Most people who venture to Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) snap a few photos, walk around the lake, and leave. That’s how the great majority of visitors will experience the most popular lake in the Italian Dolomites. However, there’s a far better way to experience it, if you’re willing to put in the effort.
We recommend hiking from Lago di Braies to the summit of Hochalpenkopf/Cima dei Colli Alti via Grünwaldtal/Val di Foresta valley and the Malga Uces de Fojedora/Hochalmhütten mountain pasture huts. This is a long circuit hike (16.9 km total) perfect for anyone seeking a full-day adventure in the Prags Dolomites. This trail ventures into some of the most secluded areas of Fanes-Sennes-Prags Nature Park.
The trail presents very minimal technical difficulty. However, it’s very long. We were wiped out by the end of it.
We recommend starting as early as possible to avoid getting baked in the valley as we did. On a sunny day, the bleached dolomite rock in the valley reflects the sunlight like snow and you’ll roast like a pig on a spit. Sorry for the visual. My point is: start early! My second point is: bring sun protection (CAT 4 polarized sunglasses, sun hat, sun lotion).
- Recommended CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses (polycarbonate, polarized lens).
- Recommended REACTIVE CAT 2-4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses (photochromic, polarized lens ) – this lens will adjust automatically to the light environment (shifting from CAT 2 to CAT 4). That means if you’re hiking along a shady trail, it’ll adjust to CAT 2, so you have better visibility. This functionality makes it more expensive.
Note: most trail signs in the Braies/Prags Dolomites are in Ladin and German. So, follow signs to Hochalpenkopf, as you won’t see any signs directing you to Cima dei Colli Alti.
Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee to Hochalpenkopf Circuit Hike
- Trailhead: Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee
- Type of Trail: Circuit
- Distance: 16.9 km
- Minimum Elevation: 1493 m
- Maximum Elevation: 2540 m
- Total climb: 1202 m
- Total descent: 1202 m
- Difficulty: Moderately Difficult because of length.
- Time Needed: 6:30 hours without breaks. It took us 8 hours with breaks.
- Route: Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee – Grünwaldalm – Hochalmhütten – Slapadures Joch – Flatschkofel Scharte – Hochalpenkopf – Pragser Furkel – Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee
- When to Hike: June – October
- Where to Stay: Garni Bergblick (budget), Hotel Erika (midrange), Silentium Dolomites Chalet (luxury).
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Hochalpenkopf Circuit Hike Map
How to Get to Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee
We’ve written an in-depth guide about visiting Lago di Braies, which includes a lot of helpful information on parking and access restrictions during the high season (July 10 – September 10).
Hochalpenkopf Trail Description
Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee to Malga Foresta/Grünwaldalm (50 minutes)
Our hike begins by following the trail that circuits Lago di Braies (Seeweg/trail 19/Alta Via 1), counter-clockwise. If you’re facing the lake, head right and walk around the stately Hotel Lago di Braies. The lake path directly in front of the hotel is private (hotel guests only).
Soon, you’ll be on the “Seeweg” lake trail. Follow this path all the way to the opposite end of the lake (20 minutes).
When you reach the other end, follow signs to Malga Foresta/Grünwaldalm (trail 19, signed 30 minutes). This trail branches off to the right (west).
Cross the bridge and follow the wide gravel road to the Malga Foresta/Grünwaldalm alpine pasture hut (20 minutes).
Malga foresta is a managed hut, serving food and drinks throughout the day. It occupies a very scenic location, encircled by mountains. If you’re not in the mood for a big excursion today, you can grab lunch here, and head back to Lago di Braies, completing the circuit trail around the lake.
Malga Foresta/Grünwaldalm to Uces de Fojedora/Hochalmhütten (1:45 hours)
Continue walking along trail 19 (a gravel road) through the Val Foresta valley. This part of the hike is flat and easy, but it gets really hot, as there’s minimal shade.
After walking 2.8 km (about 40 minutes), you’ll come to a clearing with a private, rustic wooden hut: Alte Kaser, 1757 m. At the signed intersection, continue straight on trail 19, crossing the meadow.
From here, you’ll dip into a patch of forest, and then start the 360-meter ascent to Baita/Ütia Fojadöra.
This narrow hiking trail snakes its way uphill, steeply at first, and follows the Rü Fosch/Finsterbach stream for a time.
Eventually, you’ll clear the tree line and enter the high alpine pasture area of Fojedora. A dozen huts are clustered together in the basin below. This storybook scene is enchanting. In this solitary location, time stands still.
Baita/Ütia Fojadöra is a managed hut as well.
Uces de Fojedora/Hochalmhütten to Ju dles Slapadures/Slapadures Joch (20 minutes)
There’s a gravel road that continues uphill and left (west). Follow this road for about 10 minutes. When you reach an intersection, turn right onto trail 32. The trail isn’t well-defined at first, as the painted waymarks are fading.
You’ll hike up a grassy slope until reaching a signed intersection at Ju dles Slapadures/Slapadures Joch.
Ju dles Slapadures/Slapadures Joch to Forcella Valacia/Flatschkofel Scharte (30 minutes)
From Ju dles Slapadures/Slapadures Joch, follow trail 6 northeast in the direction of Hochalpenkopf (signed 2:10 hours).
Trail 6 yields more wonderful vantages of the Fojedora huts below, backed by the impressive Grosse Zinne/Cima Grande, Seekofel/Croda del Becco, Kleiner Seekofel/Piccola Croda del Becco, and Cima de Riciogogn.
The path ultimately descends to the Forcella Valacia/Flatschkofel Scharte mountain pass. As you approach the pass, you’ll see the Niedertal valley and the peaks of the Rieserferner Group mountain range in the distance.
Forcella Valacia/Flatschkofel Scharte to Hochalpenkopf (1:40 hours)
At the mountain pass, trail 6 continues north to Olang/Valdaora.
Take trail 61 east.
After making a counter-ascent, trail 61 traverses the vast high alpine pasture of Fojedora/La Munt defora/Hoch Alm.
This is the most satisfying and visually engrossing part of the hike. You’re crossing green meadows on an undulating high alpine path (with very little grade difference), whilst soaking in the views of the Prags/Braies mountains.
When you reach the 61/61A trail intersection, head left and uphill on trail 61A to the summit of Hochalpenkopf (signed 40 minutes). It’s only a 190-meter ascent to the peak and takes less time than the sign suggests.
At the summit, you’ll see Lago di Braies, Puster Valley and Olanger Stausee, and countless peaks.
Hochalpenkopf to Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee (1:30 hours)
Descend along the same trail back to the intersection and continue east to Pragser Furkel. Here, sheep graze during the pasture season. Keep a respectful distance and stay on the marked trail.
Herrstein and Rosskopf dominate the view. You can also make out Haunold, Dreischusterspitze, and Dürrenstein.
You’ll descend across a loamy track towards the stone wall (which fortifies the pasture) to Pragser Furkel. Hop over a stone wall and start the descent.
Tight switchbacks twist and turn along a loose rocky path, lined with dwarf pine. Hiking poles are essential.
- Hiking Poles Recommendation: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
After about 30 minutes, you’ll arrive at Käser Alm (not managed). From here, it’s a 50 minute descent to Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee. You’ll cross the pasture, follow trail 61 at first, and descend through a thick forest.
The trail is full of rubble, branches, and debris. Luckily, after 10 minutes, you’ll join a forest road.
We hiked along this forest road until following the path (Trail 20) around the Riedl farm/pasture and eventually back down to the lake.
Where to Stay near Lago di Braies
Budget | Garni Bergblick is a wonderful guesthouse located a mere 5.6 km from Lago di Braies. Set in an idyllic meadow surrounded by trees, Garni Bergblick is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the Prags Dolomites. Breakfast included.
Midrange | Hotel Erika is a 3-star hotel with a wellness area and on-site restaurant. The hotel is a 10-minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Luxury | Silentium Dolomites Chalet is a top-rated place to stay in Monguelfo, a 16-minute drive to Lago di Braies. With its natural surroundings, spa, and newly renovated rooms, Silentium is easy to fall in love with. Breakfast is included.
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Dolomites Travel Guides:
- Best Things to Do in the Dolomites
- Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer
- Best Hotels in the Dolomites
- Dolomites Accommodation Guide
- Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites
Our Favorite Destinations in the Dolomites:
- Alta Badia
- Val Gardena
- Val di Funes
- San Martino di Castrozza
- Ortisei, Val Gardena
- Alpe di Siusi
- Puez-Odle Nature Park
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