Summer Hike to Casera Val Binon, the remote dairy hut in the Friulian Dolomites (Italy)
I fell in love with Casera Val Binon as soon as I saw it. It was in a photo taken by Stefano during his 2018 holidays while doing the Friulian Dolomites Trail. I think what fascinated me were the words that Stefano used to describe it: difficult to reach, isolated, and without connection.
Immediately after the love-at-first-sight moment, came the clash with harsh reality. At the time, I would not have been able to tackle the 1200 meters of elevation gain in one day. I still had a long way to go in the mountains to reach the place of my heart.
Two years later, in July 2021, I did it!
This summer hike to Casera Val Binon will remain in my heart. Surely because the place is as magical as I imagined it. But above all, this hike smells like victory. It is an achieved goal, a faced fear, and it proves that, at least in some cases, work pays off.
Among the Friulian Dolomites, there are several trails that lead to Casera Val Binon. There are two simpler options: from the Rifugio Giaf (Forni di Sopra, UD) which is the one we have chosen, and from the Rifugio Pordenone (Cimolais, PN).
Both routes are part of the Friulian Dolomites loop trail.
- How to Reach Casera Val Binon from the Rifugio Pordenone: This is the simplest and most direct trail, with fewer meters of elevation gain altitude. Why didn’t we choose it? Because the path is interrupted by a ford that fills with rain. If it has not rained in the days before the hike, it is a viable option. On the other hand, if it has rained, you may find yourself on the bank of the stream trying to figure out where it is best to cross it. Stefano found himself in this exact situation during the ring and considered it safer to take the path from Rifugio Giaf.
- How to reach Casera Val Binon from Rifugio Giaf: Going up to Casera Val Binon from the Giaf Refuge is a lot more challenging but nothing that trained legs and breath cannot do. The trail starts from Forni di Sopra, follows the CAI path 346 to Rifugio Giaf, and from there continues on path 361 to Forcella Urtisel. Once on the Forcella, it goes down to Casera Valbinon. The return is on the same route.
How to reach Rifugio Giaf
From Udine drive north towards Tolmezzo (the A23 motorway exit is Carnia), then continue towards Villa Santina. Go further north touching the villages of Enemonzo, Ampezzo, Forni di Sotto and then Forni di Sopra. Go past the latter and after a while, you will find signs to Rifugio Giaf on the left.
Hike Recap and GPX
The hike to Casera Val Binon can be divided into three parts:
- From Forni di Sopra to the Rifugio Giaf with a very easy path suitable for everyone
- From the Rifugio Giaf to Forcella Urtisiel
- From Forcella Urtisiel to Casera Val Binon
The return path is the same as the outward one.
The hike to Casera Val Binon in short
From Forni di Sopra go up to the Rifugio Giaf, you can choose the forest road or the CAI 346 path
Once at the Rifugio Giaf, in the clearing below the hut, you will find a wooden signpost with the signs for CAI trail 361 which leads to Forcella Urtisiel and Casera Val Binon. You will soon find yourself climbing a staircase of wide steps, at the end of which you will come to another crossroads. Proceed to the left and face the scree to get to the Urtisiel fork.
Once you reach Forcella Urtisiel, you will already be able to see Casera Val Binon in the distance. Go down the other side of the saddle and, with a pleasant stretch on a slight slope that will allow you to admire a breathtaking view of the Val Cimoliana, you will arrive at the Casera.
The return is made on the same road.
From Forni di Sopra to Rifugio Giaf
The hike to Casera Val Binon begins with one of the simplest walks you can take in the Friulian mountains: the climb to the Rifugio Giaf. If you are a beginner, stop at the refuge and enjoy one of the fantastic dishes that are prepared there.
To do this hike we started very early, and at 8:20 we were already on our way to Rifugio Giaf. The hut is usually very crowded so, consider an early morning tactical departure too.
Rifugio Giaf: a very easy trail for all ages
After leaving the car and crossing the bridge over the Giaf stream, you will find yourself in front of a crossroads.
On the left, you will find the forest road while on the right you can continue on the CAI trail 346. You are faced with one of those rare cases in which choosing the forest road does not involve an excessive increase in km and time. Choose the option that inspires you the most.
We decide to warm up the muscles on the path so we set off on the CAI track which continues parallel to the Rio Giaf course. I went up to the Giaf Refuge many times, the first of which was when I was only a few years old, but for the first time, I feel butterflies in my stomach because this time I will leave the safe harbor of the hut and push myself onto the crumbly ground of the scree.
The forest, the scent of moss, and the sound of the stream have a calming power over me and with every step, I feel calmer or perhaps simply resigned.
If you choose the trail there will be only one stretch to which you must pay attention and it is the one immediately following the second crossing of the Rio Giaf. Here, in fact, the path narrows and climbs the side of the mountain with tight curves that will make you gain altitude quickly. After this sort of natural staircase, you will plunge back into the woods and in a few minutes you will first reach an old dairy hut, now used as a winter bivouac, and then Rifugio Giaf.
Rifugio Giaf is also accessible in winter. If you are interested I have wrote about it here.
Hiking to Rifugio Giaf with children
If you have small children, the Rifugio Giaf is an excellent destination to reach with them. I can guarantee it on my skin. I started climbing CAI trail 346 with my legs at around 4 years old.
From Rifugio Giaf to Forcella Urtisiel
In this hike to Casera Val Binon, the Giaf Refuge is the watershed between the hike accessible to all and the trail for the more experienced hikers.
In the clearing below the refuge, a wooden signpost indicates the direction to follow to reach Forcella Urtisiel and Casera Val Binon. The CAI trail is number 361.
The moment I fear most is getting closer and closer, but before reaching it there is another effort to face. Shortly after leaving the Rifugio Giaf, in fact, you will find the best natural step gym: a stretch with very high and deep steps that will slow you down a little. If nothing else, the low vegetation will allow you to enjoy a splendid view of the Friulian Dolomites on one side and the Forni di Sopra valley on the other. If you focus you might even see Casera Tragonia and the other Forni’s dairy huts.
At the end of the steps, you will find yourself in front of a crossroads. The hike to Casera Val Binon continues on the left where you will find my dreaded scree waiting for you.
I can’t deny that I was quite worried and as soon as I stopped seeing the grass next to my feet, my legs started shaking! The ideal situation for a stable surface such as gravel.
Slowly and with Stefano’s encouragement, I managed to advance and reach the saddle. In hindsight, it was less terrible than I expected and I even took confidence on the descent. I focus on the Dolomites, I had never been so close to them, I had never felt so tiny and at the same time ecstatic. Beauty is always a source of inspiration, even in these situations.
From Forcella Urtisiel to Casera Val Binon
Standing on Forcella Urtisiel you will find yourself in front of a rather bizarre sight. If the side facing the Forni di Sopra valley is gravelly and arid, the side facing the Val Cimoliana is a riot of luxuriant vegetation.
The sight of the plants calmed me but above all from there, I was finally able to lay my eyes on my destination.
The descent from the saddle is made on a path with very tight hairpin bends that will make you descend quickly and immerse you in the mountain pine bushes.
At the end of the descent, you will find a long stretch on a slight slope. The trail runs halfway up the side of the mountain but is quite wide and with no exposed sections. The best thing is that it overlooks the Val Cimoliana and will therefore allow you to enjoy an incredible view of the valley that hosts Rifugio Pordenone, another access point to Casera Val Binon.
As the track approaches the hut it is a crescendo of trees, bushes, flowers, and insects. If you feel like you are arriving in an enchanted valley, everything is normal.
Casera Val Binon
Casera Val Binon appeared as soon as we passed the saddle, but seeing it appear among the trees was an emotion that I will hardly forget. My heart was beating more than during the climb.
Approaching the hut area will immediately give you the feeling of being in another world which is usually only experienced in films or books.
To welcome us to the casera is Denis, a big man with a strong accent. He runs the hut alone, in the company of his dog. Although he looks intimidating, he warmly offers us a drink and asks if we want pasta. While the water is boiling, he tells us and the other guests about his daily life in the hut. He usually brings food with the helicopter, but it has not yet managed to get it to the hut and supplies are scarce. Denis and a group of friends have brought all the necessities on foot. The cell phone has no signal, and the only way to communicate with the outside is the satellite phone.
After the drink, it’s time to retrace our steps, while the afternoon clouds darken the sky.
How to contact Casera Val Binon
If you want to contact Casera Val Binon, I’ll leave you the phone number and email. To find out the opening dates follow the Facebook page.
Why you should visit Casera Val binon?
Because it is the most Into the Wild corner of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The casera is located in a valley completely isolated from the rest of the world which will make you enjoy nature from a unique perspective. The landscape around Casera Val Binon is not polluted by man, there are no houses or roads. The phone has no signal. It is a place from which to observe nature as a spectator, without distractions.
And in case you were wondering, yes at Casera Val Binon you can also stay overnight. It must be a magical experience that I definitely want to try in the future.
Can Casera Val Binon be reached with children?
Along the way, we met some children of about 10 who, however, did not seem very happy with the hard work. If you really want to reach Casera Val Binon with children, consider climbing there from Rifugio Pordenone.