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Tre Cime di Lavaredo

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the most unusual-looking and therefore the most popular and recognizable mountain group in the Dolomites. It is also the symbol of the Italian Alps. It is the Tre Cime that is printed on most of the postcards, calendars, posters, book covers and souvenirs. Local companies and different projects located in the Dolomites and the Alps often choose the silhouette of the mountains as their logo (but not the PeakVisor, where you see Matterhorn).

Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy

The mountains look like three sharp teeth of identical shape. The locals also call them "towers". This is why the name Tre Cime translates as The Three Peaks of Lavaredo from the Italian language.

The Tre Cime is located on the border between the autonomous province of South Tyrol in the Trentino—Alto Adige region and the province of Belluno in the Veneto region. The border between the provinces and regions runs straight through the Tre Cime mountain range. Until 1919, the border between Italy and Austria passed here, so the mountains have the second name in German — die Drei Zinnen. The same applies to the names of rifugios and other sites in the vicinity of the mountain group.

In reality, there are 15 named mountains in the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The highest and the most prominent mountain is Cima Grande aka Große Zinne aka Big Peak (2,999m or 9,839ft). The two other equally famous peaks are Cima Ovest aka Westliche Zinne or Western Peak (2,973m or 9,754ft), and Cima Piccola aka Kleine Zinne or Little Peak (2,857m or 9,373ft).

Before 2010, the area of the current park had a different name — the Sexten Dolomites (Dolomiti di Sesto in Italian language) because it featured six peaks of over 2000m, viz. Punta Tre Scarperi / Dreischusterspitze (3,152 m) - the highest of the group, the name can be loosely translated as Peak of Three Shoemakers, Zwoelferkofel aka Peak No.12 (3,094m), Elferkofel aka Peak No.11 (3,092m), the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (2,999m, counted as one entity), Sextener Rotwand (2,965m), Birkenkofel aka Peak of Birches (2,922m) and Monte Piana (2,324). In addition, there are smaller peaks in the massif: Punta di Frida (2,792 m), Torre Minor aka Allerkleinste Zinne, Torre Preuss aka Preußturm, Cima Piccolissima aka Kleinste Zinne (2,700 m) and others.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy

Today, you can still hear the old name - the Sexten Dolomites - which is still used in different sources of information and some people just keep using both names.

The area around the Tre Cime is a natural park with the same name — the Tre Cime Natural Park (Parco naturale Tre Cime). It is one of the nine natural parks in the Dolomites.

Mountaineering

A mountain group as unusual as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo has proven to be a luring temptation since time immemorial.

The first attempt to climb Cima Grande was made by the climber Paul Grohmann with the guides Franz Innerkofler and Peter Salcher on August 21, 1869. All three were Austrians. Their attempt was successful. Paul Grohmann was also the first alpinist to climb such mountains in the Dolomites as Tre Scarperi, Croda dei Baranci, Cristallo, Sorapiss, and Antelao.

Cima Ovest was conquered by mountaineers exactly ten years later, on August 21, 1879. It was done by a farmer and mountain guide from the Sexten Dolomites Michael Innerkofler and a tourist named Georg Ploner. Two years later, the mountaineers conquered the last third peak of the Tre Cime — Cima Piccola. On July 25, 1881, the same Michael Innerkofler took his brother Hans Innerkofler to the peak to complete the ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’ quest.

All of these routes to the peaks of Tre Cime, on which the first alpinists climbed the mountain, are still considered relevant — they can be used for climbing today. At the same time, the third route to Cima Piccola is considered the most difficult.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Drei Zinnen Nature Park, Italy

The Italian climber Emilio Comici was the first to climb the north face of Cima Grande. He did so in 1933 in a group of three people. This north face is considered by climbers to be one of the six Great North Faces of the Alps, also called the six Classic North Faces, which are known for their difficulty and great height. Along with the Tre Cime, these are:

In addition to all these routes, there are tens of other routes of various categories of complexity. The normal routes on Cima Grande and Cima Piccola attract the most climbers because of the easy access and relatively low complexity routes.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Video from PeakVisor App 3D Map
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Via ferratas in the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

In the vicinity of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, there are two other notable mountain peaks: Monte Paterno aka Petenkofel (2,774 m) and Torre di Toblin aka Toblinger Knoten (1,617 m). You can climb both of them if you decide to spend more than one day here and look at the Tre Cime from a higher point and at an unusual angle which is rarely seen in photos.

On the way to the summits of both mountains, there are via ferratas, so you will need special gear consisting of a helmet, harness, gloves, and a lanyard.

The via ferrata to Torre di Toblin has the same name, and via ferrata to the summit of Monte Moterno is called a bit differently — via ferrata De Luca / Innerkofler.

Both via ferratas are good for beginners, so you don't need to be a climber with many years of experience. In both cases, you will need around 5-6 hours to climb these mountains and come back, including the time for hiking to and from rifugio Locatelli or Lavaredo.

Accommodation

Refugios

You can spend the night at the foot of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in one of the mountain huts. In the immediate vicinity of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, there are three of them:

  • Rifugio Auronzo, 2,333 m. The closest mountain hut to the Tre Cime when viewed from the south-west, the side of Lake Misurina. It has 104 sleeping places. There is a large restaurant with panoramic windows offering astounding views of the surrounding mountains. Ironically, you do not see Tre Cime itself from here. There is also a bar, a small gift shop where you can buy postcards and maps. Entrance to the restrooms is free.
  • Rifugio Lavaredo, 2,344 m. The second farthest refuge. It takes less than an hour to walk here from Rifugio Auronzo. This hut is smaller and less touristy. It has just 24 beds in rooms with 4, 5 and 6 places in each. There is also a bar and a restaurant. Be careful: this hut, as well as many others in the Dolomites in general, don’t take credit cards for payment — only cash, and there is no ATM in the Tre Cime.
  • Rifugio Locatelli, 2,405 m. Being the farthest from Misurina, it is located on the opposite side of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo when looking from the south-west. Although this hut is the longest to walk to, it is from here you can have the most beautiful "classic" view of Tre Cime. Therefore, this hut is the most popular. The place has 140 beds (8 beds in a winter bivouac), a bar, and a restaurant.

Cima Grande, Cima Ovest, Cima Piccola, Italy

Cima Grande, Cima Ovest, Cima Piccola

It is very important to know and remember that during the summer season, from June 21 to September 21 exactly, when the mountain huts, cable cars, and most of the bus lines in the Dolomites are open, all three mountain huts are usually quite crowded. Especially Locatelli may have very few vacancies left. It's so popular that there is another big barn-like house for 8-10 people that you can stay at if the managers don't have room in the main house.

So it is better to book a place in the common room in advance by email or phone — better at least a month or two before the planned visit. Paying for the reservation is not necessary if you're traveling alone or in a small group, but for a group of more than 5-6 people, you may need to pay upfront about 15-20% of the cost. In this case, it is better to make a reservation even earlier.

Nevertheless, of all three huts, I recommend choosing Locatelli for the overnight stay because of the really beautiful view of the Tre Cime. If you want fewer people around, go hiking to the Tre Cime at the very beginning of the season, or choose the Lavaredo Hut, which is smaller and freer usually. Because of the parking lot right nearby, Auronzo seems the least preferable choice as it enjoys the biggest tourist flow. People also go to this hut even if they don't sleep in it.

Wild Camping (tents)

Another option to have a sleepover with a view of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo is pitching a tent. Many people do so near Locatelli hut. When I saw it for the first time, I was very surprised. Is it really allowed? Officially it is forbidden in the Dolomites and the rest of Italy, but if you can't find any other accommodation, you can pitch a tent as the last resort. Learn more about the rules of wild camping in the Dolomites.

Camping, Drei Zinnen Nature Park, Italy

Campings

There is also a camping site on Misurina Lake from where you can go hiking to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It is called "Camping Alla Baita Misurina". At the campsite, you’ll find 25 lots for cars and caravans and a big grass area to pitch a tent. There is a bathroom area with sinks to wash the dishes, a dump station and water filling for camping cars, electric outlets, showers with hot water, a restaurant/bar, and other services.

There is also another camping area just nearby the parking lot on Lake Misurina called Area Sosta Camper Misurina where you can park your caravan.

Hotels

There are several hotels near the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, on Lake Musirina from where you can hike to the mountain. You can stay at Misurina, Miralago, Lavaredo, Sorapis, Sport hotel. There are many more hotels in the nearest towns of Sesto, San Candido, and others.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo peaks, Misurina, Italy

How to get to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

This mountain group is unusual not only for its shape but also for the fact that Auronzo mountain hut can be reached by shuttle bus from Lake Misurina, which, in turn, is accessible from Cortina d'Ampezzo, Belluno, and more distant towns by regular buses. For example, Belluno bus leaves every day early in the morning. The timetable can be found on Dolomitibus.it.

The parking lot is right by the hut. It's pretty big, approximately for a couple of dozen cars. It even accommodates huge buses and caravans. By the way, it is one of the highest parking lots in Italy.

Access to the Tre Cime by car is paid. There is a barrier at the beginning of the serpentine leading to the mountain. In 2020, the toll was €30.00 for a car, €20.00 for a motorcycle, €45.00 for a camper, €60.00 for a bus with a capacity of up to 30 people. To park overnight at the Tre Cime, you'll have to pay another €5,00 to €60,00 depending on the size of the vehicle. Learn more about parking on the official Tre Cime website.

Parking is open from 06:00 am to 20:00 pm.

You can also leave the car in the parking lot at Lake Misurina and continue to the Tre Cime by shuttle bus or on foot.

Parking, Drei Zinnen Nature Park, Italy

Major Trails and Hiking Areas

Routes in the Tre Cime

Unlike some other mountain groups in the Dolomites, which can be quite large in sizes — such as the Pale di San Martino or even the Marmolada, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo is a relatively small and compact mountain group consisting of only three big peaks and a few smaller ones. Therefore, there is only one trail on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It is a circular trail called the Trek around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo or Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop.

The route begins at the parking near Auronzo Hut. From there, it's up to you where to go: you can turn left (counterclockwise) to Locatelli hut, or right (clockwise) to Lavaredo hut. In the beginning, the trail goes right around the Tre Cime so you don't see the whole mountain, but then it goes around the mountain at some distance and that is the lapse where you can see the whole mountain group.

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop, Drei Zinnen Nature Park, Italy

Some more important information about the trail:

  • The total trail length is about 10-11 km.
  • You will need around 4-5 hours to complete the hike depending on how fast you walk and how many stops you make on the way to take great pictures of the Tre Cime and explore the surrounding peaks with the PeakVisor app.
  • The trail is easy to walk, no hiking experience needed.
  • The highest point is 2,447 m, the lowest is 2,180 m.
  • The ascent is 368 m, and the descent is 374 m.
  • The height difference is about 400 m, which is quite normal even for those who do such hiking for the first time.

A tip: if you want to spend the night in Locatelli hut, you can go from either side. If your stay is at Lavaredo, go around the mountain on the left, but allow an extra hour to get to your sleeping spot. It gets dark quickly in the mountains after sunset, but there should be enough time if you walk fast. In any case, it is better to have a flashlight with you.

On the reverse side of the Tre Cime, when you look from Misurina Lake, there are three small lakes and a former farm. Another small lake, Lago di Piani Superiore, is located near Locatelli Hut.

There are many fortifications, tunnels, iron ladders, and other things in the area because the front line between Italy and Austria during World War I ran through the Tre Cime peaks. There was intense fighting between 1915 and 1917 there.

It's also interesting that the Tre Cime di Lavaredo looks completely different from different angles. This is a very clear example of how the view of the same mountains changes when you move a couple of hundred meters away from them.

Memorial monument and Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy

Memorial monument and Tre Cime di Lavaredo

The Tre Cime as part of Alta Via 4

The trek around the Tre Cime is part of one of the eight long hiking trails in the Dolomites called Alta Via (High Route), the most famous of which are 1 and 2. The Tre Cime lies on the path of Alta Via 4, the less popular one. It runs from San Candido in Val Pusteria, BZ, to Pieve di Cadore, BL. Its total length is 85 km.

Access on foot to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Both times I went up to the Tre Cime by bus, but next time I will definitely take one of the trails leading directly to the foot of the mountains as it usually happens in the Dolomites with other mountain peaks that cannot be reached by bus. In my opinion, the view of the beautiful mountains is a kind of reward, which must still be earned by hard work — that is, by walking for many hours.

There are six main routes to reach the Tre Cime on foot in less than a day from the following valleys:

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  • Valle Marzon: trail 1107 or 1104 to Lavaredo hut. The nearest town is Giralba.
  • Valle Longeres: trail 101. The nearest town is Misurina.
  • Valle della Rienza: trail 10-102. The nearest town is Carbonin.
  • Val di Landro: trails 9, 10-11, 11. The nearest town is Dobbiaco.
  • Val Campo di dentro: trail 8, 7, 7A, 10-11-105, 105, 11. The nearest town is San Candido.
  • Val Fiscalina: trais 0-1A, 102. The nearest town is Sesto.
  • Val Fiscalina, Drei Zinnen Nature Park, Italy

    Val Fiscalina

    Cycling to the Tre Cime

    The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is a popular place not only for climbing, via ferrata and hiking, but also for cycling. Auronzo Hut has hosted several times the finishes of the decisive mountain stages of the Giro d'Italia — the main Italian multi-day bicycle race.

    The first finish was in 1967 when the Italian cyclist Felice Gimondi won. The last finish was in 2013, when another Italian, Vincenzo Nibali, won. In between, there were five more finishes in the Tre Cime di Lavaredo: in 1968, 1974, 1981, 1989, and 2007.

    As well as with climbing, after the first stages with a finish at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, amateur cyclists come here to repeat the route of the famous cyclists.

    The ascent is quite difficult. From Lake Misurina at an altitude of 1,760 m, cyclists need to climb to 2,333 m (573 m height difference). The length of the mountain serpentine, which winds up literally like a snake, is 7 km. Even the bus ride up the serpentine takes your breath away — it feels like you're trying to fly rather than ride.

    Cycling Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy

    The most difficult part of the ascent is the last 4 km with a 477m difference in elevation and an average gradient of 12% with sections going steep up to 19%.

    If you decide to climb the Tre Chime di Lavaredo by bike, remember that during the summer season there will be many other cyclists on the mountain serpentine besides you, as well as cars and buses, and the desired descent from the serpentine is unlikely to be quick — not only because of traffic but due to the many turns.

    To ride a bike up the Tre Cime di Lavaredo is more a kind of showing respect for the victories of cyclists and the cycling community, and a kind of “to-do-thing” on a bucket list of any amateur cyclist. Well, and some kind of personal achievement, of course.

    Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy

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