26 July 2018
Visitors to the Dolomites are drawn by the impressive mountains, beautiful valleys and striking summits. Add in the culture, food and local history and it’s no surprise guests keep coming back. Whilst many visitors return to their village hotel each day after exploring the mountains, an alternative option is to spend a night in one of the many mountain huts, or rifugios, around the Dolomites. With so many different hut to hut routes on offer, and hearing all the tales being recounted by returning hut to hut guests each evening, giddy with excitement from their adventures, we decided to find out what all the fuss was about and stay in a hut ourselves.
After a little planning we were decided; Rifugio Croda da Lago was going to be our hut of choice. Nestled into the Eastern side of the Croda da Lago mountain above Cortina, the only way in is to walk. There is a very bumpy 4×4 track that climbs to the Rifugio, but only to take provisions up from the valley. After a long day out on the mountain, we’d covered almost 15km, and 1000m of ascent, but as we rounded the final corner, our little home for the night came into view.
Hut to Hut Hiking Holidays – In the Dolomites
Within minutes of arriving, the boots were untied, the bags were off, and cold drinks were in the hand. We just sat. The peaks surrounding the rifugio tower above, and the small lake next to the rifugio provided a sense of calm and quietness, allowing us to reflect on the adventures of the day.
As with so many of the Dolomites’ rifugios, Croda da Lago is family run and Modesto and Monica kindly welcomed us in. After a warm shower and feeling refreshed we sat down with our fellow guests for the night and tucked into a three-course feast; pasta or soup to start, with a tasty plate of polenta and local cheese or goulash for main and a very tempting Strudel for desert.
Despite the tiredness from the long days starting to set in, there’s too much chatter and conversation with fellow guests to retire to bed early. We exchange tales of our route with others, and discuss plans for the next day; who was heading in what direction, and how many more days were they hiking for. Eventually the draw of a good nights sleep is too much, and we finally make our way to the rooms. Not surprisingly it’s only a few minutes before everyone seems to have nodded off into a deep sleep.
The next morning, it was the smell of fresh coffee that woke us. Cowbells chimed outside, which was surprisingly calming, and reminded us that we were in a mountain hut, rather than waking to the church bells, or hustle and bustle of the village. We packed our bags and the rifugio soon started to empty as everyone filled up on a generous breakfast before heading out for the day. We started on our path that day with an even greater sense of adventure. Being so high up in the mountains enables you to explore paths that lead you well away from the crowds, and into areas of the mountain you couldn’t get to in a day. Being out early it really does feel like you’re seizing the day.
Our day had only one negative – we weren’t going to be doing it all over again that night. As we tightened our rucksacks that morning, and laced up our boots, we knew this wouldn’t be the last time we ever stayed in a hut. To experience the sun setting on the mountains from such a peaceful viewpoint, can only remind you of how lucky we are to be able to have these moments. Taking it all in in one night is impossible, but luckily on a hut-to-hut, there are many more memorable nights to be had. We’ve just got to organise our next adventure!