The Three Peaks Nature Park aka the Tre Cime / Drei Zinnen Nature Park is one of the treasure troves of the Dolomites, the region which is home to one national park, eight nature parks and one geopark, a national monument and quite a number of smaller reserves. Such parks combine untouched and man-made landscapes which makes them very accessible and yet pristine at the same time.
The park was officially founded on December 22, 1981, but under a different name - Dolomiti di Sesto aka the Sextner Dolomiten. Rebranding took place in 2010 to commemorate the most iconic looks of the Dolomites - the Three Peaks (aka Tre Cime, Drei Zinnen). Yet, many people still call the place of unparalleled beauty by its old name or use both names equally. The park’s names in other languages are Parco Naturale Tre Cime (in Italian), Naturpark Drei Zinnen (in German).
The park covers an area of 11,891 hectares and is located in the northeastern part of the Dolomites, almost on the border with Austria. The northern border of the park is the Pustertal/Pusteria Valley, the eastern goes along the Sesto Valley (Sextental or Val di Sesto), the southern border runs along the province of Belluno, and the western is along the Höhlensteintal Valley (Val di Landro). The southern border of the park is also the border between the regions of Veneto (province of Belluno) and Trentino — Alto-Adige / South Tyrol in Italy.
The Tre Cime Nature park is part of the European Natura 2000 network — a Europe-wide ecological network of nature conservation areas designed by all European Union member states. Totally, there are over 27.800 sites in the network so far, covering almost a fifth of Europe's land area. The aim of the network is to promote conservation for wildlife habitats and ensure the sustainable development of the unique European nature.
The Park territory, as the whole territory of the Dolomites, became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.
The park has a Visitor Centre where you can find more information about it and about the eastern section of Fanes-Sennes-Prags / Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park, which is located right of the Tre Cime. In the Visitor Centre, there is a permanent exhibition.
Here is what you will find out about in the Visitor Centre:
There is a library with a reading corner, an aquarium representing the water life of the local Toblach lake, and an adventure workshop for children. In July and August 2020, workshops were held every Wednesday afternoon, reservations required.
You can take a virtual tour of the Visitor Center on the official website of the Tre Cime Nature park.
You can pick up a paper map and other services on-site at the Centre:
The territory of the park belongs to one of the nine main and the most extensive mountain systems of the Dolomites called Dolomiti settentrionali.
The mountains of the Tre Cime Nature Park were formed in the warm shallow waters of the erstwhile Tertiary Mediterranean. It is primarily composed of Dolomites, but there is also a substantial amount of volcanic rock, sandstone and mudstone.
The landscape of the Tre Cime Nature park was formed by water and glacier ice over the past 2-3 million years. In particular, the glacier activity is clearly visible on the plateaus around the Drei Zinnen / Tre Cime di Lavaredo and in the Bacherntal Valley / Alta Val Fiscalina.
The park is characterized by a large collection of mountains with unusual shapes:
But the main one is, of course, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Those three sharp teeth are considered the symbol of the Dolomites. For this reason, the Tre Cime Nature Park is one of the most popular parks in the Dolomites.
Another important feature of the Tre Cime Park’s landscape is that the rocks incessantly tumble off the peaks, slopes and cliffs, and accumulate in massive mounds at the base of the mountains. That is why, watch your step and head, wear a helmet. Landslides and loose rocks have also formed many picturesque moraines in the area.
The park also has many high plateaus and canyons, one of which can be seen just behind the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on the famous trail around the mountains.
There are many springs in the park, for example, the Drau / Drava Springs at the foot of Haunold / Rocca dei Baranci, or the sulfur and iron springs of Wildbad Innichen / Bagni di S. Candido and Bad Moos / Moso, which have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Wildbad Innichen / Bagni di S. Candido springs are also used for producing mineral water.
As for the water resources, there is the Rienz / Rienza river in the park, it flows along in the Langalm Alpine pasture. The Tre Cime park has one large lake — Dürrensee / Lago di Landro, which is located in Höhlensteintal / Val di Andro Valley, and the numerous smaller mountain lakes. Let’s give some names in Italian: lago di Malga di Mezzo, laghi dei Piani, laghetti sull'Alpe Lunga, laghi di Cime. Where lago ((laghi is plural form) means just a lake, laghetti stands for ponds or very small quaint lakes.
Totally, there are 72 named mountains in the Tre Cime park. The highest and the most prominent mountain is Punta Tre Scarperi / Dreischusterspitze (3,152 m), the name can be loosely translated as Peak of Three Shoemakers.
Other major peaks include:
The Tre Cime Park is rich and varied. At lower altitudes, there are many larch and spruce forests, and in the dry soil of the dolomite rocks, there are Scots pines. We could also see occasional leafy forest here, consisting of birches, mountain ashes, alders and willows.
Above the coniferous woods, lie the treeless Alpine meadows which came into existence without human intervention. There are many plants growing here: dwarf alpenrose, auricula, Achillea oxyloba, aquilegia, and rosacea, dwarf rhododendron, yellow yarrow, gentian, and, of course, edelweiss — the most famous Alpine flower. Many of these plants are endemics found solely in this area.
The following animals inhabit the Tre Cime Nature Park: deers, chamois, marmots, but the animal life is dominated by birds. Here live the pygmy owl, rock ptarmigan, rock patridge, black grouse, capercaillie, wallcreeper, snow finch, Alpine accentor, eagle, many different kinds of woodpeckers and others. In the water, there are salamanders and newts.
Accommodation options are numerous, you can stay in mountain huts in the Tre Cime Nature Park or at hotels in the nearby towns, or pitch a tent if you are caught in the mountains and all the huts are full, which is usually the case during high season.
Three main and the most famous mountains huts aka rifugios in the park are:
Other mountain huts in the park include rifugio Talschlusshütte / Fondavele (1,548m), rifugio Pian di Cengia (2,528m), rifugio Dreischusterhütte / Tre Scarperi (1,626m), and rifugio Zsigmondy-Comici (2,224m) which opened in 1926.
Near the borders of the park there are more mountain huts: rifugio A. Berti Al Popera (1950m), rifugio Selvapiana I. Lunelli (1,568m), rifugio A. Bosi Monte Piana (2,205m), rifugio G. Caducci (2,297m).
There are several bivouacs — free alpine shelters — in the park or close to its borders. Usually, a bivouac in the Alps is a small building made of wood or stone, or a metal cabin, where you can stay free of charge. There are from 2 to 6-8 beds inside with mattress, blankets and pillows (but no bed sheets, bring sleeping bag with you). There could be a stove or a fireplace for cooking and some other kitchen stuff:
Learn how to stay in the free alpine shelters in the Dolomites.
There is an option for sleeping overnight in the park with a view of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and other famous mountains — to pitch a tent. Officially, it is forbidden in the Dolomites and the rest of Italy, but if you can't find any other accommodation, you can still pitch a tent for the night.
There are no campings on the park's territory, but there a few campings near the borders of the park where you can leave a car or caravan and enjoy some hiking and other activities:
There are no hotels in the park because it is a protected area, but there are many of them in the towns near the park. For example, on lake Misurina, you can stay in Misurina hotel, Miralago, Lavaredo hotel, Sorapis hotel, Sport hotel and others.
The Tre Cime Nature Park has many hiking trails, both for summer and winter pastime. Here are a few of the most interesting ones.
The most popular route of the Tre Cime Park around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo mountain group allows you to see these mountains really close, so that they are towering over you, and to see them from afar. The route begins at the parking lot near Rifugio Auronzo. From there, it's up to you whether to go: left (counterclockwise) to Rifugio Locatelli, or right (clockwise) to Rifugio Lavaredo.
Basic information about the route:
Some other main trails run through the park, but do not cover the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Each of them can be hiked a day before or after you take the itinerary around the Tre Cime, as tourists usually do:
There are also guided hikes offered during the summer at all South Tyrol nature parks, including the Tre Cime, with the goal of making visitors more aware of the importance of both understanding and protecting nature.
You can book a hike at the local tourist office at the relevant nature park. You can find tourist offices addresses and other contacts on this page. The number of participants in each hike is up to 15 persons. The price is € 7 per tour and participant; there is no charge for children under the age of 14.
Mind you that the organizer reserves the right to postpone a tour owing to weather conditions.
Some of these trails in the Tre Cime park are part of two of the eight long hiking trails in the Dolomites called Alta Via (High Route), the most famous of which are Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2. In the Tre Cime Park you can walk parts of:
Check out the PeakVisor app for the park’s map to see exactly which trails to take if you want to hike these two famous Alpine long hiking trails. What is simply ingenious about the PeakVisor app is that you can see the trail in 3D with elevation gains, ascends and descends, so that you will have a better understanding of physical fitness requirements and plan your trip accordingly. Remember, what floats one man’s boat sinks another’s.
Tre Cime Park welcomes visitors in summer and in winter.
Near the northern borders of the park, in the Alta Pusteria Valley, there is a ski resort with the same name — the Tre Cime Dolomites Ski Resort (3 Zinnen Dolomiten). The ski resort is part of the Dolomiti Superski system and is one of its 9 resorts. On the ski resort, you will find 4 skiing mountains, guaranteed snow, and perfectly prepared pistes for all levels of ability, children’s lifts, and a family adventure.
The basic information of the Tre Cime Ski Resort:
At the same time, the Tre Cime Ski Resort is Italy's number one cross-country skiing destination. There are 200 km of linked cross-country tracks with panoramic views of the Dolomites, including night skiing, FIS tracks, and high-altitude tracks.
Some of the tracks lie within the Tre Cime Nature Park territory. For example, the Circular Trail in the Fischleintal Valley. On the maps, you can find it under Number 18. It is a magnificent trail in a romantic valley with views of the Sesto sundial. The trail length: 4.5 km. Difficulty: easy (blue).
Routes are available for walking on snow-covered and snow-free paths in the Valley Fiscalina or the Valley Campo di Dentro, for other hikes, such as the foothills of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, you will need snowshoes. Here are a few options:
Check the Tre Cime ski resort map on the larger Veneto ski map of Italy in the World Mountain Lifts section of the site. It includes information about open ski lifts / slopes in the Tre Cime Dolomites in real-time with opening dates and hours. There are also year-round cable cars, funiculars, cog railways, aerial tramways, and all other types of mountain lifts.
If you are not sure how to act in the park during hiking or skiing, what is allowed and what is not, and so on, check the rules and regulations page (in German and Italian languages) on the official website. In general, follow your common sense and don’t harm the beautiful place you are in.
The park belongs to three communes of South Tyrol which are located in close proximity to the northern boundaries of its territory. From them, you can start a journey through the park. There is also one important town near the southern border.
Toblach aka Dobbiaco is located between two beautiful valleys: Valle di San Silvestro and Valle di Landro. It is considered one of the doors to the Dolomites from the north. The Romans used it as a strategic point to connect the north and the south of the Empire via Alemagna Road.
Like all towns and villages in the Dolomites, Toblach is surrounded by nature. It is an ideal place for summer and winter sports and outdoor activities. The main architectural and cultural attractions of the town are the parish church in Valle San Silvestro — an excellent example of baroque art, the Shrine of Santa Maria, the Herbst castle.
In the winter you can take part in the annual cross-country skiing competition called Granfondo Dobbiaco Cortina. In addition to sports competitions, the town organizes Dolomiti Ballonweek, the Krampus parade with St. Nicholas, and other events.
The distance from the center of the town to the Tre Cime park Visitor Centre is 1.6 km, to Auronzo mountain hut is 23.3 km.
There are two lakes in the area: Dobbiaco Lake and Landro lake.
The village of Innichen has also been well-known since very ancient times. It consists of several hamlets (meaning villages so small that they don’t even have their own churches): Versciaco, Prato Drava, and Monte San Candido. It is considered one of the favorite resorts of the Dolomites among the Italians and the Austrians because the border with the latter is very close.
The main architectural and cultural attractions of the modern town are the Collegiate church, the parish church of St. Michele, old thermal baths, which have been operational since the Middle Ages, the Dolomites Museum.
In summer in San Candido, you can also go hiking and cycling, play tennis and squash, or have fun in the well-equipped water park Acquafun with your children. The most important local non-sportive event is the Heugabel (farmer market) in which you can taste many typical products. Another sports-unrelated feast is the International snow sculpture festival.
There is the Drava River in the town, you can easily walk along it too.
The distance from the centre of the town to the Tre Cime park Visitor Centre is 6 km, to Auronzo mountain hut is 31.5 km.
There are two valleys near the town of Sesto: Val Campo and the wonderful Val Fiscalina, an ideal starting point for your hikes in the Dolomiti di Sesto Natural Park.
The area around the town is also like an open-air fitness center with many opportunities for outdoor recreation: bike tours, hikes, downhill runs, cross-country skiing in Monte Elmo — Croda Rossa, Waldheim, and Val Fiscalina. There are also plenty of tennis, swimming, golf, and minigolf facilities.
The main architectural and cultural attractions of the town are the Rudolf Stolz Museum, the Crib museum, and the parish church of St. Peter and Paul.
In October 2021 Sesto is planning to hold the Global Mountain Sustainability Forum 2020.
The town is located on the Setso River.
The distance from the centre of the town to the Tre Cime park Visitor Centre is 12.4 km, to Auronzo hut is 38 km.
The nearest village to the southern boundary of the park is Musurina. Misurina can hardly be called a town in the usual sense of the word, it is a very small settlement consisting of hotels and private houses. Nevertheless, it is considered the main urban area on the southern side of the park's borders because it is the starting point for hiking. Buses from other towns arrive here before heading up to Auronzo mountain hut at the foot of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
As an alternative to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, in the summer in Misurina you can go trekking and mountain biking in the mountains of Cadini di Misurina.
Misurina is located on the lake of the same name. It is considered one of the most beautiful in the Dolomites. The lake is perfect for sunbathes and fishing. An important horse polo championship on the frozen Musurina lake is held every February.
Misurina is ideal for quiet family holidays: almost no traffic, vast spaces, and a training slope for beginner climbers in the vicinity.
The main architectural and cultural landmark of the city is the Misurina Hotel standing against the background of the surrounding mountains. This hotel is also considered one of the most recognizable images of the Dolomites.
The distance from the center of the village to the Tre Cime park Visitor Centre is 20 km, and 8.8 km to Auronzo mountain hut.
Another two towns located close to the Tre Cime Nature Park are Cortina d’Ampezzo and Auronzo di Cadore. The distance from the centre of Cortina to the park's visitor centre is 30.2 km, to Auronzo hut is 21.8 km. The distance from the centre of Cadore to the visitor centre of the park: 46 km, to Auronzo hut is 31.7 km.
Explore Tre Cime Nature Park with the PeakVisor 3D Map and identify its summits.