Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent the night in a brewery. What about Europe’s highest microbrewery? Nope? Us neither. So, time to pack our toothbrushes, some thick socks, gather some mates and work up a thirst on our way through this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the shadow of the imposing peaks of the Dolomites towards said gaff.

There’s no bad route choice when it comes to this area. Whether you’re making tracks for a multi-day hut-to-hut adventure or roaming for one precious day on foot or by bike, this UNESCO-listed region is basically a fairytale with accessible high altitude plateaus and views you’ll want to capture and take home with you for eternity. For the hardy ones out there, there’s no shortage of summits to bag – the Croda Rossa and the Conturines should definitely be on your list. Here amongst the pretty peaks, we felt the need to switch off from the furore and intense testing of the Design & Innovation Award and escape civilization on an adventure ride in Tour mode. Direction: the high-altitude Lavarella hut with its microbrewery. According to local Ladin legend, here’s where we’d find a throat-soothing balm.

We set off from the Excelsior Dolomites Life Resort in San Vigilio di Marebbe, which is just the ticket for a rustic-luxe mountain biking base. This location has all the exceptional facilities that mean we need little convincing to return year after year for the Design & Innovation Award. In a rare moment of downtime, look for us in the rooftop infinity pool or one of the saunas. The service is first-rate, the kitchen knows how to please, and the Alpine décor has got the balance of understated elegance and cosiness dialled in. What else is great? The Excelsior could not be better placed for adventures of any scale or undertaking. With so much to choose from, outdoor enthusiasts should refer to hotelier and mountain biker Werner Call and his team for local tips on where to go and what to do, whether it’s hiking, climbing, riding or ziplining.

With riding on the agenda for us, we pedal out of the cute village and almost immediately into Val Pederü, with its countless crystal-clear mountain streams and emerald-coloured lakes. There are no heaving masses of crowds here like you get at the Tour de France, but if it’s true alone-time you’re looking for then look elsewhere as cows, goats, horses line the road. As you venture further up the valley, info boards and wooden carvings recount local myths and acquaint you with the unique Ladin culture, which is such a rich and authentic element of this virtually unspoilt region. Ladin is spoken by approximately 30,000 people but this mountain culture is all-pervasive when it comes to the region’s cuisine, customs and tradition. We stop briefly to fill up our water bottles at a spring before continuing up the gravelly corkscrew turns, each corner giving us a requisite hit of mind-blowing views to ease the effort. From down below, it’s not always easy to comprehend the vast trail network that’s concealed on the mountainsides, with more than 200 km for mountain bikes and 300 km for hikers to roam.

As the air gets thinner, the outside world feels further away and even though we’re climbing pretty vertiginously, there’s a sense that we’re somehow powering down. We greet a sprinkling of hikers on the trail and look incredulously back and forth at the views across the sweeping valley and each other to see if they’re responding with the same awe. After a good three hours with a few mandatory photo stops, we’ve made it. Unlike normal life, we’re stunned, choosing to gawp at the view instead of drowning it out with chatter. Silence like this is rare, interrupted only by the gentle gurgle of a nearby stream, and we want to make the most of this moment. The Lavarella mountain hut, a microbrewery-cum-shelter perched at 2,050 metres above sea level, is now within sight. We replace our riding shoes for Birkenstocks and prop our bikes next to huge barrels in the cellar. Gábor, who’s in charge of the hut, gives us a quick tour and shows us our rustic, low-key bedroom. From here, we creak over the floorboards towards the dining room. As the bikes recharge below us, we do the same with some appetizing mountain fare and beer that’s been brewed on site. The choice between an IPA, a pale, dark or wheat beer is easy: we’ll take all of them. The internet isn’t on full-time at the hut so there’s no chance we’re doing any updates; this is a trip we’ll smugly keep between ourselves for now.

Awaking to a hearty mountain hut breakfast and only a hint of a hangover that’s eased by the panorama, we make tracks back along the route we came up. If we hadn’t slept up here, it’s questionable whether we would have got down safely under the influence of a few beers. We ride down in a line, falling into the natural rhythm and surfing the flow of the trail, sharing the whoops and hollas as we tackle each section. It’s such top-drawer riding that it doesn’t need words.

We’ve come across pure trail treasure in the Fanes Sennes Braies Nature Park, which is why we find ourselves back here each year for the annual awards. With ever-changing scenery and ground conditions, plus trails and tracks for every level of rider, you have all the ingredients that let us determine what works and what doesn’t on the industry’s leading bikes and equipment. With no hiding places in such a feature-laden landscape, working out whether something is marketing hype or true innovation isn’t particularly hard. Those that come out best ride away with the accolades of a Design & Innovation Award.

Keen to have a go at our test loops? Good choice. Head out from San Vigilio and wind your way up the uphill flow, gorging on the mountain views (eyes up for the Pederü hut) but always keep your line choice in check. Beginners and pros alike can get their kicks here, but more advanced riders should also consider riding up to the Fanes or Lavarella huts. If you’re on an eMTB, stick to Tour mode and indulge in the views. Climbing inevitably comes, so expect never-ending corkscrews up to charming mountain plateaus, taking you past the glittering Limo Lake before passing the summit of the Limojoch on route to the Fanes hut, tucked in the eponymously named Alpe di Fanes. From here, keep going a short distance to reach the Lavarella hut, where you can feast your eyes on the scenery and order some micro-brewed high-altitude beer and hearty food. Once you’ve had your fill, turn around and coast down the endless singletrack as a reward.

Whether you’re escaping the turbulence of life for a night, a handful of nights or just a few hours, the Dolomites are prime territory – just make sure there’s space on your phone for at least 10 gb of new photos. Rugged and remote, the Fanes Sennes Braies Nature Park will steal not only your heart but also your ability to form coherent sentences. It’s one of those rare captivating locations that has cross-generational, pan-ability appeal. What’s missing, if anything? Well, there’s no sea view.

To explore this fairytale landscape by bike, check out and download our favourite routes inside this komoot collection.

Words & Photos: Julian Lemme