Julie Italy 6 Comments

Lago di Sorapis (Lake Sorapis) is one of the most popular hikes in the Dolomites. Located just outside of Cortina d’Ampezzo, this aquamarine lake attracts hundreds of hikers every day during the summer months.

The vast majority of people hike out-and-back to Lago di Sorapis on the main trail. What many people don’t know is that you can turn this hike into a loop.

Doing it as a loop (Lago di Sorapis plus Forcella Marcuoira) doesn’t add much in the way of extra distance, but it does add a hefty amount of elevation gain. However, your reward is unique views of Lago di Sorapis and panoramic views of the Dolomites.

When we did this hike (July 2022), very little was written online about the alternative route, which is why most people probably hike to Lago di Sorapis out-and-back. We didn’t know what to expect…and then we were blown away by the views.

Yes, Lago di Sorapis is a beautiful spot to visit. But it was the views from the second half of the hike that really amazed us.

In this guide, we’ll let you know everything you need to know about how to hike to Lago di Sorapis, both out-and-back and as a loop.

Lago di Sorapis Hiking Stats

Since this hike can be done several different ways, we list the hiking stats for the different routes below and then cover them in more detail later in this guide.

Lago di Sorapis Out-and-Back

These are the hiking stats for hiking out-and-back to Lago di Sorapis from the trailhead on SR48.

Distance: 11.6 km (7.2 miles)
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 460 meters (1,520 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,800 meters (5,900 feet)
Elevation at Lago Sorapis: 1,920 meters (6,300 feet)
Time: 3 to 5 hours

Lago di Sorapis as a Loop

If you hike to Lago di Sorapis as a loop, here are the stats.

Distance: 12.7 km (7.9 miles)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Ascent: 775 meters (2,550 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,800 meters (5,900 feet)
Highest Elevation (Forcella Marcuoira): 2,310 meters (7,575 feet)
Time: 5 to 7 hours

Lake Sorapis Hike Elevation Profile

Lago di Sorapis Elevation Profile as a loop. This elevation profile includes the extra distance for the loop around Lago di Sorapis. 

Map of the Lago di Sorapis Hike

Below is a map of the Lago di Sorapis loop from my Garmin watch. The blue color is the lowest elevation along the trail and the orange and red colors are the highest elevations.

Lago Sorapis Trail Map

Lago di Sorapis Map

Detours and Add-Ons to the Main Trail

In addition to the two main hiking routes, there are two more add-ons to the hike.

Lago di Sorapis Loop

If you hike the loop around Lago di Sorapis, this adds 1.1 km (0.7 miles) and 70 meters (230 feet) of total ascent. Allow 30 to 45 minutes to hike the loop.

The total distance for the out-and-back hike is now 12.7 km and the total distance for the loop hike is now 13.8 km.

Rifugio Vandelli

You can also add on Rifugio Vandelli. At this rifugio, you can use the bathrooms, refill your water bottles, and grab a bite to eat. The rifugio is located just off the main trail, about a 2 to 3-minute walk from Lago di Sorapis, so adding on the rifugio adds on a negligible amount of distance to the hike.

Additional Information & Helpful Tips

Best Time of Day to Hike to Lago di Sorapis: Morning (for good lighting for photos, lower crowds, and a closer parking spot to the trailhead)

Toilet: None at the trailhead; there is a toilette at Rifugio Vandelli, which is very close to Lago di Sorapis

Fear of Heights: If you have a fear of heights, there are some areas along the trail to Lago di Sorapis that run alongside of a cliff. And if you choose to hike the full loop, there will also be some exposed cliff edges as you approach Forcella Marcoira and there will be chains here to assist you.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Where is Lago di Sorapis?

Lago di Sorapis is located in the Dolomites, near Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The trailhead is located on SR48. From Cortina d’Ampezzo, it is a 15-minute drive to get here.

Lago Sorapis 2022

Lago di Sorapis

Parking for the Lago di Sorapis Hike

The closest place to park is right along SR48, near the trailhead. Just be aware that you are parking along a busy road, not only with cars, but also with cyclists, so be careful when parking and then leaving later in the day.

The second closest place to park is just down the street at the parking lot next to B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina.

If that is filled, option #3 is at a small, gravel parking lot on SR48, west of the trailhead. It is labeled as Parcheggio per Sorapis on Google Maps. We parked here. The parking lot is enormous and even midday in July there were plenty of parking spaces. From the parking lot, it is a short but steep hike up a dirt trail in the woods. You come out of the woods next to Baita Son Zuogo and from here, walk about 5 minutes east along SR48 to the trailhead.

Lago Sorapis Hike Parking

At the time that we did this (July 2022), there was no fee for parking at these lots.

How to Hike to Lago di Sorapis

Step-By-Step Trail Guide

Next, I explain what to expect on the hike from the trailhead to Lago di Sorapis. Overall, it’s a very easy trail to follow, with one trail split not far from the lake. You do not need any special maps to hike this trail and if you plan to do this hike in the summer, there is a very good chance that you will be sharing the trail with many more hikers.

Trailhead to Lago di Sorapis

Lago Sorapis Trailhead

Lago di Sorapis Trailhead

To hike to Lago di Sorapis, it is a 5.8 km hike that takes about an hour and a half (one-way). You will take trail #215 from the trailhead to the lake (labeled Lake Sorapis Hike Trailhead on Google Maps).

The trail starts off by slowly heading downhill into a forest. The trail is a wide, gravel path and very easy to hike.

Just before the 2 km point, you have your first steep uphill climb. This is a good warm up for what is to come. At this point, the views open up and you get some beautiful views of the nearby mountains.

Tim on the Trail

View along the trail.

 View from the Trail

Another view along the trail.

On the way out to the lake, the toughest section of the hike is between kilometers 3 and 4. The trail is narrower, there are a few short but steep sections, and at times, you will do some rock scrambling, climb short sections of metal steps, or hike up inclines with the aid of chains bolted into the rocks.

This is also a gorgeous part of the hike, with the wall of mountains off to your left.

Hiking to Lago Sorapis

View of the trail. Off in the distance is Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lago di Misurina.

 Stairs Lago Sorapis Trail

Stairs on the trail.

 

Lago Sorapis Trail Dolomites

Trail to Lago di Sorapis

 

More Steps

More stairs on the trail.

0.5 km (0.3 miles) before reaching Lago di Sorapis is a trail split. Stay left to continue to the lake. If you like the idea of turning this hike into a loop, you will take this trail to the right on the return hike (after visiting Lago di Sorapis).

Just before reaching the lake is another trail split. Go right to visit the lake. Go left to visit Rifugio Vandelli.

Lago di Sorapis

Once at Lago di Sorapis, you can find a spot to overlook the lake and have lunch or a snack.

There are two rocks which are popular photography locations. The one Tyler is standing on takes some good rock scrambling skills to get both on top of it, and back down, but it is a cool photo spot for those who can do it. Just to the right of this rock is a much smaller rock that is appropriate for hikers of all ages, so you can step right onto it.

Lago Sorapis

Lago Sorapis in July

Lago di Sorapis in July

Hiking around Lago di Sorapis

You have the option to hike around Lago di Sorapis. If you choose to do this, it takes 30 to 45 minutes and adds 1.1 km onto the hike.

We did this and really thought it was worth it. You get fantastic views from all sides of the lake, since the lake is completely surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Dolomites.

We hiked around Lago di Sorapis in a counterclockwise direction. To get back to the starting point, you will hike up a short but very steep hill. It’s a challenging climb, but once on top of the hill, we had awesome views looking out over the lake which made it worth it.

So, if you’re up for the extra distance and time, and you want to see Lago di Sorapis from all angles, add on the short loop around the lake.

Here are photos from the loop, going in a counter clockwise direction.

Walking around Lago Sorapis

Dolomites Hike

View from the far side of the lake.

 Lago Sorapis Photo

As you climb up the hill, you get a great view of the lake and its rainbow of colors.

 

Earth Trekkers Lago Sorapis

Photo spot on the highest viewpoint.

 

Lago Sorapis Loop

Overlooking Lago di Sorapis from the highest viewpoint on the loop.

Finishing the Hike

As stated earlier, there are two ways to finish this hike. You can either return the way you came, making this a 11.6 km hike.

But if you want BIG views of the Dolomites and still have plenty of energy left, and a challenging hill climb doesn’t deter you, consider doing the loop hike.

All four of us thought Lago di Sorapis was very nice to visit. But it was the views from the trail up and over Forcella Marcuoira that really impressed us. It’s tough but it is a spectacular addition to Lago Sorapis.

How to Hike Lago di Sorapis as a Loop

Lago di Sorapis to Forcella Marcuoira

From Lago di Sorapis, retrace your steps back along trail #215. 0.5 km (0.3 miles) from Lago Sorapis, at the trail split, take trail #216.

Immediately, you start climbing. At first it isn’t too bad. But the trail is very narrow, you’ll be brushing up against the small shrubs and pine trees along the edge of the trail, and at times you’ll have to do some rock scrambling. This trail gets far fewer hikers than trail #215 to the lake (another bonus for going this way!!), so it is a lot more rugged.

Rock Scrambling

Rock scrambling on the first part of trail #216.

 

Rock Scrambling Lago Sorapis Hike

Another view of the first part of the trail.

From the trail split, it is a 2.4 km uphill hike. For most of this distance, it is very steep. The trail is a mix of giant boulders and loose gravel, so at times you might slip a little. I’m not going to sugar coat it. This part of the hike is TOUGH. We hike pretty fast, but it was slow going for us on this part of the trail and we frequently had to stop to catch our breath.

But it is worth it. The higher you go, the better the view. And it doesn’t take long until you can look back at Lago di Sorapis and Rifugio Vandelli, with the backdrop of the mountains, for one of the most unique views of this area.

Plus, the view is opening up in other directions as well. Even though are thighs were screaming at us, we could hardly believe our eyes.

Lago Sorapis and Rifugio Vandelli

Overlooking Lago di Sorapis and Rifugio Vandelli from trail #216.

 

Higher on the Trail

Trail #216

At the top of the pass, you get panoramic views across the Dolomites. From here, you can see Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lago di Misurina.

Trail 216 Dolomites

Another view from trail #216.

 

Lago Sorapis Forcella Marcoira

And another view looking back down the trail.

 

Best Way to Hike Lago Sorapis

 

The trail briefly descends into a valley, and for a short distance here you are walking along a narrow trail with a drop off on one side. If you have a fear of heights, you might want to hike to Lago di Sorapis out-and-back. Here’s a photo of what to expect.

Dolomites Italy Hiking Trail

Hike to Forcella Marcoira

In this photo, you can see the photo zig zagging up to Forcella Marcoira.

Then it’s one final climb to Forcella Marcuoira, as the trail passes between Cime Ciadin del Loudo and Cime di Marcoira. At this point, you are standing at 2,307 meters (7,600 feet). From here, continue on trail #216 towards Passo Tre Croci.

Forcella Marcoira Trail Sign

Trail sign at Forcella Marcuoira

Forcella Marcuoira to Passo Tre Croci

You will hike down an incredibly steep section of trail. It’s made even more treacherous with the loose gravel that covers the trail. Take your time here because it is very easy to slip and fall. If you knock loose some rock or boulders, call out “rock!” as a warning to those below you. Fortunately, when we did this, we were the only ones on this section of trail.

Downhill Trail

View of the trail from Forcella Marcuoira.

 

Kara on the Trail

Steep Downhill

Looking back up the trail.

Near the bottom of this steep descent is small hill you can climb which makes yet another great photo spot for the day.

Monte Cristallo Viewpoint

Tyler Rivenbark

 

At approximately 9.5 km, there is one final trail split. Turn right to take trail #213 to Passo Tre Croci.

Dolomites Trail Sign

 

From here, it’s a mostly easy, downhill walk the rest of the hike. There will be a few short, steep downhill sections, but for the most part, it’s an easy hike on wide gravel trail. Here are the last final kilometers of the hike in photos.

Valley Lago Sorapis Hike

End of Lago Sorapis Hike

Trail #213, near Passo Tre Troci.

Who Should Do the Loop Hike?

Hiking to Lago Sorapis as a loop isn’t much farther than doing it out-and-back. But it’s the extra elevation gain that really makes this route challenging.

If you can handle it, the nice hike to Lago di Sorapis turns into an epic day of hiking in the Dolomites.

In order to do the hike as a loop, you need to have a high level of fitness. The climb is TOUGH and at times it feels as if it will never end.

If you have a fear of heights, there is one brief section (about 50 meters), where there is a lot of exposure on the trail, with a drop-off on one side. This occurs just before reaching Forcella Marcuoira. And there are a few more brief spots along the trail where you will briefly be hiking along a short drop-off.

About Our Experience

We did this hike in early July 2022. Earlier in the day, we drove from Venice to Cortina d’Ampezzo, so we didn’t start the hike until 12:00. We knew the trail would be crowded, but we had perfect weather and crystal-clear skies so we were willing to brave the crowds in order to do this hike. But I do believe an earlier start would have made this a much better experience.

We liked the hike from start to finish. Yes, the trail was crowded. And so was the lake when we got there. But the trail is fun to hike and the views are wonderful along the entire trail so overall, it was a great experience.

But our favorite moments, by far, were on the return hike. We had no idea of what to expect, so when we had those incredible views of the Dolomites, we were blown away. And since very few people hike trails #216 and #213, we were on our own for most of the second half of the hike. It was magical.

What to Bring on the Hike to Lago di Sorapis

Hiking shoes. We recommend wearing hiking shoes for this hike. The trail is rough and uneven in a lot of places and you will rock scramble up and down smooth, granite rocks, which can be very slippery. The hiking shoes will give you added traction which will be very helpful on this hike.

Water. Bring at least 1.5 liters of water per person. You can refill you water bottle or hydration pack at Rifugio Vandelli.

Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. Parts of the trail is shaded, but you will be exposed to the sun on the second half of the trail and at Lago Sorapis. If you plan to do the hike as a loop, most of hiking trail is fully exposed to the sun.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.

Things to Do after the Lago di Sorapis Hike

After the hike, if you still have some energy left, you can visit Lago di Misurina, a beautiful lake that is a 10-minute drive from the trailhead. There are a few restaurants along the lake and we had very good pizza at Edelweiss Pizzeria.

Lago di Misurina

Lago di Misurina

We also loved the Freccia nel Cielo cable car to Tofana di Mezzo for jaw-dropping views of the Dolomites (the station is located in Cortina d’Ampezzo).

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time of day to hike to Lago di Sorapis?

The morning is the best time of day to hike to Lago di Sorapis. Crowds will be lower first thing in the morning and once you get to Lago Sorapis, the lighting will be perfect for photos of the lake.

What time of year can you hike Lago di Sorapis?

The best time of year to hike to Lago di Sorapis is the summer months (from June through September). The trail is open all year, but snow can cover the trail from October through May, so during this time, you should only hike to Lago di Sorapis if you have appropriate gear and experience hiking in the snow.

Can you swim in Lago di Sorapis?

No, swimming is not allowed in Lago di Sorapis.

Italy Travel Guide


If you have any questions about how to hike Lago Sorapis, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Italy

DOLOMITES: For more great hikes in the Dolomites, check out our hiking guides for the Cadini di Misurina viewpoint, the Puez-Odle Altopiano, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Braies, and the short but very sweet hike to Rifugios Averau and Nuvolau. And in our article Best Hikes in the Dolomites, we cover 15 epic trails in the Dolomites.

ITALY TRAVEL GUIDE: To read all of our articles about Italy, check out our Italy Travel Guide.

VENICE: Learn more about what to do in Venice in our Venice Bucket List. To help you plan your time, we have a detailed one day Venice itinerary and a 2 day Venice itinerary.

LAKE GARDA: Learn what there is to see and do in Sirmione in our article Best Things to Do in Sirmione. We also have information on how to visit Riva del Garda.

MILAN & LAKE COMO: Learn how to visit Milan on a day trip or while traveling between the Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice. Lake Como and Bellagio are two more beautiful places in Italy that are great day trip destinations.

ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for three different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.

 

How to Hike Lago Sorapis Dolomites Italy

 

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Comments 6

  1. Avatar for Ofer
    Ofer

    Always great to read your stories and see your amazing pictures!
    The image you took of the steep descent in the loop trail looks pretty scary. Does it make sense to reverse the trail (anti-clockwise)?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Yes, it’s very steep going down the hill right after Forcella Marcuoira. We slipped a few times and really had to take our time. But I’m glad we went down it and not up it. I imagine it would be very tough going up it.
       
      If you do the hike in the opposite direction, you will have about a 500 meter (1600 feet) ascent over the first 4 km (2.5 miles). It will be an uphill hike until you get to Forcella Marcuoira, but then mostly downhill past that point. As you descend to Lago di Sorapis, you will be walking towards it so the view will be awesome. So yes, you could reverse the loop, just the first few kilometers are going to be tough. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Kathy D.
    Kathy D.

    Hi Julie, would love to hike in the Dolomites, but am trying to use public transportation. Is this possible? If so, how would I get around. Thanks! Love all your guides.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      There are two areas of the Dolomites. The area around Cortina d’Ampezzo is in the Belluno province. There are public buses here but we saw very few running and heard from others that sometimes the buses in this area never showed up. We experienced this same thing trying to use public buses in Tuscany and Amalfi and had a terrible experience.
       
      However, near Selva di Val Gardena, which is in Trentino, we saw tons of public buses. I don’t know why the province makes a difference but if you are dependent on using the buses, I think it is best to explore the area around Selva di Val Gardena. In this area you can hike the Puez-Odle, visit Seceda, and visit Sassolungo. A bit farther away is Alpe di Siusi and Val de Funes.
       
      Based on our experience and what we saw, the Dolomites is an area of Italy where I think it is best to rent a car. There are a lot of great hikes to do around Cortina (like Lago Sorapis, Cinque Torri, and Tre Cime). We have literally waited several hours for a public bus to show up in Italy and that just ruins the day. So, if you can rent a car for a few days, I think that’s best.
       
      Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Bronna Lipton
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author

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