This one’s been a long time coming. When I first visited the Cortina area, the place on the top of my list was Lago di Sorapis, but it was in the off season and busses weren’t running and we couldn’t easily get to the trailhead without a car. So finally this time around, I got the chance to revisit the area and I made sure I got to visit back this time. From pictures, it looked like the most surreal blue in an epic mountainous basin. I was not going to let this opportunity pass again. It was made even better when I secured a spot at the Rifugio Vandelli. This meant I would be able to watch sunrise and sunset at the gorgeous lake, which would be much harder otherwise. Without the reservation, to come here for golden hour would mean hiking in the dark back or from town since the busses don’t run that frequently and it’s a sizable distance from town!
To get to Lago di Sorapis, it’s about a 4 mile hike in. But due to booking rifugios last minute, I ended up linking a via ferrata adventure prior to the hut. So after already traveling 13 miles and 4000+ ft on uneven terrain, my legs were incredibly tired. Plus, I was carrying my overnight gear, at least it wasn’t a full backpacking pack weight, just the weight of extra clothes, a couple snacks, and camera gear but somehow it still adds up. But I was running out of time because I was really cutting it close with the time I finished the via ferrata, having to end on an uphill before the next hike. I gave myself 3.5 hours for 8 miles, which is easy enough if it were all downhill, and pushing the uphill speed to faster than 2 miles an hour. I had to get to the rifugio by 7pm if I wanted dinner, or else they wouldn’t serve it and my stomach would growl all night long.
It helped that in my mind I broke up the 8-ish miles by an uphill 4 miles to finish the via ferrata loop and then another easier 4 miles to the hut. Being able to maintain motivation mentally is key for long hikes, at least for me. But that last 4 miles were not just flat, the uphills felt like the hardest ever. Most people were hiking out for the day, and I was one of the few people going up just before dinner time. I tried to go as speedy as I could, but probably a lack of hydration and nutrition affected me severely. So bad that I ended up drink from a little runoff next to the trail, hoping I wouldn’t get giardia.
In the last mile, every step my legs felt like iron weights. Poles would have been so helpful! Or planning better so I wasn’t pushing so hard. But at 7:01pm I finally walked into the doors of the rifugio. Scared I was too late for dinner, I ended up talking with a nice host who wasn’t the same person leaving voice messages for me on WhatsApp. He made me feel welcome and that I was perfectly on time since they were just taking orders.
I hustled to put my stuff down on the last bed available before finding a seat a the table, only to realize I was sitting next to the same family I talked with earlier 2 nights ago from Rifugio Lavaredo. They were were parents with a teenage daughter and seemed to have such a good relationship. Made me think that sometimes older parents raise more calm children, and what fun it was that they were doing a little hut-to-hut trip. I think they’re from Colorado, which seems very fitting for how adventurous they are. We talked with some Portuguese people and they were able to converse in Spanish. How cool it is that knowing different languages can bring people together to learn about different cultures while you’re visiting a foreign country! Me and the German guy could not track most of the conversation, but sometimes they’d translate back to English for us. Funny how sometimes Europeans know 3 languages but can still struggle to find a common language between other Europeans.
To my surprise, the hut was not located right at the lake. But I was heavily encouraged to check it out before I went to bed, so I took a little short walk over to the lake. And wow, I was blown away. Pictures do it no justice, but I’ll just leave it at that. At the height of summer, there’s plenty of wildflowers, but also, I could imagine how beautiful it would look when the larches here turn golden yellow, contrasting that of the aquamarine lake. In the morning, I took a slow lap around the lake to soak it all in, enjoying the alpenglow in the distance and on Punta Sorapis. In the distance I saw Tre Cime and Misurina, where I was just a day or two ago, completely mesmerized by the beauty I was surrounded by. I wasn’t ready to leave it. And honestly my plan had gone from ambitious to low key. My original goal was to leave early and complete the full Punta Anna via ferrata but listening to my tired body, I decided against that. Instead, I’d do a much shorter via ferrata and enjoy the day.
Walking out from the hut, I passed so many day hikers. It truly is like the Rattlesnake Ledge hike of the Dolomites. I’m not sure if there’s a more popular or crowded hike than this one. But it was probably still less crowded than the most crowded in Washington. Nonetheless, there were still cars parked a half mile down the road next to the trailhead since there’s no true parking lot. I wonder how the infrastructure for trails in Europe differ from the US. But I was happy that I got to experience this popular trail with a bit more solitude in general with staying at the hut.
The Rifugio Vandelli is only open in the summer. You can book by email or WhatsApp. They’re fairly responsive on WhatsApp and I could text them even on my hike to let them know I was coming late.
I think all the rooms here are dormitory style. Cash only here. Bring a sleeping bag liner and hut slippers because they don’t have enough for everyone.
The easiest way to get to Lago di Sorapis is starting from the Passo Tre Croci trailhead, which is a stop along the 30/31 Dolomiti Bus route. The other main trailhead is from Valbona, which starts at a lower elevation but is technically shorter. Otherwise, there’s plenty of other ways to get there, like taking a via ferrata from the other side of the Punta Sorapis. A good map of the area is on the Dolomiti website. I used it in conjunction with my phone app.
The trail is extremely popular, so be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect both nature and other people on the trail.