I have already spoken about Val di Funes describing what it has represented for me and still means today. A place of the soul where I find the best part of me every time, a place where I grew up and that has transmitted me many different and important teachings, from the value of respect and effort, to the sense of wonder I feel in front of landscapes and moments every time new and incredible. Characteristic and essential elements of every mountain environment, to be preciously preserved in everyday life.
Now I would like to describe it from a different point of view, flying with the mind and the boots on my feet along the trails that delimit the valley drawing different itineraries suitable for a truly vast audience of users and hikers.
There are several ways to get to know the Val di Funes more closely; for those who love walking without ever having set foot there, this can be the easiest way to discover something more of such a magical and fascinating place. Among these trails at the foot of the mountains or on the highest ridges straddling the most beautiful valleys of the Dolomites, you can fall in love with these panoramas, as it happened to me 30 years ago.
Probably the most famous hike in Val di Funes is the panoramic trail “Adolf Munkel Weg” (“Weg” in German means “trail”), also known as “the Odle trail” for its position at the foot of the mountain group overlooking the valley. It is a route that can be hiked both in summer and winter.
The following paragraphs describe the route in its summer guise, much more approachable and enjoyable.
WHO WAS ADOLF MUNKEL
Before talking about itineraries, difficulties or durations, it is necessary to dwell a little more on the history of this path, starting from the origin of its name.
The trail is named after the German mountaineer Adolf Munkel, first historic president of the section of the German Alpine Club (“DAV – Deutscher Alpenverein”) in Dresden. The section founded in 1873 had the task, like the others, of bringing people closer to the mountain and its use. There is talk of a very large number of interested people: just think that just 3 years later there were already over 500 DAV sections in the German Empire. For this reason, the section planned the construction of several bivouacs and alpine trails in the Tyrolean Alps, part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Among the various projects in the Ortles group or in the “Pale di San Martino” group, there were some that also concerned the Val di Funes.
So in 1898, on the initiative of the commercial councillor Franz Schlüter, the bivouac Franz-Schlüter-Hut (the current “Rifugio Genova” or, indeed, “Schlüterhütte”) and, a few years later (in 1905), a hiking route at the foot of the Odle, near the bivouac itself, were built. The route was named after the first president and founder of the Dresden section, who remained in office for 30 years (from 1873 to 1903). From that day it will be known by everyone as the “Adolf Munkel Weg” trail, which has now become one of the most suggestive panoramic hiking trail in the Dolomites.
FEATURES OF THE ROUTE
Its best known peculiarity, as you may have probably understood already, lies in the position in which this trail rises. Along the almost 9 kilometers at the foot of the Odle, it allows us at any time to appreciate the majesty of the peaks above us, admiring closely each of the “needles” that make up the massif. In fact, “Odles” in Ladin means “needles”, name given in virtue of the particular conformation of the peaks which seem needles. Along the traces of this centennial trail that winds through the woods, the steep scree slopes, the rock walls and the mountain huts that rise in the middle of meadows used for grazing, it is possible to go deeper into the heart of this enchanted valley.
The route can be accessed from several points. This allows those who want to discover it, to follow it in whole or just in part.
Traditionally, the route starts from the slope of Malga Zannes (located at almost 1700m above sea level and reachable by car. Most of the hiking trails start from here), at the intersection of trails 35A, 6 and 35 (the last is the signpost of the Munkel Weg trail). After taking the trail and passing a small source dug in the wood, you will meet the plaque placed to remember the memory of the German mountaineer to whom the route is dedicated.
THE RING-ROUTE ZANNES – GEISLERALM – ZANNES
The most known and perhaps the best itinerary to appreciate “comfortably” part of this route is the one that from the intersection of the trails just above the parking of the Malga Zannes (30 minutes away) retraces the Munkel Weg up to Malga Casnago and the nearby Geisleralm (“Rifugio delle Odle” in Italian). It is a ring excursion suitable for everyone: for those who want to climb calmly enjoying a day in nature and for those who want to hike with children or animals.
Depending on everyone’s rhythm and stops, it can be covered in 4/5 hours or occupy the whole day.
Once you reach the wide and green meadows that delimit the two huts, you will be enchanted by the beauty of the panorama: we are exactly under the Odle massif which, in its majesty, seems to come upon us. On our right the profile of the Seceda meadows, in front of us the zigzag trail that climbs the Mesdì fork and, immediately above, the unmistakable shape of “Sass Rigais” and “Furcheta”, the two highest peaks of the whole Puez-Odle Natural Park (both at 3025mt altitude). From the meadows surrounding the old Malga Casnago we then have an even more complete view which, looking towards the valley floor, reaches the “Alpe di Villandro” and, in the background, the peaks of the glaciers on the border between Italy and Austria.
A stop in one of the two huts is a must, it is up to everyone to choose which one. You could sit on the wooden tables of the oldest hut (Malga Casnago) and eat listening to the sweet sound of the traditional Tyrolean accordion, or go down a little further and lie down on the wooden deckchairs next to the newer Geisleralm. In any case, you can live an incredible experience, enjoying up close a sensational panorama that perhaps, to date, you have admired only through the images and stories of others.
From here the way back that completes the ring is simple and not too long, through trails 34, 34B and 36. If you want, you can make a small detour and reach the Malga Dusler below, very beautiful and suggestive, located exactly in the center of a triangle of trails connecting the Zannes hut, the Glatsch hut and the Geisleralm.
OTHER WAYS TO HIKE THIS ROUTE
As mentioned before, however, there are several options that are presented to the hiker who wants to take this route.
Personally, most of the times that I hike the Munkel Weg I do it going up from the opposite side, that one of “Ranui“, from the parking lot of the Church of San Giovanni (just beyond the inhabited area of St. Maddalena) to the Malga Brogles on the trail n. 28. In fact, shortly before the hut, the Munkel Weg marker n.35 crosses. I walk all the way until I reach the plaque and the last crossroads, before going down to the Zannes hut and, over, to the Ranui parking lot. It is certainly a longer and more demanding variant (excursion of approx. 14km and 5 / 6h travel time), also considering the initial climb. I prefer it for the completeness of the route and for the more “open” view that presents itself in front of my eyes along the trail (and, not least, because it is less crowded).
Furthermore, this same itinerary can be hiked in the opposite direction, from Malga Zannes to Malga Brogles. But be careful in this case: once you get off and arrive near the church and the Ranui parking lot, at the end of the excursion, you could find yourself in the position of having to go up again to the parking lot of the Malga Zannes. It is a stretch of an hour and a drop of over 300mt – maybe not the best thing after a day of walking.
Alternatively, if you think you can differentiate your point of departure and arrival between the Malga Zannes and the church of Ranui, you can safely take advantage of the bus that goes up and down in the valley (check the timetables well because there are not many routes every day).
In both the last two cases, the excursion is better suited to a more expert public, already trained on medium-length itineraries. In one way or another, you will have the opportunity to discover one of the many wonderful huts nestled at the foot of the Odle (Zannes, Glatsch, Casnago, Geisleralm, Brogles) or take a break in one of the many meadows that rise in the shadow of these imposing peaks.
THE MUNKEL WEG: A TRAIL FULL OF MAGIC
There are other solutions that allow you to hike along the tracks of the Adolf Munkel trail.
Being a trail that cuts across the base of the slope located at the foot of the Odle, the access points are different. The choice depends on your skills, training and desire to walk and try different itineraries.
Personally I believe that there are no more or less beautiful and suggestive ways to follow this route. Its charm, in my opinion, always remains intact.
We are under one of the most iconic massifs of the Dolomites, in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled valleys, where nature still maintains its original way of manifesting itself.
It is impossible not to get excited and the beauty of this route, in fact, is to enjoy all of this step by step, driven only by the desire to be amazed and be enchanted in front of every single glimpse.