Dolomites without a car

Old Dec 6th, 2020, 11:38 AM
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Dolomites without a car

Optimist that I am, I'm beginning to do research for a possible trip to the Dolomites next fall.

The initial plan is to spend five nights in two areas from which we can take day hikes. I think I've narrowed those two areas down to Val Gardena and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

I have some concerns though. While it seems that Val Gardena is a great spot for visitors without a car and that all accommodation there offers a free transport card (so I've read), Cortina d'Ampezzo looks to be more of a challenge. Is there a better area than Cortina d'Ampezzo for those relying on public transport? Is getting to the trailheads from Cortina a hassle?

I'm also a bit concerned about the difficulty of hikes I've run across - we have no interest in via ferrata. Nor are we looking for all day hikes - just moderate day hikes of 3-5 hours. Does such a thing exist?

I'm also concerned about potential crowds - we'd normally visit off season, but I've read that the cableways and gondolas in the Dolomites shut down pretty early - mid October - so we'd probably be there during late Sept along with hoards of other tourists.

Thoughts? Experiences? Suggestions?
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Old Dec 6th, 2020, 12:37 PM
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Is there a specific reason you wouldn't want to have a car? There are bus services, but you'd have to research how buses would work with your plans. Or do the reverse and research the bus schedules and then figure out what you can plan around them. IMO, unless you have a week or (preferably) more, getting around by bus will really limit what you're able to do/see. For example, you can get to a particular spot, but can you spend the time you want there and still get back? And some things are just not realistically accessible without a car....

There are moderate day hikes all over the place. Some people like to take a lift and start hiking at the higher elevation, but there are trail heads at road (bus stop/parking lot) level.

Bolzano is a transportation hub, but it's not "in" the Dolomites. Ortisei is a gateway to a lot of hiking and has good bus service to other points. I'm not familiar with Cortina's public transportation services, but 2026 Olympics planning may include some improvements on what has been available in the past. If you go without a car, you might want to spend several nights in one location and then move to another location.

We have only visited the area in October and usually after many gondolas have stopped operating. There have been a few lifts operating from Bolzano, Ortisei and (I think) Cortina. We've had good weather and done some great hiking, but we had a car. The bigger problem has been fewer restaurants open everywhere at that time.

But I'm not sure how helpful past experiences will be in anticipating the situation immediately post-Covid. Bigger or smaller crowds? Fewer or more things open? Same or reduced public transportation?
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Old Dec 6th, 2020, 02:22 PM
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Thanks Jean.

We prefer buses and trains; that's just our preference when visiting Europe, regardless of where we go. I realize we'll need to check schedules closer to our travel dates and that things might have changed due to COVID. Our plan is to spend five nights each in two areas in the Dolomites, but willing to extend to a week in each if necessary or spend the entire time in one place.

We'll be coming from Austria - flying into Munich. The idea is to spend a month or so, splitting our time between Italy and Austria and maybe a bit of Germany.


We hate crowds and usually visit much more off-the-beaten path places and often have hiking trails completely to ourselves, so I guess I'm just trying to get a feel for how busy and popular these spots are, or were. I'd rather visit later in October when it's quiet; we often visit Switzerland when gondolas and cable cars are closed and never have trouble finding suitable hikes, but that might not make sense for Italy.
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Old Dec 6th, 2020, 11:32 PM
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In October things are certainly slowing down or dead in the Dolomites. Too early for skis, too late for summer, kids are back in schools, and a lot of places close down (restaurants, even hotels, and of course gondolas and cable cars).
the mad crowds are mostly in July and august and slow down a lot in September.
I go every year (except 2020...) and usually go the second week in September, right before things shut down. Only the most popular hikes will have other hikers on them.
if you go in the off season or shoulder season, then forget about public transportation. Buses limit their runs to between major towns but won’t take you up to trail heads any longer. This is startin the first week in September.
Cortina is not as organized as Val Gardena with public transportation. Also the cable cars close early in Cortina. By the third week in September pretty much all of then have closed. Val Gardena stays open a bit later. It’s also very cumbersome to travel by bus between the 2 valleys.
a car would really help you with flexibility, efficiency, and comfort. Driving in the Dolomites is easy, just make sure you always pick the larger, main road, and don’t end up in a skinny, twisting, steep mountain road.
there are a couple books on hiking the Dolomites if you are interested. “Shorter Walks in the Dolomites”, by Gillian, publisher is Cicerone I believe. You will find dozen of hikes at your level I believe. They are organized in the different areas of the Dolomites. The same author and publishes has a couple more, “walking in the Dolomites”, “trekking in the Dolomites” etc. You can find them on Amazon.

Last edited by barbarahood1770; Dec 6th, 2020 at 11:36 PM.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 01:10 AM
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Mel, I’ve had a few ‘conversations’ with ‘Stormbird’ on TA via PM as we kind of passed each other while travelling and she based in Cortina several times, then went on to Scuol or Zuoz. Anyway, can’t find it on TA but her blog is here
https://public.fotki.com/stormbird/
she always travels by bus and usually in September.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 02:31 AM
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I've also briefly looked into visiting the Dolomites and have read that lifts/gondolas/etc start late and finish early each year. Apart from the need for maintenance I've never properly understood why, as many visitors would like them to run for a longer season. Does anyone understand why this is the case? Is it to do with the weather (e.g. snow) or terrain making them unsafe in cooler spring and autumn weather? Is it because of maintenance schedules between winter and summer? Like Mel, I dislike travelling when it is hot and busy and prefer to always use public transport (it's one of the pleasures of travelling in Europe). It seems like an opportunity missed if people who would prefer to holiday outside of the peak summer season are less able to use local transport.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 05:22 AM
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We went at the end of August/into the first week of September last year, based in the Val di Fassa. While the roads were a little busy and several of the most major lifts (Sass Pordoi and Lagazuoi) had quite a few people, many of the other lifts/chairs we used seemed pretty empty. While we weren't alone on the trails, it definitely did not feel overrun. By contrast, our previous trip was in August, based in the Val Gardena, and things were much more crowded. Whenever we get back - hopefully sooner than later - we agreed we'd probably target mid-September while most lifts are still running.

We have used the Cicerone book mentioned above, as well as the Sunflower book - both detail some of the good walks in various areas. Several websites also have a lot of detailed information on walks: e.g., Val di Fassa and Val Gardena and Alta Badia sites allow you to filter by various criteria such as difficulty. Those sites also have lift schedules. I don't know as much about the eastern areas, such as around Cortina, but hopefully I'll have a chance to find out in a future year.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 06:31 AM
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Very helpful - a big thanks to all of you. I will look into the links you've provided.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 07:03 AM
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Adelaidean - I stumbled across your TR from your visit to the Dolomites in 2016 - a good read.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 07:11 AM
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Just did a live chat with someone here: https://www.valgardena.it/en/winter-...ts/open-lifts/

Got this response:

The most lifts will close at the end of September. Some will be open till mid October, mostly those in Ortisei.

Nothing new there.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 10:30 AM
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dreamon, they close because if would not be profitable to keep them open for the low seasons. The amount of people going in the shoulder and low season does not justify keeping up the personnel, and the equipment, the food supplies for the rifugios, etc.
The high season there is the winter ski season, then they open again for the summer basically when kids are out of school (mid June in Italy) and close again mid to end September when the kids are back in school.
It also has to do with trails being still icy and not safe right after the snow melts. If you are an advanced hiker, you can still go and not use the lifts. But a lot of people will not go through that effort.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 10:33 AM
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List of all cableways in the province of Bolzano/Bozen with opening periods:
https://www.suedtirol.com/bergsport/...ten-seilbahnen.
Cableways in other areas of the Dolomites (Trento, Belluno) close rather earlier (most of them during September).
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 10:34 AM
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melng8, here is a page that shows all the lifts and their schedule for the summer, I cannot post the entire link yet as i don't have enough posts here...it's on the same Valgardena page you went for the chat, just plug in this after www:
valgardena.it/en/summer-holidays-dolomites/lifts/
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 12:43 PM
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Thanks Barbara, somehow I'd missed that. The closure dates are all over the place - 9/13-10/11.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 01:19 PM
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I can tell you that most of the ones that stay open till november 11 are near or in Ortisei. If you look at the header, it shows in which towns or location they start.
There is one from Santa Cristina, and 3 or 4 from Ortisei.
I have done all of them, they are all great, but you really need to do Seceda.
A bunch on top of Alpe di Siusi are also open under the header "Seiser Alm". It's like a resort up there, not really "mountain like". I have never been and no intention on going...But the views are great.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 01:32 PM
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As a rule of thumb, if it might help you, for most of them (lifts AND rifugios), the last day is always on a weekend, and it's usually the third weekend in the month of September. Some might be open a little later, but to schedule my stay there I always go just before the third weekend of the month...fewer people...and I have all my options open.
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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by barbarahood1770 View Post
I have done all of them, they are all great, but you really need to do Seceda.
Yes, definitely! The Forcella Sassolungo lift is also memorable (and the hike down the scree slope on the other side), but I don't think it is open as late into the season as some of the others. Another favorite was the hike from the top of the Dantercepies lift to the Puez Hutte and then back down into Selva.

Some of the lifts are very lightly used, so it couldn't make sense to keep them open too late into the season. On our last trip, we were there roughly August 28-Sept 2 of 2019. I remember taking a couple of long chairlift rides -- one being Konig Laurin (near Carezza), which is nearly 20 minutes long, on a Saturday afternoon -- and not passing anyone else on the ride up or down.
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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 02:32 AM
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Why speak about Barbara's list which is for Val Gardena/Groedental/Val Gherdeina only, if there exists a list for the whole South Tyro area?
Have a look at my post 12
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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 06:47 AM
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I donít see Italian or English on that
I canít read it
and it seems to be for 2020

Last edited by barbarahood1770; Dec 8th, 2020 at 06:49 AM.
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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 06:54 AM
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I've looked at both lists neckervd and appreciate the information. I've also contacted the information offices in Val Gardena and Cortina and they've told me they don't know the operating schedules for summer 2021 yet as its too early; they also mentioned that the buses are the bigger issue.

Based on the summer operating schedules for 2020, I think I have enough information to form a loose plan. I'm fairly confident that if we go to Cortina first, getting there the third week of September, and then visit Val Gardena second, in late Sept/early October, we'll find sufficient open to fill our time, so we're hopeful that we can spend five nights in each spot and then move on to Austria/Germany for the duration.

We'd originally hoped to spend the remaining time in Switzerland, but the logistics are a bit daunting, so we've decided (subject to change) to just take a second trip to Switzerland closer to Christmas.

Last edited by Melnq8; Dec 8th, 2020 at 06:59 AM.
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