Lakes of Foses, plateau of Sennes and Fodara.
I open here this article about the hike from Malga Ra Stua to Foses, Sennes, Fodara Vedla.
Foses Sennes Fodara: this magnificent walk takes us to the glacial basin of the Fòses lakes, to then continue towards the Biella, Sennes and Fodara refuges, and finally descend to Malga Ra Stua, the starting point of our excursion.
The Lakes of Fòses are a truly beautiful glacial basin that offers stunning views. Moreover, continuing on to the Biella, Sennes, and Fodara refuges will not only provide a chance to experience the region’s rich alpine culture but also the opportunity to see some of the most spectacular views of the mountains.
While the hike is not particularly difficult, it is quite long, so it’s essential to be well-prepared and have good physical fitness. Additionally, there are options for shortening the route if needed. Overall, if you are up for an unforgettable adventure, this hike is definitely worth considering.
Brief information about the places you will visit.
- Departure from Malga Ra Stua, located in the Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites. The refuge is characterized by a unique beauty and typical Ampezzo architecture. In the vicinity of the malga, it is possible to observe cows and horses grazing, while the vast meadows and surrounding gentle hills give a deep feeling of serenity.
- Alpe di Fòses is an enchanting natural oasis not only for its exceptional position at high altitude, but also because it represents the ideal place for those looking for a peaceful refuge where they can immerse themselves in the peace and beauty of the surrounding landscape. This place, pleasant and solitary, has been used for centuries by the Ampezzo people as pasture for their flocks.
- To the north, the Cròda del Béco overlooks the Biella refuge. The mountain owes its name to a colony of ibex which has settled on its slopes since the 1970s. Its German name “Seekofel” simply means “peak on the lake” (on Braies Lake). The mountain, clearly visible from Cortina, marks the border between the provinces of Belluno and Bolzano.
- The Sennes plateau, and its namesake refuge, are located in the heart of the Fanes-Senes-Braies Natural Park, surrounded by marvelous Dolomite peaks. In addition to the stunning views, the plateaus of Fanes and Senes are characterized by karst phenomena in the most varied forms. Moreover, the flora present in the whole area is of notable interest, including some rarities such as the beautiful Everlasting of the Dolomites. Specifically, Sempervivum dolomiticum, the symbolic species of the Ampezzo Dolomites Park, is one of the endemic species with a restricted area to the Dolomites. Its habitat is the limestone slabs of the karst plateaus of Foses, Senes, and Fanes. Therefore, a visit to this area is not only a feast for the eyes but also an opportunity to learn about the unique and diverse plant life of the region.
- Fodara Vedla is a locality located just above Pederü, near San Vigilio di Marebbe, where for many years there have been tabià and üties (malghe) which served as a refuge for animals and shepherds who spent the summers at high altitudes. Even today, the farmers of Marebbe take their animals to graze on the pastures of Fodara Vedla during the summer. In this area, it is possible to enjoy the scents of spring flowering which paints the spectacular landscape with a thousand colors.
The hike takes about 6 hours.
Malga Ra Stua – Lago di Fòses: 2h 15min
Lago di Fòses – Rifugio Biella: 45 min
Rifugio Biella – Rifugio Sennes: 45 min
Sennes – Rifugio Fodara: 45 min
Rifugio Fodara – Malga Ra Stua: 1h 30 min
Some variations to the route allow to shorten the time considerably.
Elevation gain is about 720 meters. The length is about 17 kilometers.
The hike takes place in the Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites and in the Natural Park of the Dolomites of Fanes Sennes Braies, north of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The two areas form a single protected area, straddling the provincial and regional boundaries.
Our circuit trip starts and ends at Malga Ra Stua, located in the Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites. Ra Stua is easily accessible by car during the low season, or by using the shuttle service during the high season when the road to Ra Stua is closed to traffic (usually from the first Saturday in July to the first Sunday in September).
The large shuttle car park is situated 4 km north of Cortina, 200 m south of the Hotel Fiames, on the SS. no. 51.
To get to Malga Ra Stua from Cortina by car, you need to take the road that leads to Dobbiaco and stop at the first bend, known as “Tornichè”, which is approximately 8 kilometers from the center of Cortina. This locality is called St. Uberto, named after the patron saint of hunters. At this point, there is a large car park and you can access the narrow road that leads to Malga Ra Stua.
I’ll just provide some of the main points of the route, as the trail is well-marked with signs, making it easier to find the right way to go.
From Malga Ra Stua to Campo Croce
After parking your car, follow the obvious road (path no. 6) heading north through lush green pastures and some fir woods. This first section is comfortable, with a barely noticeable incline, and perfect for warming up your muscles.
In no time, you’ll arrive at Ciànpo de Croš (Campo Croce) where the Boite, the stream that flows through Cortina, has its source. This is a crossroads at an altitude of 1,758 m. Turning left, path no. 9 heads west and ascends to Fodara Vedla, but we continue straight on.
Further up, the Cason de Cianpo de Croš (a small hut owned by ‘Regole d’Ampezzo’) is a sight to behold. Just past the crossroads, another junction shows us the way.
We leave the easy road that leads to Val Salata in the direction of Sennes and take path no. 26 on the right. The trail initially crosses a meadow and then ascends steeply into the woods. This is the most challenging part of the entire hike.
From Campo Croce to Lakes of Fòses
The itinerary leads from Cianpo de Croš up through the woods, passing the Crépe de Socròda to the right, and continuing on level ground and uphill until Croš del Griš.
The cross was erected as a memorial to Simone Alverà, also known as Griš, who was brutally killed by his wife during the mid-1800s. After ascending a few more meters, the path briefly descends before continuing on level ground towards the direction of Lago di Rémeda Rossa, and finally reaches the Small Lake of Fòses (Lago Pizo de Fòses) before eventually leading to the Great Lake of Fòses (Lago Gran de Fòses), which sits at an altitude of 2,142 meters.
The karst phenomena, marked by the reaction of rainwater with limestone rock, and the presence of rare and endangered floral species are some of the characteristics of the glacial basin of the Fòses lakes.
The area of Foses, Sennes and Fodara is also known for its marmot population and ancient stories and legends. In the 1700s, the region was infested with snakes, and Pope Pius VI wrote an Apostolic Brief to rid the “mountain of Infosses of poisonous and noxious animals and unclean spirits”.
From a mountaineering perspective, the Fòses area is also notable. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, the legendary Ampezzo guide Angelo Dibona made his first ascent here when he was still very young. At that time, he was the assistant of the shepherd at the Cason de Fòses, and attempted what was his first real climb. You can read the full story of his ascent here.
Today, a charming hut called the Cason de Fòses still welcomes shepherds during the summer months and is located on a hill near the lake.
From Lake of Fòses to Biella and Sennes refuges
From Cason de Fòses we take the path that runs alongside the lake on the west side, heading north. After a short uphill stretch, you reach the Biella refuge in about 40 minutes.
AT THIS POINT OF THE HIKE THERE ARE A FEW SHORTCUTS AVAILABLE
– Three options –
- If you want to shorten the route, you can do without going to the Biella refuge and head directly to Sennes. In this case, from Cason de Fòses you have to walk west and go up a slope and then continue up to the “Ota del barancio” (the curve of the mountain pine).
Here the path crosses the dirt road that climbs from the Val Salata. Continuing slightly uphill in a short time you arrive at the Sennes refuge.
- Where the path crosses the dirt road that climbs from the Val Salata, you can go downhill for a few meters up to a second crossroads. Turning right you can head towards the Fodara Vedla refuge, avoiding going to the Sennes refuge.
- As a third option, the shortest ever, you can continue descending along the Val Salata to Malga Ra Stua.
The Seekofel Hütte, or Biella refuge, situated at an altitude of 2,327 m, is a key junction for many hiking trails within the Ampezzo Natural Park and the neighboring parks of Sennes, Fanes, and Braies. The refuge, constructed from stone, blends harmoniously with the surrounding rocks. Near the refuge, at the base of the Croda del Béco, a path splits off, offering a route to ascend the characteristic peak and admire the stunning panoramic view.
In Ampezzo, the mountain known as Croda del Becco is still colloquially referred to as “el Cu de ra Badessa”, which roughly translates to “the Abbess’s butt”. The mountain’s rounded shape used to resemble other shapes, including the “B” side of the Abbess of Sonnenburg, the energetic warrior Verena von Stuben.
After taking a well-deserved break at the refuge, continue west on the dirt road that passes below the sloping limestone layers of the Croda del Béco. After a short distance, you will reach a junction where it is recommended to leave the dirt road and turn right onto path no. 6, which leads up towards Col de Ra Siores.
Interestingly, the entry šióra, pl. šióres, meaning “lady” or “rich woman”, does not refer to the local Ampezzo women, but only to foreigners. This toponym possibly commemorates the first female tourists who visited the Dolomites (as explained in the book “Pallidi nomi di monti” by Lorenza Russo).
At the top of the climb, you soon see the Sennes refuge, reachable in a short time.
From the Sennes refuge to the Fodara Vedla refuge
Situated at an altitude of 2,126 m, the Sennes refuge can be found within the Fanes-Senes-Braies Natural Park. The Palfrader “Corjel” family constructed the refuge between 1937 and 1939, and it has been open for both summer and winter use since its inauguration in the 1940s.
In 1962, the discovery of a water source beneath the summit of the Col de Riciogogn led to significant changes at the refuge. A pipe measuring approximately 4 km in length was installed to provide water to the mountain hut, along with a generator for electricity and a wood boiler for a heating system. In 1968, a 450-meter airstrip was constructed by the military, and around the same time, an off-road vehicle road leading to Sennes was built. A major renovation of the refuge took place in 1985 to give it the appearance it has today.
The journey from the Sennes refuge to the Fodara Vedla refuge is almost entirely flat. I recommend taking a shortcut path rather than following the entire dirt road, which will not only allow you to bypass some bends but also provide a better view of the area’s colorful flora.
Walk along the long esplanade of the former military airport until you reach the dirt road, and then follow it briefly until you come across the clear shortcut path on your left leading to the Fodara Vedla refuge.
From the Fodara Vedla refuge to Malga Ra Stua
The Fodara Vedla refuge is situated in a picturesque location, surrounded by lush green meadows, stone pines, and charming alpine huts. Furthermore, its rich history dates back a century to 1923 when Hans Mutschlechner began to renovate an old, abandoned barracks.
Notably, a beautiful church built by Hans as a symbol of gratitude after his three sons returned home safely from the war is a prominent feature of the refuge.
As we approach the end of our walk in the highlands of Foses, Sennes and Fodara, we can take comfort in the fact that the path from Fodara Vedla to Malga Ra Stua is easy to navigate and mostly downhill. Additionally, as we set out on path no. 9, we soon arrive at the border of Alto Adige and Veneto, as well as the two natural parks.
Just before the border, we encounter the Rudo de Sòte or de Fodàra lake, which is fed by meltwater and is short-lived. As a result, while it is full in the spring, it is mostly dry by autumn.
You can decide whether to follow the dirt road entirely or take advantage of the shortcut that you take just beyond the border, when the dirt road turns gently to the right. In any case, you will descend through a magnificent subalpine forest of spruce and larch, which extends up to the Rudo plateau. Not considered important for the production of timber, the wood is dotted with centuries-old trees, called “ciòces”, which create an ideal habitat for wildlife, such as the three-toed woodpecker and the dwarf owl.
Fun fact: in Ampezzo the term ciocia, plural cioces means mother hen (hen with chicks). The same name indicates the fir tree with large and thick foliage, under which the mountain cattle take refuge, just like the chicks under the wings of the hen.
The descent ends in Ciànpo de Croš, at the Boite springs, where you passed in the morning. Now all that remains is to continue on the road and conclude this beautiful excursion to the lakes of Foses and the plateaus of Sennes and Fodara at Malga Ra Stua.
P.S. I thank Mr. Giovanni Novello, author of the beautiful image at the top of the page.
Malga Ra Stua
Excursions in the same area:
Croda de r’Ancona, in search of solitude.
Son Pouses, the stronghold of the Standschützen.
I close here this article about the hike from Malga Ra Stua to Foses, Sennes, Fodara Vedla.