A road map of the Province of Belluno is your best choice. You can find one in book stores, magazine/stationery stores,
and souvenir shops. The guidebook shown at left, Passi e Valli in Bicicletta--Dolomiti Bellunesi, by Anastasia, Pauletto,
and Supino, gives details of 45 passes and climbs (not all climbs lead to passes; e.g., the Tre Cime and Pian de Pezzè):
length, average and maximum gradient, difficulty rating, suggestions for loops, and more. (available in Italian only).
Ediciclo Editore s.r.l., ISBN 978-88-85327-69-6
Street view? No, trail view! You can do virtual hikes in the UNESCO Dolomites, thanks to Google Maps. Click here to see the areas available for exploration. You can click each area (Pelmo, Pale di San Martino, Sciliar etc), then choose one of the routes on the right and click "View on Google Maps" in the the upper left of the window. Expand the section with pegman on the lower left to orient yourself and get an overview of the area. Just click on the trail (or pegman) and away you go. I have mixed feelings about "virtual hiking" but it does offer advantages: it enables hikers to preview trails to determine if they are suitable for their cababilities, and lets those who have hiked them relive their experiences (I enjoy it myself). Finally, it permits those who are physically (or otherwise) unable to hike them, to see places they would never have been able to see.
Cycling is a great way to enjoy these mountains, but if you're curious, you'll want to know what lies beyond the roads. It's time to grab your boots and backpack and head for the superb network of trails maintained and marked by C.A.I., the Italian Alpine Club, Hiking trails in the Dolomites are easy to find and follow. The best known are the Alta Via routes that criss-cross the range. The websites of Individual areas (click the logos on the bottom of this page) offer a wealth of information, such as this fascinating excursion. There's no need to pack a tent, sleeping bag (a sleep sack, yes), meals, and stove, for wherever you go, you'll find abundant rifugi (refuges) offering bunks and hearty meals prepared by the hutkeeper (this is Italy, after all!). The excellent Tabacco topo maps (1:25,000) can be purchased in bookstores and newspaper/magazine stores.
Do not rely on social media and influencers for information and advice! Alpine rescue personnel are frequenly called out to rescue clueless, inexperienced, unequipped, and unprepared hikers who choose to go on hikes based on nothing more than the beautiful photos and cursory descriptions of bloggers and wanna-be social media stars.
RIDING AND STAYING IN THE DOLOMITES
Unlike other parts of the Alps, the Dolomites are not a solid range of impenetrable mountains, but instead, are composed of groups of peaks (fossilized reefs and atolls!) separated from one another by valleys (you can see this for yourself here). To get from one valley to another, you cross a pass. The roads are excellent and there are abundant signs indicating the way to passes and towns, so it is extremely easy to find your way around, and consequently, to plan your own tour or stay. By staying in or near a town like Agordo, Alleghe, Caprile, Colle Santa Lucia and the Val Fiorentina, the Val di Zoldo, Pieve di Livinallongo, or Arabba, all of which are in the heart of the Dolomites, you can ride loops that will take you over most of the legendary passes. There's a wide choice of accomodations which will satisfy any taste and budget: small hotels, agritours, B&B's, apartments, and "widespread hospitality" offerings, such as those in the Agordino. If you are looking for an authentic, genuine, intimate, and rewarding experience, as well as supporting local residents and economies, opt for smaller villages, hamlets, and family-run establishments, and avoid staying in chic towns and luxury hotels with a jet-set clientele (indeed, luxury and cycling shouldn't even be used in the same sentence!). The "real" Dolomites are not about golf courses, tennis courts, dance clubs, wellness centers, shopping for designer sportswear, and other diversions that can be found in any lowland city or seaside resort. Nor are they an amusement park or merely a succession of Strava segments. They are a geological treasure, a delicate ecosystem, and the home of people whose families have lived there for generations, with their history, cultures, traditions, languages, and folkways...and you are their guest.
Ride to a malga (dairy) for lunch. View the remains of a mesolithic hunter and learn about the natural history of the Dolomites. Visit a one of the many WW1 forts and museums, and immerse yourself in the desolate atmosphere and tragic plight of the soldiers stationed there, and honor their memory.
PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE!
• Don't overestimate your own ability and capacity, and be cognizant of the fact that trail ratings are relative: what is easy for one person can turn into an impossible, perilous, ordeal for another. Some hikers need to be rescued simply because they are too exhausted to continue, others because they get lost.
• Wear hiking boots or trail shoes with a deeply treaded and grippy sole, not sneakers/trainers. Long hiking pants are preferable to shorts.
• Always take: food, energy snacks, plenty of water, a warm layer or two, and a waterproof, breathable parka or jacket. Other essentials include a small first aid kit, insect repellant, insect bite treatment, cap/bandanna/Buff, and a power bank for your cell phone (but be aware that there is not always coverage).
• If you use trekking poles, know how to use them properly and efficiently.
• Bring a compass and map, and be familiar with the route.
• Always check the local weather report, and start out in the morning.
• NEVER HIKE ALONE; and leave word where you are going. Better yet, join a guided walk.
• NEVER LEAVE THE TRAIL! Don't take shortcuts unless they are clearly marked as such.
• Leave what you find intact, be it flowers, berries, mushrooms, fossis, etc., and do not disturb wildlife, herds of cows (which can be dangerous!), and give flocks of sheep a wide berth, as they may be guarded by dogs bred to defend to defend them from all intruders,..including you!
• Enjoy the sounds of nature; do not cover them up by talking loudly, or worse, listening to music with earbuds.
• Carry out waste