Lago Federa (Lago di Federa, Lago Fedèra, Lake Federa) is a mountain lake beneath the eastern wall of Croda da Lago in the Ampezzo Dolomites, southwest of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Ringed by lacey larch trees, Lake Federa serves as the picturesque foreground for the solitary spire of Becco di Mezzodi. This enchanting landscape is somewhat of a pilgrimage site for photographers, especially in Autumn.
Directly at the lake, you’ll find the charming mountain hut Rifugio Croda da Lago G. Palmieri (2046 m). Unlike most huts across the Italian Dolomites, Rifugio Croda da Lago stays open until the end of October/early November, depending on snow conditions.
Many hiking trails lead to Lake Federa, including the Croda da Lago Circuit Trail (day hike) and the Alta Via 1 variation (long distance hike). The fastest ascent route starts at the Ponte di Rocurto trailhead along the SP638 road. However, you can also hike to Lago Federa from Ponte Pezie de Parù, Passo Giau, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Cinque Torri, and even San Vito di Cadore.
In this guide, we’ve outlined the Ponte di Rocurto to Lago Federa hike and summarized the other main ascent routes.
Lago Federa & Rifugio Croda da Lago Hiking Guide
- Trailhead: Ponte di Rocurto, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Belluno
- Distance: 4.2 km one-way / 8.4 km out-and-back
- Time Needed: 1:15 – 2 hours one-way
- Elevation Gain: 398 meters ascending
- Elevation Loss: 62 meters descending
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum Elevation: 1694 meters
- Maximum Elevation: 2092 meters
- When to Hike: Late June – 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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Where is Lago Federa
Lago Federa is located in Val Negra, high above the Ampezzo Valley, in the Italian Province of Belluno.
The lake hugs the eastern foot of Croda da Lago, a mountain chain neighboring Lastoni di Formin.
Lago Federa Hiking Map
Lago Federa Trailhead: Ponte di Rocurto
The Ponte di Rocurto (also spelled 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.
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 isn’t frequent, so please check the schedule in advance.
If you’re staying in Cortina d’Ampezzo, you can also consider taking the bus one-way to Ponte di Rocurto, hiking to Lago Federa, and then returning to Cortina d’Ampezzo on foot (trail 432). It’s a 6.2 km walk from the lake to Parcheggio Parú de Col / Campo di Sotto in Cortina.
Lago Federa Hike Description
Ponte di Rocurto to Rifugio Croda da Lago G. Palmieri (1:15 -2 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, crossing a bridge over Ru Curto and then another one shortly thereafter.
Trail 437 leads through a shady forest and then ascends along the rim of a narrow gorge.
After crossing a wooden bridge over the Ru Formin stream, you’ll soon arrive at the Cason di Formin trail intersection, at the bottom of Val Formin.
Here, the two ascending routes merge: trail 437 from Ponte di Rocurto and trail 434 from Ponte Pezie de Parù.
Follow the left path, trail 434, to Rifugio Croda da Lago/G. Palmieri.
More steep than before, the trail continues uphill, crossing scree, 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 Mezzodi, 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
Rifugio Croda da Lago (2046 m) is a CAI (Italian Alpine Club) mountain hut located on the eastern shore of Lake Federa. From the hut, you can also 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.
How to Extend the Rifugio Croda da Lago Hike
The hike to Lago Federa is just the beginning of an exciting circuit that wraps around Croda da Lago.
From the Rifugio Palmieri, the loop trail continues along the eastern wall of Croda da Lago up to Forcella Ambrizzola saddle, the gateway to the sprawling Mondeval pasture. Turning right towards the titanic Lastoni di Formin, the path steadily ascends to Forcella di Formin (also called Forcella Rossa dei Lastoi), 2462 m, the highest point of the hike.
Between the flat karst plateau of Lastoni di Formin and the vertical spires of Croda da Lago, the Croda da Lago circuit continues down fields of boulders to Val Formin valley.
From the bottom of the valley (Cason di Formin), you’ll rejoin trail 437 back to Ponte de Rocurto.
Learn More: Croda da Lago Circuit Hike
Other Ascent Routes to Lago Federa
Ponte Pezie de Parù to Lago Federa Hike
- Trailhead: Ponte Pezie de Parù, trailhead along SP638, 1.7 km west of Pocol and 13.2 km east of Passo Giau.
- Distance: 4.5 km one-way
- Time Needed: 2 hours one-way
- Elevation Gain: 577 meters ascending
- Elevation Loss: 55 meters descending
Cortina d’Ampezzo to Lago Federa Hike
- Trailhead: Parcheggio Parú de Col / Campo di Sotto in Cortina d’Ampezzo
- Distance: 6.2 km one-way
- Time Needed: 2:40 hours one-way
- Elevation Gain: 828 meters ascending
- Elevation Loss: 0 meters descending
Passo Giau to Lago Federa Hike
The Passo Giau ascent route is the most scenic approach to Lake Federa. It follows stage 5 (Rifugio Nuvolau – Rifugio Città di Fiume) of the famous Alta Via 1 trail. From the Giau mountain pass, you’ll ascend to Forcella Giau and then cross the Mondeval pasture along the south wall of Lastoni di Formin. At Forcella Ambrizolla, the trail glides down to Lago Federa.
- Trailhead: Passo Giau
- Distance: 7.4 km one-way
- Time Needed: 2:30 hours
- Elevation Gain: 283 m ascending
- Elevation Loss: 474 m descending
When is the Best Time to Visit Lago Federa and Rifugio Croda da Lago
Best Month: October
The hiking season in the Dolomites starts in mid-late June and ends until mid-late October, depending on snow/ice conditions.
The best season to hike around Croda da Lago is Fall. In late October, the larches turn golden, and there’s nothing quite like it.
That being said, October can be really tricky. One year in mid-October, we trudged through snow to reach Rifugio Croda da Lago. Another year, conditions were perfect until the very end of the month. Each year is a bit different.
Rifugio Croda da Lago is open from June until early November, depending on snow conditions.
Related: Hiking in the Dolomites in October
Best Time of Day: Sunrise
It’s no secret that Lago Federa is a popular sunrise location, especially in late October.
Photographers flock to Lake Federa to watch the first rays of light illuminate the larch trees encircling the lake. It’s like watching an artist paint their canvas with broad, sweeping brushstrokes of gold and tangerine-orange.
The flushed-orange slopes of Croda da Lago contrast dramatically with the pastel, violet hues of Becco di Mezzodi and neighboring Rocheta peaks.
As the sun rises, the colors ripen. Violet turns to blue and orange turns to yellow. It’s a magical scene that you’ll replay again and again long after your visit.
If you decide to hike to Lago Federa for sunrise, make sure to bring a headlamp.
- Recommended Headlamp: Black Diamond Equipment Spot 350 Headlamp
More Beautiful Sunrise Destinations
Where to Stay near Lago Federa
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: 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.
Lago Federa Hiking Essentials
- Hiking Backpack: 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)
- Polarized, CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Camera Body: Sony Alpha a6400
- Mid-range Zoom Lens: Sony Vario-Tessar 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS ZEISS
- Wide angle Zoom Lens: Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-angle Zoom Lens
- Backpack Camera Clip: Peak Design Camera Clip
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