Day Hikes In The Italian Dolomites

Sassolungo Circuit – a great day hike between two famous Dolomiti valleys

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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

A hiker taking a picture of the views on the third stage of the Sassolungo Circuit hike in the Italian Dolomites
  • 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
  • ParkingPasso Sella
  • Trail numbers – 557, 527, 526
  • Map required – Tabacco no 05

2. Where is Sassolungo?

Passo Gardena 0010 Edit
Sassolungo at sunset photographed from Passo Gardena

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?

Sassolungo Circuit 24

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?

Sassolungo Circuit 18

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

Sassolungo Circuit 1

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

Sassolungo Circuit 38
Rifugio Sasso Piatto

There are 5 mountain refuges directly on the Sassolungo circuit hike when hiking clockwise:

Name of the refugeDistance from the trailhead
Rifugio Salei0.92 km
Rifugio Friedrich August1.75 km
Rifugio Sandro Pertini3.85 km
Rifugio Sasso Piatto6.2 km
Rifugio E.Comici15 km
Hut along the Sassolungo Circuit hike

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

Sassolungo Circuit 93

Trekking Poles

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.

Hiking Boots

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. 

Hydrapak water bladder

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

Rifugio Vicenza
Rifugio Vicenza

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

Via ferrata Mesules

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If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!

14 thoughts on “Sassolungo Circuit – a great day hike between two famous Dolomiti valleys”

  1. Hi Marta,
    Another hike added to the list. Thank you! 🙂
    I have a few additional questions about the shortcut at the fork(in case you have done this)
    -It is a shortcut in distance, obviously, but is it also one in time, given the steep slope from Rif. Vicenza to Rif. Demetz? Would you know how much time approx. you need to reach Demetz from Vicenza?
    -I assume the shortcut is feasible without any equipment (helmets, ropes,..) since it’s not a via ferrata?
    -Do you happen to know if the shortcut path from Vicenza to Demetz is well marked? Wouldn’t wanna get lost there 🙂
    Thanks again!
    And oh; these are some really great shots! Just W O W

    • I am glad you are liking my posts and adding the hikes to your bucket list. The shortcut is a shortcut in distance but not in elevation. You will probably do a little more elevation. Toni Demetz huette stands at the top of the Sassolungo gondola so you can shorten the trek by taking it down. It’s a very funny gondola right. I did this route (from toni demetz down to Vicenza hut) when I did the VF Oskar Schuster. And no extra equipment is necessary on this stretch. Yes the route is well marked too.

  2. Hello Marta,

    I hope all is well. Can you help guide us, please?

    For our return to the Dolomites next year, we are thinking of modifying your hike, as follows:
    1. At Sella Pass, take the lift up to Rifugio Toni Demetz.
    2. At the top, follow path nr 525 to Rifugio Vicenza.
    3. Continue on path nr 525 until the junction with path nr 526.
    4. Follow path nr 526 to Rifugio Comici.
    5. From here, follow path nr 21 to the Ciampinoi lift station for the ride down.

    We’ve rented an apartment in Selva di Val Gardena which is a 12 – 15 mins walk from the Ciampinoi Funivie station. To start the hike, I believe there is a bus we can take to Sella pass (I need to research this more).

    I am estimating approx. 8 – 10 miles, possibly more and the two lifts at the start and end should make it less strenuous.

    Our questions and where we need your guidance are:
    1. Does the above modification sound possible in terms of the path, directions, etc.?
    2. Is the above total mileage approximation in the ballpark or way off?
    3. Would you change anything given your knowledge of the area?
    4. Have you eaten at any of the three rifugi mentioned, and if so, which is your recommendation?

    Lastly, Sella Pass is very beautiful (from the online photos). Would you recommend this as a sunset photography location? Any other advice or guidance you can provide would be much appreciated.

    Thank you very much for all of your help.


    • Hi Debbie. Thanks for visiting. the whole circuit is about 11 miles so your shortcut will be less, max 8 miles total. You will also be cutting out on a lot of elevation gain by taking the chairlift to Toni Demetz hut.
      As for your questions. Yes the modification is totally fine. I would say you can still do the whole circuit if you wanted to (unless 11 miles/day is too much) and just cut out the last part from Comici to Passo Sella and instead descend down to the chairlift.
      I ate at rifugio Sassopiatto. When I visited Vicenza it was already close for the season, same goes for Comici. They all serve similar type of food though.
      Yes Sella Pass is beautiful and can be photographed both at sunset or sunrise. Just on the other side you have a great view of the Sella Towers (you can view a pic of my in my guide to via ferrata Poessnecker.

      • Dear Marta,

        Thank you very much for your guidance. It is much appreciated.

        It is good to know that the above modification is possible and short enough, for us to enjoy the hike and get to the Ciampinoi lift station before the last ride down to Selva – which was our main concern. Plus it gives is time to linger, admire the scenery and takes lots of photos!

        On a side topic, I did send you a private message regarding your planning services and looking forward to your response. No rush, as I won’t be ready for another 2 – 3 weeks.

        As always, thank you for your invaluable advice, your time and effort in sharing the wealth of information through your guides with us and all that you do to help make our adventures better. We appreciate you.


  3. Hi Marta, thanks for an amazing web site, and for sharing your huge wealth of knowledge of these hikes; it’s the best resource I’ve found! It’s so inspiring!
    I’m looking at doing a 4 day/3 night hike in this area, without via ferrata, and had thought of the following:
    Day 1: chair lift to Paolina hutte, hike to rifugio Vajolet (and extension to Alberto primero and Passo Santner)
    Day 2: hike to rifugio Alpe di Tires
    Day 3: rifugio Sasso Piatto……
    Day 4: exit via Passo Sella gondola

    As the distance from Alpe di Tires to Sasso Piatto is short, do you have any suggestions how we might incorporate this great sounding Sassolungo circuit in?? Could we do it in day 3, including hiking from Alpe di Tires, or would that be too long?

    Really appreciate any advice you have on how to extend this hike to a 3 night one.
    thanks, Kathy

    • Hi Marta, having read more of your advice, and getting more offers of rifugios to stay in, we have tweaked our proposed route to this:
      Day 1: bus Bolzano to Carezza, chair lift to Paolina hutte, hike to rifugio Vajolet (overnight)
      Day 2: extension to Alberto primero and Passo Santner in the morning, then hike to rifugio Passo principe (overnight) (is it possible to do an extension to lake Antermoia if we arrive at the refuge early, or would this be better to do on day 3? Also, which route number do we take to get to and from the lake? I have my tobacco maps 29 and 5 ordered, so I’m sure it’ll be much clearer when I have them!)
      Day 3: hike to Alpe di Tires, then to rifugio Sasso Piatto (overnight)
      Day 4: continue circumnavigating Sassolungo clockwise as in your hike on this page, exit Passo Sella, buses back to Bolzano

      Would you have any suggestions to add/alter this route?
      I know we could probably do this in 2 nights/3 days, but we like the idea of staying an extra night and enjoying being in the mountains.
      Thank you so much for all your help, Kathy

      • Hi Kathy. I just responded to your previous comment, but it seems you have everything under control 🙂 As for your question. From Rifugio Vajolet to Passo Santner and back will probably take you around 3 hours. Then another 60-90 minutes to rifugio Passo Principe. If you left Vajolet really early in the morning you would probably be at Passo Principe around 1 PM at the earliest because of all the breaks, photo taking, etc. Definitely leave some stuff in Vajolet and go light to Passo Principe. You will be coming down that way anyway.
        If you are fit hikers you can definitely fit in the trip to Lago Antermoia and back, provided you will have good weather conditions. Don’t forget about the afternoon storms. If they are brewing already, then just stay in the hut.
        day 3 and 4 look great. Let me know if I can help further!

        • Fabulous advice Marta, really appreciate your help. Great suggestions for additional hikes in the area: we may not get to them this time but will definitely have to return!
          How long would walking the round trip from Rifugio Passo Principe to Lago Antermoia and back take?
          Or, if on Day 3 we went from Rifugio Passo Principe via Lago Antermoia to Rifugio Alpe di Tires then on to Rifugio Sasso Piato, how long (walking only) would that take? Will be great to have a rough idea, so we don’t attempt something that will leave us struggling to get to Sasso Piato for the night/before any downpours!
          Your site is the best source of information out there on the internet Marta, absolutely brilliant, thank you.

          • Hi Kathy. Walking times can obviously vary from person to person. The generous estimate would be Passo Principe – Lake Antermoia and back 3 hours walking time.
            Passo Principe – Rifugio Antermoia – Rifugio Alpi Di Tires 3-4 hours walking time. Alpi Di Tires to Sasso Piato 2 hours. Thanks for the feedback!

    • Hi Kathy. Thanks for visiting my site. Your itinerary sounds great. As for including the Sassolungo circuit it really is up to how to fit you are. I have people who comment on my blog that they do 30 kilometers a day when they do through hikes. I think in my whole hiking career I only did that twice and I did not enjoy it 🙂
      You could do Sassolungo Circuit additionally but then you would repeat a part of it when hiking to Passo Sella on day 4. I would recommend that you hike from Alpi Di Tires to Sasso Piatto, then from Sassopiatto to rifugio Vicenza, and then on day 4 continue with the Sassolungo circuit to Passo Sella. You wouldn’t do the whole circuit, you would do Stages 2 and 3 by following this plate.
      What you can do as an alternative is to hike across Alpi Di Siusi, take the gondola down to Ortisei then from Ortisei a gondola up to Seceda viewpoint, and then hike to rifugio Genova, before descending to Santa Maddalena on day 4. I am not sure if you are trying to turn the route into a circuit or if you don’t mind where you end.
      Another option would be to hike down to Campitello di Fassa via Val Duron, on Day 3, stay the night and then on day 4 do a separate day trek for example to Passo San Nicolo.
      Let me know if that helps!

  4. Marta – Thanks for a continuous stream of outstanding suggestions in the Dolomiti. We have done a number of your hikes, now living in Cortina, and you have not steered us wrong once!! We have also recommended your site to many others. Keep up the great work!! Grazie


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