Sassolungo and its brotherhood of peaks storm into the sky with such sudden fury they command exploration. Here’s how to hike this sprawling stone wilderness of the Dolomites.
WHAT MAKES THE DOLOMITES so enthralling? For us, it’s how they seemingly tower from Earth as if on pedestals.
They loom like monolithic works of art defying the lull of sleepy meadows and forested glens. A frantic spectacle of crags, spires and precipices malleted into mountain form by an ancient god gone insane.
This unique posturing of the Dolomites allows one to admire many of its mountains from practically every angle. And that is exactly what makes the Sassolungo Group a favorite to explore — you can witness all the wild faces of this massif in a single day.
About the Sassolungo Group
Before diving into how to hike around the Sassolungo Group allow us to share some background information so you can fully appreciate its lofty stature among the mountains of South Tyrol.
The Sassolungo Group is a chain of five major mountains with a footprint of more than 17 miles all around. Its most prominent peaks are Mt. Sassolungo and Mt. Sasso Piatto.
The tallest summit, Mt. Sassolungo, also commonly known as Langkofel, which means “Long Stone” in German, soars to a height of more than 10,000 feet (3,181 m). It anchors the eastern end of the massif and is the perennial crown of Val Gardena — impossible to miss roaring over the tree tops when driving through the valley.
Mt. Sasso Piatto (Plattkofel i.e. “Flat Stone”) anchors the western end at a height of nearly 10,000 feet (2,956 m). This mountain appears as if a colossal sickle swept off half its face. It is the first summit you will see when hiking across the Alpe di Siusi from the north.
The major peak rising after Mt. Sassolungo is the Grohmannspitze, also known as Punta Grohmann and Mt. Sasso Levante. Named after Paul Grohmann, an alpinist who in 1869 was the first to conquer the summits of Sassolungo, the Grohmannspitze is a treacherous mass of jags teetering over 10,000 feet.
The Grohmannspitze is followed by a summit called Innerkofler Turm (Torre Innerkofler), which rises before the iconic bear claw peak of Sassolungo known as Zahnkofel (Il Dente).
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How to Hike Sassolungo
Hiking the Sassolungo Group can be achieved in multiple ways depending on your schedule, fitness level and where you choose to begin the hike. We cover two half-day hikes that you can turn into a really full day (7-8 hours) circling the entire massif if you have the time…and energy.
Both of these hikes overwhelm you with a tidal wave of mountain scenery. If you only have time to do one, pick the Sassolungo hike that appeals to you most based on the gallery of photos in this post.
By the way, the first hike we cover here is a tad easier on the legs so stick with that one if tiring is a major consideration. Each trail begins at the Passo Sella (Sellajoch) parking lot, which is a 25-minute drive from Ortisei (St. Ulrich), the main town of Val Gardena, or just over an hour if you are arriving from Bolzano.
Hike #1: Passo Sella to Mt. Sassolungo
This Sassolungo hike winds you across the monstrous southwestern face of Mt. Sassolungo to its eastern profile. Along the trail, you also gaze up in awe at the Grohmannspitze and the Fünffingerspitze (Punta Cinquedita), the lowest peak comprising the Sassolungo massif.
Additionally, this hike exposes you to striking vistas of other ranges in the Dolomites. These include the Odle Group where you can see the fangs of Seceda scraping the sky to the east, as well as the Sella Group to the south, which hunkers the horizon like a prehistoric stone fortress.
However, what we think makes this hike particularly fascinating is the journey through the “City of Stone” (Steiner Stadt / Città dei Sassi). A vast wilderness of boulders, pines and flora, the City of Stone is the Dolomites in ruins.
Some 20,000 years ago, seismic forces shook Mt. Sassolungo’s broad shoulders sending boulders thundering to the earth. They settled into a maze-like formation creating a surreal landscape that is thrilling to explore and photograph.
To embark on the hike, walk past the Passo Sella Dolomiti Mountain Resort next to the parking lot. A wide trail will lead to the one that branches off into the City of Stone. Look for Trail No. 526 marker.
Depending on how much you want to explore, you could spend an hour or two wandering the City of Stone. But if you choose to hike straight through, do not leave the “city” without at least hopping on a few of the boulders. The grand views of the Sella Group framed by the megalithic rubble are jaw-dropping.
As you continue heading east on Trail No. 526, you will eventually leave the City of Stone and ascend a small ridge with a wayside shrine that overlooks the Sella Group. Here, a trail dives to the south, but stay on Trail No. 526 and venture downhill into what is known as the Gran Paradiso.
This wide-open stretch allows you to really appreciate the immensity of Mt. Sassolungo. At the end of the Gran Paradiso, you will enter a patch of trees and find the Rifugio Emilio Comici. A popular mountainside restaurant, the Comici hut sits on the southeastern edge of Mt. Sassolungo offering clear panoramas of the Sella Group and Seceda.
Unfortunately, it was closed when we arrived, but we did find a sweet spot to dine al fresco. Hidden on the slope above the restaurant, is a picnic table where you can relax like you are the king of the mountain.
Beyond Rifugio Emilio Comici, look for Trail No. 526A. This trail cuts across the eastern wall of Mt. Sassolungo. It runs tighter to the face of the mountain thus the trail steepens in parts with swaths of shale and rubble. Extra attention is wise on this stretch. We hiked on this side of Mt. Sassolungo for another 30 minutes before turning around due to fading daylight.
If you are on this end of the mountain in the afternoon, do not count on sunlight. However, the hike back to the Sella Passo parking late in the day will reward you with a blizzard of color as the setting sun bounces off the mountain peaks.
Hike #2: Passo Sella to Mt. Sasso Piatto
This hike leads you from Passo Sella across the southern and western faces of the Sassolungo Group to the foot of Mt. Sasso Piatto. The other Sassolungo mountains you will encounter up close on this stretch include Zahnkofel, Innerkofler Turm and Grohmannspitze.
Beyond Sassolungo, this hike also offers sweeping views of the “Queen of the Dolomites” — Marmolada. Soaring to a height of 10,968 feet (3,342 m), Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites. Its north face is mantled by a massive glacier that beams like a beacon in the Italian sun.
In addition to Marmolada, a garland of other peaks can be admired during this hike including Col Rodella of Val di Fassa, the sawtooth spires of the Rosengarten and the great rhino horn of Mt. Schlern towering past the vast expanse of the Alpe di Siusi. On a clear day, you can even spy the snow-capped Ötztal Alps on the far northern horizon.
Begin the hike by heading west from the parking lot towards the Passo Sella Dolomiti Mountain Resort. A variety of trails branch off by the resort. Take Trail No. 557. This is the Friedrich August Weg, named after a Saxon king who loved rambling hikes.
After an initial steep ascent, you will come to the charming Rifugio Friedrich August. If you need a break now, by all means, take it here. Otherwise, continue on Trail No. 557 and plan to visit the hut on your return.
From the Friedrich August Rifugio the views become ever more grand. The remainder of the hike winds along the foot of Sassolungo. Much of the trail is level but you will encounter short climbs and descents throughout.
After 2 hours you will reach the Rifugio Sasso Piatto (Plattkofelhutte), which sits at the base of the flat slope of Mt. Sasso Piatto. Here, we recommend resting with a hearty meal and drink before making the trek back to the Passo Sella parking lot.
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When to Hike Sassolungo
If you want to share Sassolungo with throngs of other hikers, plan your visit during the summer. However, if you are like us and want the mountains all your own, the best time to hike Sassolungo is late May / early June and early October.
The only potential downside of going early or late in the traditional hiking season of the Dolomites is that not all of the nine mountains huts dotting Sassolungo may be open. The same goes for the lift stations that operate around the mountain if you are hoping for a ride up the slopes.
In terms of the best time of day to hike Sassolungo, you cannot go wrong in the morning or afternoon if you are embarking on one of the half-day hikes. The sunrises and sunsets around Sassolungo are radiant treasures you remember long after you are gone.
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Where to Stay to Hike Sassolungo
If you are going to conquer the Sassolungo Group, why not stay where you have a balcony view of its dramatic beauty? We picked the charming Hotel Ansitz Jakoberhof in Ortisei for this reason alone.
In addition to being within easy reach of Sassolungo, the hotel is conveniently located for embarking on hikes to Seceda and the Alpe di Siusi, as well as exploring the remarkable woodcarving shops of Val Gardena.
Furthermore, you will fall in love with the hotel’s pool and spa area after a long day of hiking. It’s an idyllic Alpine setting to rest and recharge your legs for another adventure the following day.
Tips & Considerations for Hiking Sassolungo
- Want a full-day adventure? Consider hiking the Sassolungo Circuit. The best views come by heading clockwise around the massif. To circle Sassolungo, take Trail No. 527 from the August Friedrich Weg mentioned in hike #2 to Trail No. 525, which connects with Trail No. 526A to Trail No. 526 both mentioned in hike #1.
- The parking lot is free in the “off season”, but expect to pay if hiking Sassolungo in the summer.
- Instead of driving to the Passo Sella, consider taking a public bus. The Val Gardena Mobil Card allows free use of buses in the region. Bus No. 471 will pick you up in Ortisei or Selva and drop you off right by the trailheads.
- Neither of the hikes in this post is overly difficult or dangerous, but those less sure on their feet should bring hiking poles for extra support.
- Pack water and snacks for your hike. A convenient place to pick up these items is the Despar grocery store in downtown Selva (Wolkenstein).
- When hiking the August Friedrich Weg in the afternoon you will have plenty of sun exposure. Pack sunscreen lotion and sunglasses.
- It can be chilly at times during late spring and early fall so be sure to wear a light jacket and pack gloves and a hat. For tips on hiking gear and clothing to wear while hiking Sassolungo, access the guide in our South Tyrol Travel Resources.
- As always, pay attention to the day’s forecast as mountain weather can change quickly.
- Do not kiss the marmots no matter how much they tempt you.
- If you are hiking Sassolungo during the summer, consider hopping the cable car scaling the Sassolungo wind gap, which is sandwiched between the peaks of Mt. Sassolungo and Fünffingerspitze. At the top, you can take an eagle eye seat at the Rifugio Toni Demetz. The cable car station is near the Passo Sella parking lot with a giant “Sassolungo” sign on its roof.
- If you plan to use the lifts while in Val Gardena, save yourself money by purchasing the Gardena Card.