Dolomites hiking is so family-friendly that it’s almost hard to fathom. There are trails suitable for every level, top-notch playgrounds everywhere (at the top of every lift, in every hotel, and in many restaurants), and fantastic restaurants on the mountain slopes.
Eighteen members of our extended family did some Dolomites hiking in the Alta Badia area a few summers ago: the youngest was 2 and the eldest was 72. Some of us brought hiking poles; some didn’t. Some needed afternoon naps. Some had knee pain or ankle pain and wanted to do a bit of light walking to lunch while others wanted to get in a good workout. Incredibly, we all did the same trails and everyone was happy. Here is one of the best hikes we did.
We were staying in the town of San Cassiano (in the middle of nowhere! said my family when I showed them on the map). It was just a ten minute walk to the bottom of the Piz Sorega gondola, which runs daily in the summertime taking hikers up – and down – the mountain. At the top of the lift, there was a huge playground with the standard swings and slides, but also with a little stream and a zipline. The kids disappeared to play while we looked at the map and the signs that marked the trails. Look how well-marked the trails are, and the signs even tell hikers how many minutes until their destination:
The top signs that are marked with CAI and the red and white paint indicate Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) routes. The paths are very well marked, and the free hiking map offered at the tourist office is excellent, but you can also get CAI maps with all the routes marked on them. The red and white symbols indicate the trail number, and the number of hiking minutes to the destination is also included on the sign. After a few days of hiking, we learned to adjust those hiking times – we surmised that they were written by very fit locals!
After a picturesque and relatively short hike, we arrived at the lunch restaurant where (of course) there was a full playground including trampolines and a petting zoo! The adults ordered beer and a bottle of locally made white wine while the kids played and petted the goats.
We sat outside at picnic tables and ordered a full hot lunch. These places may look like humble mountain huts, but don’t be fooled: they are full service restaurants with a la carte menus, seasonal specialties, extensive wine lists, and of course, espresso machines. Just note that they are open in summer and in winter, but not in between. If you’re interested in this kind of summer Dolomites hiking experience, check that the lifts are running. If they are, the restaurants will most likely be open.
After lunch, the kids went back to play, while some of the adults walked back to take the lift down. A few others had a post-lunch mountainside nap in the comfortable chairs-with-a-view, while another group decided to hike back down into the valley on the trails.
You can see from these photos that the paths were not difficult, and even the 2 year old had no problem. The only challenge with the kids was that there were so many playgrounds – at every restaurant and at the top of every lift – that it was tough to pull them away to continue with our Dolomites hiking.
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