Dolomites, Day 4 – Dawn at Gardena Pass, then Prato Piazza and Braies Lake

Even though waking up at 4 AM may seem far from the usual definition of relax, this is what today is all about: relaxing, taking it easy, don’t hike for kilometers and kilometers. After a total of approx. 33Km and 2100m of altitude in our first 3 days, the plan is to reach Braies Lake and enjoy the area without walking too much. Our legs definitely need some rest.

As i said, the alarm rings at 4 AM to make sure we’re at Gardena pass before sunrise. We get there pretty early, at 5 AM. The air is cold, as you would expect on a mountain pass that early in the morning, but it’s not windy. It’s a pleasure to wait the sun to rise.

After a couple of shots in the dark, the sun starts to rise and illuminate the mountains around us. The Sella Group on the South, then the Sassolungo on the South-West get illuminated by a wonderful morning light that is just magic. To add magic on top of magic, a couple of young deer show up from the meadows below us. They run back and forth, playing like crazy, then disappear as quickly as they appeared.

It’s now time to go back to our apartment, have a good breakfast and then get back on the car towards Braies. The drive is quite long, it takes about an hour to get there, but the road is easy… what did we say? Yeah, you’re right. Relax!

When we get close to our destination we realize that all the parking lots are full, the road is closed, and we’re far away from our destination. Walking there was out of discussion. A road sign indicate another location on our left. It is called Prato Piazza. We quickly check on internet, and decide to change our plans and get there, thus planning for Braies Lake in the afternoon. 

A Shuttle bus bring us to Rifugio Prato Piazza, and from there a nice walk, on a flat, soft path brings us to Rifugio Vallandro, a panoramic spot to enjoy the whole area. Monte Cristallo is majestic in front of us, on the other side of the valley, even if covered in clouds. This is the perfect place for our lunch.

After lunch a set of approaching dark clouds seem to suggest us that it’s time to walk back to the shuttle bus stop. Considering we had already explored the area, there was no reason to risk to get wet, therefore we quickly get to the shuttle bus and then to the parking area. 

Hoping that the dark clouds and the afternoon had freed some parking spot, we move towards Braies Lake, and this time we succeed. We park the car a few steps from the lake and finally get to our original destination.

The lake is spectacular, colors are wonderful. Even the dark clouds are moving away. We start walking, and we end up completing the entire ring around the lake. Nice and easy walk, refreshing for our legs.

Another set of dark clouds approaches, and a few drops of rain hit us. It’s time to pack up and get back to the car, and this is what we do. It doesn’t rain though…and this will be a big problem for us (stay tuned to know why).


Our fourth day in the Dolomites ends here… Another great day for us!


Note: Some of the places shown in the posts from our Dolomites trip were dramatically hit by unexpected severe weather conditions at the end of October 2018. Strong winds and heavy rains damaged several woodland, villages and hiking trails. Images and descriptions on my blog refer to a trip we had almost 3 months before (beginning to mid August 2018). What shown in this blog may differ from what is the current status. I’m not aware of all the damages created by the weather, therefore this general note will be inserted in all the following posts. For those areas that I know for sure were damaged, I will point it out in the description.  


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