If you’re considering a trip to the Dolomites with kids in summertime, I can highly recommend staying in Obereggen in the Val d’Ega and exploring the trails of the Latemar Massif. This is one of the less well known parts of the Dolomites but offers stunning mountain scenery and great hiking and cycling opportunities. We spent three days in Obereggen at the end of our summer road trip around Europe and we found the hikes particularly suitable for young children.
The Dolomite mountain range is part of the Alps, covering some 16,000 square kilometres of north east Italy where the country borders Austria. The Latemar Massif, with peaks reaching 2,800 metres, is one of the smaller mountain ranges within the Dolomites and attracts fewer visitors than some of the more well known ranges in Alta Badia and Belluno.
The village of Obereggen is just 25 kilometres from the city of Bolzano and under two hours’ drive from some of the resorts on the northern shores of Lake Garda. If you’re not sure whether a family summer holiday in the Dolomites is for you, Obereggen would work well as a two centre holiday with Lake Garda or with Verona if you fancy a city break. If you fancy a family day trip to the Dolomites in summertime, there’s free parking in Obereggen close to the chairlift which takes you up to the walking trails.
As well as the more traditional and demanding numbered hiking trails in the Val d’Ega, there are also eight walks which make up the Latemarium: all designed around the theme of life in the mountains. Cleverly put together using information points, art and framed views, these hikes, varying in length from one to nine kilometres are a brilliant way to get to know the region and its history and ecology. Some of the walks are buggy friendly.
Our favourite hike, although short at just 3.1 kilometres, was the Latemar Natura trail, a well maintained circular walk which children of any age should easily be able to complete.
The Latemar Nature Trail begins next to the Oberholz chairlift. You’ll also find a restaurant and a play area here. The views are stunning right from the start of the walk with the backdrop of the spiky limestone Latemar Massif in one direction and endless green pastures and hills in the other.
The trail takes you through alpine woodland, along exposed rocky paths and past interesting sculptures and installations, all brilliantly designed to teach children about the region and its flora and fauna. We were all pretty bemused to learn that the Dolomites, with peaks stretching higher than 3,000 metres, were created by coral reefs millions of years ago. Marine fossils continue to be found in the Dolomites.
Our children loved all the different interactive information points. Particularly fun was a giant wooden xylophone made from the different trees found in the area, each with a distinctive note when played (or bashed): spruce, pine, larch and maple.
There’s a particularly impressive platform towards the end of the trail (or the beginning if you do it in reverse) affording a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding landscape.
I thought this hike was perfect for particularly young children as it was undemanding and packed with distractions to keep little ones occupied. We have one child who can walk for miles and another who is rather impatient and doesn’t enjoy long hikes. However, they both loved this trail with its variety of views and activities.
We dipped into some of the longer hikes, there are plenty which can be shortened for children who don’t have the stamina or patience to walk for hours. The interactive information points continue throughout the trails so there’s still plenty of activities for children.
There are several family-friendly rock climbing areas in the Latemar Massif. Our children had only experienced artificial climbing walls so it was brilliant to finally get them climbing on proper rock. We spent an afternoon on a crag trying out a mini via ferrata as well as traditional rock climbing, belaying and abseiling. This was a definite highlight of our whole summer adventure for the boys.
We enjoyed a brilliant day cycling through the forests from Obereggen to Karersee, or Lago di Carezza to give it its Italian name (German and Italian are both spoken in this part of Italy along with a third language, Ladin). This route was an out and back trip but as the forests were covered with a thick mist in the morning it felt like a totally different trail on the way back when the clouds had lifted to reveal the mountains.
There’s a well-designed restaurant area next to, but completely hidden from, Lake Carezza. And after weeks of pizza and pasta it was refreshing to be eating burgers and hot dogs followed by apple strudel.
A particularly violent storm had passed through the Dolomites the previous autumn devastating much of the woodland in just a few short hours. It was daunting to see the power of mother nature: thousands of trees were uprooted and the work to clear the damage was still ongoing during our visit nine months later. Karersee was a much-photographed spot prior to the storm and even during our visit there were coach loads of day-trippers coming to admire the lake. However, the scene is somewhat less idyllic than it once was: a useful reminder that the natural world is not just here to entertain us.
We only had three days to explore the region but there’s enough to do in Obereggen and the Val d’Ega region to fill a whole Dolomites summer holiday with ziplines, summer toboggan runs, castles and museums all close by. And, along with a few days we spent in the Swiss Alps earlier in our summer road trip, it’s given us all a taste of a very different type of holiday away from the beaches of the Mediterranean which we’ve been drawn to in the past. We’re keen to return to the Dolomites and experience some of the other areas such as the Val Gardena or Val Badia which both offer beautiful hiking trails. And I guess we might have to try skiing at some point too…
Where to stay in Obereggen
We treated ourselves with a luxurious stay at the very family-friendly but not very cheap Hotel Maria, run by the Kofler family. Facilities include an indoor pool and spa along with a kids club and organised excursions such as rock climbing and river rafting. We hadn’t used a hotel with a proper kids club before, it was a dangerous revelation: grown ups enjoyed five course evening meals while the children wolfed down their dinner and ran off to play. The hotel offers family friendly rooms consisting of a double room with an interconnecting bunk bed room which our kids loved.
There are several other hotels in Obereggen as well as self catering apartments and bed and breakfast accommodation.
How to get to Obereggen
We drove from our accommodation near Lake Garda to Obereggen via Bolzano. If you’re unsure whether your children will take to having an active holiday in the Dolomites, Obereggen is a great option for a shorter stay or day trip to test the water. We’ll definitely be having more summer holidays in the mountains in the future.
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Have you visited the Dolomites with kids in summer? Let me know in the comments below.
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