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The Lago de Sorapis hike was long and challenging but so worth the trek! This hike was one of three I desperately wanted to do while visiting the Italian Dolomites and one of the most popular ones in the Cortina d’Ampezzo area. Its stunning aqua lake surrounded by boulders and a thick forest is just too stunning to pass up.
You can only get to the lake by hiking, but there are several routes you can take. There are a few out and back trails and a few loop options. I parked at the wrong spot and combined a few trails to make a loop but had to add another 3 miles to get back to where I parked along a boring service road. I also ran out of food and water, and my GPS died before I completed the hike. I ended up hiking around 10 hours, although most routes, when done correctly, estimate 5-7 hours of hiking.
In this post, I’ll give you all the information you need to decide what route is best for you, plus parking information, additional hiking tips, and what I would do differently for a better experience.
Out and Back Hiking Trails to Lake Sorapis
The two main out and back routes are trail #215 and #217. Both are challenging with inclines and require climbing over boulders, across rocky terrain, up ladders, and along exposed cliffs. If you have a fear of heights, hiking to Lake Sorapis is not recommended.
Trail #215 (Passo Tre Croci) The “Easy” Route
- Name in AllTrails: Passo Tre Croci – Lake Sorapis
- Distance: 7.6 Miles out and back
- Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet
- Average Time: 5 hours
Trail #215 is one of the shortest and least intense routes to the lake. It starts off flat but then ascends through a forest, with a few staircases and exposed cliffs with only a handrail to hang onto. This trail offers more open views of the mountains and is considered the “easiest” of the out and back trails to Lago de Sorapis; although easy, it is not.
This route is very popular and usually very crowded, which can be frustrating during the narrow sections of the trail. If you take this route, I suggest starting at sunrise for a better experience.
Park at the Passo de Croci parking lot or along SR 48 in designated spots. The parking area in Google Maps is called Misurina – Passo Tre Croci. It is next to the B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina.
Trail #217 (Rifugio Cristallo) The “Moderate” Route
- Name in AllTrails: Lago di Sorapis via Rifugio Cristallo
- Length: 6 Miles out and back
- Elevation Gain: 2,400 Feet
- Average time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Trail #217 starts flat along a path through a forest, fields, and past a few mountain huts. It offers a view of a waterfall and has plenty of large boulders to climb up with plenty of rock scrambles. Parts of the trail were muddy, and rocks were slick. The views along this trail are not as expansive as #215.
The parking area for Trail #217 is along SR 48, next to a bus stop. It is labeled in Google Maps as “Ciclabile Auronzo-Misurina-accesso,” which I believe means “entrance to the cycle path”. It is across the street from the Rifugio Cristallo building in the top left photo above.
This is a good plan B trail if you can’t find parking for the other trails to the lake. Although the parking area is small, this route is less popular and oftentimes has available parking even later in the day.
#216 (Forcella Marcoira) The Hardest Route
Hiking Stats: These are all estimates based on the other trails involving this trail.
- Name in AllTrails: I could not find this out and back trail in AllTrails or online
- Length: Around 8 miles out and back
- Elevation Gain: Around 2,400 feet
- Average time: 6-7 hours
I’m including this route because you can hike it as an out and back route, but I have yet to discover exact hiking stats for it. Most hikers take this route as part of a loop. This is the most challenging route, with a very steep section over loose gravel, best suited for experienced hikers. This route has the most rewarding views. This trail opens up and is completely exposed in most areas, allowing for panoramic views of the rugged Dolomites.
This trail starts at #213 towards Forcella Marcoira. The first few miles are through the forest with a slight incline. Turn left at the fork towards #216 Forcella Marcoira, where you’ll encounter the most challenging section of the hike. Once you scale the side of the mountain, you’ll have a few miles of switchbacks and then some uphill trekking before a downhill boulder section to the lake.
I went down this route and took my time on the steep section, but I think the views are better going up. Many hikers believe it is better to go up this section than down. Hiking poles are highly recommended.
Loop Routes to take to Lake Sorapis
Mountain Pass loop: Forcella Marcoira to Passo Tre Croci
#215 to #216/#213
- Name in AllTrails: Lago di Sorapis – Forcella Marcoira via Passo Tre Croci
- Length: 8.6 Miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,900 Feet
- Average time: 5-6 hours
This loop involves the most difficult route to the lake. Trail #213 to #216 (Forcella Marcoira) has a very difficult section, a near-vertical climb over loose rocks that can be very dangerous for inexperienced hikers. This section is best completed with hiking poles and sturdy hiking boots.
You can technically do this route as an out and back hike, but it is not recommended to descend down the trail because of this challenging section. I went down #216 during my hike (very slowly) but I do think it would be easier going up with poles. I crab-crawled down most of this section because the rocks were so loose and thick. Some fellow hikers thought there had been a recent rock slide. There was also packed ice at the top of this steep section.
This route is not for the faint of heart but does bring you through a more remote area with stunning mountain views. Plus, it is less crowded, which always makes for a more enjoyable experience.
For this route, park at the Passo de Croci parking lot or along SR 48 in designated spots. The parking area in Google is called Misurina – Passo Tre Croci.
Route Anello Rifugio Cristallo-Lago di Sorapis
#217 & #215
- Name in AllTrails: Anello Rifugio Cristallo-Lago di Sorapis
- Length: 7.2 Miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,644 Feet
- Average time: 5 hours
This loop combines trails #217 and #215, and avoids the hardest climb over the mountain pass. You’ll still get some beautiful views and see the waterfall, but the views along these trails are not as open as the views along the mountain pass trail (#216).
There are some steps and exposed cliff walks along route #215. People scared of heights should think twice before attempting this trail.
Additional tips for hiking Lago di Sorapis
What to Bring
- Hiking Poles– These will come in very handy on this route, especially if you take the mountain pass trail with the challenging, near-vertical section.
- Layers– If you start the hike early (even in summer), you’ll need a few layers to keep warm before the sun comes out and when relaxing at the lake. I always bring a nano puff and this Patagonia waterproof shell for “just in case” weather.
- Snacks– A picnic lunch at the lake is a great idea! You can also visit the Rifugio Vandelli restaurant for a bite to eat near the lake. It is only open “in season” but exact dates were not given when I visited. It was closed in early June when I did this hike so make sure to bring snacks.
- Water– Always bring more than you think you need. This is a challenging hike with lots of elevation gain and some exposed trails. There are no facilities along the hike. You can only get water at the mountain hut if it is open. Bring at least a 1/2 liter of water per hour of hiking.
- Sturdy Hiking Boots– Wear hiking boots, not tennis shoes. Parts of the trail can be muddy and icy, and rocks can be slippery no matter what time of year it is. A sturdy, waterproof hiking boot with grip is the way best for this challenging trail.
- Sun Protection-Bring a hat or sunglasses and wear sunscreen on any exposed skin. Even in cold weather you can get burnt and a lot of these trails are exposed.
- Offline GPS Map– These offline maps can be a lifesaver. I’ve been using AllTrails for the past few years but I also hear Gaia GPS is great for offline hiking. I hike alone a lot and have gotten turned around and would not have found my way if it wasn’t for my offline maps. Just remember to download the map to your phone before you start a hike.
- Portable Power Bank– Because this can be such a long day, I recommend a battery charger for your phone to ensure you are with offline GPS the entire way (and have something to take photos with).
The Best Time to Hike
It is best to hike to Lake Sorapis during summer (late June through July is best) as ice, snow and, slippery rocks along the trail will make it very difficult and dangerous to pass. The water in the lake should still be full in summer. Come October, the lake is sometimes dry which is a huge letdown after such a long and challenging hike. The best views are when it is full! Also, the mountain hut should be open in July, which means you’ll be able to grab a bite to eat, fill up your water bottle, and use a proper restroom.
As one of the most popular hikes in the area, I recommend starting at sunrise to avoid the crowds and enjoy the lake without so many people. It is also easier to find parking before 8 a.m. near the trailhead and the temperature is cooler.
Hiking Around the Lake
There is a trail around the lake that is less than a mile. If you want to get some additional views it is a pretty trail to take. It is easier to follow going counter clock wise. I attempted to go clockwise but could not see a trail so never completed the hike. Other hikers told me they went counter clockwise first and could make out a trail from the direction they were coming from.
The Best Route to Hike to Lago di Sorapis
In my opinion, the best route to hike to Lake Sorapis is trail #213 to #216 (Forcella Marcoira) to the lake and back via #215 (Passo Tre Croci). This makes a loop about 8.6 miles with at least 3,000 ft of elevation gain. #215 is the more moderate route, so you will be doing the hardest part first, but you’ll get the stunning expansive views of the Dolomites along the way.
Parking for the Lago di Sorapis Trails
Download off-line maps for easier navigation. I use Google Maps and have noted locations and landmarks using Google for reference.
For Trails #215, #213/#216
You should park in one of these three areas for the #213/#216 or #215 trails. These three parking areas are all relatively close to each other.
- Along Route 48 Near the Trailhead: You’ll see a wooden arch along the tree line indicating the trailhead for #215. Trailhead #213 is along the side of B&B Hotel Passo.
- Misurina- Passo Tre Crico: Next to the B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina. This lot is closer to the #213/#216 trailheads.
- The large Parcheggio per Sorapis lot. You’ll have to walk about 10 mins to the start of the trails through the woods.
For a start and end on #217, the waterfall trail, make sure to park near Rifugio Cristallo along SR48 Via Valle Ansiei. This lot is marked in Google Maps as “Ciclabile Auronzo-Misurina-accesso.”
If you end up missing the fork to #217 along your hike back, and end up in a different parking area, you’ll need to hike along service road #209 to get back to trail #217’s parking lot. It adds about 3 miles.
No matter how you get there, rest assured you’ll enjoy a challenging hike with rewarding views of the Italian Dolomites! Make sure to pack a good day pack with food, water, GPS and sun protection, and enjoy the journey.
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