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
Beautiful shimmering turquoise lakes, framed by sharp limestone peaks, litter the valleys and canyons of the Dolomites. Many are very easy to get to, like the stunning Lago di Braies.
But Lago di Sorapis is different. It’s set on a remote ledge, backed by the craggy buttresses of the towering 3,200-metre Mount Sorapis. As a 2-hour walk from the nearest car park, it doesn’t attract anywhere near the crowds of its more famous neighbours such as Lago di Braies.
The trail to the lake includes a forest path and a few narrow ledges. There are also some metal stairways and beautiful Dolomites views the whole way up. But once you make it to Sorapis lake, tranquil turquoise waters shimmer in soft light reflecting the impenetrable wall of rugged mountain rock that surrounds it.
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 13.5 kilometres round hike is one of our favourite walks in the Dolomites. Here is all you need to know.
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IN THIS GUIDE
HIKING TO LAGO DI SORAPIS
A circular day hike to a stunning turquoise lake
13.5-kilometre round trip (8.3 miles)
4 hours, 45 minutes
725 metres (+/-)
Medium to Hard
LAGO DI SORAPIS TRAIL DESCRIPTION
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 walk, 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 spectacular.
Basically effortless to achieve from the car park, the views over this part of the Dolomites truly over-deliver.
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 surreal rocky environment, far removed from the wooded trail below.
Soon, leaving the views from the rocky terrace behind, another sight comes in to focus. The tranquil turquoise waters of Sorapis Lake shimmered underneath an imposing face of rock; one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. A few people were relaxing by the shore but on the far side, 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. While it’s nothing like some of the serious hikes in the Alps, like the Tour du Mont Blanc, for instance, it was, nonetheless, great to get to the top.
The view was made all the more pleasurable knowing it was all downhill from here.
The day ended with a great dinner in rustic surrounds at Agriturismo El Brite De Larieto which does an innovative array of Italian classics. The best food we had in the Dolomites.
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.
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.
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 pas. 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 clearly 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.
Read Next // Hiring a boat on Lake Como
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.
Day-trippers can have lunch at the rifugio during 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
1 hour 45 minutes | 5.5 kilometres
30 minutes | 1 kilometre
1 hour 15 minutes | 3.5 kilometres
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. MAPS: Cortina 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.
The Dolomites is serviced by several international airports. Venice and Innsbruck are closest to Cortina. However, driving from any of the airports is straightforward and beautiful, so it’s best to check the prices and times from your home airport.
MAIN AIRPORTS SERVICING THE DOLOMITES
(DRIVING DISTANCES TO CORTINA)
136 kilometres | 1 hour 45 minutes
148 kilometres | 1 hour 50 minutes
164 kilometres | 2 hours 10 minutes
228 kilometres | 2 hours 45 minutes
265 kilometres | 2 hours 55 minutes
Unless you are already in Italy, getting to the Dolomites via train is unlikely to be a good option. The major train stations are no closer than the airports.
However, if you are arriving from Italy the train station at Calalzo di Cadore is 35 kilometres to the south of Cortina. Dobbiacco has its own train station.
MORE READING FOR YOUR DOLOMITES TRIP
The Dolomites is an area we love going back to. With exception hiking, dramatic scenery and a blend of Austrian and Italian culture it’s one of our favourite destinations in the Alps. Here’s some more reading to help plan your Dolomites road trip itinerary.
See the best of the Italian Dolomites on a one-week Road Trip Itinerary
Breath-taking Dolomites views hiking the Sassolungo–Langkofel circuit
How to visit Lago di Braies – Italy’s alluring emerald-green lake
Hiking the Stunning Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop in the Dolomites
10 breath-taking reasons to visit the Italian Alps
9 Great Hikes in the Dolomites – Easy strolls to exhilarating hikes
How to visit beautiful Val di Funes (Villnöss)
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