Destination :: Lake Sorapis, Northern Italy

Located in the Italian Dolomites, Lago di Sorapis sits below the towering 10,515-foot Mount Sorapis (or Punta Sorapiss). The summit is reached via a 13.5-kilometer (8.4-mile) round-trip hike from designated parking at Passo Tre Croci. Considered medium to hard in difficulty, the hike features 2,378 feet of elevation, some narrow-exposed sections, and several small metal staircases. The challenging accessibility means the lake gets nowhere near the same footfall as other famous locations in the region, despite being one of the most beautiful.

I arrived a day early, pulling into a nearby parking lot at hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina (just a few hundred meters from the trailhead). The hotel’s outdoor toilets are available to the public and remain open until late, and the restaurant, bar, and café have a decent wi-fi connection (I spent a few hours working on site, and it was blissful having a speedy connection for a change). During my time at the café, I asked whether they thought it would be ok to camp overnight at the trailhead parking. They assured me it wouldn’t be an issue (something you need to consider in the Dolomites as wild camping is prohibited in many areas). The parking is not ideal for camping if you don’t have leveling blocks as it’s near a 10% gradient, which means sleeping can be on a considerable angle (handbrake, in gear, and a few large rocks under the wheels put my mind at ease).

In the high season, I generally arrive at tourist hotspots between 5 and 6 am to avoid the crowds and capture the sunrise, which means a 4 am start and a fully-charged head torch. The trail is well marked, but I don’t recommend heading off in the dark alone if you’re not a confident hiker. It’s also worth noting that some of the signage does not mention Lake Sorapis but instead is marked “Rifugio Alfonso Vandelli,” which is the refuge beside the lake (this is the path you need to take).

The initial stages are easygoing, but as you begin the ascent, the path becomes rocky, and in low light, you’ll need to pay attention (proper footwear is essential). However, as the sun rises, you quickly realize the hike is as much of a reward as the destination, with truly breathtaking panoramic views of the Dolomites. The plan was to reach the lake before sunrise, but I didn’t meet that objective because I stopped for photography many times along the way. If you’re happy to take your time, the hike is pretty manageable with reasonable fitness, but ensure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen as by 9 am (in June), it’s already getting hot and is pretty exposed. You’ll need to traverse a series of narrow ledges (there are hand cables in place), climb a few sets of metal stairs, and carefully navigate some steep rocky sections. The average time to reach the lake is 2 hours, but walking briskly, I was there in 1.5 (even with photography stops).

The challenge is quickly forgotten when you set eyes on the lake. Striking turquoise glacial water mirrors the majestic mountain peaks surrounding the lake, while the rising sun bathes the entire scene in soft golden light. It was a truly magical experience, and the photos cannot do it justice. I arrived just after 6 am, exploring and taking pictures for almost an hour before another visitor arrived. The return hike was equally epic, with a new set of views previously shrouded by the darkness, and despite a few stops to take photos, I was back at the van in just over an hour.

I returned sometime between 8 and 9 am, and the parking lot was full by that point. It definitely pays to arrive early. I visited many majestic locations during my two months in the Dolomites, but Lake Sorapis was easily one of the most memorable.

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No money in the bank, but gas in the tank. Our resident Bikepacking Editor Jack Mac is an exploration photographer and writer living full-time in his 1986 Vanagon Syncro but spends most days at the garage pondering why he didn’t buy a Land Cruiser Troopy. If he’s not watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, he can be found mountaineering for Berghaus, sea kayaking for Prijon, or bikepacking for Surly Bikes. Jack most recently spent two years on various assignments in the Arctic Circle but is now back in the UK preparing for his upcoming expeditions—looking at Land Cruisers. Find him on his website, Instagram, or on Facebook under Bicycle Touring Apocalypse.