For jaw-dropping views of the Dolomites, and drinks (or a meal) with a view, it’s hard to beat Rifugio Nuvolau. The only way to get here is by hiking, and along the way, you will pass by Rifugio Averau and the Cinque Torri.
Rifugio Nuvalou sits on top Mount Nuvolau. At an elevation of 2,575 meters (8,500 feet), you have 360° views of the Dolomites. It is an incredible view, especially if you are lucky enough to be here when the skies are clear.
This was one of our favorite experiences in the Dolomites.
The views, having lunch on the outdoor terrace, with a view of one of the most beautiful places we have seen, was a truly memorable experience.
In this guide, we share with you every we learned so you can have the same amazing experience.
How to Get to Rifugio Nuvalou
There are several different ways to get to Rifugio Nuvalou, and each of them requires a hike of some sort.
Here are two different routes that are relatively short and scenic:
#1 Chairlift to Rifugio Averau, Hike to Rifugio Nuvalou
This is the shortest route to Rifugio Nuvalou. From Rifugio Fedare, which is on the west side of Passo Giau, ride the chairlift to Rifugio Averau. From Rifugio Averau, it is a 1 km uphill hike to Rifugio Nuvolau (about 30 minutes one-way). This chairlift runs from July to mid-September (it also runs in the winter but you will be skiing, not hiking).
Distance: 2 km (1.2 miles) out-and-back
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Total Ascent: 185 meters (600 feet)
Length of Time: 30 minutes one-way plus time at the rifugios
#2 Chairlift to Rifugio Scoiattoli, Hike to Rifugio Averau and Rifugio Nuvalou
From Baita Bai de Dones, ride the chairlift to Rifugio Scoiattoli, then hike to Rifugio Averau and continue to Rifugio Nuvolau. From Rifugio Scoiattoli, you have the option to add on the short but sweet hike around the Cinque Torri, which we highly recommend doing.
Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles) out-and-back
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Total Ascent: 335 meters (1,100 feet)
Lowest Elevation (Rifugio Scoiattoli): 2,260 meters (7,415 feet)
Highest Elevation (Rifugio Nuvolau): 2,585 meters (8,500 feet)
Length of Time: 1.5 to 2 hours hiking time + additional time spent at the rifugios
If you add on the Cinque Torri hike, you will hike an additional 1.9 km (1.2 miles) that takes about an hour. That brings the total distance for both hikes to 6 km (3.7 miles).
Rifugio Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau Elevation Profile from Rifugio Scoiattoli
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How to Hike to Rifugio Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
This trail guide starts with the chairlift to Rifugio Scoiattoli, the hike to Rifugio Averau, and then the hike to Rifugio Nuvolau. If you plan to start at Rifugio Averau, skip the first part of this trail guide.
Chairlift to Rifugio Scoiattoli
Drive to and park at Baita Bai de Dones, which is located on SR48, about 25 minutes west of Cortina d’Ampezzo and an 8-minute drive east of the Falzarego Pass.
There is a very large parking lot here but it can fill up by late morning, especially on the weekends in the summer months.
When we did this in July 2022, we paid €20 per person for a round trip ticket on the chairlift. In the summer, the chairlift runs from 9 am to 5 pm. The chairlift operates from June through September. Get updated hours and pricing here.
OPTIONAL HIKE TO RIFUGIO SCOIATTOLI. Instead of riding the chairlift, you have the option to hike up the trail that runs under neath of the chairlift. For most of this hike, you will be in the trees without much of a view. It takes about an hour and is moderately strenuous. I recommend skipping this hike. It’s best to save your energy and time to hike to Rifugio Nuvalou (and add on the Cinque Torri).
Optional: Cinque Torri Loop
From Rifugio Scoiattoli, you can hike the Cinque Torri loop. This can be done before or after the hike to Rifugio Nuvalou. The morning is better if you want lighter crowds on the trail and the afternoon has better lighting for photography.
Cinque Torri and the WWI trenches
The Cinque Torri
WHAT WE DID: We hiked the Cinque Torri first and then hiked to Rifugio Nuvolau. At the very end of the hike, once back at Rifugio Scoiattoli, I retook some of our Cinque Torri photos, since the towers are more illuminated in the afternoon.
Rifugio Scoiattoli to Rifugio Averau
From Rifugio Scoiattoli, it is a 1 km hike to Rifugio Averau that takes about 30 minutes.
From Rifugio Scoiattoli, look for the wide, gravel path that leads uphill to Rifugio Averau. You can easily see both Rifugio Averau and Rifugio Nuvolau from Rifugio Scoiattoli, so it’s pretty much impossible to get lost on this trail.
The gravel path intertwines with a gravel road and both lead uphill to the rifugio. You can take either one…just as long as you are moving uphill, you are going in the right direction.
But don’t forget to pause occasionally, look back, and enjoy the view.
Trail to Rifugio Averau
View looking back towards Tofana di Rozes, the Cinque Torri, and Rifugio Scoiattoli
Another view as the trail approaches Rifugio Averau
At Rifugio Averau
The trail gets a lot more crowded once you get to Rifugio Averau, now that you are joining people who rode the chairlift to get to this point. There is a restaurant and toilets here if you need them.
Rifugio Averau (seen from the trail to Rifugio Nuvolau)
View from Rifugio Averau
Rifugio Averau to Rifugio Nuvolau
To get to Rifugio Nuvolau, it is a 1 km hike that takes about 30 minutes.
From Rifugio Averau, the trail climbs a little more steeply to Rifugio Nuvalou. This second half of the hike is slightly more challenging, with more uneven terrain and a steeper ascent. But it’s worth it. The views from the trail are breathtaking.
Trail to Rifugio Nuvolau
View from the trail
Final part of the trail to Rifugio Nuvolau
At Rifugio Nuvolau
Rifugio Nuvalou sits on top of Mount Nuvolau. You are now standing at 2,575 meters (8,500 feet), with 360° views of the Dolomites. This is one of our favorite viewpoints in the area. Our photos will do a much better job than my words describing the view, so here are a few pix taken from various spots around Rifugio Nuvolau.
The view from Rifugio Nuvolau.
What a view!!
Another view from Rifugio Nuvolau
The view of Passo Giau from Rifugio Nuvolau
This mountain hut sits on the edge of a cliff. The “trail” continues, but you need via ferrata equipment if you want to continue the hike to Ra Gusela (a neighboring mountain peak).
At Rifugio Nuvolau, have a seat at one of the tables on the terrace and enjoy the view. Inside of the hut is a bar where you can order beer, wine, and cocktails. Just outside of the hut we bought hot sandwiches fresh off of the grill. Or, you can have table service while seated on the patio, ordering pasta and other dishes off of a menu. We ate the sandwiches and they were delicious!
One more view from Rifugio Nuvolau
Finishing the Hike
To finish the hike, retrace your steps back to your starting point. If you didn’t do so yet, you can also add on the short, easy hike around the Cinque Torri.
Rifugio Nuvolau + Cinque Torri
Here is our timeline for the round trip hike to the Cinque Torri and Rifugio Nuvolau, so you get an idea of how to plan your day and what to expect from lighting for photography.
9:00 am: Chairlift to Rifugio Scoiattoli (we got here just before opening time, which was 9 am)
9:10 am: Cinque Torri hike
10:15 am: Hike to Rifugio Averau
10:40 am: Hike to Rifugio Nuvolau
11:00 am: Arrive at Rifugio Nuvolau, have an early lunch
12:00 pm: Start the return hike
12:50 pm: More photos of the Cinque Torri
1:00 pm: End of hike (chairlift to the parking lot)
Rifugio Scoiattoli and Cinque Torri
Additional Information & Helpful Tips
Best Time of Day to hike to Rifugio Nuvolau: I recommend starting in the morning so you can get to Nuvolau by lunchtime. We got here by 11 am and there were already quite a few people here, but we did not have any trouble getting a table on the terrace. By the time we started the return hike (at noon), there was a steady line of hikers on their way up to Rifugio Nuvolau.
Toilet: At the lower chairlift station, Rifugio Scoiattoli, Rifugio Averau, and Rifugio Nuvolau.
Food: Rifugio Scoiattoli, Rifugio Averau, and Rifugio Nuvolau. Two of our awesome readers wrote in and told us that they had amazing ravioli and best pasta in Italy at Rifugio Averau.
What to Bring on the Hike
Walking shoes or hiking shoes. I recommend wearing hiking shoes, since you will be hiking uphill and downhill on uneven surfaces.
Water. At least 1 liter of water per person. It’s not a long hike, but it can be warm in the summer, and it might be nice to have some cool water to drink during the hike.
Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. Most of the trail is fully exposed to the sun.
Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
If you have any questions about hiking to Rifugio Averau or Rifugio Nuvolau, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
DOLOMITES: For more great hikes in the Dolomites, check out our hiking guides for Lago di Braies, the Croda da Lago Circuit, the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint, and the Adolf Munkel Weg to Geisler Alm. And in our article Best Hikes in the Dolomites, we cover 15 epic trails in the Dolomites.
DOLOMITES: We cover important things to know before you go and travel tips in our article How to Plan a Trip to the Dolomites. For ideas on what to do, read our article Best Things to Do in the Dolomites and how to visit Marmolda. For recommendations on where to stay, check out our Dolomites Hotel Guide. Learn how to plan your time with our Dolomites Itinerary Travel Planner.
BEST OF ITALY: In our Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Italy, we list 20 beautiful destinations to consider for your next trip to Italy.
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for four different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. In our Northern Italy Itinerary, visit Venice, the Dolomites, Verona, Milan, and Lake Como. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.
FLORENCE & TUSCANY: If this is your first visit to Florence, read our guide to the Best Things to Do in Florence. If you plan to visit Tuscany, learn how to spend one day in Siena and the best things to do in San Gimignano.
TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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