What you need to do Hut to hut hiking in the Dolomites with a pleasantly light pack for your eco adventure.
This is my minimalist travel guide for the Alta Via 1 trail, including your kids. I designed this after hiking the AV1 with my 11 year old daughter first and then the following year guiding a group of friends and family ages 11- 60 from 4 countries.
It includes what you need to walk on the best multi day hiking trail in Europe with breathtaking views and some intermittently changing weather.
The Alta Via 1 can only be hiked through hut to hut hiking and that means you actually don't need to carry very much, which really let's you experiece the magic of the mountains without having to rough it.
My hope is that this guide will help you be able to pack your things in 15 minutes into a backpack, feel safe and prepared, and know you have what you need to enjoy the magic Nature, wildlife, scenery and FOOD of the Dolomites!
No heavy backpack.
No dehydrated food.
No sleeping on the ground.
Walk through world famous Cinqui Torri and over emerald Alpine Meadows.
The Alta Via 1 multi day hiking tour in the Italian Dolomites located near Venice will be an experience of a lifetime you can share with family. World war 1 history, via ferratas, and world class food.
How This Guide is Organized
▶️Pressed for time? Download our free Alta Via 1 Hiking Guide and Itinerary
Off the Beaten Path: Alta Via 1
You’ve been dreaming of travelling to Europe with your family and want to get off the beaten path and explore equal parts culture and adventure.
Stillness from a Hike
The stillness and splendor of the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy exemplify a quiet place filled with rocky spires, green meadows and the occasional sound of cowbells tinkling on the necks of alpine cows nibbling on wild grasses at high altitude.
You’ll be proud of your kids ages 11 and up for completing the 5 day Alta Via 1 “Northern Half of the AV1 trail by hiking hut to hut with family trip.
There's purpose built into each day.
What is Hut-to-Hut Hiking?
Hut to hut hiking is the gem of European hiking and eating experiences.
Wild camping is often illegal
Therefore luxury and rustic mountain huts litter the Alps, Pyrennes and Dolomites spaced apart so you can walk with just your pack from one hut to the next on multi day journeys.
You'll hike “hut to hut” avoiding the monotony of having to hike out and back each night to the same lodging. Check out this post if you want to learn more about the best rifugios in the Dolomites.
Due to the huts providing the beds, linens, food and water it’s not necessary to carry very much when you do choose to do a hut to hut hike. You'll carry a small pack will containing just a change of clothes and enough water for the day.
Rifugios in the Dolomites
The Dolomites UNESCO world heritage site is filled with views that take your breath away around every bend. Cozy mountain huts (hütten in German or rifugios in Italian) built directly on the trail serve warm 3 course Italian dinners and provide delicious local wines each night.
We love the local Lagrein, but most huts have a full bar and freshly made whipped cream for your hot cocoas.
Some even offer saunas on the deck - my favorite! It really helps the recovery after a gorgeous but challenging hike.
AV1 Trail Guide
Here's a Trail Guide of the Alta Via 1 Northern Half if you've started your planning.
The Dolomites in summer equal paradise in more ways than just hiking. This Cortina d'Ampezzo guide shows some other things to do near the Alta Via 1.
But a Heavy Pack May Make You (or your kids) Want to Turn Back.
While hut to hut hiking, you’ll carry your clothing and water in your backpack each day on the Alta Via 1 Dolomites trail.
You’ll be able to traverse north to south on the same trails WW1 soldiers, refugees, and alpinsts throughout the centuries have used to cross these amazing mountains and avoid carrying tents, cooking equipment, and survival gear by staying in the high elevation huts.
It’s really an excellent beginning multi day long distance hut to hut hike for beginners in the Alps. We love that it’s especially tasty each night at the incredible huts.
No Special Equipment for Alta Via 1 Dolomiti
So whether you’re smiling in the 72 degree sun or warming up your hands during a chilly summer rain storm, a summer hike on the Alta Via 1 (AV1) doesn’t require special equipment and is not especially technical.
There are options to make it more adventurous, taxing and gritty-- but the main route is considered level 1 or 2 out of 3 and great for family hiking.
Especially families that love good food served at each Hütte or Rifugio.
Best Time for Alta Via 1 Hut to Hut Hiking : Mid June - Mid September
The best part of the Dolomites hiking season runs mid-June through mid-September where there is little to no snow left near the trail and rain storms pass quickly.
Dolomites in July is Prime
The secret many pro backpackers know, but us normal working stiffs might not be aware of is the ability to quickly wash quick dry shirts/pants at the huts each night. You’ll arrive at the mountaintop hut and see people’s cleaned shirts drying on a line next to the hut or strung over railings.
That way we only need to bring one set of “hiking clothes” and one set of “dinner” clothes and almost everyone wears the same set each day. Pro tip: don’t try to wash your undies or socks, they won't get dry in time.
Dolomites in August can be Crowded
August is Italian/French/German vacation time, so you'll be fighting some crowds of scouts, family reunions keeping you awake and more.
July has the best weather for families that need to do this trek during school break. Early June is chilly and September is great, but not really easy with kids in school.
If you aren't going with kids or homeschool, September would likely be the best.
Getting to the Alta Via 1 From Venice by Car or Bus
Cortina d'Ampezzo is a natural starting point for the Alta Via 1 Hiking Trail and you'll likely want to stay there the night before you begin and the night after you finish the AV1.
Where to Stay in Cortina d'Ampezzo
Cristallo : a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa. 5-star luxury hotel in the Dolomites, get treated like a movie star with unparalleled wellness amenities, views, nightly live piano and tasty food. We stayed here AFTER the hike to really soak in the luxury wellness as a treat.
Hotel Alaska. We liked staying here because it's right in the heart of the town, it's comfortable and has gorgeous views.
Hotel De La Poste. The night before the hike is just all about sleep, not the amenities and this hotel has great breakfast included. These rooms book out quickly so plan 6-9 months ahead with your bookings.
Transportation to Cortina d'Ampezzo
The closest airport is Venice Marco Polo international airport. If you want to rent a car make sure you have an international driver's license. This can be picked up at your local AAA office in the USA.
The best site to book your car is at Discover Cars, they offer competitive rates and search multiple companies. Gas and tolls in Italy are not cheap so you'll want to get a good rental rate. Also, many cars are standard so if you don't drive a stick you'll have to expressly request an automatic.
If you don't want to rent a car, the Cortina Express Bus goes from the airport to the Cortina d’Ampezzo central bus station and takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes and costs 20 euros. This website has prices, timetables and you can book your tickets ahead of time.
If you want to take away all the stress, book an English-speaking van to take you to the heart of Cortina directly from the airport.
Clothing: Alta Via 1 Hut to Hut Packing List
1 Lightweight, quick drying pants or convertible pants.
2 lightweight, quick drying t-shirts (1 extra in case of soaking rain)
2-3 pairs of good hiking socks We love this brand bc they will replace damaged socks for free.
2 pairs thin socks to prevent blisters by wearing under hiking socks
1 pair cozy socks for night
1 lightweight fleece or wicking technical fabric warm layer
1 pack away lightweight waterproof jacket
1 pack away lightweight thermal jacket (We didn’t need to use this when walking, but I found it very comforting to have it in the mountain huts once it cooled down in the evenings)
Lightweight leggings and t-shirt to wear in the huts in the evenings.
Undies for entire trip - Sports bra, evening bra
Sun hat This Patagonia hat keeps me cool and protected.
Sunscreen That fits in the plane carryon
Cat 4 Polarized Sunglasses (don’t skimp on eye protection it’s bright white limestone)
1 pair of good quality walking boots (low or medium top)
1 pair of slides for wearing in the huts - Boots ARE NOT ALLOWED inside restaurant/bedroom area
Equipment: Alta Via 1 Hut to Hut Packing List
Guide book in your language - This CICCERONE ALTA VIA 1 GUIDE is enough to get by safely. I bought the paper Tabbacco maps and they weren't very useful.
Waterproof cover for pack
Walking poles - Game Changer, esp with older knees!
Head and Neck Warmer It gets chilly at night.
A few non perishable snacks
First aid kit including safety whistle, athletic tape, scissors, bandaids, neosporin, NSAIDs
Limited toiletries - Good Moisturizer, small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, small bottle of shampoo, hairbrush, chapstick
Phone/chargers/adapters to 220V Italian plug
Travel documents in waterproof ziplock or drybag
Credit cards. Most places accept but some euros in reserve for tips
Kindle for reading and planning
If you chose dorm level accommodations vs private rooms you’ll need this also:
Caveat: People with very fair skin or high risk skin cancer
You’ll want to bring a UV thin long sleeve shirt to hike during the sunny daytimes. It gets hot ascending through Forcella del Lago Notch, so quick dry works best to dissipate the heat but still provide better sun protection than merely sunscreen alone.
Caveat: Chronically cold people
During the downhills or rest stops at yummy mountain cafes for a steaming cup of hot chocolate topped with the freshest whipped cream you can imagine you may consider bringing a knit hat for your ears, a neck gator, soft hand gloves, thin leggings to wear under your hiking pants and a long sleeve quick dry shirt.
Take the Bare Minimum for Hiking Hut to Hut in the Dolomites
However, For 80% of us the bare minimum is plenty and a light pack is greatly appreciated. We’ve never needed more than a quality rainjacket and thin technical warm long sleeve layer for sitting on the decks at night playing games or watching the stars.
I’ve pulled hoodies from my daughter’s bags and left them in the car multiple times and they were grateful for a light pack, despite their very strong desire to wear hoodies. Do all tweens love hoodies?
If in doubt, don’t bring it.
You’ll probably want some extra room in your backpack anyways, just in case your kids want you to feel important by carrying some of their stuff or you want to buy a souvenir t-shirt from one of the mountain huts.
Downloadable Alta Via 1 Hut to Hut Packing List
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From your friends here at Crave the Planet who understand it's all about the connection!
Until Next Time, Climb Your Mountains!
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Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a passionate hiker and writer, physical therapist, and European Cornhole Commissioner. She is living near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and featured giving science-based hiking tips and advice.
When not out exploring the mountains or sea, she’s writing articles and gear reviews to empower Outdoor Journeys that include family and good food. She is actively involved in the community and advocating for connection and sustainability with her community projects at Cornhole Europa and Sustainable Investors Group.