One of the most visited locations in the northern Dolomites is Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta. Not only can you drive up to an elevation of about 2000m (by toll road) but the wide pastures offer stunning views across the surrounding mountain scenery while at the same time offering all you can wish in terms of wildflowers. Also, it is the closest trailhead to one of the highest but still easily reachable mountains of the Pags / Braies Dolomites, Dürrenstein / Pico di Vallandro. There are hotels and huts on the pasture, which ensures a steady flow of tourists.
One of the most popular summits you can reach from Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta is Strudelkopf / Monte Specie, the southernmost mountain in the ridge which heads southward from Dürrenstein / Pico di Vallandro. From Plätzwiese it is a mere stroll to reach the summit, which ensures crowds on fine summer days. They all come to admire the fine views, especially those towards the Sexten / Sesto Dolomites, which are quite unusual from the given angle.
However, there are more routes to Strudelkopf / Monte Specie than one. In fact, from Höhlensteintal / Vallandro, there are two routes which start on either side of Dürrensee / Lago di Landro and which can be combined into a strenuous loop trail, covering almost 20km and about 1100m of elevation gain. Both sides of the loop offer fascinating vista and historical insights into what happened exactly 100 years ago.
At the time WW I was being fought in the Dolomites and one of the fiercest battlegrounds was Höhlensteintal / Vallandro. Before the war the border between Austria and Italy ran through the hamlet of Schluderbach / Carbonin to the south of our mountain and quite natuarally the front lines ran along the same lines. While the Cortina Basin (Austrian before the war) had to be abandoned by the Austrians, here a fierce line of defense was established, protecting the Valley and in fact blocking Italian troops to proceed towards the important Pustertal / Valle di Pusteria in the north.
Heavy fortifications were pulled up either side of Höhlensteintal / Vallandro with batteries on Nasswand, Monte Piano, Strudelkopf and at the southern end of Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta. Many of these fortifications can still be visited today. There is a war cemetery beneath Nasswand, a war memorial museum on Monte Piano and two almost intact barracks at Plätzwiese and near the summit of Strudelkopf / Monte Specie. Both of the branches of the aforementioned loop trail date back to WW I times. Both were created as support roads for the fortifications around Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta. The eastern branch runs up a very steep gully with tunnels, overhangs and ferrata-like protections. The southern branch is a well kept dirt road – very popular among mountain bikers and hikers alike.
Getting ThereThe trailheads to Strudelkopf / Monte Specie can all be easily reached from Toblach / Dobbiaco. The closest one is Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta, the more demanding ones are either side of Dürrensee / Lago di Landro, at the hotel Drei-Zinnen-Blick or at the hamlet Schluderbach / Carbonin.
From The North
- Take A22 Brenner Motorway to exit Brixen / Bressanone
- Turn off onto SS49 east to Bruneck / Brunico or Toblach / Dobbiaco
From Austria (East)
- Take A12 Inntalautobahn to exit Kufstein.
- Turn onto B178, later B161 south in direction Kitzbühel.
- At Mittersill B161 turns into B108 which heads through Felbertauern Tunnel.
- Take B108 until Lienz were you turn right (west) onto E66 which on the border crossing turns into SS49 to Toblach / Dobbiaco and Bruneck / Brunico.
- Take A23 north to exit Carnia.
- Turn off onto SS52 which leads through several detours to Innichen / San Candido
- Turn east on SS49 to Toblach / Dobbiaco and Bruneck / Brunico.
- Take motorway S27 north towards its end near Belluno.
- Turn onto SS51 towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and on to Toblach / Dobbiaco.
From Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta
The shortest route starts at the parking lot and passes the Hotel Plätzwiese. There signposts lead to Strudelkopfsattel and Strudelkopf / Monte Specie, at first traversing the west slopes of the mountain, then heading to the saddle directly to the west of the summit, where the old WW I fort can be found. A further 100m (elevation) take you to the summit in the east.
From Hotel Drei-Zinnen-Blick
Directly behind the hotel you cross the Rienz River and start hiking north along its western bank. After some 500m the trail leaves the river and starts rising gradually, traversing the lowest east slopes of Strudelkopf / Monte Specie. It dives into a dense forest and after another kilometer turns west, tackling the mountain slope directly.
A large number of switchbacks, often fortified by cables, take you above the timberline and above a gully, where the somewhat exposed path takes a large left bend, heading out into a cwm-like valley. Staying on its right hand side the path heads out towards Strudelkopfsattel, from where you can easily reach the summit (see above).
From Schluderbach / Carbonin
This route follows a dirt road, which starts some 800m to the west of the village. However, a short cutting footpath starts closer to the village (just beyond the village boundary). Basically either follow the dirt road in all its long loops and switchbacks or take the marked shortcutting footpaths to go more directly. Both options finally lead to Dürrensteinhütte. Here a path turns off to the east, heading in a large bend towards Strudelkopfsattel and Strudelkopf / Monte Specie itself (see above).
Red TapeIn 1980 an area of 25680ha has been set aside for the natural Park Fanes Sennes – Prags, in which Strudelkopf / Monte Specie is located. You are required to treat the Natural Park with care: leave animals and plants in their place, use trails (especially when mountain biking), and take the official open roads with your car.
For more information you can look at the parks official website
To reach the trailhead at Plätzwiese / Prato Piatta you have to pay a small toll for the road from Brückele / Ponticello.
AccommodationFor hotels and apartments have a look at the websites of the towns and cities of the area:
Maps & Books
- Dolomiten 5 - Sexten - Toblach - Prags
ISBN: 3 7633 4199 4
ISBN: 3 8705 1409 4
Sextener Dolomiten extrem - Alpenvereinsführer
ISBN: 3 7633 1255 2
The most commonly used maps are the ones by Kompass and by Tabacco. The Kompass one is good as an overview map while the Tabacco one offers more details.
- Bruneck - Toblach / Brunico Dobbiaco
Kompass Map WK 57
ISBN: 3 85491 064 9
- Dolomiti di Braies / Pragser Dolomiten / Marebbe / Enneberg / Plan de Corones / Kronplatz
Tabacco Map 031