Trekking the Alta Via 1

Follow along on a 120km journey through some of the most majestic scenery the Italian Dolomites have to offer. 

As a mountain lover with a fondness for long walks, hiking the Dolomites in northern Italy had been on my list for quite a while. The flights would be long and the journey would require a longer-than-usual time commitment, so scheduling conflicts always prevented me from booking a trip. However, the stars aligned this July and I finally found myself in Italy, ready to embark upon the weeklong hike. 

There are countless hiking options in the Dolomites but after some research I chose the Alta Via

There are countless hiking options in the Dolomites but after some research I chose the Alta Via 1. This 120km trail winds its way South from the fairytale setting of Lago di Braies through the limestone heart of the Dolomites and finally delivers weary hikers to the town of Belluno. The trek was full of stunning landscapes at every turn. Each time I gazed upon the jagged mountains jutting up from sprawling, lush green valleys I thought I must have just seen the prettiest view on the AV1, only to hike over a mountain pass and see another rivaling vista. There are five other Alta Via routes in Italy and now the only decision is which to tackle next!

The Alta Via 1 begins at the scenic Lago di Braies. We took an extra day to explore this impossibly blue lake and see everything it had to offer:

We averaged about 16km and 800m of elevation gain per day. The days were long and my feet ached from the rocky terrain, but the beautiful mountains distracted me from the pain:

Camping along the route is not allowed so instead we opted to stay in the mountain refugios. One of my favorites was Rifugio Nuvolau, which defies physics as it sits on the very tippy top of a mountain. Its name comes form the Italian word for cloud (la nuvola) – which is no surprise, as we spent most of our stay surrounded by clouds. There was one morning where the clouds broke and the view out the window was absolutely breathtaking:

Each morning we rose at dawn to catch the sunrise. We had to quietly creep out of our refugio dormitory, so as not to wake our sleeping roommates. It’s never easy to leave a warm, cozy bed, but the mountain sunrises were more than worth it:

The opportunities for photos in the Dolomites was never-ending. At times our pace was slowed to a crawl because there was just too much beauty to capture. I had to stop and just admire the vast beauty the Dolomites had to offer:

Thank you for following along on my trek. You can see more from my adventures on my social media channels. Happy trekking!

Sonja Saxe is a photographer based out of Seattle. She has a passion for anything that gets her outside but backpacking, skiing, and kayaking are her go-to outdoor activities. IG: @thenationalparksgirl, Website: The National Parks Girl