that draws people from all over the world, but in the summer it is a fraction of the price. Go for a week or more. You can spend that in a single valley. Go for two or more and explore the other ranges.

Hiking Through the Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Reserve

This post focuses on just a single long, 7-9 hour hike through the great Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Reserve. I wanted to blow this out a little to show you how spectacular hiking is in the Dolomiti.  One long hike, hut to hut and town to town, across a broad mountain plateau and a marching line of stupendous mountains.


I was in disbelief when I was loading up my backpack with water, snack bars and sandwiches when the owner of my hotel — the super-helpful Hugo Pizzinini of the world famous Rosa Alpina hotel in San Cassiano — said shook his head and said “You don’t need all that. This is EET-a-lee.”

“You don’t need to bring water, there is water along the way. And great food. Grabbing my map, he said “You can stop here, here and here for water. Here for a beer. This is the rifugio with the best food.” tapping at different landmarks on the map.

Living near the Rocky Mountains, where you have to pack everything you need, this was an incredulous thought.


You park your car at a roomy parking lot right by the Capanna Alpina restaurant at one end of the trail, then take an intense hour or so hike, nearly straight up, to the giant Fanes plateau. From there there are dozens of spinoff trails to other valleys, great rifugi to stop, refresh and keep going.

Capanna Alpina restaurant
This is where you start, a car park right by the Capanna Alpina restaurant. Nice clean bathrooms and you can load up with a snack or water if you want.
View of Marmolada from the Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Reserve
View of Marmolada across the valley. The highest mountain cluster.
Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Reserve #11 trail view
Once you’re up to the plateau, it’s pretty easy and fast walking.
Trail 11 Fanes-Senes-Braies
Man, there sure was a lot going on when this stuff was being born…
Fanes-Senes-Braies valley view
Boy was I tempted to divert down this valley.. but this takes you all the way to Cortina.

Quick Stop at Malga Gran Fanes


Malga Gran Fanes refuge
The first rifugio, Malga Gran Fanes is a small, family-run hut serving charcuterie, beer, water and even espresso. A less crowded stop. What better way to break up a hike than a beer and then an espresso chaser before continuing on?

A Late Lunch at Rifugio Lavarella

Fanes rifugio
the Fanes rifugio is a hopping bar. I couldn’t believe it. Actually, with a wait to get it. All above treeline.

I continued on to the Lavarella rifugio, which Hugo said had better food. It was also packed with sweaty smiling people. I opted for a pretty simple, but totally delicious sausage and radler. And instead of typical extortion most mountain places in the U.S. charge. all this, plus a liter of water and doppio espresso for under 15 euros. I ate too much.

The Long Hike Down

Fanes-Senes-Braies Trail 12 mountains
This took about an hour to cross over to those mountains. It looks close, but it’s very far away.

About halfway a tremendous thunderstorm squall came over, lightning was clapping about every two minutes. I was toally exposed, no tree or overhang anywhere. The lightning was so intense, at one point I sprawled flat on the ground for a good twenty minutes. Praying not to get hit. At least I’d go out smiling.
Fanes-Senes-Braies trail markings
I would like to personally thank whoever hand-painted the thousands of totally visible trail markings. I swear, these are about every 20 yards and totally make the scramble clear on where you need to go. Gracie. Mille!

I thought I was almost down…then saw what I still had to go through…

Fanes-Senes-Braies Hike Route
Here’s an overview of this great hike. And it visually explains hiking up to the plateau, across, through the Forcela de Medesc Shiarte and back down to San Cassiano.
Dolomites map
You can see how big the Dolomites actually are. These are just a section of it. The green box is the Brenta range, from earlier posts, about three hours away. These pics are just from the valley in the red box. The Val Badia.

Here’s a little movie overview of a week in hiking in the Sud Tyrol, or Italian Dolomites:

— Last Visited July 2015, July 2017 and July 2019 —

More Information About Hiking in Val Badia

Here’s a link to a post I made all about San Cassiano. And posts I made about other great hikes in Val Gardena and another post about a couple of other hikes in Alta Badia.

Here’s an AWESOME article in the NY Times about hiking in the same general area. I couldn’t believe it posted two weeks after I returned!  I think the author took the exact same hike within a week or two of when I was there. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/travel/italy-dolomites-hiking-trekking-camping.html

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