You can ride Passo Sella from the north (either from Selva di Val Gardena in the valley or the junction below the Gardena Pass at Plan de Gralba) or from the south (from Canazei in the valley or the junction below the Pordoi Pass).
This guide is based on the journey up from the north, from the junction at Plan de Gralba, which is the direction you’ll be coming from if you’re following the Sella Ronda Bike Day route.
This side of the pass has quite a different character from the southern approach – it feels relatively open and green, compared with the vertical slopes that feel close enough to touch on the southern side from Canazei (which is also a much tougher climb).
As you ride up from Plan de Gralba, the valley feels quite wide here and there are lush green pastures on either side, towered over by the immense Sassolungo range to your right and the Sella range to your left. The pass is topped by the wonderful Torri del Sella and Mesules.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Highlights of the Passo Sella
Views of the Sella and Sassolungo ranges in the final kilometre before the top.
The views from the final hairpin before the summit are particularly extraordinary.
Passo Sella climb info
The early kilometres of the climb are through trees, with the peaks poking their craggy tops out above the treetops.
As soon as you’re above the treeline, you can’t help but be blown away by the spectacular scenery. To your right is the craggy, grey bulk of the Sassolungo range and, as you climb, you’ll notice the Sasso Piatto behind it.
Unusually, the climb from the Plan de Gralba side doesn’t really have hairpins and the gradients rarely reach double figures.
About 1.5km from the top you pass some buildings and a car park – this isn’t the top of the climb, which is still ahead of you.
If you want to get some photos, the time to do it is just before the summit – the summit is covered by a gaggle of buildings and you can’t see any views.
A few points to note about the descent down towards Canazei and the Pordoi Pass:
There aren’t any cafes on this climb, other than the hotel just before the summit and the hotels and restaurants at the top.
In general, we think Corvara is the best place to base yourself to take on the peaks of the Dolomites, but we’ve got lots of suggestions in our main guide to the Dolomites.
Read our tips on cycling holidays in the Dolomites before you set out.
Mount Sella is known as the “castle of the Dolomites”. Sella, means saddle, and its table top makes it a walker’s paradise. The Sella’s highest point is Piz Boe at 3,151 metres.
Be aware that there may be parked cars along the road towards the top of the climb. This is a really popular area with climbers and there isn’t much formal parking.
A bit of history: the mountain pass road was built in the 1850s. Three mountain huts followed which are still open: at the top of the pass is the Passo Sella Mountain Hut, which dates back to 1903, the Carlo Valentini Mountain hut, the oldest hut of the area (1884) and the Maria Flora Tavern (1934). The new road contributed greatly to the economy of the region and opened the area to tourism.
At 2,244m the Passo Sella has twice been the Cima Coppi or highest point of the Giro d’Italia.
Other useful information:
Here’s the Sella Strava segment
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 3
Sella Ronda climb number 2 assuming starting in Corvara and going anti-clockwise
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 Gardena, Pordoi, Campolongo, Falzarego/Valparola, Giau, Fedaia.
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