Gran Cir is a prominent peak in the Cir Group (Pizes de Cir in Ladin, Gruppo del Cir in Italian, Cirspitzen in German) within Puez-Odle Nature Park in South Tyrol.

This popular hiking destination is easily accessible from Passo Gardena/Grödner Joch, the mountain pass connecting Val Badia with Val Gardena. From the mountain pass, it takes only 1:30 hours to reach the summit of Gran Cir. 

Serving up deliriously majestic views of the Sella Group, Langkofel Group, and Val de Chedul, Gran Cir is prided as one of the best sunrise and sunset locations in the Dolomites. 


Gran Cir Via Ferrata in the Italian Dolomites

Gran Cir Summit, Dolomites
  • Trailhead: Passo Gardena, South Tyrol, Italy
  • Distance: 4.5 km out-and-back
  • Time Needed: 1:30 hours one-way / 3 hours out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 474 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
  • Minimum Elevation: 2116 meters
  • Maximum Elevation: 2588 meters
  • When to Hike: Late June – Mid-October, depending on snow conditions.
  • Where to Stay: Hotel Cir at Passo Gardena, or Hotel Jägerhof (midrange), Lüch de Costa (luxury apartments), or Hotel Kolfuschgerhof (luxury) in Colfosco, Alta Badia.

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Gran Cir Hiking Map


How Difficult is the Hike to Gran Cir?

Gran Cir view of Chedul Valley, Dolomites
Chedul Valley

Gran Cir is categorized as an easy via ferrata (fixed cable route). We’d describe it as a moderately difficult hike with two secured passages. These fixed cables facilitate your safe ascent/descent. 

The actual “via ferrata” part of the hike is very short.

Some of the stones along the fixed route are very polished, and thus slippery, due to so much foot traffic. So, holding onto the cables ensures that you don’t slip. 

What makes the hike difficult is the terrain, more so than the via ferrata section (in our opinion). If you’re confident hiking in limestone/dolomite terrain (loose rocks/scree), then this hike won’t pose too much difficulty. If you’re not so familiar with the terrain, it’ll be more difficult. 

Some light scrambling is needed.  


Gran Cir Hiking Gear

Gran Cir Gear, Dolomites

The most important thing for this hike is proper hiking boots. Don’t wear sneakers!!! We recommend wearing high-cut Grade B/C hiking boots

We also highly recommend wearing climbing gloves. They help you grasp the cables more easily (especially if your hands are sweating). They also protect your palms, when you’re scrambling and grabbing rocks. 

Sun protection, including Cat 4 Polarized Sunglasses that wrap around your head. I can’t stress this enough: Dolomite rock reflects the light like snow. Investing in high-quality sunglasses is essential when hiking in the Dolomites as well as any other limestone range. 

  • Recommended CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
  • Recommended REACTIVE CAT 2-4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses (photochromic, polarized lens) – this lens will adjust automatically  to the light environment (shifting from CAT 2 to CAT 4). That means if you’re hiking along a shady trail, it’ll adjust to CAT 2, so you have better visibility. This functionality makes it more expensive.

Do You Need a Full Via Ferrata Kit?

A full via ferrata kit encompasses a climbing helmet, climbing harness, and a via ferrata lanyard. Do you need to bring the full kit? It really depends on your experience and level of comfort. 

I encourage everyone to wear a climbing helmet at the very least. Given the popularity of this trail, you’re better protected from falling rocks, if you wear a helmet. 

We wore a climbing helmet, climbing gloves, and of course Grade B/C boots. We’ve hiked along dozens of secured passages across the Alps (Kamnik-Savinja Traverse, Eagle Walk, Berlin High Trail, etc…), so we felt confident hiking without the harness and lanyard. 

In no way are we endorsing not wearing the full via ferrata kit. Everyone needs to decide what’s best for them, depending on their level of experience. 


When to Hike to Gran Cir

Mid/late June until mid/late October, depending on snow conditions. If you’re visiting early or late in the summer season (early June/late October), we recommend reaching out to the tourist office in Colfosco for updates on trail conditions. 

The best months to watch the sunrise on Gran Cir are (late) September and October, when skies are generally clear and the sun rises relatively late (around 7 am). 

When we hiked to Gran Cir in early July, the sun rose at 5:27 am. We woke up at 3 am, drove to Passo Gardena from our Aparthotel Lüch de Costa in Colfosco (15-20 minute drive), and hiked up to the summit. 


What Time of Day to Hike to Gran Cir

This is a wonderful peak to watch the sunrise and/or sunset. We hiked up for sunrise and it was a magical experience. 

We’ve heard that the peak gets really crowded. In our single experience, we only shared the summit with two local trail runners, who descended before the sun even made an appearance. 

For anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable hiking in the dark (with a headlamp), we recommend hiking shortly after sunrise. The light will still be beautiful and you won’t have to share the trail with very many people. 

Try to avoid the middle of the day (10 am – 3 pm). 


Gran Cir Sunrise Essentials 

This may be painfully obvious for some of you, but we want to cover the basics:

  • Headlamp: Black Diamond Equipment Spot 350 Headlamp
  • Dry Shirt to change into on the summit. You don’t want to be sitting/standing in your sweat as your body cools off, atop a windy summit. If you wear a bra, we’d also recommend changing it. 
  • Quick Dry Jacket for extra insulation/warmth
  • Puffer Jacket to stay warm
  • Rain/Wind Jacket to shield you from strong winds
  • Snack: Granola bar/muesli bar
  • Water

How to Get to the Gran Cir Trailhead: Passo Gardena

Passo Gardena to Gran Cir, Dolomites

The hike begins at Passo Gardena (Grödnerjoch in German, Jëuf de Frea in Ladin). 


Car 

Passo Gardena is accessible from Val Gardena or Val Badia along the paved serpentine SS243 road. 

During the high summer season (July, August), there’s a lot of congestion along this road. You’ll be sharing the road with motorcycles, e-bikes (damn technology!), cyclists (they seem to be multiplying each year!), and regional buses. Driving up here can be frustrating during the middle of the day. So, try to visit early.

Parking at Passo Gardena

There are several paid parking lots at the pass. 

The parking lot adjacent to Rifugio Frara on the Sella side is gated and requires payment as early as 7 am. After your hike, you can pay using cash, or cards, at the parking machine.

The paid parking lot on the Cir side requires a single fee of 6 EUR anytime between 8 am and 6 pm. Someone oversees this parking lot. You’ll pay them directly (cash only) and put the receipt in your dashboard. 


Transit

If you’re traveling without a car, you can access Passo Gardena by bus. Use the Südtirolmobil website to plan your trip. Alternatively, you can stay directly at the pass at Hotel Cir


Cableway

If you’re based in Selva, there’s no need to drive up to Passo Gardena. Hop on the Dantercepies cable car. The mountain station delivers you directly to trail 12A. Follow Trail 12A until you see the Gran Cir trail sign, steering you left. 


Gran Cir Trail Description


Passo Gardena to Rifugio Jimmy (15 minutes)

Passo Gardena, Italian Dolomites
Passo Gardena

First, head to Jimmyhütte, a mountain hut nestled at the base of the Cir peaks. 

If you parked at the gated parking lot (Sella-side), cross the street cautiously, and follow trail 2 (where the flower/wildlife info boards are) up to the Jimmy mountain hut. This is the clearest path. 

However, if you parked at the other parking lots (closer to the chapel), head towards Hotel Cir first. And, then follow the wide track to Jimmy hut.



Rifugio Jimmy to Gran Cir Trail Intersection (10 – 15 minutes)

Trail 12A, Gran Cir Hike, Dolomites
Trail 12A

When you reach Rifugio Jimmy, there will be a large terrace on your left and a small children’s playground on your right. Follow the narrow path leading uphill, past the playground and bird sculpture, to the trail 12A/2 intersection. Turn left onto the wide gravel track (12A). 

You’ll walk along the mostly level path for about 15 minutes, in the direction of the Dantercepies cableway station. 

Keep your eyes peeled for a Gran Cir trail sign on your right side.


Gran Cir Ascent (1 hour)

Gran Cir Hike, Dolomites

The ascent to Gran Cir is waymarked with painted red dots. Following the red waymarks, ascend a series of switchbacks up the gully.

The terrain is characterized by loose rocks and scree. After about 20 minutes of ascending, you’ll come to the base of the first fixed cable passage. 

Gran Cir via ferrata hike, Dolomites

Grasp the cable and ascend along the secured route (7 minutes max). Some of the rocks are semi-polished and slippery due to the high-volume foot traffic over time. After the fixed cable route ends, you’ll continue ascending. Some scrambling might be needed. 

You’ll hike to the base of another secured passage. Once you reach the top of this cable route, you’re almost at the top. 


Gran Cir Summit

Gran Cir Summit, Cir Group, Dolomites
Sella Group

Gran Cir is marked with a giant cross, like all notable peaks in the Alps. 

At the summit, the Sella Group steals the show. However, the view of the Chedul mountains flanking Chedul valley is also fantastic. You’ll also see Sassolungo/Langkofel, the razor-sharp Odle/Geisler Peaks, the Stevia Alp and the oval-shaped Col dala Pieres, Piz Duleda and the Puez Peaks, Sciliar/Schlern, and the Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm Plateau

Chedul, Col dala Pieres, Geisler Peaks, Duleda
Geisler Peaks, Col dala Pieres, Duleda, and Chedul

Gran Cir to Passo Gardena (1 hour)

Gran Cir Via Ferrata, Dolomites

Enjoy the view and descend safely the same way you came up.

Tip: If you want to extend your hike in the Cir Mountains, we recommend hiking to the summit of Sass da Ciampac.


Where to Stay for the Gran Cir Hike


Passo Gardena 

Passo Gardena, Dolomites

In addition to Gran Cir, Passo Gardena is the starting point for many interesting hikes including: Cima Pisciadù and Sass da Ciampac and the Crespëina High Plateau.

Midrange | Hotel Cir is situated directly at Passo Gardena. If you’re eager to hike early (before the crowds descend), or photograph sunrise and sunset, this is the best place to stay. Rooms are simple, but clean. The hotel offers a range of rooms including single, dormitory, and double rooms. Breakfast and dinner are available. 


Colfosco 

Colfosco, Alta Badia, Dolomites in Summer

Colfosco (Calfosch in Ladin) is the highest village in Alta Badia, situated at an elevation of 1645 meters, between Corvara and Passo Gardena. It lies at the foot of the Sella Group and Sassongher on the edge of Puez-Odle Nature Park. With mesmerizing views of the Sella Group, Colfosco is an excellent base for actively exploring Alta Badia. Its close proximity to Passo Gardena and Passo Sella, makes it easy to explore Val Gardena and Val di Fassa as well.

Midrange | Hotel Jägerhof is a fantastic alpine hotel and restaurant in Colfosco. With its attractive price point, modern alpine interiors with light wood furnishings, and high-quality cuisine, we recommend booking this gem as soon as possible. The hotel’s spa area comprises a Finnish sauna, steam bath, plunge pool, foot whirlpool, Acquamoon sensory shower, and relaxation room.

Luxury | Hotel Kolfuschgerhof excels on every level, from its excellent wellness facilities and superb Dolomites views to its fine dining, featuring local and Italian cuisine. Design-wise, the hotel is a winning combination of Tyrolean chalet-style and alpine-modern. Expect extraordinary service and the best spa views of your life.

Luxury Apartments | We stayed at the stylish Aparthotel Lüch de Costa, a historical farmstead in Colfosco which was transformed into several high-end apartments in 2017. This unique accommodation is perfect for anyone who wants the independence of an apartment but the convenience and finer features of a hotel. Here’s what we loved:

  • Outstanding View. Each apartment has a view of the Sella Group. From our apartment, we could see the following Sella peaks: Dent de Mezdi, Mittagskofel (Cima di Mezzodi)l, Piz Pisciadu, Torre Colfosco, Sas da Lech, Brunecker Turm (Torre Bruneck), and Sas dla Luesa. 
  • Apartment Kitchen. The kitchen is outfitted with high-end Miele appliances, including an oven, stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator. With ample granite countertop space and every cooking utensil you could possibly need, this is an apartment you’ll actually want to cook in. If you’ve visiting the Dolomites in October, when many restaurants are closed, it’s ideal (Grab groceries in the Gourmet Spar in Corvara). Other Kitchen tools: microwave, cheese grater, citrus press, hot water cooker, electric Italian coffee maker (ask for directions), etc.. 
  • Daily Apartment Cleaning. Apartments are tidied up each day (bathroom/bedroom/living room), excluding the kitchen. However, the kitchen garbage is removed daily. 
  • Modern saunas, indoor pool, and outdoor whirlpool. Y’all know we love saunas. The steam sauna, bio hay sauna, and finnish sauna are heavenly.

Look for accommodation in Colfosco


Rules for Hiking to Gran Cir

When you visit Gran Cir, you’re hiking in Puez-Odle Nature Park. Please respect the environment adhere to the rules.

  • Wild camping is prohibited in the park. 
  • Always stay on marked trails and paths. This helps prevent damage to the meadows and alpine pastures.
  • Do not pick flowers.
  • Respect the habitat of animals. Do not make any unnecessary noise.
  • Do not fly drones.
  • Do not light fires.
  • Do not litter. Please take your garbage with you and dispose of it responsibly.
  • Do not touch, or approach grazing animals.

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