The only way to get to Lago di Sorapis is to hike. But what a hike it is. The turquoise lake nestled under imposing mountains is accessible by narrow ledges and exposed paths. Here’s what you need to know

By - Mark | Last Updated - 17 Jul 2024 | Go to - Comments & Questions

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The Lago di Sorapis hike requires a bit of leg work.

Set on a remote ledge, backed by the towering 3,200-metre Mount Sorapis, the hike to the lake is a 13.5 kilometre round trip. Over 2 hours’ walk from the nearest car park, it doesn’t attract anywhere near the crowds of Lago di Braies.

The trail to the lake includes a forest path, a few narrow ledges and some metal stairways. But it’s very achievable for anyone with a decent level of fitness.

The tranquil turquoise waters shimmer in soft light surrounded by the impenetrable wall of rugged rock that surrounds it, makes it all worth it.

As an added bonus, the return hike includes a traverse over one of the most rugged and vertiginous mountain passes in the area. It’s is entirely optional, but the views over Tre Cime and the eastern Dolomites are sensational.

This slightly challenging 13.5 kilometres round hike is one of our favourite walks in the Dolomites. Here is all you need to know.

IN THIS GUIDE

HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS


SUMMARY

A circular day hike to a stunning turquoise lake

DISTANCE

13.5-kilometre round trip (8.3 miles)

TIME

4 hours, 45 minutes

ELEVATION

725 metres (+/-)

DIFFICULTY

Medium to Hard

LAGO DI SORAPIS TRAIL DESCRIPTION

The Lago di Sorapis hike starts on a easy path through pine trees. Further along the peaks of Monte Cristallo and Piz Popena emerge through the foliage.

After a short walk, the trees clear and views open up to a panorama including the unmistakable form of Tre Cime standing in the hazy distance.

The path continues along a narrow ledge of rock with a cable for support. Although the path is narrow, it’s wide enough to feel safe, and only peole with a very stong fear of height would have a problem.

It’s a bit of a slog to the top but nothing particularly challenging. Paul and I took and option return path over the high pass, which we have explained in the route description below.

HOW TO GET TO THE LAKE SORAPIS CIRCUIT

This hike begins from the car park at Passo Tre Croci which is 10 kilometres from Cortina d’Ampezzo, the perfect place to include on an Italian road trip. If you are staying in Cortina the easiest way is to drive, however, there are also public transport options.

BY CAR 

It’s a short drive (20 minutes) from Cortina to Passo Tre Croci. There is free parking by the side of the road or in a small car park outside an old hotel near the start of the trail.

Look for signs to Lake Sorapis. In peak season, the parking spaces can fill up fast, so arrive early to successfully snare a parking spot.

BY BUS 

The 030 and 031 bus runs 4 times a day from Cortina to the trailhead at 1805m Passo Tre Croci. Check seasonal times at the information centre in Cortina.

ROUTE FOR HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS

The route up to Lago di Sorapis is straightforward. However, there is an option to return via the pass for stunning views of the high peaks of the Dolomites in exchange for some extra effort. Here’s how to hike to Lago di Sorapis.

START AT PASSO TRE CROCI

From Passo Tre Croci the route to the lake is via path 215. It is clearly marked from the road (see our map), easy to follow and takes 1 hour and 45 minutes. The walk is not particularly challenging but it does traverse a couple of narrow ledges (around 1 metre wide) with a handrail on the side. So a head for heights is helpful.

To return, simply follow the path back the way you came.

HOW TO RETURN VIA THE PASS

On a clear day and if you have the energy we recommend returning over the pass.

To do this, head back on Path 215. After 10 minutes, turn left on Path 216 to climb the steep path up 400 metres. It is now a 1-hour slog, steadily ascending 400m. The path is clear but steep and requires scrambling and hands in a few places.

At the top, there’s a short tricky section with a handrail as you cross over a small basin. On a clear day, the path on the other side of the basin is esily visible. Drop into the basin, zigzag up the other side and reach the stunning views at 2307 metre Forcella Marcoira.

Be careful here not to take Path 223 that runs southwest along the ridge but instead continue on Path 216  as it passes through Forcella Marcoira.

The path here is rough but shortly you come to a junction. Turn right on path 213 and follow the path through the forest back to Passo Tre Croci.

FACILITIES AT LAGO DI SORAPIS – RIFUGIO VANDELLI

There is one rifugio on the Lago di Sorapia hike, the humble Rifugio Vandelli. Located at the junction of 4 mountain trails, Rifugio Vandelli is a popular spot for hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites.

You can have lunch at the rifugio during the summer months. However, while the rifugio is near the lake it doesn’t actually face it, so we would recommend bringing your own picnic lunch to have at the lake.

Don’t forget to take all your rubbish with you.

There are no other facilities on the Lago di Sorapis hike.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS?

It takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes of walking time to complete the circuit over the pass. This includes half an hour to walk around the lake.

To skip the pass and return on the same trail (215) it takes around 3 hours, 15 minutes of walking time.

However, this is a stunning and remote part of the Dolomites, so allow around 6 hours for taking plenty of breaks. A leisurely picnic at the lake is a great idea and there are numerous photo opportunities along the way.

LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE DISTANCES


PASSO TRE CROCI TO LAGO DI SORAPIS

1 hour 45 minutes | 5.5 kilometres

STROLL AROUND THE LAKE

30 minutes | 1 kilometre

ASCENT UP TO FORCELLA MARCOIRA

1 hour 15 minutes | 3.5 kilometres

FORCELLA MARCOIRA TO PASSO TRE CROCI

1 hour 15 minutes | 3.5 kilometres

MAP / HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS

Although the paths are well marked and clear, it’s a long walk and the cloud can come in quickly so take a map. A handy book to take with you is Shorter Walks in the Dolomites which has good maps and details of this and other great walks in the area.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


WHERE TO STAY TO HIKE LAGO DI SORAPIS

The best place to stay to do the Lago di Sorapis hike is Cortina, which is 10 kilometres from Passo Tre Croc where the hike begins. It’s a charming town with a good range of facilities and public transport connections.

Parking in town is not that easy. So it’s a good idea to select centrally located accommodation with parking so you can easily walk into town in the evening.

The other option is to stay in Dobbiaco which has a little less going on than Cortina, but you may find some more affordable options, especially in peak season. Dobbiaco is around 30 minutes drive to Passo Tre Croc.

CORTINA

AL LARIN HOTEL

Simple but clean, this budget hotel is just one mile north of the town centre. It’s an easy walk-in or a quick ride on the bus that stops outside.


CORTINA

CRISTALLO RESORT AND SPA

Just 5 minutes walk to the centre. this was the first luxury hotel in town. It has an indoor pool, sumptuous spa and all the trimmings you would expect.


DOBBIACO

HOTEL ROSEGARTEN

Family-run property in the centre of Dobbiaco, Hotel Rosegarten has a traditional restaurant, excellent views and breakfast for champions.


BEST TIME TO HIKE LAGO DI SORAPIS CIRCUIT

The hiking season in the Dolomites roughly runs from late May to October depending on the weather conditions and the height of the walks you want to undertake. The best weather is in the summer months, but it is also the busiest time.

Another consideration is that cable cars and rifugios in the region only open from mid-June to end of September / early October.

We recommend hiking to Sorapis Lake in early July. The snow should have gone, the crowds will be a bit lower and the rifugio will be running.

If you head there late summer or early autumn there is a risk that the lake will have no water in it. The views are great at all times of the day, but make sure you leave early enough so you don’t have to rush.

WHAT TO TAKE ON THE HIKE

01 – The complete Lago di Sorapis circuit is reasonably long and the ascent and descent from the pass requires some scrambling. So for this one, we suggest proper hiking boots (we use something like these). If you just walk to the lake and back then trainers with a decent grip will be good enough.

02 – Hiking poles can also help to bypass some of the strain from your legs to your arms. We don’t use them, but a lot of other hikers are big fans.

03 – Weather conditions on the walk can change dramatically and rain is common in the afternoon. Make sure you take a waterproof and some warm clothes. The walk is not in shade, so bring sun block and a hat on hot days.

04 – Rifugio Vandelli provides an ideal spot to recharge. However, keep in mind that they don’t open until late June. If you’re doing the Sorapis Lake hike earlier, you’ll need to take your own lunch.

05 – Make sure you take snacks to re-energise and plenty of water, either in water filter bottle or a hydration bag like this one.

06 – All the routes are well marked, but make sure you have a good idea where you are going, and ideally take a physical map or download the maps from our more detailed posts onto your smartphone. MAPSCortina map

07 – To collect shots of those turquoise lakes, we highly recommend investing in good quality ND Filters, they’ll really make your images pop. To use the filters, you’ll need a decent tripod, the Ultralight Sirui is the best we’ve come across.

TRAVELLING TO THE DOLOMITES

The Dolomites is a large mountain range in northeastern Italy. As a popular location for both skiing and summer hiking, there are plenty of good options for getting to the Dolomites. 

By Air – The Dolomites is serviced by several international airports. Venice and Innsbruck are closest to Cortina.

By Train – The only convenient train station in the Dolomites is at Bolzano. Trenitalia (Italian), ÕBB (Austrian) and DB (German) train services arrive in Bolzano. Check train times on thetrainline.com.

For more detailed information, read our first-timers guide to visiting the Dolomites.

lago di sorapis hike 16

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- Paul & Mark.