Looking for a great sunset hike in the Dolomites? Look no further. The hike to the big cross (Gran Cir) on Gardena Pass is one of our favorite short day hikes in the Dolomites. It provides a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountain ranges and the sunset here is EPIC.

As a plus, this hike is also very easy to do logistic-wise. There’s no need to get on a pricey cable car to the trailhead. The parking lot is just right off the road on Gardena Pass and you can see your goal, the cross, from the road.

The Sella Massif

The Sella Massif

The Gran Cir Hike in Gardena Pass

The Details

Overview of the Hike: 1.4 miles one way
Trailhead: Gardena Pass Parking Lot (map)
Elevation Gain: 951 ft
Time to do the hike: 1.5 hr up, 1 hr down.
Difficulty: moderate (steep and exposed.

Jack and I did this hike at the end of the day on our way back to our accommodation. I saw the cross as we were driving and thought, “I bet the view is amazing from up there”. Maps.me shows there’s a trail from the parking lot so we decided to go for it.

Gran Cir cross Gardena Pass

The metal cross filled with rocks at the summit.

The Trail

From the parking lot, pick the path of least resistance towards the base of the cross.

At first you might think that there’s no path to get there. During the first half, you sort of follow the criss-crossing dirt trails, aiming generally towards the bottom of the cross and always uphill. The established dirt trail will eventually peter out and become uneven and rocky, so proper footwear is key.

The cliff face itself looks feature-less and I was wondering if maybe we go around the base and approach the summit from a different side. But as I get closer, I can start seeing a path carved onto the side of the mountain, slowly winding its way up.

I’ve seen this hike referred to as a via-ferrata because there’s a short section up the cliff where you need to scramble and pull yourself with the help of cable. However, it’s all very straight forward and there’s no special equipment needed.

Approaching the base of the cross

The Gran Cir

That point on any hike when the goal looks so close yet so far.

The Summit

The 360-degree summit view beat our expectation. Enjoy the views of the surrounding Dolomites groups, including the Sella Group and Sassolungo and more peaks than I can name. The sunset is simply spectacular.

Don’t forget to sign the summit log.

The Summit - don't forget to sign the green summit logbook.

The Summit – don’t forget to sign the green summit logbook.

Gran Cir summit

This is definitely one of our favorite hikes in the Dolomites

Sunset view from Gran Cir Hike

Summit view

Osprey Ultralight Collapsible Stuff Pack, Poppy Orange
  • Premium efficiency and design
  • Storage tuned to the each season
  • Purpose designed to help mak the most of each exploration

If you’re looking for a short but rewarding hike to add to your Dolomite itinerary, I highly recommend checking out the Gran Cir hike in Gardena Pass. It’s a perfect hike to end your day of Dolomite adventures.

More Info

More challenge: If you have a via-ferrata set and looking for something more challenging – a proper via-ferrata say, Piccolo Cir (small cross) is the next peak over. Check your map.

Watch out for weather: In the summer, afternoon thunderstorms is common. There’s no shelter at the summit and the cross is made of metal. Get off the summit when you see clouds coming in.

More hikes: I recommend this great guidebook Shorter Walks in the Dolomites

Where to stay: We stayed in Residence Mirabelle in Colofosco, a 10 minute drive from Gardena Pass. The guesthouse is run by a lovely elderly lady and her daughter (rooms start from $80). The rooms are modern and huge. It’s tucked away one block from the main street so it’s very quiet, with great views from the balcony.