Croda da Lago is a small mountain chain in the Italian Dolomites, southwest of Cortina d’Ampezzo, in Belluno, Italy. It’s toothy spine looks like the back of a Stegosaurus.
The loop hike around Croda da Lago is a spectacular adventure, filled with captivating and varied scenery. From the Ponte di Rocurto trailhead, the trail ascends through forest to Rifugio Croda da Lago G. Palmieri (2046 m), a charming refuge set on the shore of Lago Federa.
Lined by elegant larch trees, Lake Federa serves as the picture-perfect foreground for solitary Becco di Mezzodì. It’s no wonder that people sacrifice precious hours of sleep to experience the sunrise here.
The hike continues painlessly to the Forcella Ambrizzola saddle (2277 m), the gateway to the sprawling Mondeval pasture.
Turning towards the titanic Lastoni di Formin, the path steadily ascends to Forcella di Formin (2462), the highest point of the hike. The Croda da Lago circuit continues down fields of boulders to Val Formin valley and then rejoins trail 437 back to Ponte de Rocurto.
Croda da Lago Circuit Hiking Guide
- Trailhead: Ponte di Rocurto (1700 m) | Google Maps
- Distance: 13.1 km circuit
- Time Needed: 5 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 872 meters
- Difficulty: Moderate – Moderately Difficult
- Minimum Elevation: 1694 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2462 meters
- When to Hike: Late June – mid-late October, depending on snow conditions.
- Where to Eat: Rifugio Croda da Lago
- Where to Stay in Pocol: Hotel Piccolo Pocol (budget)
- Where to Stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo: Hotel Meuble Oasi (budget), Baita Fraina (midrange), Hotel Villa Alpina (midrange), Ambra Cortina Luxury&Fashion Hotel (midrange), Camina Suite & Spa (luxury), or HOTEL de LËN (luxury)
- Recommended Trail Map: Tabacco 03 Cortina d’Ampezzo
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Croda da Lago Hiking Map
Croda da Lago Circuit Trail Difficulty
In most guidebooks, the Croda da Lago hiking trail is labeled as easy. We think that’s greatly misleading.
Though the vast majority of the hike is easy to moderate, the descent from Forcella di Formin to Val Formin is challenging due to the steep, rocky terrain.
This difficult descent across boulder fields requires extra caution and comfort with navigating unstable and uneven terrain.
If you wish to avoid this challenging passage, we recommend doing an out-and-back hike from Ponte di Rocurto to Forcella Ambrizzola, the gateway to the Mondeval Plateau. You may want to wander across the plateau for a while, before starting the return journey back to Lake Federa and Ponte di Rocurto.
Where to Start the Croda da Lago Circuit Trail
Ponte di Rocurto Trailhead
Ponte di Rocurto (1700 m) is the best starting point for the Croda da Lago circuit hike.
The Ponte di Rocurto (aka Ponte de Ru Curto) trailhead is located along the SP638 mountain road, about halfway between Passo Giau and Pocol, a village about Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Here’s the exact location of the Ponte di Rocurto trailhead: Google Maps.
It’s also possible to start the hike at Ponte Pezie de Parù (1506 m). However, this lower starting point will add 200 meters to your ascent.
How to Get to Ponte di Rocurto
The easiest way to get to the Ponte di Rocurto trailhead is with your own vehicle.
You can park along the road near the trailhead. Parking is free, but limited. Arrive at the trailhead as early as possible.
Pocol to Ponte di Rocurto | 4.3 km, 7 minutes
Cortina d’Ampezzo to Ponte di Rocurto | 10 km, 17 minutes
Passo Giau to Ponte di Rocurto | 8.9 km, 15 minutes
During the high summer season (mid/late June – mid/late September), you can take Dolomiti Bus Line 30/4 (Cortina d’Ampezzo – Passo Giau – Selva di Cadore – Pescul) to the Ponte di Rocurto Trailhead.
The bus stop is called Pian del Pantan.
This bus line isn’t frequent, so please check the schedule in advance.
Croda da Lago Hike Description
Ponte di Rocurto to Rifugio Croda da Lago G. Palmieri (1:15 hours)
The Ponte di Rocurto trailhead (1700 m) is marked with trail signs and a large info board. Follow trail 437 in the direction of Rifugio Croda da Lago/G. Palmieri.
The path dips down from the road, crossing two creeks.
Trail 437 leads through a shady forest and then ascends along the rim of a narrow gorge.
After crossing the Ru Formin stream on a wooden bridge, you’ll soon arrive at the Cason di Formin trail intersection.
Here, the two ascending routes merge: trail 437 from Ponte di Rocurto and trail 434 from Ponte Pezie de Parù.
This is the start of the Croda da Lago circuit trail. You can hike clockwise or counter-clockwise around Croda da Lago. We chose to hike clockwise, which is the more popular direction.
Follow the left path, trail 434, to Rifugio Croda da Lago/G. Palmieri. The right trail leads to Val Formin, where you’ll descend in a few hours.
More steep than before, the trail continues uphill, crossing a scree slope, and then zigzags up the forest.
There’s a wonderful lookout point, just off the main trail, with sweeping views of Cinque Torri, Nuvolau, Tofana di Rozes, the Pomagagnon, and the Sorapiss Group.
Soon the path levels. After passing a pasture gate, walk 15-minutes through Val Negra to Lago Federa, the famous lake beneath the eastern wall of Croda da Lago.
For the best views of Lago Federa and Hershey’s-kiss-shaped Becco di Mezzodì, head to the the northern tip of the lake. Follow the western shore around the lake to Rifugio Croda da Lago (also called Rifugio Palmieri).
Rifugio Croda da Lago (2046 m) is located directly at Lake Federa surrounded by an alpine pasture.
Looking in the opposite direction of the lake, you’ll see the Cristallo Group, Sorapiss Group and Antelao.
The managed Palmieri mountain hut is typically open from early June until the end of October/early November, depending on snow conditions.
Rifugio Croda da Lago G. Palmieri to Forcella Ambrizzola (45 minutes)
From the Croda da Lago refuge, it’s a very straightforward ascent to Forcella Ambrizzola, the saddle between Becco di Mezzodì and Croda da Lago.
Trail 434 continues steadily along the eastern wall of Croda da Lago towards Becco di Mezzodi, without any difficulty. The path also affords wonderful views of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Cristallo Group, and the Sorapiss Group.
Forcella Ambrizzola to Forcella di Formin (45 minutes)
The Ambrizzola saddle is a gateway to the large Mondeval high-alpine pasture, where Mesolithic hunters used to seasonally hunt ibex and deer. This is where the Man of Mondeval was excavated.
Rising above Mondeval to the south is Monte Civetta and the glorious Pale di San Martino mountains.
Pass through the pasture gate at Forcella Ambrizzola (2277 m) and head right on trail 436 in the direction of Mondeval/Passo Giau.
Follow the Alta Via 1 towards the massive flat-topped Lastoni di Formin (Lastoi de Formin in Ladin) for no more than 10 minutes. When the trail splits, take the right upper track, now trail 435 (direction: Forcella Rossa), towards Cima Ambrizzola, your north star.
Path 435 ascends easily at first and then more steeply across scree. As you near the Formin saddle, it gets a lot rockier.
Behind you, you’ll see the giant Monte Pelmo.
The Forcella di Formin saddle (2462 m) sits between the expansive karst plateau of Lastoni di Formin and Cima Ambrizzola.
Straight ahead, the Tofane Group beckons you north. Try to spot the Giussani refuge wedged between Tofana di Rozes and Tofana di Mezzo. From this high vantage point, you can also see the iconic Lagazuoi and Nuvolau mountain huts.
Forcella di Formin to Ponte di Rocurto (2 hours)
Trail 435 swoops down scree fields between the limestone plateau of Lastoni di Formin and the vertical towers of Croda da Lago.
As you lose elevation, the Croda da Lago pinnacles look like a cluster of half-buried push daggers.
The trail cuts through the barren landscape, squeezing between massive, fallen boulders. There are some tricky steps, requiring extra caution, and some light scrambling.
The difficulty of this descent is often downplayed in hiking guides. Be careful and bring hiking poles like these Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles.
After 45 minutes of serious hiking, sparse larch trees signal the beginning of Val Formin.
A friendly dirt path ushers you down Formin Valley to the Cason di Formin trail juncture (1845 m).
From here, turn left on trail 437 and follow the familiar forest path back to Ponte di Rocurto.
Where to Stay near Croda da Lago
Pocol is a tiny village above the Ampezzo Valley, west of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Pocol sits at the crossroads between SR48 (the road that connects Cortina with Passo Falzarego) and the SP638 (the road that connects Cortina with Passo Giau). Its close proximity to the Ponte di Rocurto trailhead (7-minute drive) makes it an attractive place to stay, especially if you want to hike up to Lago Federa for sunrise.
Budget | Hotel Piccolo Pocol is a basic, but very clean bed & breakfast in Pocol. The management is helpful, efficient, and knowledgeable about the region. The breakfast buffet features a number of cakes, croissants, breads, yogurts, sliced cheeses and meats, and of course coffee and juices.
Ringed by the Ampezzo Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo boasts a central and stunning location in the Ampezzo Valley in Veneto. You can stay here for a few days or for several weeks and never run out of things to see and do.
Budget | Hotel Meuble Oasi is a guesthouse set in the town center of Cortina d’Ampezzo, walking distance to the pedestrian zone and bus station. Book this 2-star hotel for the unbeatable price, location, spotless rooms, and on-site parking.
Midrange | Baita Fraina is a charming B&B with six rooms with balconies, 3km from Cortina’s town center (5 minute drive). This guesthouse is also home to a Michelin recommended à la carte restaurant, which serves regional cuisine. Stay here for the mountain views, the affordability, and the food.
Midrange | Hotel Villa Alpina is a centrally-located 3-star-superior hotel housed in a historic villa. Rooms are comfortable and feature parquet floors and alpine furnishings. The room rate includes breakfast and outdoor parking.
Midrange | Ambra Cortina Luxury&Fashion Hotel is a lovely boutique hotel with 24 thematic rooms and a bar in the very center of Cortina. Guests are treated to free on-site parking and an excellent breakfast.
Top Choice – Luxury | Camina Suite & Spa is a 4-star boutique hotel, 1 km north of Cortina’ town center. This intimate hotel with 12 rooms offers alpine-style suites with comfy beds and ample closet space. Rooms are equipped with nespresso machines, air-conditioning, and soundproofing. We loved the high-quality breakfast and complimentary spa (3 saunas, relaxation zone, and showers). Read our Camina Suite & Spa hotel review.
Top Choice – Luxury | HOTEL de LËN is a fresh-faced luxury hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo’s town center. Interiors blend natural and sustainable materials with fine furnishings to create a relaxing, yet refined atmosphere. The hotel restaurant showcases local Ampezzo flavors in unique and exciting ways. We loved the charming, enthusiastic staff, the rooftop spa (1 complimentary hour), and communal areas (living room, cocktail bar, and restaurant). Breakfast is included in the room rate. Parking is off-site and an extra charge. Read our Hotel de Len review.
Luxury | Grand Hotel Savoia Cortina d’Ampezzo, A Radisson Collection Hotel is a top-rated, 5-star hotel in the center of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Although housed in a historic building, the entire interior has been renovated. Rooms are delightfully modern. Stay here for the superb on-site restaurant, impeccable staff and concierge, top-notch facilities (spa, indoor pool, bar, and lobby area).
More Luxury Hotels in Cortina d’Ampezzo: Dolomiti Lodge Alverà, Grand Hotel Savoia Cortina d’Ampezzo, Rosapetra SPA Resort, and Faloria Mountain Spa Resort
Look for accommodation in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
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Dolomites Trip Planning Essentials
Use our Dolomites Travel Guide to plan an unforgettable trip to Northern Italy.
When to Hike in the Dolomites
The best time to hike in the Dolomites is between mid-June and mid-September. If the weather is stable, the hiking season can extend until late October.
How to Get to the Dolomites
Read How to Get to the Dolomites to find out how to travel to the Dolomites from the closest airports, train stations, and bus terminals.
If you’re traveling without a car, also check out How to Visit the Dolomites Without a Car.
The easiest way to travel between hiking destinations in the Italian Dolomites is with your own car. Check out our itineraries for trip inspiration:
We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.
Best Places to Stay
Figuring out where to stay in the Dolomites is probably the biggest hurdle to planning a trip to the Dolomites. We’ve created three guides to help you decide where to stay:
- Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer: best villages and towns in South Tyrol, Trentino and Belluno
- Best Hotels in the Dolomites: best boutique and luxury hotels in the Dolomites
- Dolomites Accommodation Guide: farm stays, mountain huts, wellness hotels, aparthotels
- Best Val Gardena Hotels: best accommodations in Ortisei, Santa Cristina, and Selva di Val Gardena
We suggest choosing 2-4 bases for your Dolomites trip and spending 2-4 nights in each base.
- Base 1: Val Gardena
- Base 2: Val di Funes
- Base 3: Alta Badia
- Base 4: Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Base 5: Alta Pusteria
- Base 6: San Martino di Castrozza
What to See & Do
During your trip to the Dolomites, you can go via ferrata climbing, culinary hiking, hut to hut hiking, cycling, paragliding, and so much more. We’ve highlighted our favorite experiences in Best Things to Do in the Dolomites.
Wherever you decide to stay, you’ll be surrounded by glorious mountain scenery and incredible natural landmarks.
In Best Places to Visit in the Dolomites, we’ve outlined the most iconic attractions as well as lesser-known destinations across the Dolomites, including Alpe di Siusi, Lago di Braies, Prato Piazza, and Seceda.
Dolomites Packing List
- Day Pack: Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Backpack / Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Backpack
- Grade B/C high-cut hiking boots: Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (Kati’s Boots), Women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (Sabrina’s Boots), Men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (men’s equivalent)
- CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Reusable Water Bottle: Ion Leakproof 32 oz Water Bottle
Outdoor Photography Gear
- Camera Body: Sony Alpha a6400
- Mid-range Zoom Lens: Tamron 17-70mm 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
- Wide angle Zoom Lens: Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-angle Zoom Lens
- Backpack Camera Clip: Peak Design Camera Clip
Dolomites Hiking Guides
Hiking in the Dolomites is our passion. Year after year, we love discovering new trails and expanding our knowledge of the area. For day hiking, check out Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites. For trekking, take a look at our guide to Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites and Alta Via 1.
For region-specific hiking trails, check out:
- Best Hikes in Val Gardena
- Best Hikes in Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Best Hikes in Alta Badia
- Sexten Dolomites Hiking Guide
- Puez-Odle Nature Park
Recommended Hiking Guidebook: Cicerone Guide: Shorter Walks in the Dolomites
More Hikes around Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Cortina d’Ampezzo Hiking Guide
- Lago di Sorapis Hike
- Tofana di Roses Circuit
- Passo Giau to Mondeval
- Lago Federa
- Lago delle Baste
- Rifugio Nuvolau and Cinque Torri
Sesto / Sexten Dolomites:
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo Circuit Trail
- Sentiero Bonacossa North Circuit Trail
- Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint Hike
- Torre dei Scarperi Circuit Trail
- Val Fiscalina
Braies / Prags Dolomites: