Sign Up To Our Newsletter

The Best Dolomites Cycling Climbs – Our Top 5

30th June, 2022

Riding the steep roads and winding switchbacks of the best Dolomites cycling climbs will be a challenge for even the most experienced of cyclists. From awe-inspiring views to physically demanding climbs, there's no shortage of tough cycling routes in this majestic mountain range. Here are the top 5 toughest cycling climbs you can find in the Dolomites. If you fancy cycling these climbs then check out our two awesome cycling tours in Italy, our trip to the Dolomites and the Maratona dles Dolomites.

Passo di Gardena is one of the most picturesque and rewarding cycling climbs in the Dolomites. Its iconic views and challenging sections make it a must-ride for any cyclist visiting the area. When you cycle up to its highest point, you’ll be able to admire vast alpine valleys, sparse meadows and some of the Dolomites' most impressive summits. And, as it is part of a stretch between three different regions – Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige and South Tyrol – it’s also a great chance for cyclists to truly experience the distinct cultures represented within the breathtaking Dolomite landscape.

5 - Passo di Gardena

Passo di Gardena is one of the most picturesque and rewarding cycling climbs in the Dolomites. Its iconic views and challenging sections make it a must-ride for any cyclist visiting the area. When you cycle up to its highest point, you’ll be able to admire vast alpine valleys, sparse meadows and some of the Dolomites' most impressive summits. And, as it is part of a stretch between three different regions – Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige and South Tyrol – it’s also a great chance for cyclists to truly experience the distinct cultures represented within the breathtaking Dolomite landscape.

Situated in the heart of the Trentino Alto Adige region, Passo di Gardena is a steady and long climb with an altitude difference of 670 meters. Tackling this steep pass will take you over  hairpins and will reward you with spectacular views of the nearby Sella. The Gardena pass actually features on the Sella Ronda, a group of 5 climbs that take you 55km around the Sella. Most cyclists will ride the Sella Ronda clockwise from Corvara so the Gardena usually features as the final climb, having climbed the Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella and then the Gardena. Whilst the route might only be 55km long, you'll cover 1,600m of vertical ascent so it's not to be underestimated.

View from the top of the Passo Gardena

View from the top of the Passo Gardena

With an average gradient of 4.5%, this climb is not too taxing for experienced cyclists in its own right. That said, you must be prepared for a gruelling challenge at the bottom and the top, as these are the steepest sections which will test your grit and endurance. There is a middle section which evens out the average gradient as it's flat (ish) and you will ride next to a sheer face rugged mountain wall as you recuperate on this part of the climb.

Our favourite place to stop is the hotel Chalet Gerard. This is the best place for a piece of strudel or cake with stunning views of the craggy Dolomites. If you want to keep riding without stopping on a climb, there is a cafe when you summit the Gardena climb called the Berghaus Frara. The coffee and cake isn't as good as the Chalet Gerard but the views are sensational. Your ride back is also just one long breathtaking descent.

If you want to experience this epic climb, check out our Dolomites cycling holiday or the Maratona.

Passo di Gardena climb GPX (as part of the Sella Ronda)

4 - Passo Valparola (& Falzarego)

Valparola Pass is another spectacular climb in the Dolomites. It is not as long as some of the other cycling climbs in the area and we actually prefer the Falzarego climb which then comes on to the Valparola. It's the route that is ridden on the middle Maratona dles Dolomites route, but its 11 km length is filled with steep inclines, making it an extremely challenging ride. This climb winds up through a narrow pass until you reach a breathtaking view at the top.

The Valparola ascent begins right after the small village of La Villa if you're ascending from the west, or from Andraz (via the Falzarego) if you're riding the Maratona dles Dolomites from the south. Both climbs are about 11 km until you reach the top and feature sharp inclines, some with a gradient of up to 14%, making this a difficult climb. The ride continues to get more challenging towards the end, as the road zig-zags through tight hairpin turns. Once at the summit, you’ll have access to amazing views of nearby mountains and iconic landscapes that make the Dolomites one of Italy’s most spectacular cycling destinations.

The Passo Valparola banner at the top of the Valparola pass on the Maratona dles Dolomites

The Passo Valparola banner at the top of the Valparola pass on the Maratona dles Dolomites

Along the way, you can stop to admire the views and take a few breathers as you climb. With its varied terrain and uniquely picturesque landscapes, the Valparola Pass offers an unforgettable cycling experience that will challenge even the most experienced cyclists. It is also the sight of a lot of WW2 remains as the high passes of the Dolomites, which separate Italy from Austria, were key roads during the war.

Passo Valparola climb GPX (as part of the middle section of the Maratona)

3- Passo Pordoi

Passo Pordoi is another essential climb when in the Dolomites. It is the second highest pass in the region at 2239 meters and it’s 9 km long at 7% average from Arabba. The climb passes through beautiful forests, stunning lakes, high peaks and offers a breathtaking view of the Alpine panorama.

Located in the middle of the Dolomites, Passo Pordoi is a climb that all cyclists will ride on the Maratona and comes immediately after the fairly gentle Campolongo climb. There are several restaurants along the way where you can refuel and admire the gorgeous scenery. As you summit, you'll begin your descent to Passa Sella which is slightly higher than Passo Pordoi. The overall elevation gain of this journey is about 950m, making it a perfect ride if you don't want to ride the full Sella Ronda, as once you've summited, you can turn back on yourself and ride the Pordoi from the other direction, descend to Arabba and then make your way back to Corvara.

Cyclists summiting the Passo Pordoi on the Maratona dles Dolomites

Cyclists summiting the Passo Pordoi on the Maratona dles Dolomites

The reason we love the Pordoi is that it’s easy to spot the different villages built on slopes as you climb up, and its surrounding scenery is nothing short of stunning. The views include jagged spires, peaks and alpine lakes that will take your breath away. But don’t be distracted by the beauty as this has a gradually increasing gradient with some tough sections that require perseverance to get through. Ultimately, conquering this climb will reward you with immense satisfaction and a sense accomplishment along with breathtaking sights that you won’t soon forget.

2 - Passo Sella

Passo Sella is a climb of 5.5  km at about 8% but what really sets this climb apart are the views.

Situated at the center of the Catinaccio Group, this climb will lead you to the Rifugio Pian de Scuola where you can stop to admire breathtaking views of the Dolomites. As you ascend, the pass will wrap around Sella, exposing you to its natural beauty from different angles . Depending on the time you ride, the light hits the jagged peaks turning them stunning shades of pink, crimson and white.

The climb is probably the most challenging on the Sella Ronda as it has an average gradient of 8.3%. At its highest point, the Passo Sella reaches a height of 2218 meters above sea level. The spectacular views that await atop this pass make it a great cyclist’s destination in the Dolomites. If you’re looking for a challenge and optimal vistas of the Italian Alps, then Passo Sella will certainly give you both.

Cyclists climbing the Passo Sella on the Maratona dles Dolomites

Cyclists climbing the Passo Sella on the Maratona dles Dolomites

Passo Sella’s winding course takes cyclists through changing environments, from forests to pastures and stunning mountain views. In the distance, you'll be able to see the majestic peaks of the Dolomites surrounded by lush green meadows and dark forests. Closer up, you'll spot gorgeous wildflowers on either side of the road as you make your way up the steep incline. As you wind around plenty of hairpin turns during this iconic climb, make sure you take plenty of breaks for photos and appreciate the beauty of Italy's nature. It can get quite cold at higher altitudes, so come prepared with proper layers to keep warm!

Passo Sella GPX file (including Sella Ronda and middle loop of the Maratona)

1- Passo Giau

Standing on its own at number 1 of the best cycling climbs in the Dolomites is Passo Giau. It's a relentless 10km climb at close to 10% and is in our opinion the toughest climb in the Dolomites, reaching a summit of 2224 meters.

Once you descend from Arabba towards the Giau, there are very few places en route to eat or drink. The climb up the Giau is completely isolated and other than a small refuge selling snacks, there's very few places to refuel until you ride into San Cassiano, effectively at the end of the ride. Make sure you are properly equipped once you have left Arabba.

Aerial view of the Passo Giau

Aerial view of the Passo Giau

The ascent, which begins in from the south on the Maratona, will challenge every cyclist and Passo Giau will test your strength, both mentally and physically. With each meter that you pedal, the valley below grows more distant and the terrain changes from dense woodland to wild blossoming meadows. The climb is almost deafeningly silent, other than the sounds of the stream which you will cross consistently on each switchback. The tiny bridges are pretty much the only part of the climb where the road flattens off as otherwise, it's just constant climbing.

Approaching the summit of Passo Giau is a breathtaking moment – especially if you happen to be on a cloudy day providing dramatic effects as you enter the fog belt. Broken stones, steep gradients and tunnels on the descent will reward those brave enough with one of the toughest and most rewarding cycling climbs in the Dolomites.

Passo Giau GPX file (including middle and long route for the Maratona)

Maratona dles Dolomites

You can ride all these climbs on the Maratona dles Dolomites, a spectacular sportive held in July each year. As an official tour operator of the organisers, we can guarantee entry to one of the most prestigious sportives in Europe. Your chances in the ballot are 1 in 3 or 4 so guarantee your entry with Love Velo.

To ride these trips or experience any of our Italian Cycling Holidays, just enquire below.

Cyclist riding the Maratona Campolongo Climb
Cyclists riding on the Maratona in the Dolomites
Cyclists riding the Sella Ronda
Cycliosts climbing the Dolomites on the Maratona dles Dolomites
Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 55km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 55km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 106km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 106km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 138km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites 138km Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites Route

Map of the Maratona dles Dolomites Route

    Make an Enquiry Call us on 0207 157-1519

    Communication Preferences

    We will contact you by email or phone to discuss your enquiry as well as keeping you informed about our latest offers and news.
    EmailPhoneMail
    You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices click here.

     

    We use Zoho Campaigns as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Zoho for processing. Learn more about Zoho's privacy practices here.