You can cycle the Passo Gardena from Corvara in the east or Selva di Val Gardena in the west. The most popular direction to ride it from is from Corvara in the west. That’s because this is the direction the classic clockwise Sella Ronda loop takes, and that’s the direction we write about below.
The first thing to know about this climb is that it’s drop-dead stunning, particularly as you reach the switchbacks towards the top. You’ve got the craggy, vertical peaks of the Sella and Cier ranges either side of you, and when you come over the top of the pass from Corvara, and the totally new view of the Sassolungo/Sasslong mountains opens up, it’s just a classic “wow” moment.
In less good news, you also need to know that this climb is the main road that connects the Val Badia valley (home to Corvara) and Val Gardena valley (with towns like Ortisei and Santa Cristina). This, together with its tourist-attracting beauty, means Passo Gardena is one of the busiest passes in the area, attracting both local traffic and tourist hordes (and lots of motorbikes). That said, when we hit it early (it was around 7am), it was quiet and tranquil. We’ve also heard lunchtime is a good time to visit (on the basis the Italian locals are eating, not driving) and we found dusk wasn’t too bad either.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Highlights of the Passo Gardena
The scenery is just incredible. As you leave Colfosco, you have the massive Sella range to your left (the south) and the Pizes da Cier to your right (the north). These jagged walls are both intimidating and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
But the best moment is coming over the top of the Passo Gardena: there the views open up in front of you, with the road snaking down the mountain towards the Sassolungo Group.
Passo Gardena climb info
It’s an easy first kilometre, but as you approach Colfosco, be prepared for the gradients to ramp up to 8-10%. Luckily these are relatively short-lived and ease off as you pass through town.
About a kilometre after Colfosco, you start getting into the hairpins and, as you grind up the mountain you find the gap between the corners reduces. If you have the energy to look up, you get glimpses of the hairpins lined up above you.
Once you hit these hairpins, you’ll find prolonged straight sections between the turns that hover at 8-11%. Be prepared to suffer!
For much of the last few kilometres, you can see the wooden buildings at the top of the pass (2,121m) – it just feels like they’re never going to arrive!
There are lots of options in Corvara and Colfosco also has refuelling options (and a water fountain).
However, once you leave Colfosco, you’re on your own until the top of the Pass.
Corvara is the obvious starting point for this ride.
Read our ultimate guide to cycling the Dolomites for our thoughts on where to stay.
Read our tips on cycling holidays in the Dolomites before you set out.
Passo Gardena is also known as Grödnerjoch in German.
Be aware that this road suffers from a lot of snow/ice damage, winter landslides and movement. If you ride in the early season, you’re likely to find wide cracks and debris on the road. Later on, as the authorities begin to mend the damage, expect extended stretches of traffic lights and roadworks. At all times, but especially before the road is repaired, take extreme care on the descents.
If you’re meeting a support car, it’s good to know that there is some parking at the top of the pass, near the cluster of buildings, before you start the descent.
The Passo Gardena is a favourite for the Giro d’Italia and has featured in it 16 times. In 2017, Mikel Landa lead the race over the climb on his way to a stage win.
Don’t miss our main guide to cycling in the Dolomites – you’ll find loads of information to help you plan your trip and links to all our other Dolomites cycling guides, including Passo Sella, Pordoi, Campolongo, Falzarego/Valparola, Giau, Fedaia.
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