Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri

Views of the Cinque Terre on a hike in the Dolomites
Views of the Cinque Terre on a hike in the Dolomites

By Vicky · Published Jul. 11th, 2023 · Updated Aug. 13th, 2023

The hike from Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri is one of the best hikes in the Dolomites, with spectacular views all the way.

Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri Hiking Map

Get the route by downloading the .gpx or .kml file below. For navigation with on your mobile phone, simply download the .kml file and open to add it to the bookmarks.

How to get to the start of the Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri Hike

This hike starts from Hotel Passo Giau, at the top of the Giau Pass. There’s free parking along the edge of the road. The parking is never really full, but if you arrive late in high season you’ll have to walk a few hundred metres extra up the road to reach Hotel Passo Giau.


  • This walk has low technical difficulty, with a few steep down and uphills, but all on a good trail.
  • Set off on this hike early, ideally leaving Giau Pass by 8 am, to avoid the crowds at Rifugio Nuvolau. By the time you reach the Cinque Torri, the crowds will probably already be there.
  • Don’t underestimate the return hike from the Cinque Torri to Giau Pass – there are some steep descents and ascents and it’s longer than you think!
  • There are several huts on this hike serving food and drink: Hotel Passo Giau* (0 & 10.5 km, open year-round), Rifugio Averau (3.3 km, open mid-June to early October), Rifugio Nuvolau (4 km, open mid-June to late September), Rifugio Scoiattoli (6 km, open from mid-June to end-September).
  • You can also sleep at Hotel Passo Giau, Rifugio Averau, and Rifugio Nuvolau.
  • For the widest range of nearby accommodation options, try finding a place to stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo*.
  • For more walks and hikes, check out our Italy Hiking Page.

Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri Hiking Route

Hiking from Giau Pass to Rifugio Averau

The view at the start of the hike from Giau Pass in the Dolomites
The view at the start of the hike from Giau Pass

From where you parked your car, head to the main hiking track to the right of Hotel Passo Giau, opposite the chapel. Walk along this obvious trail, with great views of Ra Gusela (the obvious rock tower at the end of the Monte Nuvolau ridge).

Just past the second hut you’ll reach a junction, with a smaller path heading off to the right. This is the way you’ll return. For now, head onwards up the grassy hill almost to the very base of the Ra Gusela rock tower, and follow the path to the left.

The path from Giau Pass to Rifugio Averau
The path from Giau Pass to Rifugio Averau
Rifugio Averau in the Dolomites, Italy
Rifugio Averau

The route wiggles its way through a rocky area, with large boulders strewn about on the slopes. Keep a look out for the red and white hiking signs so you don’t lose your way. All along this hiking path from Giau Pass to Rifugio Averau there are splendid views over the Dolomites to your left. The most obvious mountain, half-covered in a snowy glacier, is Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites.

Keep hiking along the path until you come to an unmarked junction. From here you can either head right, a steep shortcut to Rifugio Averau with a few slightly tricky sections, or continue straight onwards. This second route leads slightly downwards and then meets a track, which winds easily up to the Rifugio and is perhaps the better option.

Rifugio Averau

Soon you’ll reach Rifugio Averau itself (open from mid-June to early October). This mountain hut is renowned for its high-quality, inventive cuisine. Even if you don’t have food, I’d highly recommend the hot chocolate.

Walk from Rifugio Averau to Rifugio Nuvolau

Views from Rifugio Nuvolau in the Dolomites, Italy
Views from Rifugio Nuvolau

The hike from Rifugio Averau to Rifugio Nuvolau is 700 metres with 120 metres of climb. The route starts from the back of Rifugio Averau and continues along the track. Follow the track towards the wall-like cliff. The path leads up this small cliff, with a very minor amount of scrambling, but you don’t really even have to use your hands.

The rest of the walk to Rifugio Nuvolau is easy. Following the path, you’ll soon reach a junction with a larger track. You’ll return to here on the way back down. For now, turn right and simply follow the route to the top.

Rifugio Nuvolau after hiking up from Pass Giau
Rifugio Nuvolau
Views the opposite direction
Views the opposite direction

Soon you’ll reach Rifugio Nuvolau (open from mid-June to late September). There are really great views from here with panoramas over the Dolomites in all directions. There are a couple of helpful boards showing you the name of all the mountains too. The Rifugio serves food and drink, it’s a great place to sit for a while and admire the views.

Hiking from Rifugio Nuvolau to the Cinque Torri

When you’re ready, return back the way you came. This time, instead of heading left along the path back to Rifugio Averau, continue along the main path downwards. Instead of walking all the way to the track, head right beforehand on the hiking trail. This roughly parallels the track but it’s less busy and slightly nicer to walk.

Eventually you’ll end up merging onto the main track, which leads to Rifugio Scoiattoli (open from mid-June to end-September). This rifugio also serves food and drinks but can be quite busy since it’s just at the top of the Cinque Torri chair lift.

Walking around the Cinque Torri

The hiking path around the Cinque Torri
The Cinque Torri

From Rifugio Scoiattoli there are many different options for walking around the Cinque Torri. These are the obvious rock pillars – apparently five though they’re a little difficult to make out. Not only are the pillars rather dramatic and scenic but there’s also a lot of history here. The whole area is part of the Cinque Torri Open-Air Museum of WW1.

The Museum is free to enter – there are no barriers, the displays are by the side of the little paths that wind through the rocks. It can be quite a maze, but there are always little maps at the junctions. Along the route you’ll find reconstructed shelters, trenches, little caves, small buildings, and many explanation boards. You could easily spend a couple of hours here taking the many paths and reading all the information.

Hiking back from Cinque Torri to Passo Giau

Hiking back from Cinque Torri to Passo Giau
Hiking back from Cinque Torri to Passo Giau after Rifugio Nuvolau
Mountains and forest in the Dolomites, Italy

Once you’ve explored all you want, head back in the direction of Rifugio Scoiattoli and then down to the main track. Head across the track and onto the smaller path leading through the gentle grassy valley. After about 600 metres of gentle walking you’ll reach a signpost and the start of the ups and downs. Unfortunately, there’s still quite a lot of uphill on this hike back to Giau Pass!

From the signpost, the route leads steeply downwards with many zigzags on a well-built trail. This section of the route is rather lovely, passing through a mix of trees, flowers and boulders. Even though the path is very undulating, there are still great views and the trail isn’t technically difficult.

On the hiking loop around and to Rifugio Nuvolau
Hiking back from Cinque Torri to Passo Giau

Keep going, and eventually you’ll round the corner and see all the cars parking at Giau Pass. The path can be a little muddy here because of the cows, but soon you’ll pass through the fence and return back to the main trail near the beginning of the hike. Turn left and walk the few hundred metres back to the car park and the end of the Giau Pass to Rifugio Nuvolau and the Cinque Torri hike.

Guidebooks for Exploring the Dolomites

For more mountain hikes, check out our Italy Hiking Page.

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