Via Ferrata Gran Cir In The Heart Of The Italian Dolomites

As a rule I believe that the more effort you are willing to put into a hike or climb, the more rewarding the views will be. But as with every rule, there is always an exception. 

In the via ferrata World of the Italian Dolomites, it doesn’t get easier than Gran Cir.

However easy doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it! On the contrary, the views from the top will stick with you for a long long time. 

Via ferrata Gran Cir The Stats

Time required: 2-3 hours

Elevation gain: ca. 470 m / 1540 ft

Route difficulty: beginner

Sunset over Sassolungo from the summit of Gran Cir
Sunset over Sassolungo from the summit of Gran Cir

Getting to Passo Gardena

The Gardena mountain pass, where the via ferrata Gran Cir begins, connects two famous valleys in the Dolomites: Val Badia and Val Gardena. The nearest towns to Passo Gardena is Corvara in Val Badia and Selva di Val Gardena. Each one lies only 20 minutes away by car.

There is an ample parking area right near Rifugio Frara, near the top of the pass, but it does fill up quickly in the peak season (July and August) and on the weekends. The earlier you get there the better. 

In the summer season, there are public buses running a few times daily between both towns and Passo Gardena. If you are planning to use public transport I recommend visiting the nearest tourist info center to find out the schedule as it changes seasonally. 

Passo Gardena marks the start of the via ferrata Gran Cir.
Passo Gardena veiled by morning fog. Sella group peaking out from the cloud.

Gran Cir summit – the route summary

Hiking up the scree gully along the via ferrata Gran Cir.
Hiking up the scree gully with Sella group behind me.

The top of Gran Cir is clearly visible from Passo Gardena. If you squint your eyes you can even see the cross on top of it. To reach it from the parking lot you have to first follow path nr 2. Eventually, you will come across signs pointing to Gran Cir.

As per usual, the routes in the Dolomites are always very well marked, and as long as you stick to the path, it’s impossible to get lost. 

via ferrata Gran Cir information
Climbers spotted along the route to the summit

After around 15 minutes of a gentle incline, you will reach a scree gully. Follow the path up the left side of the gully until you reach the cables. The wire section on this route is very short. The exposure isn’t too bad and I have seen plenty of people not even wearing harnesses and helmets.

However, I am a strong believer that it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I have already experienced a terrible accident in the mountains once and I am in no rush to repeat it. 

the last stretch of via ferrata Gran Cir before reaching the summit
the last stretch before reaching the summit

The route zig-zags up the mountain. Irrespective of the switchbacks, it’s still a relatively sharp incline and you will gain elevation quickly. The jagged peaks of the Sella mountain group on the other side of Passo Gardena will be clearly visible the whole time. 

It only takes around 45 minutes from the gully all the way to the top, even less if you are in top shape! Once at the summit, expect other hikers. This is a popular sunrise and sunset spot amongst the locals.

The summit of Gran Cir in the Italian Dolomites
The obligatory summit cross.

The giant cross adorning the summit is a good reminder of the strong presence of the Catholic Church in Italian society. They are on every bloody summit! I always think that their role is to remind you, that if you are not careful, you will meet Jesus sooner than expected. 

Mount Antelao as seen from the summit of Gran Cir
Mount Pelmo

The summit views are jaw-dropping. Far to the East, you can see Mount Antelao (photo above left) and Mount Pelmo (photo above right). Both are famous 3000-meter peaks in the Dolomites.

To the South stretches the massive Sella group with its highest summit – Piz Boe

West is the famous Sassolungo, a beloved subject for photographers. Through the middle of it runs another popular via ferrata – Oskar Schuster. 

Sunrise from the summit of Gran Cir.
Enjoying the sunrise over the clouds from the summit of Gran Cir. Sella group in the distance.
guide to via ferrata Gran Cir in the Italian Dolomites.
The view at sunrise

To descend from the summit just follow the same route. The way down is usually faster and within an hour you should be back at Passo Gardena.

Make sure to pop into Rifugio Jimmy for a tasty cup of Italian cappuccino, and warm apple strudel, and rest on one of their awesome bean bags out on the terrace! You’ve earned it!

Shop my via ferrata gear essentials

Black Diamond Helmet

Rockfall is a major concern on via ferrata routes. Unbeknownst to you, other climbing groups above you may accidentally dislodge a small rock and send it hurtling down the mountain. If it hits you on the head it could have serious consequences. A helmet placed on your head (not inside your backpack) is a must! 

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71gKk4U+f2S. AC SL1500

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

Another must-have on a via ferrata route is a climbing harness. A harness works as an anchor point for your via ferrata lanyard. Try it on before your trip to ensure it fits snugly without limiting your movements. Aim for a lightweight harness, that will be comfortable to wear between the cable-protected sections when hiking.

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Shop Men’s on Amazon (Worldwide) / Backcountry (US)

edelrid basis cable kit special via ferrata set

Edelrid, Camp or Black Diamond Via Ferrata Lanyard

A via ferrata lanyard connects the climber and their harness to the cables along the route. Its two arms and a hidden extra coil work as an energy absorption system in case of a fall, by reducing the stress on the climber. The two carabiners at the end of the lanyard are used to clip into the cable. Make sure the carabiners are equipped with the palm squeeze mechanism. It’s the safest and most comfortable.

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91P0f6XnFML. AC SL1500

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

The gloves are meant to protect your hands from any cuts and scratches you may otherwise get if you haul yourself on the cable without them. I prefer full-fingered gloves for extra protection against blisters.

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salewa womens wildfire edge approach shoes detail 6

Salewa Wildfire Edge Approach Shoes

My go-to pair of hiking shoes for easier trails or via ferrata, where I don’t need extra ankle support. They provide excellent grip on the rock and are very durable.

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reeloq

Reeloq Smartphone Securing System

If you want to take great photos on a via ferrata and not worry about losing your phone, Reeloq is the best tool for it. It’s a smartphone-securing system, that will allow you to use your phone on any of your adventures. This has been a great addition to my tool arsenal.

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

Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Marta did you slept in the top of gran cir for whatching Sunset and sunrise or you went in diferent days?

  2. Hi! I really want to do this ferrata, but It would be my first ferrata. Is this something where I can easily rent the equipment and do this “easy” feratta on my own? Or do I need to go with a guide? I am an experienced hiker, I am just new to the feratta world. Thanks!

    • Hi Andrea. Please go to my article titled “beginner’s guide to via ferrata climbing in the Italian Dolomites’. All the answers to the questions you have asked will be in that article 🙂 You can find it in the via ferrata category in my Italian Dolomite’s guide or through the search loop. Let me know if I can help any further.

  3. Hey Katie, How did you hike for how long did you stay around sunset ? And how did you hike early in the morning for sunrise ?

    • Hi Przemek. I reckon you wanted to ask me. I am Marta btw and also polish 😉 As for your question I do say in the text how long it takes to hike up and down. I stayed around 30 mins on the top for sunset. As for your second question, sorry I didn’t really understand it. Could you rephrase?

      • W drugim pytaniu chodzi mi o to że ta ostatnia fotka jest o wschodzie słońca i jak przypuszczam ze szczytu Gran Cir tak ? Pytanie brzmi, Czy wchodziliście tam dużo wcześniej przed wstaniem słońca ?

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