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Hiking the Ortler High Mountain Trail in the Italian Alps

Trekking the Ortler High Mountain Trail in South Tyrol, Italy

The Ortler High Mountain Trail is a strenuous 7-day trek in South Tyrol and Lombardy in Northern Italy. This 119.5 km circular hiking route circumnavigates the Ortler Group (aka Ortles Alps), starting and ending at Stelvio Pass

Opened in September 2018, the Ortler High Mountain Trail invites alpine hikers to marvel at Mount Ortler (3,905 m, 12,812 ft), the highest peak in the Eastern Alps, and many other notable peaks, from various angles. The rewards of trekking this route are many, including:

  • Peace and Quiet. Very few people know about this trail, and therefore your experience will be solitary and tranquil. 
  • Glacier Views. The Ortler massif boasts almost 100 glaciers. 
  • Rare Wildlife Sightings. Keep your eyes out for Bartgeier (bearded vultures).
  • Cultural Intersections. The trail begins in Val Venosta (Vinschgau) in Germany-speaking South Tyrol (Südtirol). South Tyrol was part of Austria, before the First World War, so the culture is distinctly Tirolean (Austrian). After the four-day hike in South Tyrol, the trail continues into the Italian-speaking Valtellina in Lombardy. Throughout this Ortler trekking guide, we’ve tried to use both the German and Italian names for each destination. 
  • Gourmet Cuisine. As you’ll be overnighting in both hotels and mountain huts along the route, there are multiple opportunities to eat regional and gourmet food.

When can you hike the Ortler High Mountain Trail?

July, August, September.

Accommodation along the Ortler High Mountain Trail

You’ll spend three nights in mountain huts (Rifugi, Hütten) and the other three nights in hotels.

Note: Wild camping is strictly forbidden along the route. 

Modifying the Ortler High Mountain Trail

In order to hike the Ortler High Mountain Trail in its entirety, trekkers need the assistance of a certified hiking guide on Stage 4, to safely guide them across a glacier. You can download a document listing certified guides in Venosta Valley from this Stelvio National Park resource page (click: “Bergführer im Vinschgau”). 

We’ve created this Ortler trekking guide for those that want to take in the highlights of the Ortler High Trail without the glacier crossing. This modified route isn’t technically demanding, but it still requires stamina and good conditioning. Though this is a “softer” version of the Ortler High Trail, it’s nonetheless strenuous. 

Responsible Hiking in Stelvio National Park

While you’re hiking in the Ortler Alps, you’re also hiking within a protected area. In Stelvio National Park, please adhere to the following:

  • Fires are strictly prohibited.
  • Wild camping is strictly prohibited.
  • Take all your rubbish with you.
  • Respect wild animals and grazing animals and do no disturb them. Keep a safe distance.
  • Close fences/gates.
  • Drones are strictly prohibited.

Learn more about respectfully visiting Stelvio National Park.

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Ortler High Mountain Trail (Orter Höhenweg) Hiking Guide, South Tyrol, Italy

Ortler High Mountain Trail Guide Overview

  • Ortler High Mountain Trail Itineraries: Complete Route (7 Stages) & Our Route (3 Stages + Exit)
  • Ortler High Mountain Trail Route Map
  • Arrival Day in Trafoi, Val Venosta: Transit, Where to Stay
  • How to Get to the Stelvio Pass Trailhead
  • Stages Explained: stage overview, where to stay
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More Hiking Itineraries

This post links to products and services we love, which we may make a small commission from, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our blog!! Our trek was compensated by IDM Südtirol – Sabrina and Kati

Ortler High Mountain Trail Hiking Guide

Ortler High Mountain Trail Trekking Itineraries

Ortler High Mountain Trail: Complete Route

  • Stage 1: Stelvio Pass to Stilfs/Stelvio (18.5 km, 7:30 hours)
  • Stage 2: Stilfs/Stelvio to Düsseldorfer Hütte (17 km, 9 hours)
  • Stage 3: Düsseldorfer Hütte to Zufallhütte (14 km, 7:45 hours)
  • Stage 4: Zufallhütte to Rifugio Pizzini with glacier crossing (11.5 km, 6:30 hours) 
  • Stage 5: Rifugio Pizzini to Sant’ Antonio in Valfurva Tal Valley (20.34 km, 8:30 hours)
  • Stage 6: Sant’ Antonio to Lago di Cancano (16 km, 8 hours)
  • Stage 7: Lago di Cancano to Stelvio Pass (22 km, 8 hours)

Ortler High Mountain Trail: The Highlights

  • Day 1: Arrival Day in Trafoi 
  • Day 2: Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 1: Stelvio Pass to Stelvio/Stilfs (18.5 km, 7:30 hours)
  • Day 3: Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 3: Transfer/Bus to Sulden/Solda – Kanzel Chairlift – Kanzel Mountain Station – Zufallhütte Mountain Hut (10.2 km, 5 hours) 
  • Day 4: Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 4 (without the glacier crossing): Zufallhütte Mountain Hut – Glacier Viewpoint – Zufallhütte – Hintermartell (15.6 km, 6 – 7 hours)
  • Day 5: Departure Day. Or, stay another day in Martell Valley.

This modified route requires one chairlift, bus transit, and/or shuttle transfers. We highly recommend Ortler Bus for personal shuttles. Their team is highly professional, punctual, and friendly.

 
Ortler High Mountain Trail, South Tyrol, Italy

Ortler High Mountain Trail: The Highlights Route Map

Ortler Trek Stages
  • Ortler High Trail Stage 1
  • Ortler High Trail Stage 3
  • Ortler High Trail Stage 4
Ortler High Mountain Trail Trekking Guide, Goldseeweg

Arrival Day in Trafoi, Val Venosta, South Tyrol

How to get to Trafoi

  1. Take a train to Merano, South Tyrol, Italy. Book your train connection here
  2. Take public transit or a shuttle transfer from Meran to Trafoi. 

Meran Train Station to Trafoi via Shuttle Transfer

Book your shuttle transfers with Ortlerbus. This is the most stress-free way to get to the hotel.

Meran Train Station to Trafoi (Hotel Post) via Public Transit

  • Transit Time: 2 Hours
  • Total Ticket Price: 11.50 EUR per person
  • Transit Step by Step:
    • Step #1 | Train (R), Direction Mals Bahnhof: Meran Train Station – Bahnhof Spondinig/Prad, Duration: 1 h 12 min
    • Step #2 | Bus (271) Direction Stilfs Dorf: Bahnhof Spondinig/Prad – Stilfs Dorf (Stelvio Village), Duration: 24 min
    • Step #3 | Bus (270) Direction Stilfser Joch: Stilfs Dorf – Trafoi (Hotel Post), Duration: 13 min

Use the Suedtirolmobil website to plan your journey.

Where to Stay in Trafoi: Hotel Bella Vista

The stately Hotel Bella Vista is easy to fall in love with. The owners are gracious and welcoming. The food is sensational. And, the location couldn’t be better. With unobstructed views of the Vordere Madatschspitze (3184 m), Trafoier Eiswand (3563 m), Schneeglocke (3410 m), it’s tempting to upend your trekking plans, and simply sojourn in the hotel.

Skiing aficionados would also be happy to know that Hotel Bella Vista is the birthplace of professional skier and Olympic gold medalist Gustav Thöni.

Tip: If you’re just arriving in the Alps, you may want to spend two nights in Trafoi acclimating to the high altitude. 

Book your stay at Hotel Bella Vista.

Look for accommodation in Trafoi.

 
Stelvio Pass to Stelvio / Stilfs, Ortler High Trail Stage 1, South Tyrol

Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 1

Stelvio Pass to Stelvio

How to Get to the Stelvio Pass Trailhead

Take bus 270 to Stelvio Pass. The bus takes 44 minutes and costs 6 EUR. We’ve marked the bus stop on the interactive map above.

Stage 1: Stilfser Joch (Passo dello Stelvio) – Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola) – Stilfs (Stelvio)

  • Distance: 18.5 km
  • Difficulty: Easy, but the descent is very long and hard on the knees. See the alternative option below for a shorter-route.
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 335 meters ascending, 1811 meters descending 
  • Time Needed: 7:30 hours
  • Trails: 20, 4, 6, 1
  • Lunch Option: Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola)
  • Where to Stay: Hotel Sonne in Stilfs (Stelvio)

Alternative Stage 1: Stilfser Joch (Passo dello Stelvio) – Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola)

  • Distance: 8.3 km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 168 m ascending, 2855 m descending 
  • Time Needed: 3 hours 
  • Trail: 20
  • Lunch Option: Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola)
  • Where to Stay: Stay a second night in Hotel Bella Vista in Trafoi

For anyone with sensitive knees, you can trim off a significant part of the descent, by taking the Chairlift Trafoi down to the valley. The chairlift mountain station is located at Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola).

You can then stay a second night at the aptly named Hotel Bella Vista in Trafoi. Though this would significantly shorten stage 1, you’re not missing out on too much. The most beautiful part of Stage 1 is from Stelvio Pass to Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola)

Trafoi Chairlift

  • Season | Mid-July until Early October
  • Opening Hours | 08.30h – 12.30h and 13.30h – 17.00h
  • Pricing | Ascent/Descent: 15.50 EUR; Descent: 11.50 EUR
  • More Information.
 

Stelvio Pass to Furkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola)

From the pass, locate the wide gravel path heading north and uphill in the direction of the stone-fortress-looking Rifugio Garibaldi. Follow signs to Furkelhütte. 

As you follow trail 20, the views of the Stelvio Pass Road below, with its 48 hairpins, are fantastic. On the other side of the valley, the Ortler Range makes a lasting impression with its shimmering glaciated peaks. No trail better showcases the majesty of the Central Italian Alps than this one. 

From the beginning, you’ll start to see ruins of military barracks from the First World War. The Ortler range was one of the main battlegrounds between Austrian and Italian troops in WWI. Both sides strived to occupy the highest peaks in the range, in order to advantageously place their cannons and other artillery. 

The trail heads north-east, running parallel to the Swiss border, in the direction of Val Venosta valley. As you continue to descend, you’ll follow balcony trails across tussock and rock-laden slopes. Though at times narrow, the path is easy to hike. The final stretch to Rifugio Forcola (Fürkelhütte) descends tussock slopes and then weaves through a beautiful forest filled with Stone Pine, Larch, and Spruce. 

With its sunny terrace facing Mount Orter, Fürkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola) is a splendid place for a long lunch. Linger here, savor the views, and enjoy listening to South Tyrolean German dialect and Italian. 

Fürkelhütte (Rifugio Forcola) – Untere Stilfser Alm (Malga Stelvio di Sotto) – Faslarhöfe  (Fossalara) – Stilfs (Stelvio)

The trail continues north-east to Stilfser Alm (Malga di Stelvio). Take the gravel road behind the Rifugio (not the upper track) and follow signs to Klein Boden (Trail 17) at first. When the road divides, take the upper track, following trail 4 (Almenweg). 

Eventually, the path leads to the lower Untere Stilfser Alm, surrounded by goats. You have to detour about 10 minutes in order to reach the upper Obere Stilfser Alm (Malga Stelvio di Sopra), which is a suitable place for a break and a bite to eat. 

From the Untere Stilfser Alm (lower alpine pasture hut), follow the gravel road leading downhill. Shortly thereafter, turn left onto trail 6, departing the road. You’ll hike across grassy pastures on a soft trail, while still maintaining a north-easterly direction. 

After descending along trail 6 for 1.6 km, you’ll continue onto the Höfeweg trail to the tiny hamlet of Faslarhöfe (Fossalara), located just above Stilfs. When you get this tiny cluster of homes, the somewhat inconspicuous trail 1 continues behind home #5 (according to Maps.me). You’ll continue north-east for about half a kilometer, before making a right, and a final descent into the town of Stilfs. 

Honestly, this last part was a bit confusing, since there seems to be a more direct route (staying on trail 6) into town. We relied on Maps.me for navigation. 

 

Stay in Hotel Sonne

Hotel Sonne is a 3-star hotel in Stilfs (Stelvio). The hotel has a small wellness area, with a whirlpool, steam sauna, and a dry sauna, which invites you to relax after the long first stage. Dinner is the main event. Over the course of 2:30 hours, you’ll be treated to 5 gourmet courses, each prepared to perfection. The food is phenomenal, but after such a long day, the length of the meal was tiring. 

Book your stay at Hotel Sonne.

Look for accommodation in Stilfs / Stelvio.

 
Ortler, Zebru, Königsspitze, Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 3

Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 3

Kanzel Mountain Station to Zufallhütte Mountain Hut

How to Get from Stilfs (Stelvio) to the Kanzel Chairlift in Sulden (Solda)

Take Bus 271 from Stilfs Dorf to Sulden Hotel Cristallo (Direction Seilbahn Sulden). The bus takes 22 minutes and costs 1.50 EUR per person.

Stage 3: Kanzel Chairlift – Kanzelhütte (Rifugio Pulpito) – Schöntaufjoch (Passo di Beltovo) – Madritschjoch (Passo Matriccio) – Zufallhütte Mountain Hut (Rifugio Nino Corsi)

  • Distance: 10.2 km
  • Difficulty: Moderately Difficult (conditionally, not technically) 
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 868 m ascending, 950 m descending 
  • Time Needed: 5 hours
  • Minimum Elevation: 2,269 m
  • Maximum Elevation: 3,203 m
  • Trails: 13, 11, 151
  • Lunch Option: Pack a snack. At Hotel Sonne, they told us we could make our to-go sandwiches from the breakfast buffet. 
  • Where to Stay: Zufallhütte (Rifugio Nino Corsi)

Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 3 begins at Düsseldorfer Hütte, but because we skipped Stage 2, we joined the trail at the Kanzel Chairlift mountain station. 

Kanzel Chairlift Mountain Station to Schöntaufjoch (Passo di Beltovo)

After exiting the chairlift, head right, following signs to Rosimtal Valley (trail 13). Across the Solda Valley, the Ortler massif continues to mesmerize. From this particular vantage point, you’ll see Ortler, Zebru, and Königsspitze

After about 30 minutes, you’ll reach the Rosimböden mountain pastures. Make a right, crossing the Rosimbach stream, leaving trail 11 behind. 

The trail ascends steadily, albeit gently, across tussock slopes and then fields of stone. Though the terrain looks somewhat intimidating from afar, the path is very well-made, so there’s no difficulty in conquering those 800+ meters. That being said, you’re hiking at an elevation around 2700-3000 meters, so you may experience shortness of breath. We certainly did. 

As you near the Schöntaufjoch (Passo di Beltovo) mountain saddle, the trail becomes increasingly narrow and steep. 

Schöntaufjoch (Passo di Beltovo) to Zufallhütte (Rifugio Nino Corsi)

From Schöntaufjoch (Passo di Beltovo) bear right, following the ridge. The path will be more obvious in a few meters. In a linear fashion, you’ll continue below the ridge, until arriving at Madritschjoch (Passo Matriccio) mountain saddle.

From the saddle, descend along trail 151 through Madritschtal Valley until reaching Zufall mountain hut. The initial descent is quite steep. 

Trail 151 is also a mountain biking route, which was unnerving at times. It’s important to exercise caution. 

 

Stay in Zufallhütte Mountain Hut

  • Reservation: Submit a booking request using this online form.
  • Showers: Yes. Token Operated
  • Drinking Water: Tap water is safe to drink
  • Electronic Charging Stations: In rooms.
  • Payment: Cash only
  • Food Quality: EXCELLENT!!!!
  • Half Board or à la carte: Half-board only
  • Rooms: Dormitory, and private rooms

Zufallhütte is an exemplary example of a mountain hut. Managed by a jovial and helpful team, you’ll feel an instant longing to return. It’s that feeling you get when you don’t want a good experience to end.

It’s obvious that the manager delights in his job. He ensures that everyone feels at ease and welcome, and orchestrates a joyful experience for everyone. 

It’s also worth noting that the dinner was a feast. The portions were overly generous. For those that like privacy, the private rooms are very comfortable.

 
Ortler High Trail, Upper Martell Valley, Italian Alps

Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 4 (Modified)

Zufallhütte Mountain Hut to Hintermartell

Alternative Stage 4: Zufallhütte (Rifugio Nino Corsi) – Trail 151 – Zufallhütte (Rifugio Nino Corsi) – Hintermartell

  • Distance: 15.6 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 868 m ascending, 1068 m descending 
  • Time Needed: 6 – 7 hours
  • Minimum Elevation: 2,067 m
  • Maximum Elevation: 3,094 m
  • Trails: 150, 37
  • Lunch Option: Zufallhütte Mountain Hut
  • Where to Stay: Hotel Burgaunerhof in Martelltal Valley (Val Martello)

Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 4 ascends the upper Martelltal Valley along trail 150 to the ruins of the former Hallsche hut. Next, the trail crosses a glacier to Casati mountain hut and ultimately continues to Pizzini hut in Veltlintal Valley.

If you want to do the full stage, with the glacier crossing, you’ll need to organize a certified hiking guide. You’ll find a list of recommended guides on this Stelvio National Park page (“Bergführer im Vinschgau”). 

We did a modified Stage 4, where we simply hiked up the upper Martelltal Valley to a glacier viewpoint and then returned by the same trail to Zufall mountain hut. Essentially, you can hike up the valley for as long as you want. The longer you walk, the better the glacier views. 

We returned to Zufallhütte Mountain Hut for lunch and then hiked down to the Hintermartell parking lot via the thematic Plima Gorge Path. Along the path, you’ll see the impressive Plima Gorge from several vantage points, including the Plimaschlucht hanging chain bridge.

 

Stay in Martell Valley

From the Hintermartell parking lot, we recommend organizing a shuttle transfer with Ortlerbus to your final destination. However, bus transit is also possible. To get to Hotel Burgauernhof (where we stayed), it’s a 40-minute journey and costs 5.50 EUR. You have to take two buses:

  • Step #1: Bus 262 (Direction: Martell Dorf): Martell (Enzianhütte) – Gand (29 min)
  • Step #2: Bus 262 (Direction: Goldrain): Gand – Burgaun (5 min)

Stay in Hotel Burgaunerhof

Hotel Burgaunerhof was the perfect ending to the perfect trip. We absolutely loved this hotel in Martell Valley. Let me briefly tell you why. Upon arriving, we were welcomed and given a thoughtful and thorough rundown of the hotel (opening/closing times of the wellness facilities, our dinner/breakfast table, dinner menu, etc…). 

After checking-in, we immediately darted up to the fourth floor to luxuriate in the panoramic wellness area. From the Finnish stone pine sauna, views extend to the forested valley. From the relaxation room, you can meditate on the pastoral scene ahead of you. 

Our experience was further enhanced by the gourmet South Tyrolean dinner. Hotel Burgaunerhof is also passionate about wine, offering a number of high-quality wines by the bottle as well as the glass. 

Our biggest mistake on this trip was only staying one night here. 

Book your stay at Hotel Burgaunerhof

Look for accommodation in Martell Valley


Onward Travel

From Martell Valley, it takes 1 hour 6 minutes to get to Meran via public transit:

  • Step #1: Bus 262: Bus 262 (Direction: Goldrain): Burgaun – Bahnhof Goldrain (11 min)
  • Step #2: Train(R): Bahnhof Goldrain – Bahnhof Meran (50 min)

From Meran, you can continue to other spectacular destination in South Tyrol, including the Italian Dolomites. Further Reading:

 
Zufallhütte, Martell Valley, Italian Alps, Val Venosta

Hiking in the Alps - Resources

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Ortler High Mountain Trail: Multi-day trek in the Italian Alps
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@moonhoneytravelers
  • Sunrise in the Karwendel Mountains.

The weather forecast predicted early afternoon thunderstorms, so we woke up extra early and started hiking at 5:30 am. Seeing the sunrise as we crested the Mandlscharte was like entering heaven.

After a long and difficult 9-hour stage, we arrived at @solsteinhaus in rain. Luckily, the thunder never came.

The highlight of this incredible day was meeting @clarazijlstra and @jaqi_sta - two brilliant and talented women who radiate passion and warmth! Hope to see you both again! 💛💛💛
  • Italian Dolomites Tip:

Skip Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) and Lago di Sorapiss and hike to Lago di Coldai instead for a crowd-free alpine lake experience.
  • The 6-stage Karwendel High Trail was one of the highlights of our summer. This hut-to-hut hiking trail traverses part of the Karwendel Mountain Range in Tirol, Austria.

Tips for hiking the Karwendel Höhenweg:

- Make reservations for huts 3-5 months in advance.

- Hike the trail east to west. It’s more common to hike in the other direction, but we think the trail unfolds more beautifully if you hike east to west.

- Hike to Speckkarspitze peak on Day 2 and Kleine Stempeljochspitze peak on Day 3.

- Bring climbing gloves for securely and comfortably grasping steel cables.

We’ll be publishing a Karwendel High Trail Trekking guide next week. Let us know if you have any questions about the route.
  • Kati and I decided to hop over the border to explore the Pala Group for a few days and we’re so grateful and overjoyed to be here.

This magnificent range has something for everyone: easy valley walks to alpine pastures, grueling peak climbs, via ferratas, and so much more. The Alta Via 2 traverses the range as well, which is making us miss our dear friends @susielambie and @jored7 who we met while hiking the AV1 last year.
  • On top of Slovenia. 

@feelslovenia @triglav.national.park
  • Eagle Walk Stage 22, Lechtal Alps, Austria.

The trail starts out gently, descending loamy terrain across grassy slopes.

After several water crossings, the grueling ascent to Grießlscharte commences. 

The hike up Langkar cirque is relentless and unforgiving! It feels like it’ll never end.

Luckily, the final stretch is semi-vertical and secured with cables, delivering you hastily to the Scharte.

As soon as we reached the ridge, we howled at the wind, feeling strong AF.

This trek was unforgettable! We hope more international hikers will discover the beauty and remoteness of the Lechtal Alps.