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

Lago Federa, Croda da Lago Hike, Dolomites
  • Trailhead: Ponte di Rocurto (1700 m)
  • Distance: 13.1 km circuit
  • Time Needed: 5 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 872 meters ascending/descending
  • 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: Hotel Piccolo Pocol (budget) in Pocol, or Jaegerhaus Agriturismo (budget), Camina Suite & Spa (midrange), or Dolomiti Lodge Alverà (luxury) in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
  • 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, this trail is labeled as easy. We think that’s misleading. Though the vast majority of the hike is quite easy, the descent from Forcella di Formin to Val Formin is a challenge due to the steep, rocky terrain. 

This difficult descent across boulder fields requires extra caution and experience in unstable/uneven terrain.


Where to Start the Croda da Lago Circuit Trail


Ponte di Rocurto Trailhead

Ponte di Rocurto Trailhead, Trail 437, Dolomites
Ponte di Rocurto

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. 

Ponte di Rocurto trailhead GPS: 46.505767, 12.078458

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 

Car | 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 

Bus | 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 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)

Ru Formin Bridge, Trail 437, Dolomites
Ru Formin Bridge

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. You can hike clockwise or counter-clockwise around Croda da Lago. We chose to hike clockwise.

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. 

Related: Tofana di Rozes Circuit Trail

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. 

Lago Federa and Becco di Mezzodì, Croda da Lago, Dolomites
Lago Federa

For the best views of Lago Federa and Hershey’s-kiss-shaped Becco di Mezzodì, head to the lakeshore and 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 the lake surrounded by an alpine pasture. Looking in the opposite direction of the lake, you’ll see the Cristallo Group, Sorapiss Group and Antelao. The 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)

Trail 434 to Forcella Ambrizzola, Croda da Lago hike, Dolomites
Trail 434

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.

Sorapiss Group, Trail 434, Croda da Lago Circuit, Dolomites
Sorapiss Group

Forcella Ambrizzola to Forcella di Formin (45 minutes)

Mondeval Pasture, Croda da Lago Circuit, Dolomites
Mondeval

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. 

Lastoni di Formin, Croda da Lago hike, Dolomites
Lastoni di Formin

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 to Val Formin, Croda da Lago, Dolomites
Trail 435

Trail 435 swoops down scree fields between the limestone plates 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. 

Forcella di Formin to Val Formin, Trail 435, Croda da Lago, Dolomites
Trail 435

The difficulty of this descent is often downplayed in hiking guides. Be careful and bring hiking poles.

Val Formin, Croda da Lago Circuit Hike, Dolomites
Val Formin

After 45 minutes of serious hiking, sparse larch trees signal the beginning of Val Formin. A friendly, dirt path ushers you down the 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 

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.


Cortina d’Ampezzo

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: Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Lago di Sorapis, Tofana di Rozes Circuit, Passo Giau to Mondeval, Sentiero Bonacossa Trail and the Cadini di Misurina Viewpoint, Passo Falzarego and Rifugio Lagazuoi.

Budget | Jaegerhaus Agriturismo is a highly-recommended farm stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The farm is located 2 km north of the town center in a dreamy location, facing Punta della Croce and Croda del Pomagagnon. Expect a delicious breakfast buffet. You can also eat dinner in their restaurant, which features ingredients sourced directly from their farm. Rooms are clean, cozy and designed in an alpine-rustic style. 

Midrange | Camina Suite & Spa is a modern and stylish accommodation, managed by a caring and kind staff. Highlights of staying here are the bright, spacious suites, lovely furnishings and design accents, balcony views, and air conditioning. The breakfast is outstanding. Don’t miss out on their spa facilities (may need to be booked in advance due to COVID regulations). 

Luxury | Dolomiti Lodge Alverà is a splurge-worthy hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo, featuring an on-site spa and pool, on-site restaurant, and plush suites. Guests rave about the hotel’s mountain views, breakfast, wellness facilities, and design. 

Look for accommodation in Cortina d’Ampezzo.


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