|Elevation gain||↑2600 metres circa|
|Type of terrain||
Unpaved dirt 80%
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Cycling Dolomites: Tofane and Cinque Torri loop
This two-day itinerary between the Tofane and the Cinque Torri by MTB is recommended for those who want to discover a cycling Dolomites area between Veneto and Alto Adige, immersing themselves in nature and, I don't deny it, struggling a lot to overcome the proposed elevation gain. The starting point of the route is the city of Cortina, the queen of the Dolomites, which rises in the Ampezzo basin, a place of undoubted beauty. Surrounded by the peaks of the Ampezzo Dolomites, Cortina is frequented by many tourists during the summer and winter seasons. In autumn and spring, on the other hand, the town is almost drowsy and extremely quiet; for these reasons, we suggest tackling the Tofane and Cinque Torri loop by mountain bike in late September - early October or in the months of May and June.
Cycling Dolomites: Fanes valley
From the centre of Cortina d'Ampezzo, we head straight north, taking the SS51 for a short distance before turning onto the old Dobbiaco - Calalzo di Cadore railway, better known as the Dolomites cycle path. The asphalt soon gives way to the dirt road and, in no time at all, we find ourselves face to face with the Boite stream flowing in the opposite direction. With the majestic and imposing group of the Cristallo on our right and the Col Rosà on the left, we find ourselves breathing the fresh air of the Felizon stream that descends impetuously into its small canyon. A short but decisive asphalted ramp shows us that we will soon turn west entering the Fanes valley, crossed by the namesake stream.
The track returns to dirt and, right from the very beginning, makes us understand that cycling Dolomites will not be easy at all: a steep slope allows us to immediately gain altitude by accompanying us to a panoramic balcony over the Fanes waterfalls. We are in Veneto, in the belly of the Ampezzo Dolomites, yet the landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the naturalistic wonders of the Great North and so I imagine I see a grizzly appear fishing for salmon; the thought makes you smile, but the continuation of the climb does not.
Path number 10 continues to climb with arrogance on the following hairpin bends, the ratios climb fast and when even on the last pinion the legs turn in slow motion, there is only one thing to do: get off the saddle and push the bike.
Slowly you leave the wood to reach Lake Fanes, a crystal-clear pool of water overlooking the peaks of Clamin and Vallon Bianco.
In the peace of the mountains, between further ramps and enchanted landscapes, you find yourself at a wooden gate that establishes the border between Veneto and Alto Adige, between the regional park of the Ampezzo Dolomites and the natural park of Fanes, Sennes and Braies which we partly explored during another two days.
Overlooking the Val Badia
At 2100 m, at the height of the Ucia di Gran Fanes, the route turns south-west into a bucolic valley which, between alpine huts and green pastures, accompanies bikers up to Jù Dal'Ega, at 2157 m of altitude.You cycle at the foot of the Piz Taibun massif (2927 m) until just before a panoramic balcony, known as Col de Locia, on the underlying San Cassiano valley, a crossroads of the well-known Val Badia. A small wooden gate, the bottom of the path and a sign leave no doubt (not only cycling Dolomites!): from here on for about twenty minutes you will have to carry the bike by hand, resisting the temptation of a crazy and dangerous (and forbidden!) descent and taking advantage of the moment to fully enjoy the place. At 1800 m you can get back on the saddle by resuming the Tofane loop and passing, a little further on, the Alpine hut (possibility to fill the water bottles or have a snack) where you meet the paved road of the valley. In less than fifty meters, the dirt road is taken back to the left towards Camping Sass Dlacia. The La Villa - San Cassiano trail goes beyond the campsite, entering the coolness of the forest and gently starting to climb again.
Cycling Dolomites: climbing towards Valparola pass
From the Valparola hut, the track resumes its ascent in a sudden way putting to the test the already tired legs. 1880, 1900, 1920... the meters slip under the tires, the breath is laboured and the sweat slips down the temples making the eyes sting. Like a mirage, the asphalt reappears and in less than 2 km you find yourself in front of the Valparola refuge which welcomes visitors (and tired cyclists!). From the building the view can sweep over the near and distant peaks, pausing with pleasure on the intense blue of the Valparola lake. The pass is located a little further on, just beyond Forte Tre Sassi, an Austrian fortification built on the border with Italy between 1897 and 1901. Property of the rule of Cortina d'Ampezzo, today it houses a museum dedicated to the Great War (even if Paolo Rumiz would object, rightly, that World War I had absolutely nothing "great"!). The pass is the highest road point and to go down towards Col Gallina there are two possibilities: try the challenging but fun dirt descent or throw yourself headlong along the asphalt towards Falzarego at 2109 m.
Also from this saddle, it is possible to take a battered dirt road that loses altitude passing right from the Col Gallina refuge, where the first day of our Tofane and Cinque Torri loop ends...
Cycling Dolomites: woods, fords and rocky peaks
From the refuge, where we spent the night, the track descends on a dirt road alternating the passage in dense woods and bare clearings.
Shaky bridges, stretches of single trails, scattered mud and glimpses of the Dolomites dress this part of the itinerary to the fullest. The unmistakable shape of the Tofana di Rozes suddenly appears enchanting anyone. On the saddle, you pass the roots of Lake Bain de Dones and continue downhill for another 2 km.In the presence of the Tofana di Mezzo, turn onto asphalt leaving the mountain massif behind and starting the arduous climb towards the Cinque Torri. On an MTB the slopes of the road are not a problem even if it will be necessary to push hard on the pedals for the entire stretch. In about 3 km you climb over 400 meters, up to the Cinque Torri Refuge.
Cinque Torri by MTB
The refuge is dominated by the five solemn dolomite spurs, a rocky icon of the Ampezzo Dolomites. The area surrounding the small mountain range, a border area where people fought violently during the First World War, is today an open-air museum thanks to the recovery of the old barracks and posts. The track runs along the Cinque Torri (on foot you can climb between the formations) advancing along treacherous and very sloping gravel. On this Dolomites loop, very soon, upstream of the route, you can see the Scoiattoli refuge which was built in a heavenly position. The enchanting panorama is difficult to describe in words: the Cinque Torri behind us stand out vainly, further away the Croda da Lago, the Torrione Marcella, Cima Ambrizzola, the Cernera, the Nuvolau... pushing regularly alternates with pedalling. Finally, with the last effort, the Averau refuge is reached and the wonder, once again, takes over. From the building the skyline of the Dolomite peaks is incredible: Punta Penia, the Ombreta and the Sasso Vernale della Marmolada, the queen, dominate the scene, but also the vassals the Sasso Pordoi, the Cimon della Pala, Torre Venezia, the Civetta, the Averau to name a few, are no exception.
Cycling Dolomites: Giau pass and the Averau shape
Cycling Dolomites from the Averau refuge the dirt road loses altitude. Fun is guaranteed along the hairpin bends that descend towards the Giau pass road. The Dolomite formation of the Averau is unmistakable and accompanies bikers for several kilometres, beyond the pass loved by motorcyclists. This part of the itinerary, at times demanding due to the presence of stones and holes, arrives on the asphalt at the Fedare refuge, where you enter the SP638 of the Giau pass. After the one faced so far, the climb to Giau will seem like a real walk, just pay attention to vehicular traffic and motorcycles.
At the pass, where you can refresh yourself, the view of Averau, Col Piombin and Lastoi de Formin are of poignant beauty. The Tofane and 5 Torri loop by MTB leaves the refuge of the pass on asphalt but, after 300 meters, turns onto a fun dirt road, an old cart track with hairpin bends that crosses the provincial road further down. We pass the Giau wall, the symbol of the ancient border between the Serenissima Republic of Venice and the Hapsburg Empire, and at an altitude of 1760 m, we throw ourselves back on a dirt road getting bogged down among flourishing pastures and streams. At the height of the Ru Curtu Bridge, cross the asphalt to continue off-road once again. At the first crossroads, after 400 m, turn left and come out once again on asphalt for a few hundred meters. After the second bend, at a parking lot, turn right onto an off-road vehicle to follow the Cason del Macaroni path.
Final rush to Cortina
Going past the lake refuge of Ajal and descending fast on a fun offroad, you enter the Mortisa hamlet of Cortina where, with a large bend on asphalt, you continue towards Campo di Sopra. The last ups and downs accompany us to Zuel di Sopra, a place where the cycle path of the Dolomites resumes towards the centre of Cortina D'Ampezzo. The two-day tour of the Tofane and Cinque Torri by MTB ends in 3 km, an itinerary that is nothing short of spectacular! Well, cycling Dolomites is spectacular!