The Best Hikes In Cortina d’Ampezzo, The Dolomites

The Dolomites have been at the very top of my bucket list for many years and this summer I finally got to tick them off. It is safe to say they didn’t disappoint, I would go as far as claiming that the region is home to the most beautiful and dramatic mountain scenery I have ever seen. A bold claim indeed! I chose to base myself in Cortina d’Ampezzo due to its prime location – it is surrounded by the Tofane, Sorapiss, Cristallo, Sexten and Croda dal Lago mountains. It is a convenient hub from which to explore the region, just a short drive out of town you will have access to lakes, peaks, plateaus and mountain passes that contribute to the best hikes in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The Best Hikes In Cortina d'Ampezzo, The Dolomites - Zanna van Dijk provides the lowdown on the area.

When planning your trip, here are some key points to bear in mind:

  • If your goal is to hike, I would recommend visiting between late June and late September.
  • The nearest airport is Venice, which is a 2 hour drive away – and yes I definitely recommend you rent a car.
  • A typical weather pattern in the Dolomites is clear mornings, cloudy afternoons and potential thunderstorms as the day continues on. Wake early and pack clothing for all eventualities. 

The Best Hikes in Cortina d’Ampezzo:

Lago di Sorapis Loop

Distance: 13.8km

Elevation Gain: 921m

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

The Route: All Trails

A beautiful and challenging loop hike which goes past the famous Lago di Sorapis and its neighbouring rifugio (a great spot for lunch). The route climbs up above the lake and passes through the peaks of the neighbouring mountains, adding in some sweaty but rewarding ascents and descents to get your heart pumping. The views from the top are incredible! Lago di Sorapis itself is known for its milky blue waters and stunning surroundings. Personally, it was my favourite lake I saw in the Dolomites and I highly recommend giving it a visit. Just ensure you set off early to avoid the crowds and enjoy a peaceful trail. 

Lago Federa Loop

Distance: 12.7km

Elevation Gain: 907m

Difficulty: Intermediate 

The Route: All Trails

This varied and beautiful hike explores the small Croda da Lago chain of mountains and has phenomenal views on every turn. The highlight is of course, Lago Federa, a stunning lake with a rifugio located on its shores, but it also passes through rolling pastures, lush forests and rugged mountains. If you want to experience a range of different landscapes, this is a great trail to add to your itinerary.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo & Misurina Viewpoint Loop

Distance: 12.9km

Elevation Gain: 634m

Difficulty: Intermediate

The Route: All Trails

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop hike is potentially one of the most iconic walking routes in the Dolomites, so it isn’t to be missed. It circles the famous three peaks, providing outstanding views along the way and passing four unique mountain huts where you can refuel as you go. This particular route also includes an extension to the mind blowing Misurina viewpoint – my personal favourite viewpoint I visited in the Dolomites. It gives incredible panoramas of the most dramatic, rugged and wild peaks in the region. Again, make sure you arrive super early (I am talking under 30 minutes of the gates opening) to be able to get a parking spot.

Tofana Loop

Distance: 15km

Elevation Gain: 1046m

Difficulty: Advanced

The Route: All Trails

This lesser known hiking route is not for the faint hearted, taking in over 1000m of elevation gain it is sure to get your legs burning. However, it is well worth the extra effort as you will be rewarded with a quiet trail, stunning views and wild landscapes. The loop pases by two rifugios where you can refuel, not to mention numerous historic military fortifications nestled under dramatic mountain peaks. I didn’t get a chance to complete this hike but it is at the top of my hit list for when I inevitably return.

Nuvolau & Cinque Torri Loop

Distance: 14.6km

Elevation Gain: 804m

Difficulty: Intermediate

The RouteAll Trails

This intermediate loop hike passes through two beautiful areas. Firstly it ascends up and conquers the peak of Nuvolau, giving impressive views along the way and passing by Rifugio Averau. It then circles through the famous Cinque Torri area, home to five iconic rock towers, another rifugio and numerous war ruins. In fact it is so densely covered in war relics that it is commonly referred to as an “open air museum”, so be sure to take your time wandering around this plateau and learning about its rich history. It is also worth noting that if you’re short on time or your legs are tired, you can catch a gondola directly up to Cinque Torri.

Other Sights & Activities:

There are an abundance of outdoor and adventure activities available in the region of Cortina, more than you can shake a stick at! However, there are two key ones I want to bring your attention to:

1) Lago di Braies. Perhaps the most famous lake in the Dolomites, this popular spot is under an hour’s drive away and is home to crystal blue waters surrounded by towering mountains. It is undeniably stunning, but also extremely busy. Be sure to book parking in advance, take your swimwear and arrive early in the day to avoid the peak of the crowded chaos. I promise it is worth the effort!

2) Via Ferratas. A via ferrata is a mountain route equipped with fixed ladders, cables and rungs to allow non-expert climbers to access steep and tricky areas. You simply pop on a helmet and harness, clip in and climb. Now a global adventure activity, the Dolomites is where they originated from, and as a result has an abundance of via ferrata routes. Cortina is no exception, so if you want to try something new and push yourself to new heights, check out all the details of the local routes here.

Safe travels & happy hiking,

Zanna x

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