The Rosengarten (Catinaccio) group is a massif in the Italian Dolomites in Northern Italy between Val di Fassa (in Trentino) and Eggenstal (in South Tyrol). Rosengarten means “Rose Garden” in German. It’s a reference to the mythic tale of King Laurin and his rose garden. At sunset, these striking mountains glow crimson and orange, inspiring the name and association with King Laurin’s legendary roses.
We created this 3-day trek across the Rosengarten so that we could see the Vajolet Towers, experience the Santner Klettersteig (optional), and re-visit our favorite rifugio Tierser Alpl. We’d label this trek as moderate (difficult), though it certainly encompasses some very easy stretches. Each day is on the shorter-side, so you have ample time to take breaks and savor the views along the way.
When to Hike across Catinaccio Rosengarten
Mid-June until mid-October. You need to time your trek with the opening times of the mountain huts. All huts are open until late September. Only Santernpasshütte (Day 1) and Tierser Alpl (Day 2) are open until mid-October, depending on snow conditions.
For peace of mind on the trail, make sure you have hiking travel insurance. When you have World Nomads insurance, you’ll get emergency medical insurance, emergency medical transportation, gear protection (in case of theft, loss, or damage) and trip protection (in case of cancellation).
Because this is a point-to-point hike, you can either start the trek in Karersee (Carezza) or at Sella Pass. If you want to do the via ferrata, you need to start in Karersee (Carezza).
It’s always easier and preferred to ascend a via ferrata route. Descending is so much harder. And, honestly, it’s kind of rude – as you’ll have to pass ascending climbers, which can be potentially unsafe and irritating.
If you’re not doing the via ferrata, you can start at either point. However, the trail unfolds more beautifully if you start in Karersee.
Arrival Day in Karersee (Carezza)
How to get to Karersee (Carezza)
There’s a direct bus (#180.1) from Bolzano (Bozen) to Karersee. The bus is operated by Südtirol Mobil and takes 50 minutes. It costs 4.50 EUR per person.
The village of Karersee (Carezza) takes its name from the Instagram-famous Karersee lake (Lake Carezza).
Location-wise, it’s unbeatable. From the hotel, it’s a quick walk to the Paolina chairlift. You’ll take that chairlift to get to the trailhead. Situated in Eggental valley between the Latemar and Rosengarten mountains, Hotel Alpenrose flaunts arresting Dolomites views. Even from the indoor-outdoor pool, you can savor the alpine landscapes whilst swimming, or swinging away on their ceiling lounge chairs.
Highlights of our stay were the outstanding 5-course dinner menu, the wellness facilities, and the bountiful breakfast. The hotel also has a lodge-style lounge and bar, which is a great place to grab a drink before dinner. Because day 1 of the trek is on the shorter side, you can enjoy a long, luxurious breakfast here, before setting off.
The mountain village of Carezza / Karersee is very small. So, if you needed any last minute supplies or a pharmacy, you have to head to the next town: Nova Levante (Welschnofen). If you want to stay in a more town-like setting, then look for accommodation in Nova Levante.
Getting to the Trailhead
This Catinaccio Rosengarten trek begins with a chairlift ascent. You have two options:
To start the hike, take the Paolina chairlift up to Paolina Hütte (Rifugio Paolina). The Paolina chairlift is open from 8 / 8:30 am – 5 / 5:30 pm (times vary based on month), from early June until mid-October. See the exact opening hours and dates here (under Carezza). It costs 10 EUR for a one-way ticket.
König Laurin II Chairlift
Alternatively, you can also take the König Laurin II chairlift from Malga Frommeralm to Kölner Hütte (Rifugio Fronza alle Coronelle). It also costs 10 EUR for a one-way ride. The Laurin II chairlift is open a bit longer into the season than Paolina.
We took the Paolina chairlift because it’s a 1-minute walk from Sporthotel Alpenrose, where we stayed the night. If you take the Paolina chairlift, your hike on day 1 will be 1-hour longer (totally doable). There’s no better, or preferred chairlift option. Simply take the chairlift that’s closer to your accommodation.
Rosengarten Dolomites Trek Stage 1
Day 1 with the Via Ferrata: Paolina Hütte (2125 m) – Kölnerhütte (2337 m) – Santner Klettersteig – Santnerpasshütte (2734 m) – Gartlhütte (2621 m)
Alternative Day 1 without the Via Ferrata: Paolina Hütte (2125 m) – Kölnerhütte (2337 m) – Tschagerjoch / Passo delle Coronelle (2,635 m) – Rifugio Paul Preuss (2243 m) – Rifugio Vajolet (2243 m) – Gartlhütte (2621 m)
This was the first intentional via ferrata Kati and I did. The assisted climbing section was surprisingly short. And, it wasn’t very difficult. At all times, we felt extremely secure. I was nervous throughout the whole route, always anticipating that the “hard stuff” was coming up. But, it never did. It just looks intimidating. So, when we finished the route, it felt surprisingly easy.
We know our readers have different hiking backgrounds. So, let me add this. If you’ve done a via ferrata, the Santner Klettersteig will likely be easy for you. If you’ve never done a via ferrata, but have a lot of alpine hiking experience, are conditionally fit and comfortable using your hands to climb, and don’t suffer any vertigo, this will be fun and only moderately difficult. If you hike a lot in coastal areas or on generally flat terrain (not in the mountains), then this will be a challenge.
If you decide to do the via ferrata, make sure to wear a full kit.
Paolina Hütte to Kölnerhütte
From the Paolina chairlift mountain station (Rifugio Paolina Hütte), take trail 552 to Kölnerhütte (Rifugio Fronza alle Coronelle). It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to hike the mostly level balcony trail to Kölnerhütte. The views of the Latemar mountains are marvelous.
Kölnerhütte to Santnerpasshütte (2734 m) via Santner Klettersteig
From Kölnerhütte, the trail ascends immediately behind the hut. After a short steep section, the trail splits. If you’re doing the Santner via ferrata, take the left trail numbered 542. If you’re doing the hiking route, take the right trail numbered 550 in the direction of Tschagerjoch (Passo delle Coronelle).
After turning left at the trail intersection, the path is quite level initially. After 30 minutes of mostly flat walking, the trail ascends. You don’t need any equipment initially, but it’s a good idea to put on your harness and helmet right here. Follow the red-painted trail markers, which are either lines or “Ss.” The markers will guide you through the mountains along the route.
It took us 2 hours to hike from the Kölnerhütte to Santnerpasshütte, the mountain hut at Santner mountain pass. However, the via ferrata was clogged up with two large guided groups, so we spent a lot of time waiting. If you’re not following guided groups (hopefully), then it should take far less time.
When you reach the Santner pass, the views open up and you can see the magical Vajolet Towers. As you descend to Gartlhütte, this views continue to marvel.
Location-wise, we recommend staying in either Gartlhütte (Rifugio Re. Alberto) or Santnerpasshütte (Rifugio Passo Santner). That way you can catch the sunset and sunrise at the towers. If you stay in Rifugio Vajolet or Rifugio Paul Preuss, you’re a good 40 minute-hike away from that picture-perfect scene of the towers.
Showers: Currently none (possible in 2021).
Drinking Water: Tap water isn’t drinkable. You can purchase water bottles, or purify.
Electronic Charging Stations: Readily available and free.
Payment: Cash, or credit cards
Half Board or à la carte: Half board only with a 4-course dinner.
Rooms: Dormitory Only.
Open: June 6 – October 25, 2020 – depending on snow conditions.
Cost: 65 EUR for half board.
Showers: Yes, Coin-operated (4 EUR for 4 min)
Drinking Water: tap water isn’t drinkable
Electronic Charging Stations: In the dining room
Payment: Cash Only
Half Board or à la carte: Both available.
Rooms: Dormitory and private rooms available.
Open: June 13 – end of September (2020) – depending on snow conditions.
Cost: 55 EUR for half board. 38 EUR for breakfast and board.
Rosengarten Dolomites Trek Stage 2
Day 2 Gartlhütte (2621 m) – Rifugio Vajolet (2243 m) – Grasleitenpasshütte / Rifugio Passo Principe (2601 m) – Molignon Pass (2598 m) – Tierser Alpl / Alpe di Tires (2440 m)
Gartlhütte to Grasleitenpasshütte (Rifugio Passo Principe)
The hike today isn’t very long, but it involves many ascents and descents. In fact, you’ll be making 3 separate descents and 2 ascents.
From Gartlhütte, you’ll descend for about 40 minutes to Rifugio Vajolet. This section is steep and requires careful footing, as the terrain is unstable. It’s kinda tedious.
From Rifugio Vajolet, follow trail 584 for 50 minutes up to Grasleitenhütte (Rifugio Passo Principe), the mountain hut at Grasleitenpass (Passo Principe)
Grasleitenhütte is a darling rifugio wedged into the side of the mountain. It’s cozy and warm and smells like freshly baked cinnamon cake. The weather wasn’t great, so we took a long break here and enjoyed their vegetable soup and baked goods.
Grasleitenpasshütte (Rifugio Passo Principe) to Tierser Alpl (Rifugio Alpe di Tires)
From Grasleitenpass, it’s 2 hours to Tierser Alpl. You’ll initially descend along trail 11A and then ascend to Molignon Pass along trail 3A. This section is characterized by hairpins that traverse scree slopes.
From Molignonpass, it’s about 30 minutes to Tierser Alpl. As you hike across the rocky plateau, keep your eyes out for the Geisler (Odle) peaks off to the right and Tierser Alpl. The view of the red-roofed mountain hut beneath the Rosszähne (Denti di Terrarossa) is one of my favorite views in the Dolomites.
The final descent is secured (no equipment needed). When you reach level ground, it’s a short flat walk to the hut.
Stay in Tierser Alpl
Showers: Yes, Coin-operated (3 EUR for a 3 min shower)
Drinking Water: tap water is safe to drink
Electronic Charging Stations: Throughout hut, free.
Half Board or à la carte: Both available. You can decide when you sit down for dinner. We highly recommend half board.
Rooms: Dormitory and private rooms available.
Open: May 31st – October 16th (in 2019)
Cost: 56 EUR (and up) for half board / 33 EUR (and up) for board with breakfast
Rosengarten Dolomites Trek Stage 3
Day 3 Tierser Alpl / Alpe di Tires (2440 m) – Passo Duran (2204 m) – Plattkofelhütte / Rifugio Sasso Piato (2300 m) – Passo Sella / Sellajoch (2100 m)
Day 3 is longer in distance than the first two days, but it’s quite level most of the time. There are no long, dramatic elevation gains.
Initially, you’ll follow a gravel road down to Passo Duran for about 50 minutes. The beautiful Val Duron valley is off to your right. It’s a 2-hour walk from Tierser Alpl to Plattkofelhütte. You’ll pass pastures full of grazing cattle and horses, before reaching Plattkofelhütte.
Plattkofelhütte (Rifugio Sasso Piato) is the perfect place for a relaxed and indulgent lunch. This hut is situated on the well-known Sassolungo (Langkofel) circuit trail.
Plattkofelhütte to Sella Pass
To reach Sella Pass, you have two options. The easier option is to hike right onto trail 557 via Rifugio Friedrich – August. The more difficult, and perhaps more scenic route, is to hike left onto trail 527 and then 525 via Langkofelhütte.
If you want to continue your journey in the Dolomites, we recommend heading to Val Gardena next. There are busses that connect Sella Pass to Val Gardena.
Take Bus 471 from Passo Sella (Schutzhaus Sellajoch) to Plan. Then take Bus 350 from Plan to Selva (Wolkenstein), Santa Cristina, or Ortisei.
Between June 21st and September 18th (2020), the bus departs every 30 minutes. The last bus leaves Sella Pass at 18:32 (6:32 pm). During low season (May 21st – June 20th / September 19th – October 10th), the bus also departs every 30 min, but the last bus departs at 17:32 (5:32 pm). For more info and time tables, use the Südtirol Mobil site.