Rifugio Giaf: a hike on the snow in the Friulian Dolomites
Sometimes you think you know a place like the back of your hand and then you realize you’ve barely touched the surface. It was strange and fascinating to visit Rifugio Giaf in Winter. It seems yesterday that Stefano and I were visiting him on our way to Casera Val Binon. Those summers as a child are imprinted in my mind, yet the building in front of me is completely different. Read on to find out all the details of this hike.
What you will read in this post:
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 passing the villages of Enemonzo, Ampezzo, Forni di Sotto and then Forni di Sopra. Go past the latter and after a couple of miles, you will find the signs for the Rifugio Giaf.
Where to park
The parking lot available for visiting the Rifugio Giaf in winter is at an altitude of 966 meters above sea level. The place is named Località Chiarandens and you will find it on the state road. If in summer it is possible to get a little closer with the car to the trail’s starting point, in winter the hike is a bit longer. The road that leads to the beginning of the CAI Trail 346 is not clean and is intersected by the cross-country track.
Hike Recap & GPX
To the Rifugio Giaf
From Località Chiarandens we set off towards the cross-country ski track that we cross a couple of times up to skirt the Rio Giaf.
If the conditions of your visit are similar to those we met, you will immediately understand that it is not the snow but the ice that reigns supreme on this trip. Even in spots where the snow is higher on the ground, if you listen closely, you will hear the hollow sound of ice in the background.
In about 15 minutes you will arrive at the bridge over the Rio Giaf and in another five at the crossroads between the forest road and the CAI trail 346.
We choose the first road which, after a couple of bends only, climbs directly towards the Rifugio Giaf.
Once out of the woods, it’s hard to choose where to look. In front of us the view of the Friulian Dolomites opens up but behind us, the landscape, even if only slightly snowy, pushes us to walk backward.
As we get closer to the mountain hut the slope of this winter hike in Carni becomes lighter. Next to the main building, there is a second hut that as a child I associated with Heidi’s house.
For those who have visited the place in the summer, it will seem strange to see it so empty.
Descending with trail nr. 346
To go back to the car we take the CAI trail 346.
Immediately below the hut, we find an old dairy which is now used as a winter refuge.
After a first stretch in the woods, a sort of natural staircase made up of tight turns makes us accelerate in altitude.
The route proceeds through the woods and quickly brings us back to the crossroads with the forest road and then to the car.
Rifugio Giaf in Winter: trail or forst road?
It depends on your level of training and if you’re used to the mountain environment. If in summer the two options are equivalent, reaching Rifugio Giaf in winter via trail nr. 346 could put in difficulty those who are still unsure or do not have the right equipment.
The forest road, on the other hand, has the advantage of being within everyone’s reach, although it may seem a bit monotonous.
In both cases, before going to the Rifugio Giaf in winter, I recommend that you look at the avalanche bulletin. There are some sections where the risk of detachment is real.
Snowshoes or crampons?
Again, it depends on what the weather conditions will be when you visit Rifugio Giaf.
In February 2022, in a winter that was not particularly snowy, the snow we found was old and very compact. We did not use snowshoes. Light crampons, on the other hand, are essential to face even icy sections with serenity.
Why you should visit Rifugio Giaf in winter
The Rifugio Giaf is one of the easiest mountain huts to reach in Friuli Venezia Giulia. The forest road and the trail are simple and feasible even for children (I know this from first-hand experience).
Because the Rifugio Giaf is closed in winter, this eliminates the reason that pushes most people to climb here.
On the other hand, those who are not intimidated by the snow will find a quiet corner in this mountain hut embraced by the Friulian Dolomites in a religious silence, observe the trails left by skiers on the slopes, wondering how they can do something like that.
Where to eat in Forni di Sopra
Ti è venuta fame dopo la camminata? Ecco dove puoi mangiare a Forni di Sopra.
- Albergo e Ristorante Nuoitas: I’ll only tell you that in the name of their Facebook page they have added “Polenta and Frico“. In the rankings on the best places to eat Frico in Friuli Venezia Giulia, they are repeatedly mentioned among the first positions. In short, here you can eat good food from Carnia.
- Birrificio Foglie d’Erba: ok, you don’t eat here but the beer is too phenomenal not to stop. Handcrafted and with very evocative names. You have to try them all (taking them home).