Mark your calendars for this colorful Croda da Lago autumn hike in The Dolomites. It’s one for the senses!
The Dolomites offer a wide variety of treks but few shine as bright as The Croda da Lago circuit in the fall.
Flanked with Larch trees galore, this hike traverses a wide variety of landscapes.
It’s a feast for the senses!
Especially in the autumn when the golden-orange foliage lights up the landscape.
Not only is this a magnificent fall hike, it’s one of my favorite hikes in Italy.
The area around Cortina is a favorite, with endless trails to explore.
Make no mistake about it, if you’re looking to experience the rejuvenating effects of nature on your next trip to Italy, then The Dolomites are the place to be!
The Croda dal Lago Hike Basics
Croda de Lago is a mountain chain in The Central Veneto Dolomites. Just outside of the resort town of Cortina, this circuit is amongst the best hikes the area has to offer.
In fact, it’s popular with hikers, climbers and cyclists for good reason.
The varying landscape topography allows your senses to deeply immerse & connect with your explorations.
Starting point – Ponte de Ru Curto on the 437 trail
End point – Ponte de Ru Curto on the 437 trail
Distance – 9,5 km
Duration – 5-6 hours
Elevation – 750m
Difficulty – Moderate
Tabacco Map – Number 3 Cortina d’ Ampezzo e Dolomiti Ampezzane
How to Get to Croda dal Lago
My friend & I chose the higher entry point at Ponte di Ricurto on trail 437, which is located on the road to Giau Pass.
In case you don’t have a car, there’s also a bus stop with direct service from Cortina.
The parking area along the side of the road is small and fills up quickly, so arriving early has its perks.
For example, at 9 am on a Saturday, the cars were already parked along the side of the road going up & down the hill.
Getting an early start will also put you at the rifugio before the lunch rush, which means you may not have to wait for seating.
The Best Time to Hike Croda da Lago
This is an easy answer, the autumn!
The colors light up the landscape like lights on a Christmas tree.
The rifugio next to the lake also closes at the end of October, so late fall when the larch trees are a golden yellow really hits the jackpot!
An Uphill Trek to Well-Being
Leaving the starting point, you are quickly immersed in nature with the sound of water flowing down the mountain.
The rushing water is peaceful and it’s music to my ears and sense of well-being.
It’s just you and nature, and somehow the world feels so much lighter.
The hike quickly ascends and you’re surrounded by colorful larch trees.
As if the colors aren’t enough, the light peeking through the forest emits an ethereal beauty.
It’s breathtaking wandering a larch forest.
There’s a sense of peace that blankets the path and it stirs my soul.
Relax at Lake Federa
The jewel on the crown of The Croda da Lago hike is the tiny lake at the top, Lago Federa.
It makes the two hours of uphill worth the leg burn, wouldn’t you say?
At first glance, the view of Lake Federa takes your breath away.
No doubt about it, you can’t help but be awe-inspired by nature and anchored in the present moment.
But don’t just take my word for it, be sure to wander down to the shore and experience the reflections and solitude for yourself.
Lunch at Rifugio Palmieri
Surrounded by beautiful larches, a relaxing pit stop at Rifugio Palmieri is a must.
This stop is for the taste buds, so don’t miss giving yourself the gift of authentic Italian food, mountain style!
Open seasonally from June to October, a leisurely stop here allows you extra time to linger with the golden-orange hues of the larch trees too.
It’s a great for a well-deserved lunch (think sausage & polenta) or homemade cake.
Trust me, you’ll be glad you indulged.
Ascend to Forcella Ambrizolla
Tummies full, it’s up the trail from here.
The sun in shining and the vistas are inspired. The wind picks up on this section of the trail and it harks me back to other hiking adventures.
It’s funny how the senses work that way.
This trail is a popular with cyclists and we are passed more than once, as we go uphill!
From the rifugio, the path ascends towards Forcella Ambrizzola.
This is the point where the Croda da Lago circuit breaks away from The famous Alta Via 1 trail.
The highest part of the trail is Forcella de Formin.
It’s from here that you descend the bouldery back side of Croda da Lago along the 435 to complete the circuit.
Today though, I opt to back track to the lake. There is some lovely afternoon light and the lake is calling to be photographed.
A Self-Care Stop to Journal
The sweeping views on this part of the trail are inspirational, making it an ideal place to take a break for some contemplative journaling.
Finding the perfect flat rock, I pop a squat to take in the stunning view of Mount Pelmo as I write & dream away.
It’s a sigh worthy view, don’t you think!
Journaling is a great travel tool to support well-being and scenic spots like this make it all the sweeter. You can tap into your creativity by drawing, dive into your emotions or even pen a quick gratitude list.
Journaling simply meets you where you are, allowing you to practice the perfect self-care!
Wandering off Pista for Photography
Fascinated by the flow of the landscape, I wander off the trail towards the valley floor to capture some magic with my camera.
This spot is mesmerizing.
Wandering with a camera in hand it’s easy to be present and get caught up in the flow of the moment.
This right here is why I love photography and exploring new places. Even if I’d never share a photo, I love the experience itself.
Above all, I practice photography for me…because it brings me bliss!
A Lap Around The Lake for More Photography
If you love photography, definitely plan in time to simply wander the lake area.
It’s utterly enchanting.
Everywhere you look, there is a view just as beautiful as the last. You’ll want to take a photo every few steps!
This is definitely one of the best lakes to photograph in The Dolomites, especially on a sunny day. The reflections are mesmerizing.
A Relaxing Hike Down in the Afternoon Light
From the lake, it’s about a 90 minute hike back through the beautiful golden larch trees.
In the soft afternoon light, it’s magical and you’re treated to some fantastic views of the surrounding mountain ranges too.
At one point the small pine needles were shedding off the tress into the breeze and it was like the delight of the first snow of the year.
Putting my hand up to catch them in the wind, it was a joyful nature moment I won’t soon forget.
In fact, the entire day was full of moments I won’t forget. Being with nature was calming, inspiring, and renewing.
Where to Stay
Cortina is the best place to stay for the Croda da Lago hike.
This beautiful resort town has all of the amenities you could possibly need. With spa hotels, shops, bars and the best pastry shop around (Pasticceria Alvera), you won’t want for much.
I highly, highly recommend stopping by Alvera and trying something sweet. You won’t be disappointed, promise!
The best budget hotel is Hotel Mueble Oasi. This simple & clean hotel is right in the center of town and it’s one of the best bargains around.
If you’re traveling with dogs or want an efficiency suite, then The Residenza Savoia is a perfect match. I used to stay here often with the dogs and the birds-eye views from the 3rd floor are fantastic!
And if it’s wellness pampering you’re looking for, the The Rosapetra Spa is the place to indulge.
Other Near By Dolomite Day Hikes
The great thing about Cortina for a Dolomite base is that there are loads of great day hikes in the area.
For a hike with a bit of history, head to Cinque Torri.
And for a day of nature self-care coupled with a shorter hike, try Giau Pass to Mondeval Plateau.
While this Croda da Lago hike is beautiful year round, I hope you get to explore in the fall. Truly, it’s nothing less than magical.
until the next time…
…live well – travel well – be well
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