Passo Giau Hike and Best Viewpoints, Dolomites, Italy

The Hike around Passo Giau is probably one of the easiest and most scenic ones in the Dolomites. Not only that, but the drive is a very beautiful one too.

Ra Gusela a mountain that can be seen on a hike to Passo Giau

Ra Gusela, the mountain towering above Passo Giau

Great for both Sunrise and Sunset, there are a few panoramic points above the pass that are a must-see, as they offer even more beautiful views of the Giau Pass and the mountains around it. What I’m trying to say is this is a location you should not miss; it’s easy to get there and you can combine it with hikes to other locations.

For instance, I once hiked to Le Cinque Torri first and then visited Passo Giau. On another occasion, I was here first and then hiked to Lago Federa.

These are also the reasons why the Giau pass is very popular – beautiful and easy to reach.

Sunrise Hike to Passo Giau with fog claring the landscape as the sun rise

Sunrise at Passo Giau.

Table of Contents

Overview of the Passo Giau and Ra Gusela & Map

This is an overview of a short walk to the best viewpoints around Passo Giau. It has three main spots, a viewpoint above the pass, another one on the other side of the pass, and lastly the photographers-famous pond reflection of Ra Gusela, the mountain towering above the pass.

Max Altitude  2,250 m
Distance  1.64 KM
Elevation gain  50m ↑ / 50m ↓
Hike time  00:30/ 00:45  Hours
Hike Difficulty  Easy


Here is also a map connecting the main points starting from the parking area next to the little church at the top of the pass.

How to get to Passo Giau and Ra’ Gusela and Parking

  • Driving Directions: Located on SP638 (Strada Provinciale 638), Passo Giau is most easily reached from Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drive from Cortina to Passo Gia takes about thirty minutes. Alternatively, you could also Climb up from Selva di Cadore if you are on the other side of the pass.
  • Parking: free parking is available at the top of the pass. It’s also possible to park along the road as there are a few wide pullout areas. Please note that some spots are delimited, so it’s not possible to leave the car anywhere on the side of the road.
  • Public Transport: it’s possible to reach Passo Giau in summer using the Dolomiti Bus service – the line is Cortina d’Ampezzo – Passo Giau – Val Fiorentina.
Passo Gian Parking just below the Ra Gisela mountain with a hut in front of it

Parking area at the top of the Passo Giau

The Passo Giau Hiking Trail

More than a hike, in this case, it’s a walk to the most scenic spots around Passo Giau. The first and most obvious one is the hill above the parking area at the top of the pass.

You can easily get there following the trail from the Parking area at the top of the Giau pass. It’s a short walk, about five minutes. This is the best place to view Ra Gisela, the mountain above the pass.

View of ra Gisela a mountain above pass Giau with menacing clouds beahind it before a storm

Ra Gusela from the viewpoint above the pass, before a summer storm hit.

From there, that’s another trail that leads to the second viewpoint, a little further down the mountain on the side opposite Cortina. That’s where you get a good view of the road leading up to Passo Giau as well ass the mountains on the other side of the pass.

mountain road leading up to a mountain pass in the dolomites.

The mountain pass road leading up to Passo Giau

From there you’d need to go back to the parking area to then walk to the pond that offers a mirror-like reflection of Ra Gusela. You can’t immediately see the post from either the road or from the pass, and it is kind of hidden behind a small hill.

It is a short 5-minute walk to get there; the pond is way smaller than you’d imagine it and probably only worth getting there if you are planning to take some photos of the reflection, otherwise you can probably skip it.

Mountain reflecting in a pond like in a mirror

Pond reflection of Ra Gusela

An additional note on hiking around Passo Giau; while I’ve just received the best viewpoints around it there also are plenty of other trails starting from the pass. For instance, you could do the Croda da Lago Circuit or just hike to Lago Federa. Also, a Via Ferrata like Ra Gusela, Nuvolau, or Monter Cernera.

Passo Giau Photos and Photography Tips

This is one of those locations where you can get some incredible light shows. If you are just starting landscape photography, it’s also one of those locations that will show you what good light is. Due to the landscape being wide open above the dolomites, there is plenty of space for the late afternoon or early morning sun to light the scene from different angles.

Light coming through dark clouds to lit the side of a mountain above pass giau during a hike.

Late afternoon light, shortly before sunset.

Early morning light and fog around the mountain Ra Gusela above pass Giau in the dolomites during a sunrise hike,

The early morning light on Ra Gusela

Also, this is a great location for both Sunrise and Sunset. The sun will rise to your right when looking at the mountain head-on, and it will set to your left. This provides great lighting conditions both in the early morning and late afternoon, so it’s worth planning to stick around for a while to make the most out of it.

Light on the mountains around Passo Giau, on the rocky and green fields landscape of the dolomites.

towering peaks of pass Giau in the Dolomites on a cloudy day.

One last note on one famous spot among landscape photographers, which is the pond where you can catch the reflection of Ra Gusela, the mountain towering above the Giau Pass. This isn’t a scenic sport, albeit a very photogenic one. Still, you’d really have to catch it at sunrise or in the early morning, otherwise it’s probably not worth it. I’ve tried a couple of times with no luck. Also, it’s a muddy mess, almost at quicksand levels, especially for tripods! So wear appropriate footwear and be ready to clean your tripod from that muddy mess.

Passo Giau mountains reflecting in a pond next to the pass that can be reached with a short hike.

In terms of lenses, on the wide side, 18mm and above should be enough in most cases. Any wider and the mountains may look too small.

The Passo di Giau, however, is an amazing location to do some telephoto landscape. There are plenty of compositional opportunities. On a good day with the ever-changing mountain light, you could easily spend hours shooting around. I spent almost three from mid-afternoon to late afternoon waiting for sunset, and it was the most fun I’ve had waiting for a sunset that did not happen :).

Dark and moody image of a rocky peak in the dolomites

Blue skies and clouds above pass giau and the mountain ra Gisela in the dolomites

multiple layers of mountains under a heavenly light

mountain peaks in the clouds in the dolomites in a moody an atmospheric image

light on the side of the mountains above pass giau in Italy just before the onset of a Summer storm.

Dramatic image with dark clouds and a bit of light from behind the ra Gisela mountain above pass giau in the dolomites at the end of a hike.

Where to stay

If you want to spend the night at Passo Giau before or after your hike, you could stay at either the Mountain Paradise apartments or at the Passo Giau Hotel. They are both located at the pass.

Alternatively, you could also consider staying in Cortina. The pass is only a 30-minute drive from Cortina. This is a. good option if you are planning on exploring more hikes in the area. That’s also what I did, as I camped at one of the campsites in Cortina. Camping Cortina and Camping Dolomites are the two best ones in the area.

Additional Resources