Prato Piazza (Plätzwiese in German) is a high plateau and alpine pasture above Valle di Braies/Pragser Tal Valley, a side valley of Val Pusteria/Pustertal in the Italian Dolomites. The plateau lies at an elevation of 2000 meters above sea level.
The plateau lies between Picco di Vallandro/Dürrenstein (2839 m) and Monte Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl (3146 m) in Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park in South Tyrol.
Prato Piazza is a top attraction in the Braies/Prags Dolomites, because of its accessibility, proximity to Lago di Braies, easy hiking trails, and extraordinary views of Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo, Cadini di Misurina, Monte Cristallo, and Piz Popena.
Plätzwiese High Plateau is also a great destination for family with children.
You can easily spend a whole day up here. Watch the sunrise, or sunset atop Monte Specie/Strudelkopf, eat a South Tyrolean feast at one of the alpine pasture huts, and hike the Gaisl High Trail.
Complete Guide to Visiting Prato Piazza
Prato Piazza Essential Tips
- When to Visit: Summer and fall for hiking (ideally before July 10th, or after September 10th), or winter for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
- Prato Piazza Toll Road: 10 EUR for cars, 8 EUR for motorcycles. There’s a driving ban for private busses and motorhomes.
- Seasonal Road Restrictions (July 10 – September 10): In Braies Valley, there are road restrictions in place between July 10 and September 10. However, you can still drive up to the plateau before 9:30 am or after 4 pm. During the day, the plateau is only accessible by transit, bicycle, or foot.
- Top Attraction: Monte Specie/Strudelkopf summit view
- Best Hike: Gaisl High Trail
- Where to Eat: Rifugio Prato Piazza, Malga Prato Piazza (Almhütte Plätzwiese), Rifugio Vallandro (Dürrensteinhütte), or Malga Stolla Alm
- Where to Stay on Prato Piazza: Hotel Hohe Gaisl
- Where to Stay in Valle di Braies: Garni Bergblick (budget), Berggasthaus Agritur Moserhof (midrange), or Farmhouse Hanslerhof (midrange)
- Where to Stay in Val Pusteria: Hotel Christof (luxury), or Silentium Dolomites Chalet Since 1600 (luxury)
- Recommended Trail Map: Tabacco 031: Pragser Dolomiten/Dolomiti di Braies
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Prato Piazza Map
When to Visit Prato Piazza, Braies Valley
In summer, Prato Piazza is an active alpine pasture, where cattle graze freely. The atmosphere is lively and all the huts are open.
In June and early July, the meadows are carpeted in wildflowers: gentian, kidney vetch, forget-me-not, and buttercup.
During peak season, visit early in the day (before 9:30 am) to avoid driving restrictions.
Late October is a great time to visit Prato Piazza with a car, because there are no road restrictions.The road is open all day and there’s no toll fee to drive up. Starting in mid-October, there’s no shuttle service offered, which makes getting here impossible without one.
We loved visiting Prato Piazza in late October, because the Rifugi are still open, it’s relatively peaceful, and the colors transform to ripe yellows and oranges.
Most mountain huts in the Dolomites close down in late September. So, it’s a real treat to eat lunch in a hut in October, or even early November.
In winter, Prato Piazza is a ski touring, snow-shoeing and tobogganing destination. There’s also a 6-km-long cross-country skiing circuit.
Between mid-April and early/mid-June, Prato Piazza can be reached free of charge all day long. At this time, there is no public transit to Prato Piazza. You can drive up with your own car.
Prato Piazza Hiking Trails
Monte Specie / Strudelkopf
- Trailhead: Prato Piazza Car Park
- Distance: 8.8 km circuit
- Time Needed: 3 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 389 meters
- Difficulty: Easy
Monte Specie is one of the easiest summits to reach from Prato Piazza. This popular, panoramic mountain boasts impressive views of the Sexten Dolomites and the Cristallo Group.
From the Prato Piazza car park, follow the road to Rifugio Prato Piazza (5 minutes).
Between the Rifugio and Hotel Hohe Gaisl, turn left onto trail 40, passing the white chapel. At the trail 40/40a juncture, turn right onto trail 40a and cross the meadow to Malga Prato Piazza.
Continue following trail 40a, towards the impressive Piz Popena and Monte Cristallo peaks.
At the trail 40a/34 intersection, head left on trail 34 to the Strudelsattel and then up to the Monte Specie summit, crowned by a wooden cross.
At the top, Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen, Three Peaks) steals the show. The view of Cadini di Misurina is fantastic as well.
To return to Prato Piazza, head back to the Strudelsattel and then turn left, following the “Steig” (hiking trail) to Rifugio Vallandro/Dürrensteinhütte.
From the Vallandro refuge, follow trail 37 (macadam road) back to Rifugio Prato Piazza.
Learn More: Monte Specie Trail Guide
Picco di Vallandro / Dürrenstein
- Trailhead: Prato Piazza Car Park
- Distance: 9.2 km out-and-back
- Time Needed: 4 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 872 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate
Picco di Vallandro is another summit you can hike to from Prato Piazza. It takes 2 hours to ascend to the peak from the car park.
Honestly, I’m surprised that this is such a popular hike. The trail is a bit monotonous.
From Rifugio Prato Piazza, follow trail 40 (same trail as Monte Specie) past the white chapel. Trail 40 guides you all the way up to the summit.
Initially, this path steers you across grassy pastures. As you gain elevation, you’ll hike across some easy, karst terrain. The grade is always moderate. As you ascend, views ofMonte Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl will be your constant companion.
When you reach the ridge, continue left. The trail zigzags up to the peak in 20 minutes.
While this trail is straightforward and doesn’t present much of a challenge (except the elevation gain), the final steps to the summit are very exposed. The exposed section is secured with a chain, but it feels very airy.
AtopPicco di Vallandro, peaks rise up in every direction, including Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Croda del Becco/Seekofel, Monte Sella di Sennes, Sass de Putia/Peitlerkofel, Tofana di Mezzo, Pala di San Martino.
Gaisl High Trail: Prato Piazza – Malga Rossalm – Ponticello
- Starting Point: Prato Piazza Car Park
- Ending Point: Ponticello/Brückele Car Park
- Distance: 12 km point-to-point
- Time Needed: 4:10 hours
- Elevation Gain: 482 meters
- Elevation Loss: 958 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate
Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl (3146 m) is the highest mountain in the Braies/Prags Dolomites.
An extremely enjoyable trail runs along the northern base of the Hohe Gaisl massif.
This northern Gaisl high trail links Prato Piazza to Malga Rossalm in Upper Kaserbachtal valley.
From Rifugio Prato Piazza, follow trail 3 across meadows and pockets of forest to Malga Stolla Alm. The path ascends to the northeastern foot of Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl and then leads west, crossing a series of cirques.
From Malga Rossalm, follow the hut access road down to Ponticello/Brückele car park.
Since this is a point-to-point hike, we recommend parking at the pay-and-display Ponticello/Brückele car park and taking bus 443 to Prato Piazza.
Trail Guide: Gaisl High Trail
Prato Piazza Places to Eat
There are several places to eat on the Prato Piazza plateau. Opening times vary, depending on weather conditions. All of these establishments are open seasonly.
Rifugio Prato Piazza / Berggasthof Plätzwiese
Rifugio Prato Piazza is situated on the crossroads between trails 37, 40, 3 and 18.
Elevation | 2000 m
How to Get Here | This hut is located on trail 37, a mere 5-minute walk from the car park.
Summer Opening Times | Mid-May until early November
Winter Opening Times | December – April
Rifugio Prato Piazza is only closed for 3 weeks in May and 3 weeks in November.
Malga Prato Piazza / Almhütte Plätzwiese
Malga Prato Piazza is an alpine pasture hut surrounded by meadows, situated along trail 40a. They serve local South Tyrolean cuisine, wine, and beer.
Elevation | 2030 m
How to Get Here | At Rifugio Prato Piazza, ascend along trail 40 for 10 minutes. At the trail 40/40a intersection, turn right on trail 40a and walk 5 minutes to the hut.
Summer Opening Times | Early May until mid-October, 9 am – 6 pm
Rest Days | This hut is closed on Tuesdays and possibly on rainy days.
Rifugio Vallandro / Dürrensteinhütte
Rifugio Vallandro is a mountain refuge on the Alta Via 3 long-distance trail, overlooking the Cristallo Group. Rifugio Vallandro stands next to Forte Prato Piazza, an Austro-Hungarian fortress ruin dating back to the First World War.
Elevation | 2040 m
How to Get Here | From the Prato Piazza parking lot, follow the flat gravel road (trail 37) all the way to the hut. It’s a 30-40 minute walk.
Summer Opening Times | mid-May to early November
Winter Opening Times | mid-December to mid-April
Rest Days | The hut is closed on Fridays, except during peak season (July and August).
Malga Stolla / Stolla Alm
Malga Stolla enjoys an almost secret location at the foot of Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl.
Elevation | 1950 m
How to Get Here | It’s a 25 minute walk from the Prato Piazza car park to Stolla Alm. When you get to Rifugio Prato Piazza, turn right and follow trail 3 across the wide-open meadow. This path leads through pockets of larch and swiss pine to the Malga.
Summer Opening Times | mid June until mid September. They serve warm food from 11 am until 3 pm.
Payment | Cash Only
How to Get to Prato Piazza
Drive to Valle di Braies/Pragser Tal in South Tyrol. Follow the main road through Braies valley.
When the road divides at Segheria, bear left. Drive up Val di Braies Vecchia/Altpragstal (Old Braies Valley) to Ponticello/Brückele and Prato Piazza.
At Ponticello/Brückele, there’s a pay-and-display car park and a toll gate.
There’s a 10 EUR toll for cars and 8 EUR toll for motorcycles to drive the 6-km toll road to Prato Piazza. Bring cash for the toll.
Most of the year, it’s only possible to drive this toll road before 10 am or after 3 pm.
There is a year-round ban on the passage of private buses and campers/motorhomes.
Access to Prato Piazza via this toll road changes throughout the year. Check out the current status on the Prags – Plätzwiese website.
Ponticello Car Park
If you arrive at the toll gate entrance between 10 am and 3 pm, park at the pay-and-display car park at Ponticello, directly next to the toll gate. From here, you can take Bus 443 to Prato Piazza.
Parking Fee |
- Cars: 4 EUR for less than 2 hours, 6 EUR for more than 2 hours
- Vans: 12 EUR
- Buses: 20 EUR
Parking Payment | EUR coins, or credit cards. If you want to pay by card, locate the weather-protected “Kassa.”
Braies Valley Traffic Regulations
There are road restrictions in place between July 10 and September 10 in Braies Valley/Pragser Tal.
However, you can still drive up to the plateau before 9:30 am or after 4 pm.
During the day, the plateau is only accessible by transit, bicycle, or foot.
In high summer, you can reserve a parking space atPonticello/Brückele and then take bus 443 up to the plateau.
Bus route 443 connects Monguelfo/Welsberg and Dobbiaco/Toblach to Plätzwiese plateau. This bus usually operates from mid-June until mid-October.
Use the Südtirolmobil journey planner to find the best connections.
Where to Stay near Prato Piazza
Valle di Braies / Pragser Tal Valley
Valle di Braies valley is the best base for exploring everything that the northern Prags/Braies Dolomites has to offer. The top attractions are Prato Piazza and Lago di Braies. But with more time, you can venture off-the-beaten-path to the Ütia Fojadora mountain pasture, Grünwaldtal valley and Hochalpensee lake, Hochalpenkopf peak, Croda del Becco/Seekofel summit, Herrstein peak, Grosser Rosskopf peak, and the Gaisl high trail (Prato Piazza to Malga Rossalm).
Budget | Garni Bergblick is a top-rated guesthouse in Valle di Braies, located a mere 5.6 km (10 min drive) from Lago di Braies, 6.2 km (9 min drive) from Ponticello, and 11.3 km (18 min drive) from Prato Piazza. Set in a romantic meadow surrounded by stone pine trees, Garni Bergblick is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the northern Braies/Prags Dolomites. Breakfast included.
Budget-Midrange | Berggasthaus Agritur Moserhof is a traditional and cozy farm stay, perched high above Braies/Prags Valley. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rate. From Moserhof, it’s a 5-minute drive down to the valley and a 11-minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Midrange | Farmhouse Hanslerhof is a mountain guesthouse and farm overlooking Braies/Prags Valley and surrounded by meadows. Guests love the charming stone pine rooms, homemade breakfasts (included the room rate), and quiet location. From Hanslerhof, it’s an 8 minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Midrange | Hotel Erika is a 3-star hotel situated at the entrance of Valle di Braies. Guests have access to a lovely 400m² wellness area containing a Finnish Sauna (90 °C), steam bath (42-45° C), bio sauna (60 °C), infrared lounge, jacuzzi, and relaxation rooms. Rooms are clean and comfortably furnished in a Tyrolean-alpine style. A rich and varied breakfast buffet and a 5-course dinner are included in the room rate (half board). From Hotel Erika, it’s a 10-minute drive to Lago di Braies and a 20-minute drive to Prato Piazza.
Midrange | Hotel Turmchalet (3 nights minimum) is a family-run 3-star-superior hotel in Valle di Briaes, praised for their superior service and friendliness. The hotel was recently renovated, resulting in tastefully-designed, alpine-modern bedrooms and a standout facade. Guests describe the cuisine as delicious, sensational and outstanding. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate (half board). And, there’s also a wellness area.
Look for an accommodation in Braies Valley.
Monguelfo / Welsberg
Monguelfo is a village in Val Pusteria, which is only a 3-minute drive to the entrance of Braies Valley.
Luxury | Hotel Christof is a new and stylish hotel in the village of Monguelfo/Welsberg in Val Pusteria. Stay here for the striking fresh-faced architecture, modern 600 m² wellness area, and excellent cuisine (you can book breakfast-only or half board). This modern hotel is a splash of cheerful color and laid-back fun on the South Tyrolean hospitality scene. From the hotel, it’s a 13-minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Luxury | Silentium Dolomites Chalet Since 1600 is tucked away on the edge of a forest, 2-km from the town center of Monguelfo/Welsberg. It’s a 15-minute drive from Silentium Chalet to Lago di Braies. Guests love the kind hospitality, picturesque location, and excellent breakfasts (included) and dinners (optional).
San Candido / Innichen
San Candido is a town in Val Pusteria/Pustertal valley within the Alta Pusteria region. San Candido is an excellent place to stay when you want to split your time between the Sexten Dolomites and the Prags Dolomites.
You can explore the northern Sexten Dolomites from Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal and Val Campo di Dentro/Innerfeldtal (e.g. Torre dei Scarperi hike).
To access the southern Sexten Dolomites, you can drive through Valle di Landro/Höhlensteintal to Lake Misurina, Lake Antorno, and onwards to Tre Cime di Lavaredo via the Rifugio Auronzo toll road.
We recommend hiking the Sentiero Bonacossa North Trail (challenging day hike), the Three Peaks Circuit Trail (easy-moderate day hike), and the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint (short easy hike).
Budget | Residence Silvia is a budget-friendly aparthotel set in the middle of San Candido with a bar, private parking (small garage), and breakfast (optional/extra charge).
Apartments | Residence Kugler offers new, fully-equipped apartments in San Candido.
Luxury | Naturhotel Leitlhof is a 4-star-superior, climate-neutral wellness hotel in San Candido. Situated at a slight elevation and bordered by forest, idyllic Naturhotel Leitlhof overlooks the village and the gorgeous Sexten mountains including Haunold/Rocca dei Baranci and Dreischusterspitze/Cima di Tre Scarperi. Sunsets and sunrises are glorious here. The 2000 m² wellness facilities and outdoor pool are stellar. And, the cuisine is second to none. Read our Naturhotel Leitlhof hotel review.
Luxury | Boutique & Gourmet Hotel Orso Grigio is a 4-star hotel in San Candido’s lively pedestrian center. This central hotel offers an excellent breakfast, gourmet dinners (on-site restaurant, half board available), and free reserved parking behind the property.
Adults-Only Luxury | Post Hotel – Tradition & Lifestyle Adults Only is located in the center of San Candido, close to the pedestrian zone. This chic boutique hotel offers a spa, rooftop terrace, and on-site restaurant and bar. Half board is available.
Luxury Apartments | ATTO Suites & Cuisine is a new luxury aparthotel in San Candido, furnished with the highest quality local materials. These gorgeous, minimalist apartments teeter stylistically between Alpine and Nordic. An excellent breakfast is included (with gluten-free options). Other included services: parking, shuttle service to the Leitlhof spa, and bicycle storage room.
Look for an accommodation in San Candido.
Rules for VisitingFanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park
While you’re visiting Prato Piazza, please adhere to the following rules:
- No motor vehicles are allowed within the park.
- Wild camping is prohibited in the park.
- Always stay on marked trails and paths. This helps prevent damage to the meadows and alpine pastures.
- Do not pick flowers.
- Respect the habitat of animals. Do not make any unnecessary noise.
- Do not light fires.
- Do not litter. Please take your garbage with you and dispose of it responsibly.
- Do not touch, or approach grazing animals.
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Dolomites Trip Planning Essentials
Use our Dolomites Travel Guide to plan an unforgettable trip to Northern Italy.
When to Hike in the Dolomites
The best time to hike in the Dolomites is between mid-June and mid-September. If the weather is stable, the hiking season can extend until late October.
How to Get to the Dolomites
Read How to Get to the Dolomites to find out how to travel to the Dolomites from the closest airports, train stations, and bus terminals.
If you’re traveling without a car, also check out How to Visit the Dolomites Without a Car.
The easiest way to travel between hiking destinations in the Italian Dolomites is with your own car. Check out our itineraries for trip inspiration:
We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.
Best Places to Stay
Figuring out where to stay in the Dolomites is probably the biggest hurdle to planning a trip to the Dolomites. We’ve created several guides to help you decide where to stay:
- Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer: best villages and towns in South Tyrol, Trentino and Belluno
- Best Hotels in the Dolomites: best boutique and luxury hotels in the Dolomites
- Dolomites Accommodation Guide: farm stays, mountain huts, wellness hotels, aparthotels
- Best Val Gardena Hotels: best accommodations in Ortisei, Santa Cristina, and Selva
We suggest choosing 2-4 bases for your Dolomites trip and spending 2-4 nights in each base.
- Base 1: Val Gardena
- Base 2: Val di Funes
- Base 3: Alta Badia
- Base 4: Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Base 5: Alta Pusteria
- Base 6: San Martino di Castrozza
What to See & Do
During your trip to the Dolomites, you can go via ferrata climbing, culinary hiking, hut to hut hiking, cycling, paragliding, and so much more. We’ve highlighted our favorite experiences in Best Things to Do in the Dolomites.
Wherever you decide to stay, you’ll be surrounded by glorious mountain scenery and incredible natural landmarks.
In Best Places to Visit in the Dolomites, we’ve outlined the most iconic attractions as well as lesser-known destinations across the Dolomites, including Alpe di Siusi, Lago di Sorapis, Lago Federa, Seceda, and Baita Segantini.
Dolomites Packing List
- Day Pack: Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Backpack / Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Backpack
- Grade B/C high-cut hiking boots: Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (Kati’s Boots), Women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (Sabrina’s Boots), Men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (men’s equivalent)
- CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Reusable Water Bottle: Ion Leakproof 32 oz Water Bottle
Outdoor Photography Gear
- Camera Body: Sony Alpha a6400
- Mid-range Zoom Lens: Tamron 17-70mm 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
- Wide angle Zoom Lens: Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-angle Zoom Lens
- Backpack Camera Clip: Peak Design Camera Clip
Dolomites Hiking Guides
Hiking in the Dolomites is our passion. Year after year, we love discovering new trails and expanding our knowledge of the area. For day hiking, check out Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites. For trekking, take a look at our guide to Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites and Alta Via 1.
For region-specific hiking trails, check out:
- Best Hikes in Val Gardena
- Best Hikes in Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Best Hikes in Alta Badia
- Sexten Dolomites Hiking Guide
- Puez-Odle Nature Park
Recommended Hiking Guidebook: Cicerone Guide: Shorter Walks in the Dolomites