Are you looking for a great circuit hike in the Dolomites, which takes a full day, but won’t leave you too exhausted to keep you from exploring the next days? I think you just hit the jackpot!
12 Things to Know about the Sassolungo Circuit Day Hike
The great thing about the Sassolungo circuit is that even though there is quite a bit of elevation gain on this hike, thanks to the undulating nature of the trail, it never feels too strenuous. Couple that with the great trailhead accessibility and lots of rest possibilities in the many huts along the trail and you got yourself a fantastic full-day excursion!
1. Sassolungo circuit hike: the stats
- Distance – 16.7 km / 10.4 miles
- Walking time – 5-6 h
- Total Ascent – 787 m / 2720 ft
- Type of hike – circuit
- When to go – June to October
- Parking – Passo Sella
- Trail numbers – 557, 527, 526
- Map required – Tabacco no 05
2. Where is Sassolungo?
Sassolungo is a peak surrounded by Gardena Valley to the North, the Sella Group to the East, Fassa Valley to the South, and the Rosengarten Group to the West.
Thanks to its unique shape Sassolungo is one of the most distinguishable and photographed peaks in the Dolomites. It measures 3181 meters (10436 feet) making it the 9th tallest peak in the Dolomites.
In reality, you will be circling 3 peaks of this mountain group: Punta Grohmann, Sassopiatto, and Sassolungo. Sassolungo, being the highest of the three, gave the name to this hike.
The Sassolungo circuit features on my autumn photography and hiking itinerary across the Dolomites. If you plan a trip during this time of the year, you should check it out!
3. The map of the Sassolungo Circuit hike
Above you can see the path I followed from the car park when hiking the Sassolungo circuit. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.
4. How difficult is the Sassolungo circuit hike?
Thanks to good boot-beaten paths and clear signs the Sassolungo Circuit is a moderate hike. Although there is quite a bit of elevation gain on this trail, it happens throughout almost 17 kilometers so the incline and decline of the paths are never too big. A good level of stamina and hiking experience is still required to tackle this trip.
5. The best months to hike the Sassolungo circuit?
To ensure a snow-free hike, plan your Sassolungo circuit hike between the beginning of June and the end of October.
I hiked this trail at the end of October. The days during my visit were still pleasantly warm, but the evenings and nights were already turning bitterly cold, with temperatures often falling below zero Celsius.
The great thing about hiking it in October is very little human traffic, giving me the place all to myself. The stunning view of the golden larches in the valleys surrounding Sassolungo and Sasso Piatto makes it one of the best autumn day hikes in the Dolomites.
6. How to get to the trailhead
Getting to the trailhead by car
From Gardena Valley
If you are staying in one of the villages in Val Gardena (Ortisei, Santa Cristina, or Selva) you have to drive along the SS242 to Passo Sella.
The drive takes around 20-30 minutes depending on where you start. The roads are quite windy so take your time. You will be driving towards the impressive Sella group with 90-degree walls stretching ahead of you
From Fassa Valley
The nearest village to Passo Sella in the Fassa Valley is Canazei. The distance from Canazei by car is 13 km and it takes approximately 20 minutes along the SS242, a route that connects the two valleys.
As you get near the Sella mountain pass there are a few roadside pull-outs from where you can admire Marmolada – Dolomite’s highest peak!
Where to park your car
There are two parking lots near the Sassolungo circuit trailhead. The first one is on the opposite side of the road from the Hotel Passo Sella. Be careful when crossing the road! The second one is near the bottom station of the Sassolungo gondola.
Bring cash to pay for your parking tickets! It usually costs a few euros to park for a full day.
Getting to the trailhead by bus
During the summer season bus no. 471 operates between Canazei in Val di Fassa and villages in Val Gardena at 15-minute intervals.
Check Sued Tirol Mobil‘s website for connections and prices. The end bus stop for this hike is Schutzhaus Sellajoch.
Depending on which village you stay in, the bus journey takes anywhere between 35 minutes to an hour.
Alternative approach via cable car from Campitello di Fassa
One of the quickest ways to reach the Sassolungo circuit hike is by taking the Col Rodella cable car from Campitello village in Val Di Fassa.
During the summer season, the cable car operates from the first week of June until the first or second week of October, between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM. The road trip costs 22 Euros. For exact dates and prices check out this website.
Once you reach the top of the station then head towards the Friedrich August mountain refuge and follow the path numbers for the Sassolungo circuit.
7. The highlights of the Sassolungo Circuit hike
When hiking along the Sassolungo circuit you will get great views of Marmolada at the start of the hike. As you progress, the peaks of the Rosengarten group with the highest one – Catinaccio D’Antermoia will stretch ahead.
As you reach the halfway point of the hike, the plane of the famous Alpi Di Siusi, known as Europe’s highest pasture and one of the most photogenic spots in the Dolomites will be right ahead of you.
On the northern side of the hike, you can see the famous Seceda ridgeline from the distance.
Towards the end of the hike, the sheer 90-degree walls of the Sella group will accompany you until the finish line.
8. Facilities along the Sassolungo circuit
There are 5 mountain refuges directly on the Sassolungo circuit hike when hiking clockwise:
|Name of the refuge
|Distance from the trailhead
|Rifugio Friedrich August
|Rifugio Sandro Pertini
|Rifugio Sasso Piatto
They offer food, drinks, and toilet facilities to the hikers, as well as overnight accommodation, which can be booked in advance. Head to my other posts to learn the ins and outs of staying in mountain huts in the Italian Dolomites.
My favorite of the 5 is rifugio Sasso Piatto. It’s been renovated recently and boasts a fantastic atmosphere as well as quite luxurious dining options!
The refuge usually opens its doors to hikers at the end of May and remains open throughout the season before it closes in mid-October.
9. Sassolungo circuit trail description
Stage 1: Passo Sella to rifugio Sasso Piatto – path 557
The first stage of the hike follows path no. 557 known as the Friedrich August Weg. There is a clear sign placed behind the Hotel Passo Sella, where the trailhead is.
For the first kilometer, the path goes uphill until you reach Rifugio Fredrich August. From here to Rifugio Sasso Piatto you will be following an undulating path, which never gets too strenuous.
Admire the views into Fassa Valley and don’t forget to look back now and again. Marmolada, dolomite’s highest peak, and its glaciers will be within your sight.
Grab lunch or a drink and a cake at Rifugio Sasso Piatto before continuing!
Stage 2: Rifugio Sasso Piatto to a fork – path 527
From Rifugio Sasso Piatto you need to start following path no. 527. I now recommend paying attention to the Tabacco Map which you hopefully brought with you.
The nearest sign for path no. 527 from Rifugio Sasso Piatto points uphill. Unfortunately, this is the path I started following before realizing after a couple of hundred meters that we were on the wrong route.
This is the descent route for via Ferrata Oskar Schuster which I have done only a couple of years prior. Refer to my map to see my mistake.
Route 527 is a loop and it splits at rifugio Sasso Piatto so it’s important you follow it in the right direction.
From Rifugio Sasso Piatto you first need to drop down a few meters on a wide gravel road until you see a painted mark on a rock for the correct direction of travel to complete the circuit.
This is the easiest stage which follows the western and northern slopes of the Sasso Piatto mountain.
Stage 3: Fork to Passo Sella – path 526
Thanks to the soft afternoon light and bright yellow larch trees, it was the most scenic part of the route for me.
Once you reach the fork with a bench there is a sign pointing towards Rifugio Vicenza as well as path no. 526. There is quite a bit of uphill hiking along this stage, but it never gets too steep. That’s the beauty of the Sassolungo circuit hike.
At some point path no. 526 splits into two: 526 and 526A. They run parallel to one another. If you want to do slightly less elevation gain and loss, follow path no. 526A. They both meet again at Rifugio E.Comici.
Once you pass Rifugio E.Comici beautiful views of the Sella group will stay with you until the end of the hike.
It took me 5 hours to hike this route, excluding the breaks. I am just talking about the total moving time.
10. What to bring and wear on a hike
I never leave the parking lot without my trusted pair of Black Diamond Carbon trekking poles. They are extremely lightweight (only 300 grams a pair) yet easily handle any type of environment I find myself in.
There is a lot of varied terrain on this hike. You need a good and sturdy pair of hiking boots. I highly recommend the Hanwag Alverstone boots which I have been testing for the past year and am happy with.
Down vest or a down jacket
Particularly if you go on this hike in October like me. In the pictures, you can see me wearing my favorite Falketind down vest from a Norwegian brand called Norrona.
A pair of comfortable leggings or trousers
My go-to brand for hiking trousers is called Revolution Race. It’s a Swedish brand and it offers an excellent price-to-quality ratio. Its designs are innovative without compromising comfort or durability.
Make sure to bring lots of water on this hike. I always carry a minimum of 3 liters with me and another 0.5-liter pouch for my dog – Jasper. There is no possibility to fill up water along the trail unless you buy expensive plastic bottles in the huts
11. Where to stay nearby
Whether you are coming from Val Gardena or Val di Fassa to do this hike, you will be faced with plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Below are a few I recommend.
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12. How to shorten the Sassolungo Circuit hike
If all day of hiking is too long for you or if the weather turns for the worse you can shorten this hike by cutting through the middle of the Sassolungo group. If you go back to the map you can spot the shortcut marked in a yellow line.
To take the shorter version of the route, after completing stage 2 of the Sassolungo circuit, follow the signs for rifugio Vicenza (path no. 525), instead of going on path 526.
From Rifugio Vicenza head uphill on a steep slope to Rifugio Toni Demetz. Here you can catch the Sassolungo gondola back to Passo Sella.
Bear in mind this shortcut only makes sense and is possible between mid-June and the first week of October when the gondola is running.
Check the exact dates of the Sassolungo gondola schedule on the official Val Gardena tourism site.
Other hikes and via ferratas to experience nearby
More travel and hiking resources in the Dolomites
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