22 July, 2018: time for our second hiking attempt! After bailing on the last one due to the bugs, we were a little apprehensive, but excited to try again.
This time we chose the Herrensteig loop in the Villnöss valley, which is in the Puez Geisler Nature Park. Or, if you prefer Italian, it’s in Val di Funes in the Puez Odle Nature Park. The Südtirol isn’t confusing at all.
We started from a parking lot near Zanser Alm (or Zans), and the trail was steep from the start. It climbed quickly through the forest, with lots of switchbacks, until we neared the tree line. There are a lot of hiking trails in this area, so finding the right one was a little tricky, but they’re signposted fairly well and we had read the directions carefully.
The views were spectacular from the start — even the drive through the Villnöss valley was beautiful. You pass by St. Magdalena (Santa Maddalena), which has a lovely church, and which was familiar from our first Dolomites festival a couple days before. There are also several other lovely tiny villages along the way.
It was cloudy for the first part of the day, but I was happy about that — the sun came out after we had finished the uphill portion of the hike, which was just right. Once we left the forest, the views got even better — the Odle mountains tower over the valley, and everything was lush and green.
The trails near the top were especially pretty:
The downhill portion of this circular hike took us through fields and past a farmhouse, with side trails leading off to other villages in the valley. Then we got back down into the trees and ended up back where we began.
The whole 10-kilometer hike took a little over five hours — mostly because I’m slow, but also because we stopped for a picnic along the way. We had prepared some simple sandwiches and brought along some salami and cheese, which made up our normal hiking snacks throughout Italy (the meat and cheese is so good there).
This hike went so well, we could hardly wait to explore other parts of the Dolomites; more about those hikes soon!