The only way to get to Lago di Sorapis is to hike. But what a hike it is. A turquoise lake nestles under imposing mountains while narrow ledges and exposed paths make for an excellent Dolomite trail.


Beautiful shimmering turquoise lakes, framed by sharp limestone peaks, litter the valleys and canyons of the Dolomites. Many are by the side of the road and attract masses of visitors each day.

But Lago di Sorapis is different. It’s set on a remote ledge, backed by the craggy buttresses of the towering 3,200m Mount Sorapis. Being a 2-hour walk from the nearest car park, it doesn’t attract anywhere near the crowds of its more famous neighbours.

The trail to the lake includes a forest path and a few narrow ledges. There’s also some metal stairways and beautiful Dolomites views the whole way up. Once you make it to the lake, tranquil turquoise waters shimmer in soft light. The lake nestled against an impenetrable wall of rugged mountain rock is a spectacular sight.

As an added bonus, the hike home includes a traverse over one of the most rugged and vertiginous mountain passes in the area. It takes a bit of work (and is entirely optional) but the views over Tre Cime and the eastern Dolomites are sensational.

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

The hike to Lago di Sorapis from the 1805m Passo Tre Croci starts through an easy forested path.


HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS


SUMMARY / A circular day hike to a stunning turquoise lake

DISTANCE / 13.5km circuit

TIME / 4 hours 45 minutes

ELEVATION / 725 metre ascent and 725 metre descent

DIFFICULTY / Medium – Hard

HIKERS / Mark & Paul

CHALLENGING HIKE AND IMPRESSIVE VIEWS

Setting off early, the cool air was fresh with the scent of pine trees lining the path. As we progressed further, the peaks of Monte Cristallo and Piz Popena reluctantly emerged through the foliage – tantalising glimpses of the sharp alpine peaks that surrounded us.

After a short while, the trees cleared and the views opened up to a panorama of the mountains with the unmistakable form of Tre Cime standing in the hazy distance. It’s nothing short of a spectacular sight. Basically effortless to achieve from the carpark, the views over this part of the Dolomites truly over-delivers.

To add to these impressive views, the path continued along a narrow ledge of rock. Here, with one hand on a cable, and feet carefully navigating the narrow ledge, we were totally engrossed in our surroundings. A virtual reality moment that was completely real.

Soon, leaving the views from the rocky terrace behind, another sight comes in to focus. Tranquil turquoise water shimmered underneath an imposing face of rock. A few people relaxed by the shore taking in the scene. On the far side of the lake, we had the place completely to ourselves.

With the fun out of the way, we commenced the slog up to the top of the pass. It’s very much a one foot in front of the other climb. Neither of us took in much of the scenery, all effort was going into our legs. Eventually, we got to the top of the pass. Being mid-June, snow was still covering the top. Footprints driven into the snow.

The view was made all the more pleasurable knowing it was easy going from here.

The return hike via path 216 takes you over the pass to stunning views at Forcella Marcoira.


HOW TO GET TO THE LAGO DI SORAPIS CIRCUIT

Lago di Sorapis is in the eastern section of the Italian Alps known as the Dolomites.

The closest town to the Lago di Sorapis walk is Cortina d’Ampezzo, which can be accessed via a number of airports: Venice is a 2 hour drive away, Innsbruck is 2 hours 30 minutes and Verona airport is 3 hours away.

BUS / The 030 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.

CAR / It’s a short drive from Cortina to Passo Tre Croci. There is free parking by the side of the road or in a small car park near the start of the trail. In peak season, arrive early to successfully snare a parking spot.

CHECK RENTAL CARS

ROUTE FOR HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS

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. There is one rifugio on route, just before reaching the lake.

You can return the same way, but on a clear day and if you have the energy we recommend you go over the pass. Head back on PATH 215, past the rifugio and take a left turn on PATH 216. 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 of the climb, the path bends left to cross a shallow basin. The trail is a bit indistinct here, but a handrail is there to help. On a clear day the path on the other side of the basin is clearly visible. Drop into the basin, zigzag up the other side and reach the stunning views at 2307m Forcella Marcoira.

Be careful here not to take path 223 that runs southwest along the ridge but instead continue on PATH 216 dropping over the far side of the ridge and heading westwards. 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.

It takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes walking time to complete the circuit, including half an hour to walk around the lake. But allow around 6 hours for taking plenty of breaks, a leisurely lunch and to drink in those views.

The stunning Lago di Sorapis is an ideal day hike and a beautiful spot to appreciate the dramatic scenery of the Dolomites.


TIMINGS FOR THE LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE

How long you spend at Lago di Sorapis will depend entirely on how long you choose to stay and soak up this incredible landscape. While the walk itself isn’t particularly long, there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way and you could easily while away the time just gazing into that lake reflection.

PASSO TRE CROCI TO LAGO DI SORAPIS / 1 hour 45 minutes | 5.5km
STROLL AROUND THE LAKE / 30 minutes | 1km
ASCENT UP TO FORCELLA MARCOIRA / 1 hour 15 minutes minutes | 3.5km
FORCELLA MARCOIRA TO PASSO TRE CROCI / 1 hour 15 minutes | 3.5km

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HIKING TO LAGO DI SORPAIS MAP

If you intend to go over the pass beware that cloud can come in quickly so take a map, a phone and a compass. We suggest you purchase Shorter Walks in the Dolomites. It has good maps and details of this and other great walks in the area.

To take this map with you on your Lago di Sorapis hike, click on the star next to the title to save to your maps in Google. 


WHAT TO TAKE ON THE HIKE

1 / 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.

2 / 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.

3 / 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.

4 / 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 Lago di Sorapis hike earlier, you’ll need to take your own lunch.

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

6 / 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. MAPS: Cortina map

7 / 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.

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 Lago di Sorapis 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.

WHERE TO STAY

The best place to stay to undertake the Lago di Sorapis hike is around Cortina. It’s a decent sized town with a range of facilities and public transport connections. Parking in town is not that easy so if you have a car then we would be tempted to stay in the northern part of town on the road to Misurina (where there are a better range of restaurants) or up in the hills.

If you fancy treating yourself to a nice dinner after the walk then head to Agriturismo El Brite De Larieto which does an innovative array of Italian classics. The best food we had in the Dolomites.

CHECK PRICES

WHERE NEXT?

The Dolomites is one of our favourite mountain destinations, it’s a great place for a road trip with some truly magnificent day hikes. Check out our other 5 favourite hikes in the Dolomites, specifically the superb walks around the iconic peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the magnificent Sassolungo-Langkofel massif.

Read about how we put some of the highlights of this region together in our 7-day Dolomites itinerary.

All our hiking articles are here.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below – we will always reply. But before you go any further why not follow us on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER and sign up to our monthly NEWSLETTER.

The only way to get to Lago di Sorapis is to hike. But what a hike it is. Turquoise lakes nestle under imposing mountains while narrow ledges and exposed mountain paths make for an excellent trail. / Dolomites hike / Hiking to Lago di Sorapis / Italian Alps

The only way to get to Lago di Sorapis is to hike. But what a hike it is. Turquoise lakes nestle under imposing mountains while narrow ledges and exposed mountain paths make for an excellent trail. / Dolomites hike / Hiking to Lago di Sorapis / Italian Alps

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