Lago di Sorapis, tucked away high in the mountains of the Dolomites, is a turquoise beauty only accessible by foot. Here’s everything you need to know to tackle the hike, with the bonus of a less-frequented loop that will take you far from the crowds.
Lago di Sorapis is another of those Dolomites beauties that you’ve probably seen a lot of on Instagram. Its turquoise waters have to be seen to be believed, and you have to make a bit of an effort to get there. Fortunately, the lake’s relative inaccessibility means that it’s not as busy as many of the Dolomites other beautiful lakes.
A 2-hour hike along a path that veers between breathtaking views and breathtaking effort, this isn’t one for those who are scared of heights. Several portions of the trail are little more than a gouge in a cliff-face, steel cables providing support for the less confident.
That’s what makes this hike special though.
Once you’ve overcome your fears, the trail becomes an exciting challenge. Will the next turn bring you to a platform suspended high above the cliffs, a metal staircase or a bouldering exercise? Once you reach the lake, pristine blue beneath towering Mount Sorapis, the effort required to get there seems more than worth it.
In fact, if you’re anything like me, it’ll spur you on to complete the loop over the high mountain pass above. With spectacular views of Tre Cime in the distance and the added bonus of bragging rights that you’ve completed something a bit different, it’s well worth doing.
This guide contains everything you need to know to hike to Lago di Sorapis, including how to get there, how long it takes, what to expect and how to complete the stunning mountain loop.
LAGO DI SORAPIS ESSENTIALS
TRAILHEAD | Passo Tre Croci
DISTANCE | 5.2km one way or 13.5km loop
TIME | 2 hours to the lake, 4-5 hours total
ELEVATION | +/-700m (loop)
DIFFICULTY | moderate – hard
BEST TIME | early July
FACILITIES | Rifugio Vandelli is open from mid-June to mid-September only
- LAGO DI SORAPIS ESSENTIALS
- A COMPLETE GUIDE TO HIKING LAGO DI SORAPIS IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES
- Why hike to Lago di Sorapis?
- The Lago di Sorapis Hiking Experience
- TRAIL CONDITIONS AT LAGO DI SORAPIS
- A STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO THE LAGO DI SORAPIS LOOP HIKE
- ALTERNATIVE ROUTE FROM THE LAGO DO SORAPIS LOOP TO CORTINA
- LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKING MAP
- WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS
- HOW TO GET TO THE LAGO DI SORAPIS TRAILHEAD AT PASSO TRE CROCI
- WHERE TO EAT AND STAY FOR THE LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE
- RESPONSIBLE HIKING AT LAGO DI SORAPIS
- WHAT TO TAKE ON YOUR LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE
- HOW TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES
- Planning A Trip To the Dolomites?
- FOLLOW & SHARE
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A COMPLETE GUIDE TO HIKING LAGO DI SORAPIS IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES
Why hike to Lago di Sorapis?
There are beautiful lakes in the Dolomites that are much easier to reach, so what’s the big deal about this one? Well, the trail to Lago di Sorapis is one of the most enjoyable that I tackled during my time in the Dolomites. Rather than just a challenging uphill, it’s like a mini via ferrata that doesn’t require any special gear.
Those of you, like me, who struggle with heights will have to overcome the adrenaline on some of the more daunting sections of the trail. Once you get into the swing of things though, the cabled sections become fun and the views more than compensate for your pounding heart.
Lago di Sorapis itself is set in one of the most beautiful vistas, turquoise water giving way to larch trees that merge into the soaring peaks of the Sorapis mountains. Even in the freezing cold of an autumn morning, the lake a solid icy sheet, it’s breathtaking.
Unlike Lago di Braies and Lago di Carezza, you have to put in the work to get here. As a result, there are far fewer people and it’s a much more pleasurable experience.
The Lago di Sorapis Hiking Experience
It’s an icy cold morning. The plants that line the trail are etched in sparkling frost, my breath a white cloud in the still air. The trail beckons me onwards, flashes of bright orange contrasting with the endless cool blue of the autumn sky.
Through the trees, I catch glimpses of the peaks of Tre Cime, although it’s not until the path breaks free of the forest that I can finally appreciate the views that stretch out to the far horizon. I’ve only been walking for about 20 minutes and already this is one of my favourite hikes so far.
Back amongst the larches, the temperature drops, and I hustle onwards. The path starts to climb upwards and I’m grateful for the extra challenge warming my extremities, chilled despite all my layers.
Turning a corner I’m confronted with a wooden platform suspended over a rocky ledge. A cable is a lifeline secured to the mountain with a sheer drop to the valley below. I fix my eyes on the wider trail ahead and hold my breath as I cautiously inch forwards, cold metal a reassuring anchor in my right hand.
Eventually, my heartbeat steadies and the adrenaline steers me forwards with a grin plastered across my face. Now it’s a challenge. Me against my fears and it feels great to be winning. I meet narrow paths with a spring in my step, navigate metal rungs as though I’ve got wings and, before I know it, I see the bright blue shutters and stone walls of Rifugio Vandelli in the distance.
In no time at all, I’m drinking in the views on the shore of Lago di Sorapis. This late in the season it’s a frozen turquoise sheet, but it’s still mesmerising. I lose track of how long I stand there, my rapidly cooling fingers finally reminding me that it’s time to get moving.
I decide to take the challenging route home (as recommended by Mark & Paul of Anywhere we Roam in their Lago di Sorapis guide), climbing up a steep mountain pass for what seems like an eternity. From the top, though, the views are out of this world. It feels like the whole universe is laid out before me, valleys and mountains unfurling like a carpet below.
Cautiously picking my way down a slope that’s more loose scree than trail I begin to question the wisdom of my decision, but I’m soon back amongst the trees. In no time at all, I’m back at the van, another challenge conquered. With a sense of satisfaction, I head for my next destination, wondering how it could possibly beat this day.
The Croda da Lago, though, delivered something just as magical.
TRAIL CONDITIONS AT LAGO DI SORAPIS
It’s basically impossible to get lost here, since there’s one main trail that goes to the lake. The first section of the trail is a gentle uphill and pretty easy by anyone’s standards, but the second half is more challenging.
You’ll find sections of narrow path perched precariously on the side of cliffs, wooden walkways and cabled sections. There are also several iron ladders and portions of the track where a little scrambling is required. If you’re terrified of heights then this is not the hike for you, but those of us who just get slight palpitations at the thought of high places can make it through.
At either end of the season, the trail can be covered in snow, and it was icy by mid-October. The descent from Forcella Marcuoira is steep, loose shale underfoot with no discernable path. Watch your footing, particularly if there has been recent rain. Wear supportive hiking boots and take hiking poles if you have them.
A STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO THE LAGO DI SORAPIS LOOP HIKE
It’s entirely possible to make this an out-and-back hike to the lake, removing the tougher part of the loop. You’ll miss out on some spectacular views, but if you’ve got a lot of hikes planned then you may want to save your legs. If you just go to the lake it’s a little over 5km each way and will take about 3-4 hours return.
Passo Tre Croci to Rifugio Vandelli | 5.2km – 1h30min
From the parking area at Passo Tre Croci you need to find path 215, clearly marked for Rifugio Vandelli. The first 30 minutes or so is an easy path through the forest, and then the route gets a little more technical. You’ll need to navigate several narrow portions with metal cables for support, as well as ladders and some scrambling.
After about an hour and 20 minutes you’ll reach a crossroads which is also clearly marked, continuing to follow the 215 across a stream and around to the left, where you’ll find the rifugio. The views from the deck here are really spectacular so take the opportunity to sit here for a while and just soak it all in.
Rifugio Vandelli to Lago di Sorapis | 0.2km – 5min
From the rifugio you’ll retrace your steps but instead of turning right back onto path 215, go straight to reach the lake. You can wander around the lake since there’s a well-marked path, and this will take you about 30 minutes.
Once you’ve finished marvelling at the lake it’s time to decide whether you’ll return the way you came or do the loop. If there’s any question of bad weather or low cloud then it’s probably not worth the extra energy to hike the pass. On a clear day, however, it’s really spectacular.
TIP | Swimming in Lago di Sorapis is forbidden and there are signs all over the place clearly stating this. That includes wading in the water to get to a large rock…
Lago di Sorapis to Forcella Marcuoira | 3.1km – 1h30min
From the lake, you’ll return along path 215 to the crossroads you encountered earlier. At this point, turn left onto path 216. It’s basically uphill from the start and, honestly, it’s tough going. I stopped fairly frequently to enjoy the views back down to Rifugio Vandelli, and you really can appreciate its spectacular location from up here. Lago di Sorapis, however, is hidden from view for much of the way.
There are several sections that require some scrambling, with the path becoming steeper and more challenging as you get closer to the pass. Eventually, you’ll get to a cairn that marks the high point and it’s a truly incredible place to stop and absorb the views. I sat here and ate energy bar without a single person disturbing the quiet and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my time in the Dolomites.
Forcella Marcuoira to Passo Tre Croci | 3.7km – 1h30mins
There’s a bit of downhill into the pass, which you’ll cross fairly quickly before encountering another short ascent. Then you’ll enter a downhill section that’s honestly a bit of a nightmare. The path is impossible to make out, the ground seems to be trying to escape from under your feet at every opportunity, and it’s really slow going.
Once you’ve triumphantly navigated this challenge, you’ll find yourself at another crossroads where you’ll follow path 213 all the way back to Passo Tre Croci. This is all easy downhill with no surprises along the way.
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE FROM THE LAGO DO SORAPIS LOOP TO CORTINA
If you’ve taken public transport to the trailhead and you’re staying in Cortina, then this is a great alternative end to your hike. Rather than going back to Passo Tre Croci, simply follow path 213 in the direction of Rifugio Faloria. Once at the rifugio you can either take the cable car down or continue hiking back to Cortina.
TRAILHEAD | Crossroads of path 216 and 213
DISTANCE | 6 km
TIME | 2 hours
ELEVATION | -900m
DIFFICULTY | Easy
The Cortina-Faloria cable car costs €17 one way/adult or €23 return and runs from 8:30am – 4:30pm during the season. In summer, the cable car and rifugio are open from June to September.
LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKING MAP
The map below outlines the main route in addition to some great photo spots that you should definitely try to get to.
To save this map to your own account, just click on the little star next to the title.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS
THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS
Although the hike is beautiful year-round, the best time to see the lake is once the snow has melted and it’s at its fullest. This means heading up here towards the earlier part of the season before the water starts to drain. By the time autumn rolls around, the lake is only about half full. By the time of my visit in late October, it had clearly been frozen over for some time. In general, this hike is best done from late June to early September.
TIP | Lago di Sorapis is at its best in early to mid-June.
The hike itself is best done when there has been a period of dry weather and all the snow has melted. This is one of the highest hikes in the Dolomites and, as such, snow can persist on the trail into mid-July. Due to the areas requiring cable assistance and scrambling, I wouldn’t attempt this hike in the dark or bad weather unless you’re an extremely experienced mountain hiker.
There are plenty of larches in the forest on this hike, so it’s still really beautiful in late autumn. The weather also tends to be at its most settled in October. As with all the hikes in the Dolomites, try to avoid the August holiday period. This is one of the quieter trails, so it’s a good option if you have to come in peak season.
THE BEST TIME OF DAY TO HIKE TO LAGO DI SORAPIS
Unless you’re staying overnight at one of the rifugios, this is definitely a route that should be done in the morning. It’s absolutely not necessary to be there for sunrise and, in fact, I would advocate against tackling the trail in the dark. There’s ample parking, making this a hike that can easily be undertaken at any time of day if you’re driving to Passo Tre Croci.
If you want to see the sun lighting up the lake then the middle of the day is the best time to be here although in autumn, it never quite makes it over the mountaintops.
HOW TO GET TO THE LAGO DI SORAPIS TRAILHEAD AT PASSO TRE CROCI
From Cortina | 15 minutes on the SR48 will bring you to the roadside parking on your right. Alternatively, there’s a large parking lot directly in front of you before the road turns and ascends up to the trailhead
From Dobbiaco | about 30 minutes on the SS51, then as SP49 and SR48. The trailhead will be on your left.
Parking | There is free parking by the roadside at Passo Tre Croci, but this does fill up early, especially in high season. Alternatively, there is a large parking lot just downhill from the trailhead with clearly marked hiking paths.
From Cortina | From mid-June to mid-September, you can take the 30/31 Dolomiti bus to the trailhead at stop Passo Tre Croci 4 times daily.
From Dobbiaco | Bus 445 goes to Cortina 4 times daily. Check times here.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY FOR THE LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE
Rifugio Vandelli has a rather limited season, but if you’re fortunate enough to be here when it’s open then it’s a great place to stop on the hike. They’re open to everyone for lunch from 11:30am – 3pm and reservations are not required. Public toilets are also available here but, again, only during their opening from mid-June to mid-September.
Outside of this time, there are no facilities at all on this trail. You’ll need to bring all the necessary gear with you and make sure that the weather doesn’t catch you unawares.
TIP | Bring cash if you’re planning to eat or stay at Rifugio Vandelli as there are no card facilities at the hut.
The best place to stay is Cortina, with easy public transport links or a short drive. There’s even the option of hiking from the town. Otherwise, Dobbiaco is also a good option if you’ve got your own car.
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LAGO DI SORAPIS
Rifugio Vandelli | Open from mid-June to mid-September, the rifugio is a stone’s throw from the lake and has an incredible view down the valley to Misurina. Booking is advised and arrivals are from 4pm. €26/person per night with €9 breakfast and dinner a la carte or €55/person half board. Showers cost an extra €5. Book here.
Rifugio Faloria | Open from early June to early September and again from early November to April. This hut has a variety of rooms, some with private bathroom. I strongly advise booking. From €47/person per night with breakfast included and dinner a la carte and €67/person half board. Return cable car ticket included. Book here.
Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa | The first 5* luxury hotel in the Dolomites, this is the place to go if you really want to spoil yourself. There’s a free shuttle to the centre of town, but why would you want to leave the spa? There’s an excellent breakfast included. From €320/night. Check availability here.
Camina Suite & Spa | This family-run hotel is within easy walking distance to the town centre and has amazing spa facilities. The breakfast is wonderful and the views amazing. From €210/night. Check availability here.
Natura Boutique Chalet Wellness SPA | With an onsite spa, beautiful light and modern rooms and an amazing breakfast, this lovely hotel in the woods is hard to beat. Private parking is available onsite. From €210/night. Check availability here.
B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina | Great value for money with both breakfast and dinner included, modern rooms and free onsite parking, this is one of the best options in the area. From €110/night. Check availability here.
Hotel Rosengarten | The rooms are beautiful here and the food is fantastic. You can get a free shuttle bus from the train station if you’re arriving without a car. It’s family-run and you actually do get to feel like part of the family when you stay here. From €110/night. Check availability here.
Camping Toblacher See | Right on the shores of the lake, this campsite has wonderful modern facilities and is a fantastic option if you’re in a van or camping. The sites are flat and all located a stone’s throw from the lake. The onsite restaurant serves great food and pizza. If you want to splash out you can also check out their Skyview Chalets. From €20/night. Check availability here.
Camping Rocchetta | Located along the hiking route from Cortina to Croda da Lago, this is a good option if you’re planning to hike up to the rifugio for an overnight stay. Open from early June to late September, not only can you stay here in a tent or your camper, but they also have cabin rooms. From €20/night. Check availability here.
RESPONSIBLE HIKING AT LAGO DI SORAPIS
Swimming in Lago di Sorapis is forbidden and there are signs by the lake. The beautiful colour of the lake is a result of mountain sediment suspended in the water. It’s an incredibly fragile ecosystem that’s easily destroyed. Wading in the water is just as much of a disturbance so please don’t even walk in the lake to get to a rock.
Flying drones here is fine, but make sure that you’re aware of local requirements and restrictions before you fly.
Always stay on marked trails and paths and follow leave no trace principles. Take your rubbish with you and dispose of it responsibly. If you need to go to the toilet then make sure you’re not near any water sources, dig a hole and take any toilet paper with you. I was astounded by the amount of human faeces I encountered in the middle of the trail on my hikes in the Dolomites.
Finally, bring your reusable water bottle and try to visit outside of peak season to put less stress on the local environment.
WHAT TO TAKE ON YOUR LAGO DI SORAPIS HIKE
1 | There are some challenging up and downhill sections on the hike, so you should wear hiking boots. The extra ankle support is invaluable. I wear (and love) the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3.
2 | I have only recently started using hiking poles, and love them for the downhill assistance. I recommend a lightweight option like these Black Diamonds. You can easily strap them to your daypack or backpack when not in use.
READ THIS | My Hiking Gear Guide
3 | Sun protection is vital. Any hiking in the mountains in summer also requires bringing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Nobody wants that UV damage in their lives.
4 | Waterproof outer layers are also a really good idea in the mountains. Even if it doesn’t actually rain, these peaks are high enough that clouds can cover them quickly and you’ll get very damp very fast. I have this waterproof shell jacket and these trousers and they’ve saved me from a soaking more than once.
READ THIS | What’s in My Camera Bag
HOW TO GET TO THE DOLOMITES
The Dolomites are located in northeastern Italy, but there’s no “Dolomites” airport or station. There are, however, plenty of good options for reaching the area from various nearby hubs. Lago di Sorapis is located towards the eastern part of the Dolomites.
The closest transport hubs to Lago di Sorapis are Cortina or Dobbiaco.
DISTANCE TO THE EASTERN DOLOMITES FROM MAJOR AIRPORT HUBS
ITALY | Venice Marco Polo
170km | 2h 30min
ITALY | Milan Malpensa
440km | 4h 30min
ITALY | Verona
275km | 3h
GERMANY | Munich
350km | 4h
AUSTRIA | Innsbruck
160km | 2h 20min
Undoubtedly the easiest way to get from the airport to the Dolomites is by hiring a car. Since the Dolomites is technically an autonomous region in Italy, there’s less hassle if you hire a car in Italy as you don’t have to worry about crossing borders. I recommend checking out AutoEurope for the best car deals and Insurance4carhire to cover excess insurance.
Honestly, with the number of train changes and costs, this is unlikely to be a convenient way to get to your destination. There are, however, stations in both Cortina and Dobbiaco if you want to investigate further. I recommend using Omio to check your options.
Hopefully, you’ve now got all the information you need to plan your own hike to the beautiful blue Lago di Sorapis. Let me know if you have any questions or tips for your fellow readers in the comments!
Planning A Trip To the Dolomites?
With world-class hiking in summer, incredible skiing in winter, and a perfect blend of Italian and Austrian culture, the Dolomites is one of my favourite European destinations. Here are more posts to help you plan your own trip to this wonderful part of the Alps.
PLANNING A TRIP TO ITALY | TIPS FOR TRAVELERS TO ITALY
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO | A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THE DOLOMITES (COMING SOON)
DOLOMITES DAY HIKES | You might want to check out the BEST DAY HIKES IN THE DOLOMITES
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t go anywhere without it! I use and recommend Safety Wing.
THOUGHTFUL TRAVEL | No matter where you go, try to always be aware of the fact that travel impacts the place and people that live there. Being a thoughtful traveller is more important than ever. Here are my top tips to make your trip a mindful one.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Love my photos and want to know how to take better shots on your own trips? Then my photography guide is for you. Here’s all the photography gear I use too. Want to buy one of my images? Head to the Print Store.
ESSENTIAL GEAR | You’ll find my travel essentials here, and a complete guide to all my hiking gear here.