With so many beautiful hiking areas in the Dolomites, it’s hard to choose a favorite but through all of the time I spent in Italy, one specific hike stands out above the rest: El Cor, the Heart of the Dolomites.
The hike to El Cor is a long and arduous hike not suitable for your average day hiker. The route is not obvious and the terrain is steep with severe consequences if you fall but even with the challenges, this hike should be a “must-do” for any adventure-seeking visitor to the Dolomites.
A quick google search will pull up some beautiful images but getting any real information and beta on the route is difficult. Luckily, the Ufficio Turistico di Agordo or the Ufficio Turistico di Alleghe will be able to give you the details you need but unless you are already very experienced at hiking in the Dolomites, I strongly suggest hiring a guide for this trip.
The start of the El Cor track is in Taibon Agordino. We started our trip bright and early because an afternoon thunderstorm was threatening to end the hike early for us. We wanted to beat the rain and were on the trail by 7:30 am.
We knew the hike would take most of the day and we were aiming to be down safe by 3:00 pm. After a steep but easy walk up a farm track, we started getting into the trickier parts of the hike. We first had to descend down a steep and icy gully. My guide roped me up and helps me abseil down to safety. We then crossed a small snow patch with our microspikes for extra traction before heading up the steep face of the mountain. When we reached the ridge, we could finally see the star of the show: El Cor, a heart-shaped delicate natural formation in the rock, the only one of its kind.
El Cor can only be viewed from a few spots on the trail so once you see it, take a seat, eat your lunch and enjoy the view. El Cor is surrounded by Cima Pape, El Mul, and Monte Agner and the valleys below look worlds away.
Once fueled up, we ascended up the narrow ridge towards Tromba del Miel where the terrain flattened out. We followed the vague cairns down the mountain and looped back to the original trail which took us back to the cafe where we started, the perfect place to enjoy a beer and watch the afternoon thunderstorms roll in.
Hiking to El Cor was so special because it’s a hike that not many people know about. We didn’t see any other hikers on the trail the entire day and we were rewarded with a view that hasn’t yet blown up on social media. It was a pure experience and I felt so lucky to see it. Of course, this magical place won’t stay quiet for long so if you are planning on hiking to El Cor, please hire a guide to get you there safely! Additionally, as this is a delicate natural formation, people please respect the space and resist all attempts to sit on or climb the heart.
El Cor will always have a piece of my heart and I can’t wait to return someday!
Photo credits: Erica Clapp