Terry and I, along with what seems like the rest of Italy, are spending 8 days recreating in the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites. In order to experience everything the Dolomites have to offer, we decided to enjoy a trifecta of activities during the trip, including hiking, cycling, and rock climbing.
To warm ourselves up for the rest of the week, we decided to start with one of the classic hikes in the area- Santa Croce. From the small town of Pedraces in Badia, you can reach Santa Croce either by hiking up a multitude of ski hill trails, or skipping the 700 m of what I call "garbage miles" and taking the chairlift straight up to reach the great views and the miles of trails across the high country in just a matter of minutes.
If you plan to do a lot of hiking in the area, I would highly recommend you buy a Mountain Pass. The pass gives you unlimited access, for a number of days, to all the chairlifts in the Alta Badia region. The full Mountain Pass also includes the Mobilcard, entitling you to a special price on the buses throughout the region, handy if you don't have a car or want to hike from one city to the next.
We decided to hike a loop that starts at Santa Croce (2045 m) and climbs straight up the Sass dla Crusc mountain range (home to the famous Messner Slab) to the highest point Piza dales Diesc (3026 m). The route then circles over the Forcela de Medesc Scharte (2584 m) col, straight down to traverse back across the front of Sass dla Crusc range back to Santa Croce.
From the top of the chairlift, you walk up the path towards the church where you can stop at the neighboring cafe for a quick cappuccino e brioche to fortify you on the hike. Trail number 7 then heads straight up from the church, traversing up and over the Sass dla Crusc. The route is very airy and exposed, giving you an unobstructed view of all the mountain ranges across the valley. Many sections of the trail feature easy via ferrata style cables and ladders (you don't need special gear) to help you climb up the steeper rocky sections.
All the trails are generally well marked with red and white stripes, where occasionally the trail number is written as well. Each time you reach a junction, either paint on rocks or actual wood signs indicate which direction you should go.
At the end of a steep scramble section, you reach a giant plateau on top of the Sass dla Crusc range at L'Ćiaval (2907 m). From there, it is only 100 m on the 7B spur trail off to the left to the highest point in the range- Piza dales Diesc (3026 m), marked by a huge summit cross.
Retrace the spur trail back to the 7, then continue on down through the amazing moonscape. There are plenty of different trails, lakes, and refugios back here to extend your hike for much of the day. We turned off the 7 trail, taking a right on the 12, and headed up to the col at Forcela de Medesc Scharte (2584 m).
The 12 continues over the col and heads straight down a steep scree field towards the valley. If you are able to bring hiking poles, I highly recommend them for this portion of the hike. You are never able to get good footing and as he trail is pretty exposed, can be a bit scary at times.
The trail heads down into the forest where it then splits into the 12B, traversing back across below the Sass dla Crusc range. This beautiful wooded trail is a welcome cool respite from the burning afternoon sun. You quickly join up with trail 15 that will take you all the way back to Santa Croce.
Head back to the church cafe and grab some refreshments or a snack. There is something oddly Italian about having beer in a church yard with a statue of Jesus looking down over you. When you are done imbibing, grab the chairlift back down to town where you started.