Madonna di Campiglio is a small mountain resort that nestles below the Brenta Dolomite Mountains in the Trentino region of Northern Italy. The peaks and valleys, lakes and rivers provide endless opportunities for walkers of all standards to enjoy a stunning natural landscape.
This landscape divides naturally into five different areas, all cleverly interlinked by cabin lifts, roads and paths. Walkers can pass easily between these areas by purchasing the Dolomeet Guest Card and requesting the Trentino Guest Card from your hotel.
Pradalago, Cinque Laghi, Spinale and Grosté are the four peaks arising above Madonna di Campiglio. The top of each peak is accessible via a cabin lift (unlimited use with the Trentino Guest Card). Vallesinella is a wooded valley through which a tributary of the River Sarca crashes over some spectacular waterfalls along it way. This valley is within walking distance of the town but is serviced by a regular bus (free with the Trentino Guest Card) that ferries walkers to the most interesting places.
The Giro di Campiglio
Let’s start from the Giro di Campiglio. This circular path winds its way through the tree-clothed slopes above Madonna di Campiglio and has several access points from the town.
It is a walk in itself, affording glorious views of the town below and the mountains above. Links to walks branching off from this path are well-signposted and clearly marked on the walking map available from the tourist information office in the centre of town.
Walking on Pradalago in Madonna di Campiglio
There are two ways to reach the peak of Pradalago, cabin lift and on foot. The cabin lift rises from the far end of the town and the main footpath starts from the Giro di Campiglio. It is an easy, open path with some steepish sections.
On arrival at the peak, walkers have several options – head for Lago Nambino (a steep rise followed by a steep descent) or the easier path to Lago Malghette. After lunch by this lake, the only way back is on foot, but it is downhill most of the way back into the town.
Or, take a break at the Ristorante Viviani and enjoy the views from their large terrace while deciding where to go next. Should that be enough walking for one day, take the cabin lift back down to the town.
Walking on Cinque Laghi (Five Lakes) in Madonna di Campiglio
Whereas there is a path from the town to the peak of Cinque Laghi, I would only recommend this for the hardiest of walkers as it is long, steep and uphill all the way. Take the cabin lift and then follow the path at the back of Ristorante Cinque Laghi to Lago Ritorto. This narrow path edges a steep slope with fabulous views of the valley below.
Lago Ritorto is the first lake on the Five Lakes Walk that begins with a tough ascent up to a ridge way above the lake. The walk goes by four other lakes before descending to the final lake, Lago Nambino.
It takes at least six hours and the only places for refreshment are at the beginning and the end of the walk so it is recommended for good walkers only carrying plenty of water and snacks. I did feel a great sense of achievement on completing this walk – it is difficult but possible for reasonably experienced walkers.
The other alternatives from Lago Ritorto include taking the path down into the valley to Malga Ritorto (farm and restaurant), the farm that is visible from the lake.
From the malga (farm) there is a path or tourist train to Patascoss (self-service café) and from there, various paths down to the town – either straight down or an easier path back to town via Lago Nambino.
Of course, there is always the option to retrace your steps back to the cabin lift, descend into the town, and enjoy a coffee outside a café in the main square.
Walking on Spinale in Madonna di Campiglio
Spinale also features a path to its peak. Go ahead if you are looking for a challenge but the easy way up is via the cabin lift. Paths from the top take walkers in all directions including the top of the Grosté peak, half-way up this peak, back down to Madonna di Campiglio or into the valley of Vallesinella.
My personal favourite is the path from Spinale to Ristorante Boch half-way up the Grosté mountain. This easy path crosses a vast Alpine meadow encircled by the Brenta Dolomites and carpeted with a myriad of wild flowers. Listen for the piercing shriek of a marmot warning his clan that humans are approaching. And the mellow clanging of cow bells from the cattle roaming these rich summer pastures. A very pleasant stroll for walkers of all standards.
Boch is conveniently placed at the mid-station of the Grosté cabin lift for those who do not want to walk back to the town. Otherwise it is an easy descent to the bottom of the Grosté cabin lift and from there take the path through Grotte for a short cut into the town (left under the cabin lift just before the lift station).
Walking on Grosté in Madonna di Campiglio
Grosté is the highest peak above Madonna di Campiglio and accessed by a two-stage cabin lift – or a very long uphill walk. There are numerous options from this peak, including the path to Rifugio Tuckett, which features a small museum dedicated to the English walker Roger Tuckett an aficionado of this area.
The Rifugio is, essentially, a refuge in the mountains but many have evolved into good quality restaurants. From Tuckett there are two options, the path to Casinei or the more difficult path to Rifugio Brentei.
The scree at the top of Grosté is peppered with alpine flowers – miniature versions of those that populate the alpine meadows. Wander across this scree and marvel at the delicate beauty of these tiny blooms before going down to the mid-station – either on foot or in the cabin lift.
Walking through Vallesinella in Madonna di Campiglio
This is one of the most popular walks in the area and best done on a week day when the locals are at work. Vallesinella features three waterfalls but most walkers concentrate on the top two as the third, Cascata di Sotto is a bit out of the way but well signposted for those who have time to make the detour. For me the most impressive of the three is the middle waterfall, Cascata di Mezzo. It is accessible from a lovely path that branches off the Giro di Campiglio and meanders through a massive deciduous wood.
There are two other alternative routes, the shuttle bus from the centre of town (free with the Trentino Guest Card but check for ‘green days’) or a long walk up the road into the valley. The shuttle stops in a large car park above the Cascata di Mezzo from which there is a path down to this waterfall. There is also a path through the woods off the road leading up there.
The path that climbs up beside the Cascata Mezzo emerges just below a large car park. Walk through this car park to join the path to the Cascate Alte (opposite the Rifugio Vallesinella). Sections of this lovely path run alongside the tributary of the River Sarca, which eventually flows into Lake Garda.
There are so many of these tributaries they do not have individual names. This is my favourite section – water flows silently across little plains and then crashes over small rocky precipices. It emerges below the long drop of water known as Cascate Alte.
There is a path that winds its way up beside the Cascate Alte and it is not as difficult as it looks. But the alternatives at the top (and there are many including serious walks and climbs) all involve a long walk apart from a shorter, pretty path but this has a steep stony section at the start so only advisable for walkers wearing walking boots and using walking poles.
It is not signposted but a well-trodden path to the left of the main path indicates the start of it. I would not advise walking back down the side of Cascate Alte but that is another alternative. The easiest alternative is to re-trace your steps to Rifugio Vallesinella and have a break there before making your way back to the town either on the shuttle or an easy descent down the road.
STAY: Hotel Lorenzetti – perfectly located for the walking trails and ski resorts.
The Dolomeet Guest Card allows free or discounted access to certain museums, castles and cultural sites in Trentino as well as the use of public transport on Trentino
The Trentino Guest Card is available from your hotel and gives access to savings locally.