Notes for Potential Hikers
The CCD is a 300 mile loop hike in the Italian Dolomites. We walked about 130 miles of that loop. The remaining 40 or so miles of this hike were on other trails in the same region. Total gain on our route was about 43,000 feet or about 250 feet per mile, much easier walking than the 370 feet per mail gain on the AV1.
While the focus of the AV1 are the high mountain trails, peaks and passes, the CDD is routed through lower elevation settled landscape. Numerous towns, from tiny to mid-sized are found along this route. There are dams and water projects, bridges, rail lines, factory complexes, and more churches than could be counted. Some towns are highly focused on tourism with fancy shops, ski lifts and lots of seasonal housing. Others are slowly dying villages with declining populations and shuttered shops. On this route, we were rarely far away from a human modified landscape. This was an enjoyable and interesting change from the AV1, which is mostly wild, stark and beautiful.
Our assumption was the CDD, by being a named and described trail, would be all easily walkable turned out to be incorrect. While most of the route had good trail, there were a couple of places with noticeable problems.
After crossing the dam on the Piave River near Pin di Vedola, the trail heads north between the main road and the river. It shortly crosses a small side stream, the Rio deo Frari; here the cleared trail vanished due to frequently shifting riverside shorelines and overgrown shrubbery. We were able to easily continue north along riverbank until it pinched out. Bush-whacking about 30 feet west toward the road allowed us to regain the trail, which was clear going forward.
There were two places on trail above the Piave River where the trail dropped steeply to the road and had been washed out; it was difficult to both follow and descend on what was left of the original trail. One short piece where the trail dropped precipitously below a railroad cut was quite hazardous and only marginally protected by a piece of old rope. This short section of trail leaves the road just north of Termine di Cadore and can be avoided by staying on the pavement instead. It is unclear when or if these problems will ever be mitigated.
Where the dirt road trail drops to the Torrente Frison about 3.5 miles south of Campolongo, the road and several bridges had been washed away completely due to recent major flooding and rockslides in the area. We were forced to wade the fast Torrente three times as we made our way downstream and had to scrabble over the loose slides. Although our transit was not technically difficult, if the water level had been higher, passage downstream would have been extremely difficult or impossible. We saw active repair work underway further downstream so this problem may be fixed in the future.
Just west of the Passo del Roccolo, the trail is obliterated by a large area of downed trees and was impassible. The next alternate trail to the north had the same problem. Fortunately, a third option, an old logging road crossing the Passo Col di Caneva just west of the Rifugio Sorgenti del Piave, was in good condition and reconnected with the CDD in the valley below. There were no signs warning of the blocked trails.
The CDD is very poorly signposted. We saw a small number of CDD waymarks, but they were both intermittent and mostly useless for staying on route. There were other waymarks scattered along the route that were occasionally useful. Carrying a good gpx file and a gps device is probably mandatory for navigation.
Most of the trail was in at least fair condition and quite easy to both walk and follow. Being lower, it was in places wetter that the AV1. A few sections of the trail were remarkably steep and sometimes covered with loose rocks; caution is advised. The route also follows sections of paved road. Most of these had little traffic outside the towns. We encountered a couple of places with signs indicating that the trail was “closed”. Like the locals were doing, we ignored these signs and had no issues.
These problems suggest that while the CDD is there and technically complete, it is not a prime time trail suitable for all walkers. Potential hikers should be prepared to deal with the issues that we had and potentially others as well. Unlike the AV1 that was well marked and maintained, the CDD needs some additional care and maintenance.
We made one significant diversion from the CDD on the first day of our hike. Instead of walking around Lago di Santa Croce, we split off near Caleipo and walked east over the forested hills to Bastia where we regained the CDD.
At Lago di Misurina, we left the CDD for the rest of the trip. Here the CDD continues west and then south to complete its loop. However, we continued to walk north to Villabassa where we had begun our trip south on the AV1. We followed a series of trails, bike paths, and roads to Villabassa and then walked west along the Rienza River valley until we ran out of time and returned to Milan on the train.
This conclusion to our walk was quite satisfying and well worth doing. Along the way, we had an entirely serendipitous and unplanned experience that was one of the highlights of the entire trip. Late in the day we were climbing into the hills north from the Lago di Misurina and intended to drop back to the valley on a trail shown in OpenStreetMap. When we got to the junction, it was clear that the trail was mostly a steep use path, and that we were not sure it would actually connect. The old road we were on continued north and climbed a series of dramatic switchbacks that had been carved in the vertical cliffs ahead of us. From there, the map showed the road and then trails continued north over Monte Piano and reconnected to where we wanted to be.
We decided to follow this route the next morning and learned that Monte Piano had been the site of a two year battle between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies during World War 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Piana
The top of the mountain, which is a large flattish plateau, was covered with old trenches and other military artifacts and signs and monuments about the conflict. The trails we had been following up had been constructed by the Italian Army to supply their troops on the south side of the mountain. The trail that descended the north side of Mt. Piano had been constructed by the Austro-Hungarians to supply their troops on the north side of the mountain. This trail was an amazing piece of engineering and construction that had been built while the workers were under Italian artillery fire. The convoluted route worked its way 900 meters up an almost vertical series of cliffs to the top. It was a fabulous walk down and a strange testament to human fortitude and folly.
The CDD passes through many towns where grocery stores, restaurants, patisseries, and most importantly, gelato shops, can be found. As is common in Italy, many of these have limited hours, so some advance planning is helpful. Where cellphone service was available, shop hours could often be found using Google Maps.
We had no problem finding water on this route.
We camped every night while on this route. Finding good to excellent campsites was not difficult. We even lucked out on a rainy night with a covered deck equipped with picnic tables and chairs at a public park visitor center.
We met only one other backpacker while on this route, a seventy-four year old gentleman on a four month walk all through the Alps. We met a few day hikers near public trailheads and a lot of bicyclists on the bike paths between Auronzo and Brunico.