The route begins at Lago di Braies, also known as the Pragser Wildsee. You'll start by walking along the West shore of the lake, and eventually ascend up a giant scree field at the back of the lake. After some time, you'll find yourself in a wonderland of boulders, ascend a short and steep section that is secured with cables, and make your way up to Forcella (pass) Sora Forno. From here, you'll descend to Rifugio Biella (also Seekofel Hut) and continue through gentle rolling terrain to Rifugio Sennes.
The route from Rifugio Sennes descends with intention to Rifugio Pederü in the valley below. Just when you've made it to the base of the valley, you turn left, only to ascend again toward Rifugio Fanes. Rifugio Fanes sits in a wide open valley and there are several summits that are accessible as day or half-day trips. From Rifugio Fanes, the route climbs shortly to Passo di Limo, and then you are treated to a meander through brilliant green and wide open valleys.
Eventually, you leave the green grass of the valley floor and ascend up to Forcella di Lago, known for its tedious descent through scree, although it has been greatly improved in recent years. After this descent from the forcella, you'll find yourself in a moon landscape as you ascend steadily, but persistently, toward Forcella Lagazuoi.
If you want to make a stop at Rifugio Lagazuoi, descend to Passo Falzarego via gondola, or descend via the historic World War I Lagazuoi Tunnels (the tunnels are great, but a headlamp is absolutely required and a helmet is strongly recommended), then you'll need to ascend at Forcella di Lagazoui. Otherwise, continue on to Forcella Travenanzes, and follow the good trail as it descends to Passo Falzarego.
At Passo Falzarego, you'll have access to a small cafe and gift shop, along with a bus that heads back to Cortina d'Ampezzo. To continue on, cross the street and make your way uphill, first through grassy farmland and then through a world of stone, which includes a steep gully you may want your hands free on. You'll eventually find yourself at Rifugio Averau.
From Rifugio Averau, the main Alta Via 1 route ascends an impressive ridge to Rifugio Nuvolau (great views), and then descends on a very steep and exposed section secured with cables. This routing is best for those with via ferrata gear, or who are very experienced and confident in such terrain. Otherwise, we recommend descending from Rifugio Averau to Rifugio Scoiattoli, which lies right next to the famous Cinque Torri. From there, continue on toward Rifugio Cinque Torri and turn right just before, following signs to Passo Giau.
One of the most spectacular stretches of the tour begins just after you pass the road at Passo Giau (bus service available), as you find yourself surrounded by breathtaking terrain. Continue over Passo di Giau and then to Forcella Ambrizzola. Soon after, the trail begins a long descent as you make your way down past Rifugio Citta di Fiume and to Passo Staulanza.
At Passo Staulanza, you'll follow the road until the next hairpin turn, where you leave it and begin your ascent through a ski area to Rifugio Coldai. Rifugio Coldai is very popular with day visitors, and you'll see why once you arrive. After ascending the pass just beyond Rifugio Coldai and the lake just below it, a heightened sense of remoteness will begin to settle in. You'll pass below Rifugio Tissi (unless you are staying there or want to enjoy a snack with a view), and make your way to Rifugio Vazzoler. You'll be in the shadow of towering rock walls as you make your way toward Rifugio Carestiato. The scenery mellows out and traffic on the trail will pick up for the short stretch to Passo Duran.
At Passo Duran, you cross another road. There is no bus service here, but taxis are available. You'll follow the road downhill for a bit before branching off and experiencing yet another surge of remoteness. You'll ascend, first gradually and then steeply, toward some World War I ruins, before being treated to a descent to Rifugio Sommariva al Pramperet.
From Rifugio Sommariva al Pramperet, you'll ascend once again toward Portela del Piazadel, with some of the steepest sections you have experienced so far. They are; however, short-lived. Keep your eye open for Edelweiss flowers as you ascend a steep and grassy slope. At the Portela del Piazadel, the Dolomites impress you once last time with the characteristic views of ridges that unfold into the distance. From here you'll descend very intentionally, partially through a very steep and grassy hang, to Rifugio Pian de Fontana.
The trail continues downhill from Rifugio Pian de Fontana to cross a stream, and then climbs steeply up the other side. This is your last ascent. After reaching a saddle, and completing a thrilling traverse, our route deviates from the main Alta Via 1 (which continues with a via ferrata) and descends on the more traveled trail to Rifugio Bianchet. Eventually you'll find yourself on a dirt road with some marked sections of trail that cut the switchbacks.
Shortly before reaching the valley below, you follow a trail that branches off to the left and heads for the La Pissa Bus Stop. This trail is steeper than may be expected and has some tricky sections, which can be unwelcome at the end of a long day when you think you are "almost there." Eventually the trail meets the road in the valley below, and you'll turn right to make your way to the La Pissa Bus Stop.
The La Pissa Bus Stop is, unfortunately, an undeserving end to your epic adventure. After 10 minutes of walking along the busy and narrow road, you'll find only an abandoned building and a bus stop sign waiting for you. The bus only stops here on demand, so when you see the bus, make sure you flag it down. But you can certainly find some celebratory gelato once you arrive with the bus in Belluno.