Your trips starts on arrival in Brixen (Bressanone), a delightful small town in Italy's German-speaking Südtirol region (hence the two names!) located on the main train line between Verona and Innsbruck. It's worth taking an afternoon to explore the cobbled streets and ornate town square before preparing to start your hike!
Hotel in Brixen (breakfast)
Red 4 (grade) 12km with 1910m ascent, 20m descent
Walked in full, this stage is far from a gentle introduction to the route! Leaving the delights of Brixen behind, we climb to the hillside village of San Andrea before a long, sustained ascent through the forested slopes of the Plose massif, a famous ski area in winter (providing a handy cable car option to shorten today's ascent, if desired). A final stretch in more open ground gives spectacular panoramic views, both of the Dolomites but also further afield to the glaciated peaks of Austria and Switzerland. Arrive at the friendly, well-appointed Rifugio Plose for your first night in the mountains.
Mountain hut (2446m) (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 14km with 680m ascent, 530m descent
A (likely welcome!) gentler stage today, starting with a gentle descent from the Plose hut through meadows to the wooded Passo Rodella. From here, we climb back into the mountains beneath the imposing flanks of the Peitlerkofel, crossing the dramatic Forcella del Pütia before a short traverse to reach the Rifugio Genova.
Mountain hut (2306m) (breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 13km with 760m ascent, 580m descent
The most dramatic stage yet, today's hike crosses a series of steep, rocky cols with the best scenery so far, passing through the heart of the Puez-Odle group with spectacular views down the valley to the famous peak of the Seceda. A steep scree descent and an exposed section with a short cable handrail provide an enjoyable challenge, before the gradient eases as you cross the high plateau of the Puez massif. Arrive at the remote, family-run Rifugio Puez.
Mountain hut (2475m) (dinner and breakfast)
Purple 3 (grade) 14.7km with 600m ascent, 890m descent
Leaving Rifugio Puez, we head South along the plateau, crossing two cols along the way. A steeper ascent leads to Passo Cir, where the breathtaking view ahead to the impenetrable, sheer-sided walls of the Sella group is revealed. Drop to the road at Passo Gardena, where we detour from the main Alta Via 2 to avoid a section of Via Ferrata, instead descending through the valley towards the Sella Pass. Surrounded by the peaks of the Sella and the imposing Sassolungo, this is a dramatic place to spend the night.
Hotel at Passo Sella (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 8.6km with 995m ascent, 300m descent
Today's stage is solidly uphill, striking out from Passo Sella for a sustained climb up through the Val Lasties, the valley which splits the almost lunar Sella plateau in two. We emerge onto the plateau and rejoin the Alta Via 2 at 2,908m, the highest point on our route, crossing this wild landscape to the stunningly-positioned Rifugio Boè, marooned in an ocean of rock. The highest peak of the Sella, Piz Boè (3,152m), lies just behind the hut, a feasible but demanding extension in good weather.
Mountain hut (2873m) (dinner and breakfast)
Black 4 (grade) 19.2km with 300m ascent, 1715m descent
Setting off from Rifugio Boè, a rocky traverse leads across the plateau beneath Piz Boè to reach the edge of the Sella group at Forcella Pordoi. From here, a steep scree descent (or the cable car!) leads down to the road at Passo Pordoi, where the trail reascends to traverse a grassy ridge opposite the Marmolada, at 3,343m the highest peak in the Dolomites and the site of the only significant glacier in the area. We drop to Passo Fedaia, at the foot of the Marmolada, walking down from here to the village of Malga Ciapela for the night.
Hotel in Malga Ciapela (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 14.7km with 1060m ascent, 600m descent
Today's distance passes on generally good terrain, setting off along a forested valley from Malga Ciapela. Our aim is the pass of Forca Rossa, a window towards the rocky spires of the Pale di San Martino. From the pass, we drop on grassier terrain down to the pastures around Rifugio Fuciade. A short walk through the woods leads to the road at Passo San Pellegrino, a small resort in summer, and our welcoming hotel. Congratulations!
Hotel at Passo San Pellegrino (dinner and breakfast)
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel then catch a bus to start the journey back to the airport, or ask us for recommendations on further travel around the Dolomites or Italy. Congratulations on completing the Alta Via 2: North!
Make the trip shorter
The best way to make the trip shorter is to skip the ascent to Rifugio Plose using the bus and cable car, hiking from the top cable car station to Rifugio Genova on your first day. This makes for a 6-stage trip; the spacing of accommodation along the route makes it very difficult for us to shorten the full route any further than this.
A great option, if you'd prefer a shorter break, would be to hike the first 4 stages as far as Passo Gardena, finishing your trip in Corvara. This resort village in the Alta Badia has comfortable hotels, great restaurants and fantastic scenery.
Make the trip longer
If you fancy enjoying the majesty of the Dolomites for a bit longer, it is possible to extend your trip by splitting the route into more stages. For an 8-stage trip, we could split the day from Rifugio Boè to Malga Ciapela with a stay at Rifugio Viel dal Pan, roughly halfway through the day.
Add a rest day
For those wanting a break part way through, our recommended location for a rest day would be the small resort town of Corvara, off-route at Passo Gardena on stage 4. The rest day comes part way through stage 4 of our standard itinerary, giving 2 shorter days (to and from the bus stop at Passo Gardena) either side of the rest day. Corvara is a great place to relax, with comfortable hotels and a number of great restaurants.
We can also arrange a rest day in Malga Ciapela - this comes on the penultimate night, but would allow you to take the cable car up the Marmolada, an unrivalled panoramic viewpoint over the Dolomites.
Hike with a leader
Hike with confidence in the company of our fully qualified International Mountain Leaders (IMLs), with the navigation, accommodation and arrangements taken care of. If your group would like a guide for your trip, please get in touch for more details of our private guided trips.
Alta Via 2: North
1 August to 15 Sept 2024
1 rest day
Please contact us for a quote!
Our Classic mix of accommodation aims to give an enticing and varied taste of life in the Italian Dolomites. We mix lovely hotels in Brixen, Passo Sella, Malga Ciapela and Passo San Pellegrino with 4 nights in cosy, welcoming Italian mountain huts.
Dormitory accommodation is the norm at the huts on the Northern part of the Alta Via 2, with Rifugio Puez only offering accommodation in large mixed-gender dorms and the other huts offering a mix of large dorms and smaller shared rooms. It may be possible for us to book private rooms, depending on availability and on your group size; we'll always book the smallest shared rooms available on your dates.
Comfy and Hutty options
Due to the remote nature of the trail, we don't offer ready-made 'comfy' and 'hutty' trips on the Alta Via 2: North. If you'd like us to look into upgrading your hotel nights, or more basic accommodation, please let us know - please be aware that you'll still need to stay at the same 4 huts as our 'classic' itinerary.
Single Room Supplement
If any members of your group would like to stay in single occupancy rooms on the 4 hotel nights, rather than sharing a double, twin or triple room, we add our single room supplement. This covers the additional cost of booking single occupancy rooms on a per person basis. The single supplement is only applied to the hotel nights and is not applied to nights spent in huts, which do not offer single rooms.
Unfortunately we do not take bookings for solo walkers on self-guided trips. Please ask us about joining one of our guided trips instead, on the Tour du Mont Blanc, Tour of the Vanoise Glaciers, Walkers' Haute Route, Alta Via 1 or Via Alpina.
Our Alta Via 2: North trip gives a complete journey on foot from Brixen to Passo San Pellegrino, walking every step of the way without the need to use public transport.
The Alta Via 2 trail is a well-defined and waymarked trail, and we follow the official route throughout our trip, except for a short detour between Passo Gardena and Rifugio Boè. Here, our routecards describe an alternative route via Passo Sella, which avoids two short sections of Via Ferrata on this stretch of the main route. The official trail here presents a far greater technical challenge than any trail we offer, and is outside of the remit of Alpine Exploratory's walking holidays. Our alternative allows you to stick to walking terrain throughout, while still sampling all of the delights and scenic highlights of the trail!
The terrain on the Alta Via 2 provides an exciting mix of solid trails, over which you can stride out among the high peaks, combined with narrower zig-zagging hillside paths on steep, loose and often exposed terrain. Our Alta Via 2: North trip is first and foremost a walk, with no via ferrata or climbing sections.
In some places the paths are particularly steep and loose, for example on the final approaches to mountain passes and in descents made over scree; this is particularly notable on stage 3, on the descent from the Forcella della Roa and subsequent traverse to Rifugio Puez, and on the long scree descent from Forcella Pordoi (stage 6). These sections require steady balance and a head for heights.
There are sections of trail where a cable handrail is installed as an aid to walking on some of the narrower, more exposed paths; these are distinct from the Via Ferrata found elsewhere in the Dolomites (including on the full Alta Via 2), but these sections still present more challenging terrain than many other trails in the Alps. Please ask us for further details and photos of these sections.
Is it for me?
The Alta Via 2 is an outstanding trek with a mix of challenging mountain passes, excellent views and comfortable mountain huts. It is manageable for fit mountain walkers who are happy to walk for up to 9 hours a day over rocky and often exposed ground. Some of the stages on the route are long, but transport options exist to shorten the two longest days if needed. Some of the mountain passes are notably steep, loose and rocky, calling for good prior mountain experience and steady footing. Additionally, while the route is generally well-waymarked, there are also several stretches where the trail crosses barren, rocky plateaus, where navigation can be challenging in poor visibility.
We therefore wouldn't recommend this trip for those new to multi-day trekking in the European Alps; a slightly less challenging route, such as the Tour du Mont Blanc or Alta Via 1, would be great preparation for the more demanding sections of our Alta Via 2: North trip. We also recommend extra care when considering the Alta Via 2: North for those with old injuries or niggles in their knees and ankles that tend to get worse on rocky and uneven terrain; there are some long and steep descents on scree in some places, where sure-footedness and good balance are key, that may aggravate these kinds of injuries.
A level of self-sufficiency on the AV2 is necessary as baggage transfer is not available. You’ll need to carry with you everything you need for the trip; it’s not too much and makes for a satisfying daily routine.
Our Alta Via 2: North trip is first and foremost a walk, with no glacier crossings, via ferrata or rock climbing. There are, however, sections of steep and rocky ground which require steady foot placement and an ability to cope with walking along some narrow and exposed paths. In places, an additional challenge comes not in the terrain underfoot, but in the long distances and significant amounts of ascent or descent. We therefore grade the route as a Black 4 overall. Please let us know if you’d like more detail on the trickier bits of our route.
Brixen is a stop on the main train line between Italy, Austria and Germany via the Brenner Pass - this is the route of the Munich-to-Venice long-distance train, and as such is well-linked to a range of airports. Munich, Innsbruck, Verona and Venice all lie along this train route, and all work well for inbound flights.
From Passo San Pellegrino, it's possible to head West to rejoin the Brenner railway at either Trento or Bolzano, for trains back to Munich, Innsbruck or Verona airports, or to travel East to Belluno and onwards to Venice and Treviso airports. All options work well, but Venice gives the shortest journey!
Joining the rail network at Trento or Bolzano gives easy connections to most major cities in Italy, Austria or Germany, if your Alta Via 2 hike forms part of a longer holiday. In Italy, we love Venice, Rome and Turin and we will be glad to chat about onward travel plans if you'd like to visit any of these for some well-earned relaxation!
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price. We take care to give the most useful notes possible about all the travel options. We supply these both on booking and in your info pack, and we offer personalised tips at any point. The aim is that our walkers arrange their travel by the simplest and most scenic means as suits their plan.
Please ask us if you have any questions about getting to the route; we'll be delighted to advise.
- Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your particular requirements
- Breakfast every morning
- Dinner at Rifugio Puez, Rifugio Boe and your hotels at Passo Sella and Passo San Pellegrino (4 nights on our main trip)
- Detailed Routecards AVD1-7 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
- The 3 topographical maps covering the route
- GPX tracks covering our main route
- Expert advice and local information
- A comprehensive 'Season Update' following our pre-season recce
- Full support during your trip from the Alpine Exploratory team (9am until 9pm in the Alps)
- Travel to and from your trip
- Local transport whilst on the trip unless specified
- Travel insurance
- Lunches, snacks and drinks
- Dinner on any other nights
- Baggage transfers (not available on this trip)
If you prefer, please feel welcome to email or call us. Thanks!
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