I have hiked to the Lago Sorapis recently, and I had a great weather when started, but on the way back it changed. So I share here what I experienced.
Lake Sorapis is one of the most popular places to visit in the area around Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites. In fine weather this is a simple walk, but the weather can change very rapidly. So the dangers of hiking there include the following:
- Sudden storms.
- Danger of hypothermia.
- Lightning danger.
- Slippery sections if the route is wet.
- Exposed sections on the route.
The first four are obviously inter-related, in a calm weather and with the dry ground the route is not problematic. But there are a few steep and exposed sections, with fixed cables and with ladders in place.
How to get to lake Sorapis from Cortina d’Ampezzo?
When you are in the city, you should look for the road in the direction of the pass Tre Croci which is in the north-east from the city. This is a short drive but the road is steep, probably around 7-8 kilometers.
Exactly on the pass Tre Croci there is a hotel with the name Hotel Passo Tre Croci. So it is best to leave the car at a parking before you get to the hotel. It is a few hundred of meters before you get to the pass.
The actual start of the route to Lago Sorapis is after the hotel. You have to walk around 150 meters or so and you will see the table on the right side of the road. This is why most people leave their cars there, so that area is always crowded by cars on both sides of the road.
The AllTrails map below shows some details, you can see more if you follow the link.
How long is the hike to Lago Sorapis?
Note that there are more routes, but only one which I followed can be clearly seen if you zoom into the map. Though you can see some other routes as well if you look closely.
The other routes can be seen in the map which I had in the backpack and which I can recommend, this is Tabacco number 03, Cortina d’Ampezzo e Dolomiti Ampezzane.
If you follow some other routes, you can walk all the way from Cortina to the lake. But this implies climbing much higher and then descending towards the lake. So these are far more demanding routes in every sense. I did not walk them, and do not wish to say anything more because I do not have my own first-hand experience there.
All in all, the length will depend on which route you choose. The shortest described here will take you up to two hours in one direction. This is the route 215, the sign is shown here below, you will see it by the road when you start the route.
Is there a hut on the route to lake Sorapis?
Oh yes, and this is a real one. Have you even seen popular places where you need hours of walk and when you get there, you see cars parked? They come from some other side. This is always a sort of disappointment for me. I have seen this recently on the Federa lake in the nearby area.
Well, this is not so here. You have the hut Rifugio Alfonso Vandelli, it is shown in the picture below. There are no roads to this hut.
You will enjoy its pleasant terrasse outside. I ordered a coffee and paid in cash, all other people were paying with their mobile phones. This is something that I am not able to understand.
But anyway, I could hear the man saying “incredibile”. I guess this was because he met a dinosaur that morning. Who is so crazy these days to carry cash up the mountain?
I started from the parking at 7:40 am, and I was at the lake at 9:25 am. So this was 1:45 minutes in total, and I was surprised it was not longer.
The sign at the beginning of the route was telling me I would need far more time. I did not really try to go fast, from what I remember I passed only a few people on the way up.
The weather was perfect as you have seen from the pictures above, a clear sky and it was not warm. I stayed at the lake for 20 minutes or so, had my breakfast there and then walked to the hut where I had a coffee.
I did not want to stay long because I expected the weather to change, this was what I understood from the weather forecast.
On my way back I met hundreds of people going up. Some were families with kids, I have seen some carrying their toddlers in special backpacks. So my concern about the weather looked ridiculous, and I myself slowed down and had a rest a few times.
But when I was around 500 meters before the hotel, the storm started. I was ready for it as I had a full waterproof layer, a jacket and pants, plus a waterproof poncho.
However, the storm started so fast that I was wet even before I was able to put all that stuff on me. And I was even having a shelter under a tree.
The wind was such that the poncho was flapping around making it useless, and the water was getting into my clothes from every side.
I was in the car very soon, removed all wet stuff, and went to bed which I had inside. Namely, I slept the night before in the car. Well, the video below will show you what happened after that, so keep watching till the end.
One of the pictures above shows a small cave under the stone, so make sure that you remember such places when you are in such an environment, it may come useful.
There are trees in one part of the route, see the picture, but trust me this does not help, I have experienced this myself.
Can I swim in Lake Sorapis?
The answer is no. There are signs which explicitly tell you not to do this. The water is ice cold, so it would be ridiculous to do this in any case.
So, is it hard to hike Lake Sorapis?
All in all, I would say no. This is a pleasant environment, and a big part of the route goes through the forest. There is a hut at the lake so this helps. You do not have to carry food and too much water.
Why is Lake Sorapis blue?
I would not pretend to know the exact answer, I am a theoretical physicist and not a geologist or chemist. The turquoise blue is indeed extraordinary.
I have seen some statements that this is because of the high lime content in the water. But this is probably not true.
Why I am saying this? Well, this is not the only lake with such a color. You can see one more under the summit of Pizzo Filone in the Livigno area, I climbed the mountain recently.
Guess what, the rock there in the Livigno area is not a limestone, those are silicate based mountains. Yet the lake has the same color.
So the color of Lago Sorapis is probably due to minerals, but which of them it is hard to say. After searching around I have found the explanation that would be as follows.
The turquoise color of such mountain lakes is due to the presence of “glacial flour” in their waters. The term glacial flour describes a fine-grained powder of silt and clay produced by grinding and pulverizing of rocks.
But it is important to stress that there are no glaciers in the vicinity of the mentioned lakes, so this “flour” is generated in different ways. In any case, these “flour” particles remain suspended in the water.
Now, when sunlight hits the water, the particles absorb the shorter wavelengths of the spectrum, such as purples and indigos, while the water absorbs the longer wavelengths like reds, oranges, and yellows. What remains as the scattered light reaching our eyes is mainly composed of blues and greens, creating the distinctive turquoise color of these mountain lakes.
How high is Lake Sorapis?
The lake is at an elevation of 1923 meters (6309 ft). Observe that the route starts at around 1800 meters, so it may look that you do not have much to climb.
Indeed on the maps the route may look rather flat, but there are several up and down sections that add to the elevation difference.
Is Lago di Sorapis worth it?
I have seen many lakes in the Alps in my almost 40 years of mountaineering. Lago Sorapis is not unique, but this is a lake in a very popular area, and this makes it very known and popular among tourists.
There is a rock at the edge of the lake, and there was literally a queue there for photo-shooting sessions. Girls would take all possible and impossible poses to take a photo.
In short, it is worth it, and yes, if I have a chance I shall take my grandson there.
To summarize this text, hiking to lake Sorapis in good weather is a simple walk-up with just a few exposed passages, and everybody can do this. So you will see many people when you are there, and do not expect to be alone anywhere on the route. But start early if you want to be sure to have a place to park the car.
Things can be very different in bad weather. I was close to warn some people to go back, because storm was predicted for that day, and indeed at some moment it became clear it was coming. The air became misty and clouds were forming. But I remained silent, and I regret that.
Later, in a Facebook group, in a reply to somebody who asked about lake Sorapis, I made a comment about irresponsible people who go with kids in spite of a chance for a storm. Of course, as usual, there was a person willing to argue, this was her reply:
The “little rain” was in fact a strong hail storm. So instead of arguing with her, I decided to write this post, it may be useful for some people.
There are more texts about the Dolomites here in the site, so have a look around if you plan to visit this particular area in the Italian Alps.
Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have questions, there is a comment box below. I have been in the Dolomites quite a few times and I might be able to help. Have a nice day.