The Lago di Federa Hike – An Enchanted Lake in the Dolomites, Italy

A hike to the Lago di Federa is a great way to spend half a day in an enchanted location in the heart of the Dolomites. Not only the landscape is beautiful, but the whole atmosphere of this lake and its surroundings.

Lago di Federa, viewpoint at the end of the hike with the mountain reflecting in the lake

Lago di Federa.

The trail I am reporting on in this post is nice and quite easy even for non-experienced hikers. Starting from the Rucurto bridge, this out-and-back hike takes about one hour and a half to get to the lake.

It’s also a beautiful trail with stretches through the forest and views of some of the landmarks in the area, like Le Cinque Torri.

Le cinque torri in the dolomite viewed from the hiking trail to Lago di Federa

Le Cinque Torri, viewed from the trail to the Federa Lake.

This is probably one of the best autumn hikes in the Dolomites, due to the larch trees turning yellow in late autumn.

A bit of a fun fact about the lake: despite not being connected to any river, the water levels are rather stable due to subterranean water sources that keep feeding the lake with fresh water.

Lago di Federa in the mist with some trees reflections in the lake

Mist and clouds around the lake.


Table of Contents

Overview of the Lago di Federa Hike & Map

The hike to the Federa Lake is an out-and-back hike of almost 10km. Despite the relative length, the hike is quite easy. The trail is well maintained and presents no particular challenges for the more experienced hikers. This also considering the modest elevation gain of just 500m.

For those not accustomed to hiking completing the trail will be a little more challenging, but it should not be particularly demanding either.

I should also note this hiking trail is the shortest one, but there are several alternative options too. The main one is hiking directly from Cortina d’Ampezzo to Croda da Lago. However, the hike from Cortina to the Lago di Federa is more demanding, being 16-18km long with a total elevation gain of almost 1000m.

Board showing an Overview of the hikes available around the Lago di Federa.

Board at the trailhead showing hiking trails around the lake.

So unless you really want to hike directly from Cortina, it makes sense to go for the shorter hike and perhaps visit some other location like Passo Giau. You could even do that by Bus (details below).

Another option is hiking directly from Passo Giau and doing the whole Croda da Lago Circuit too – but this is one only for the more experienced hikers.

Anyway, here are the details of the hike from Rucurto to the Lago di Federa:

Max Altitude  2,100 m
Distance  9.92 KM
Elevation gain  500m ↑ / 500m ↓
Hike time  03:00/ 04:00  Hours
Hike Difficulty  Easy/Moderate

Here is also a map with a free downloadable GPS track of the Lago di Federa trail:

How to get to the Lago di Federa and Parking

The trailhead is located on the road to Passo Giau and it’s a very easy location to reach by car or public transport.

  • Driving Directions: From Cortina d’Ampezzo take Road SP 48 toward Passo Giau, then turn onto Road SP 638 until you reach the parking area the drive will take about 15/20 minutes.
  • Parking: free parking is available at the trailhead. while there are quite a few parking spots it pays off to be here early, especially in high season.
  • Public Transport: bus line 30/31 runs between Passo and Passo Falzarego and the stop is Pian del Pantan (Rucurto). This is only an option from mid-June until September.

The Lago di Federa Hiking Trail

The hike starts at the Ponte de Ru Curto, trail number 437. You can follow the trail up to the intersection with Trail 434, to the Croda da Lago / Rifugion Palmieri mountain hut.

The trail itself is nicely maintained. The first part is quite wide too. Also, rather flattish with a few rather gentle uphill sections. As you arrive at the intersection, the trail will gradually start to steepen.

Grave trail through the forest in the dolomites

The trail is quite wide and easy to walk on at the beginning

Here you’ll see a scree section. You’ll probably assume you’ll have to hike up that way.

Nope, look closely to your left – you should see the actual trail. Not sure about you but I usually don’t feel like wasting energy on a screen field if there is a better way, not only in terms of effort but also in terms of safety, slipping and falling on scree isn’t exactly my idea of a fun hike.

Scree section on a hiking trail in the dolomites

Look for a trail to the left here.

Anyway, the trail will be relatively steep until you reach the flat section that leads to the lake. You will not see the lake until you’re pretty much on it. you can hike all around it and I’d recommend doing it counterclockwise for the best views. The hut is located on the other side of the lake.

The Lago di Federa Photos and Photography Tips

This is one location best visited at sunrise and possibly in Autumn if you are doing it for photography. Even better, if there is no wind to catch the still reflection of the sky and the mountains in the beautiful lake.

Sure enough, that was my plan too when I scheduled my Autumn trip to the Dolomites. However as often happens in landscape photography, not much goes according to plan.

Lago di Federa, viewpoint at the end of the hike with the mountain reflecting in the lake

I was able to get only one clear sky shot..

Overcast reflection in the Lago di federa.

..before the sky turned overcast hiding the mountains.

I planned to arrive at the trailhead a couple of hours before sunrise. to start the hike and be at the lake by sunrise, catch a flaming sunrise with the mountains reflecting the mirror-like lake, surrounded by beautifully yellow larch trees.

Nope. What happened was: I arrived too late to hike for sunrise, autumn was unseasonably late and so were the larch colors – and yes, there was also a mild wind – mixed with rain. Still, this is also part of landscape photography. Make do with what’s there!

Palmieri hut and Lago di Federa on a cloudy day

The Palmieri Hut

Lago di Federa in the mist with some trees reflections in the lake

Mist and clouds around the lake.

Anyway, if you manage to have the perfect conditions, the best spots are to the west of the lake. That’s the same side you would be arriving on if you were hiking from the Rucurto trailhead. That’s where you get the best view of the lake, with the mountains’ reflections in it. You can also hike up to an elevated viewpoint on the side of the mountains.

Several interesting additional subjects catch the attention. For instance, there are a couple of rocks with threes on them in the middle of the lake. The Hut is also a nice compositional element to include in the photo, due to its idyllic setting.

Drone Aerial photo of the Federa Lake.

Drone Photo

If you have a telephoto lens, you can also catch some great views of the Cinque Torri in the distance. You can get quite a good view of them in a couple of different places. Generally speaking, the trail offers great opportunities too.

Small waterfall with a background of mountains in the dolomites on a cloudy day

A beautiful part of the trail, with a waterfall and its stunning background.

Le Cinque Torri in the dolomites surrounded by clouds, viewed from the hike to Lago di Federa.

La Cinque Torri.

Lastly, provided you comply with local regulations you could fly a drone here – though I did not find a particularly inspiring location to fly a drone at. Perhaps because it was cloudy. Anyway, it was still a great day on the trail!

Aerial drone photo of a forest in the Dolomite

Where to stay

If you are looking for a home base to explore this area of the Dolomites and do day trips, then it makes sense to stay in Cortina – either in one of the hotels in or around town, or in a Campsite. If you are in a van, you can rest for one night in dedicated resting areas, unless camping is specifically forbidden.

Alternatively, you could sleep at the Rifugio Palmieri / Croda da Lago Hut by the lake. This makes perfect sense if you are planning to photograph sunrise at the Lago Federa instead of hiking there in the dark.

I stopped there just for a good coffee after my morning hike and looked like a lovely place to stay at.

Additional Resources