Out of all the iconic mountain scenery in South Tyrol there is perhaps no more striking sight than the Fermeda Towers of the Dolomites’ Odle mountain range.
From the sweeping pastures of Seceda mountain, these saw-toothed peaks seem born out of some prehistoric fire wherein a flash the burning mountain became stone. Flames once alive now forever frozen in time.
In this post, we show you how to see them. Up close. And in a heart-pounding way that will make for one of your most unforgettable days in South Tyrol. Our step-by-step guide to hiking Seceda brings you to another must-see sight in the Dolomites: The Church of St. Jakob. The oldest church in Val Gardena, its Gothic spire abruptly pierces the Alpine sky like a sword raised from an archangel.
This Seceda hiking adventure takes 4-6 hours depending on how long you choose to linger and admire the beauty all around you.
Bastions of Stone are Born
But before diving into how to hike Seceda, allow us to whisk you back 280 million years — when the Dolomites were just mere inches high. Knowing the birth of these geological giants not only adds to their wonder but also imparts a greater appreciation for their protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While ancient lore spun from deep within the Dolomites would have us believe the “Pale Mountains” arose from dwarves dutifully weaving moonlight around mountain peaks to appease a lovesick prince, the truth is far less romantic yet equally fascinating.
The jagged crags of the Dolomites captivate all who see them, but to the expert eye, they also tell the story of billions upon billions of fossilized life forms. The cleaved cliffsides reveal past ages in stratifications that run from foot to summit. In the period when dinosaurs first appeared, the Dolomites were actually coral reefs under the deep ocean blue.
Over millions of years, colossal compressions of the earth’s crust thrust the reefs higher until emerging into the sky 30 million years. The erosive actions of earth over epochs shaped the mountains into the serrated forms we see today.
So when treading across the Dolomites take a moment to ponder the countless critters now extinct right below your feet. Their scientific value is as immense as the mountains. We just might have something to learn from them.
Where is Seceda in the Dolomites?
Seceda mountain looms from 8,200+ feet above the villages of Ortisei, St. Christina and Selva in Val Gardena. The mountain is within the Puez Odle Nature Park (Naturpark Puez-Geisler in German) and is one of many forming the Odle Group (Geislergruppe or Gruppo delle Odle) of mountains.
The name Odle comes from the Ladin language of Val Gardena and translates to “needles” — certainly an appropriate moniker given the mountain’s pointy peaks. Seceda, on the other hand, stems from the Latin word “siccus”, which means dry. Again, quite appropriate since the vast pastures of Seceda can be rather stark depending on the time of year visited.
How to Reach Seceda
Reaching Seceda’s summit can be as easy or hard as you like. The most direct way to ascend to the top of Seceda is from the Ortisei-Furnes Gondola Station in Ortisei, which then connects you to the Furnes-Seceda cable car part way up the mountain. Here are the step-by-step directions to follow:
- If arriving at Ortisei by car, you can park right next to the gondola lift station or at the underground Garage Central parking lot in the heart of Ortisei. We recommend parking at the Garage Central if you intend to wander about Ortisei after your hike. The walk to the gondola station is less than 10 minutes. See the map in our downloadable Seceda hiking guide.
- At the Ortisei-Furnes Gondola station, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to use the lift. For this specific hike, you will purchase a one-way ticket that allows using both the gondola and the cable car to bring you the Seceda summit. The cost is 23,00 €. Note: If you are not interested in making the trek down the mountain, purchase a round-trip ticket.
- Both the gondola and cable car ride are smooth and peaceful. When the gondola ride ends, walk to the Furnes-Seceda Cable Car station which is a short distance away to hop in the cable car lift, which whisks you to the summit. During the ascent, be sure to consume the ever-expanding panorama. Towards the west, the mountains of Alpe di Siusi will gradually unfold into their full splendor. It takes roughly 15 minutes in total to reach the summit using both lifts.
Hiking Across Seceda
Once you arrive at the Furnes-Seceda summit station, pick your jaw off the cable car floor before stepping out. For the best views of the Fermeda Towers begin hiking Seceda by hopping on trail no. 1 as indicated by the signpost.
This will lead you up an incline that any beginner hiker can handle. Soon you will be at the foot of the impressive Seceda summit cross. Next to it is a circular lookout point forged from iron that helps you identify all the mountains gracing your eyes from the summit.
Looking towards Alpe di Siusi more iconic peaks of the Dolomites including the Sella Group, the Sassolungo massif and the Witches Mountain (Mt. Schlern) lie on the horizon. From up here, you can even spot the king of South Tyrol mountains, Ortler, which beckons from a height of 13,000 feet more than 80 miles away.
Just beyond the summit cross to the east is an ideal spot to capture some of the most photogenic scenes of the Fermeda Towers.
From here, you will continue on the trail towards the Fermeda Towers. The path will now descend slightly. If your heart does not pound faster as the sheer immensity of the peaks swells before you, that’s a good indication to check your pulse.
Eventually, you will come to a signpost for trail no. 6. Follow this trail to your left, which pulls you up the steep Furcela Pana (Pana-Scharte) where you will take in the Fermeda Towers from the edge of the earth. Well, it appears to be anyway. This ascent up the Furcela Pana is a tad grueling, but not dangerous.
Once you have thoroughly soaked in the sight walk back down and pick up trail no. 1 again. This will bring you to the Troier Hut — an idyllic, rustic place to relax and eat under the guard of the Fermeda peaks.
Find a table on the patio facing the Sassolungo massif across the wide chasm of pastures, stones and pines. The Troier Hut restaurant serves a variety of delicious South Tyrolean specialties right from their farm to your table. In addition, the hut makes a mean Hugo cocktail — a South Tyrolean original you must try.
After you’re done eating, sit back in one of the sun loungers below the patio. Here, let the sweeping view lullaby you into a brief nap before trekking onward.
When you’re rested and ready, take trail no. 2B to see the remarkable twin peaks of Pieralongia. Beyond these stone spear tips, you will take trail no. 1 again where you will begin your descent toward St. Jakob’s Church.
Stay on trail no. 1 until coming to a fork with a signpost pointing to trail no. 2. This trail runs to the left and right. Head to the right towards Ortisei as noted on the signpost. This trail stretches all the way across the meadows of Seceda.
You’ll pass additional huts if you need to take another break or to satisfy your craving for another Hugo. The trail also winds past Fermeda Church — a tiny stone chapel that will charm you from a hilltop on your right.
Into the Forest of Mt. Balest
The trail will become steeper as you approach Mt. Pic and Mt. Balest, which are the first mountains above Ortisei before Seceda. You’ll walk up to the opening of a forest where signpost for trail no. 6A directs you to St. Jakob.
This trail cuts into swaths of evergreens that tower above the rock face cliff side of Mt. Balest. Even though the trail runs through forested slopes, several points allow you to gush over the wide open Val d’ Anna below as well as capture glimpses of Sassolungo through breaks in the treetops.
It is important to note that trail no. 6A becomes increasingly difficult as it twists and turns over Mt. Balest towards St. Jakob. While we do not consider it an easy hike, it is not dangerous in terms of height and steepness.
Parts are quite rocky and narrow-pathed however so it’s important to watch your step to prevent injuring a knee or ankle. For those less sure on their feet, we recommend using hiking poles during this part of the trek. That said, we have seen hikers of all ages on this trail so don’t let the increased difficulty level deter you. Just take your time, be prepared and allow enough time before sunset.
When you arrive at the Balest signpost at 1823 meters, follow trail no. 6 towards St. Jakob. From here, you are roughly 30 minutes from the church.
Reaching the Church of St. Jakob
Once you arrive at the Church of St. Jakob (“San Giacomo” in Italian and “Dlieja da Sacun” in Ladin), the sight of it against the backdrop of Sassolungo will stop you in your tracks. We recommend taking a seat on the bench overlooking the church to let its antiquity sink in.
It’s not known exactly when the church was built, but documents first mention it in 1283. For nearly a thousand years it has greeted travelers and you can now count yourself as one of them.
Unfortunately, the church is permanently closed unless you arrive at a time when guided tours are being conducted or during the summer when it is frequently open for visitors during normal hours. However, its cemetery is open year round allowing you to wander around the small church grounds within the circular outer wall.
A gorgeous wayside shrine greets you at the front of the cemetery. Its haunting presence exemplifies the expert craftsmanship of the wood carvers of Val Gardena. Also worth seeing are the late Gothic frescoes from 1450 on the south-facing wall of the church. They possess remarkable color and detail depicting St. Christopher with Jesus as a child perched on his shoulder.
If you’re interested in a tour of its historic interior, we suggest contacting the tourist office in Ortisei to find out specifics on when they may be available.
Ease Your Way Down to Ortisei
From St. Jakob Church return to trail no. 6 and follow it toward Ortisei. From this point, you are roughly a half hour from the village. The remainder of the walk is easy and will take you through more evergreen forest where you’ll stroll past interesting works of art. One, in particular, sums up this hiking adventure quite well.
Visual artist Claudia Comte pays tribute to the natural wonder of Val Gardena with a timber sculpture that aptly spells out “WOOOW”. A word that needs no translation given the views all around. This universal expression of awe came together using 20 spruce trunks each nearly 20 feet high.
After returning to Ortisei, we highly recommend taking the time to see more works of art from the talented artisans of Val Gardena. Visit one of the many quaint woodcarving shops and studios dotted in and around the village.
To learn more about this charming centuries-old tradition born in the heart of the Dolomites, read about our behind-the-scenes visit with Deur Sculptures — a local woodcarving family with wood sculptures in some of the most celebrated cathedrals in the world.
Additional Tips & Considerations for Hiking Seceda
- Access an easy-to-follow PDF of our Seceda hike to bring on your trip.
- The Ortisei-Furnes gondola and Furnes-Seceda cable car operate from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Both open in early June and close mid-October. Mountain weather can impact opening and closing dates so make sure to review the lift schedule.
- If you are planning to hike in Val Gardena for more than one day, save money by purchasing the Gardena Card. This card allows unlimited use of specific lifts and cableways.
- If you plan to hike down Seceda, make sure to schedule your hike when you will still have daylight.
- Additional ways to reach Seceda include taking the Col Raiser gondola from St. Christina or the Resciesa funicular from Ortisei. Plan on extra time if using either option as they are a less direct route. If you do not like the idea of being elevated in a cable car, the Resciese funicular runs on tracks so you never leave the ground.
- If you want to experience Seceda at sunrise or sunset or are a landscape photographer looking to shoot Seceda at night, we recommend booking an overnight stay at the Feremda Hut, Almhotel Col Raiser, or Rifugio Firenze. The other option for a sunrise view is to start the day early with a hike up from Ortisei. It also permitted to camp on Seceda in certain areas. If you plan to camp, be sure to pitch your tent away from private property and national parks. Also, pack up your site each morning.
- The best time see to Seceda beaming with wildflowers and greenery rivaling Ireland is in July.
- An additional breathtaking sight you may want to hike to along this route is the Crujeta summit cross near Mt. Pic off of trail no. 6.
- If you plan to hike Seceda in spring or fall, but are not sure about the conditions on the summit, visit the tourist office in Ortisei. Staff will be able to advise you on the conditions and what gear you should have for your hike.
- For stunning aerial shots of the peaks, you may want to consider using a drone. This post helps you select a quality drone that fits your budget.
- For tips on hiking gear and clothing to wear for hiking Seceda, access the guide in our free South Tyrol Travel Resource Library. Be sure to pay attention to the weather forecast as mountain weather can change quickly.