Val Gardena (Grödnertal) is a valley in South Tyrol in the Italian Dolomites, stretching from Gardena Pass (Passo Gardena / Grödnerjoch) and Sella Pass (Passo Sella) to Valle Isarco (Eisacktal).
From the valley, you can easily access Puez – Geisler (Odle) Nature Park, Langkofel (Sassolungo), the Sella Group, and Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi). So, hiking in the Val Gardena mountains is like hiking in heaven (at least the one I imagine). And, because this is an established ski region, a network of cableways and gondolas makes getting up and down the mountain effortless.
An added bonus of staying in Val Gardena is the free transit system. If you’re traveling in the Dolomites without a car, Val Gardena is a perfect place to base yourself for a few days.
Planning a trip to the Dolomites? Read our Dolomites Travel Guide.
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Val Gardena Map
Val Gardena encompasses the towns Ortisei, Selva di Val Gardena, and Santa Cristina. Because this is a German-, Ladin-, and Italian-speaking region, each town, nature park, mountain hut, etc… has three names. So, Ortisei is also called St. Ulrich and Urtijëi. Selva di Val Gardena is also called Wolkenstein and Sëlva.
For hiking, we recommend this Tappeiner Val Gardena hiking map.
When to Hike in Val Gardena, Dolomites
Mid-June until mid-October. If you want to eat in rifugios (mountain huts), most are open between late-June and late-September, though some stay open until mid-October. I don’t recommend coming later than mid-October, because the valley’s many gondolas and cableways close by mid-month. However, late October would be a quiet and colorful time to visit Val Gardena, if you’re willing to put in the extra work (longer ascents and descents).
Recommended Hiking Gear for the Dolomites
I’m a firm believer that hiking boots are the key to safe and easy hiking. We always marveled as other hikers seemed to fly down the mountain, seemingly unaffected by the uneven and unstable terrain (e.g. scree). Well, we discovered their secret this summer, when we upgraded our boots to grade B/C. And, oh my goodness, what a difference it made.
For the Col dala Pieres and Pisciadù hikes listed below, you’re going to want boots like these: Hanwag Tatra II GTX, or Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (what Kati and I wear). Here’s the men’s version: Hanwag Tatra II GTX. For us, these “difficult” hikes we’re all that difficult because we had excellent boots and hiking poles like these Black Diamond trail poles.
I’ll admit Hanwag and Meindl are less sexy than those Italian Salewa shoes, but they are far superior in terms of comfort and durability.
Other hiking essentials: a reusable water bottle, polarized sunglasses, rain jacket, sunhat, and camera. We love our Sony Alpha A6000 mirrorless digital camera. It’s lightweight, easy to hike with, and captures landscapes beautifully (in auto mode).
Best Hiking Trails in Val Gardena
- Seceda Ridgeline to Rifugio Firenze – Easy loop trail starting in Ortisei.
- Resciesa to Rifugio Brogles and Seceda Ridgeline – Moderate loop, or point-to-point hike starting in Ortisei.
- Rifugio Stevia and Col dala Pieres – Difficult loop hike starting in Selva di Val Gardena.
- Lake Pisciadù and Pisciadù Peak Hike – Difficult loop, or point-to-point hike starting at Gardena Pass.
- Sassolungo Loop Trail – Moderate day hike starting at Sella Pass.
We’ve summarized all these hikes below with links to in-depth posts.
Seceda Ridgeline to Rifugio Firenze (Regensburger Hütte)
- Starting Point: Ortisei
- Trailhead: Seceda cableway mountain station
- Distance: 8.7 km
- Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
- Time Needed: 3 – 4 hours
The Seceda ridgeline is one of the most iconic places in the Dolomites. You’ve seen the photo a million times. And, yet it’s even more spectacular in person.
This Val Gardena hike begins at the Seceda mountain station, which is accessible by aerial cableways from Ortisei. From the summit, you’ll approach the dagger-like Odle (Geisler) peaks along a level path. The hike continues to Pierlongia, marked by a rustic hut and two twin spires. The hike then continues to Rifugio Firenze, which is a great place for lunch. From the mountain hut, you’ll circuit back to Seceda mountain station.
Learn More: Hiking Seceda to Rifugio Firenze
Resciesa to Rifugio Brogles and Seceda Ridgeline
- Starting Point: Ortisei
- Trailhead: Resciesa Funicular mountain station
- Distance: 8 km +
- Difficulty: moderate/difficult
- Time Needed: 3 hours +
Did you know that the Seceda ridgeline can be approached in an entirely different way? This exciting Val Gardena hiking route starts in Ortisei with a funicular ascent to the Resciesa plateau.
You’ll hike across Resciesa and gently descend to Rifugio Brogles in Val di Funes. With wonderful views of the beloved Odle peaks, Malga Brogles is a great place for lunch or just a drink. From the hut, the trail ascends all the way to the Seceda ridgeline via the Panascharte.
From the Seceda ridge, you can descend to Ortisei via the Seceda-Funes-Ortisei cableways, or continue hiking to Col Raiser gondola mountain station and descend to Selva and Santa Cristina.
Learn More: Hiking from Resciesa to Seceda
Col dala Pieres
- Starting Point: Selva
- Trailhead: Col Raiser mountain station
- Distance: 13.8 km
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Time Needed: 6 – 7 hours
It’s impossible to choose a favorite Val Gardena hiking trail. But, if we really really had to, it would be this hike to Col dala Pieres.
From the Col Raiser mountain station, follow the easy trail to Rifugio Firenze (Regensburger Hütte). From the hut, you’ll make your way to trail 17B and ascend to Forcella Piza (2489 m), the mountain saddle between Muntejela and Mont De Stevia. From Piza, the trail continues left to Col dala Pieres summit. But, we recommend detouring to Rifugio Stevia, for hearty South Tyrolean food and equally sumptuous views of Langkofel, Sella, and Cir.
The ascent to Col dala Pieres isn’t a hard one. However, the descent over Forcella Forces de Sieles is a bit more challenging. Now, if you thought the hike was great so far, wait till you get here. Those Odle / Geisler peaks impress from this angle as well.
Learn More: Hiking to Col dala Pieres
Pisciadù Peak Hike
- Starting Point / Trailhead: Gardena Pass
- Distance: 11.5 km
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Time Needed: 6 hours
This hike in the Sella Group begins in Gardena Pass (Passo Gardena, Grödnerjoch), the mountain pass between Alta Badia and Val Gardena.
From the pass, you’ll follow a delightful balcony trail to Val Setus, a steep sloping “valley” characterized by crumbling rocks and scree. The ascent up Val Setus to Lake Pisciadù is steep and partially secured (no equipment necessary). From the lake, you can extend the hike to Cima Pisciadù. The trail continues to Val de Mezdi (steep descent) and ultimately back to Passo Gardena. This is a strenuous hike for experienced alpine hikers.
Learn More: Hiking to Pisciadù Peak
- Starting Point / Trailhead: Sella Pass
- Distance: 17.6 km
- Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
- Time Needed: 6 hours
This popular day Val Gardena hike circuits the entire Sassolungo (Langkofel) group. Along the circuit, there are many cozy rifugios, affording hikers relaxing places to eat and drink.
From Sella pass (accessible by bus from Val Gardena), the hike continues in the direction of Rifugio Federico Augusto along a wide gravel road. We ate lunch at Plattkofelhütte (Rifugio Sasso Piatto), which marks the half-way point of the hike. Here, you’ll have an outstanding view of Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi), which is the largest alpine plateau in Europe. Until this point, the hike isn’t difficult.
From Plattkofehütte, the Sassolungo circuit continues to wrap around the mountain group. This half is more challenging than the first, as you ascend to Langkofenhütte and ultimately to Rifugio Emilio Comici.
Tip. Avoid hiking here on the weekend, because the trail gets clogged up.
Where to Stay in Val Gardena
You can stay in Ortisei, Selva, or Santa Cristina. When you stay in any hotel, guesthouse, or Red Rooster farm in Val Gardena, you’re given a free transit card. You can use this throughout South Tyrol (Alto Adige), making it easy to hop around the valley and to places like Alta Badia and Bolzano.
We’ve stayed in all three towns. Ortisei is the most concentrated, so it has a village vibe with cafes and restaurants. Santa Cristina and Selva are both stretched out and don’t have a town center like Ortisei. But, hotels in Selva and Santa Cristina offer peace and quiet plus amazing views. Here are the hotels we highly recommend in Val Gardena.
Luxury accommodation in Santa Cristina
Dorfhotel Beludei is located in Elysium, of that I’m certain. Sorry, for all the heaven references in this post, but it is the Dolomites after all.
When you do a lot of hiking in Val Gardena, then you really deserve three things: #1 excellent food, #2 rejuvenating wellness facilities, and #3 a comfortable room. Dorfhotel Beludei delivers all those things and more.
#1 Excellent Food. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Dorfhotel Beludei serves the most visionary and delicious food in the valley. The resident chef concocts recipes that seem to canter off into the land of the bizarre and fantastic. Like composing a symphony, the chef orchestrates with colors, flavors, and textures. Whatever you eat here, you’ll never eat again: it simply cannot be replicated.
#2 Lavish Wellness Facilities. I’ll keep this short and less dramatic. Dorfhotel Beludei’s wellness center comprises a steam bath, Finnish sauna, indoor pool (with an imaginative mural), an outdoor hot tub and a spacious relaxation room. So, basically, it’s amazing! Upon entering, you’ll see a bar with a lovely selection of teas and cookies.
#3 Comfortable Rooms. The rooms in Beludei are more than comfortable, they’re livable. I even asked the hotel manager if we could move in. I’m talking plush bedding, balcony views of Langkofel, and so much space that you can have your own interpretive dance performance.
If you stay at Dorfhotel Beludei, you can also join any scheduled guided hike for no extra charge. The weekly schedule is posted near the entrance.
Mid-range accommodation in Selva
Location, location, location. Repeat! Hotel Rodella just can’t be beaten in terms of its location. First of all, you’re walking distance to the Col Raiser gondola valley station. So, the Puez-Odle Nature Park is yours to explore at your pleasure. Second, you’re perched up above Selva di Val Gardena, so the sunset views over Langkofel and Sella are mind-blowing.
If you’re like us, it’s always disappointing to leave the mountain in time for dinner, because it means you’re going to miss the sunset. But, if you stay here, you can save that disappointment for another hotel in the valley, because Hotel Rodella offers you comfort and epic views. So, grab your aperitif and head outside.
Now let’s talk about the rooms. We stayed in room #1 and we loved it. After hiking Alta Via 1 and then hiking around Alta Badia for days, we took our first proper rest day here. I spent hours in my light-filled room, looking out the window and watching the light dance across the fields beyond.
Rodella’s wellness area is being renovated in fall 2019. We can’t wait to see what it looks like.
Where to Stay in Ortisei
Budget | Appartmenthotel Residence Elvis is a fully-equipped apartment 1 km from Ortisei, which you can book for one night.
Mid-Range | Chalet Hotel Hartmann (Adults Only) is an excellent hotel featuring cozy alpine interiors, a delicious breakfast buffet (included in rate), and a spa area (bio-sauna, a Turkish bath, and a solarium).
Luxury | Charmehotel Uhrerhof – Deur (2-Nights Minimum) occupies a peaceful location high above the valley. It’s a 10-minute drive from the hotel to the town center of Ortisei, but the pay off is respite and incredible mountain views. Breakfast and dinner included.
Read Next: Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer
More Information for Your Trip to the Dolomites:
- Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites
- Hiking in the Dolomites in September
- Alta Badia Summer Guide
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop Trail
Hut to Hut Hikes in the Dolomites:
- Trekking Tre Cime di Lavaredo (3 days)
- Rosengarten Dolomites Traverse (3 days)
- Alta Via 1 Trek (4 -10 days)
More Information for Your Trip to Italy: