A fairytale hike in the woods: the Gorges of Federa
The Gorges of Federa trail (Ra Gores de Fedèra in Ladin language) was created by the Regole d’Ampezzo to enhance a magnificent area of the Ampezzo territory, offering a valid and spectacular alternative to the asphalt road that connects Campo to Brìte de Fedèra .
The trail begins just above Lake Pianòzes or Lake d’Oltres (1172 m) and follows the lively flow of Rio Federa, the emissary of the homonymous lake, for long stretches.
Numerous bridges allow you to cross the stream at its most impervious points, and there is a short and easy ferrata section, built with the usual skill by the Mountain Guides of Cortina.
The Gorges of Federa trail runs through an unspoiled forest and is suitable for both adults and children.
The few equipped passages have elementary difficulties but can be easily avoided by taking a short detour that offers an alternative to the original trail.
Walking slowly and stopping often to admire the waterfalls and the sudden appearances of the mountains that surround the Ampezzo valley, the time required to climb from the beginning of the trail to Malga Fedèra (1816 m) is about two and a half hours.
Once you reach Malga Fedèra, however, I recommend making a final effort and walking for another twenty minutes to reach Lake Fedèra and the nearby Croda da Lago refuge (2046 m).
Access to the Ra Gores de Federa trail
To reach the starting point of the Ra Gores de Federa trail, drive from Cortina towards Campo di Sotto and follow the signs for Lago di Pianòzes. Continue past the turnoff for the lake and follow the signs for Croda da Lago.
After a short distance, you’ll see a large parking area on the right-hand side where you can leave your car if a barrier prevents you from continuing. Note that the road is only closed during peak tourist season.
If the barrier is open, you can continue for about 400 meters until you reach an unpaved clearing where you can park. Be aware that there is another barrier here, but it only closes the road during periods of high tourist traffic. If you want to hike the entire Ra Gores de Federa trail, you must park here regardless of whether the road is open to traffic.
The trail is well-marked, so it’s easy to find your way along the Ra Gores de Federa trail. After passing the barrier, walk briefly along the road until you reach the Barìza locality, where the trail begins.
Leaving the asphalt road to your right, the path enters the forest and takes you near the first of the numerous waterfalls formed by the Ru de Federa, also known as the Ru da Comìn. After crossing the first bridge, continue uphill, following the stream. The trail emerges briefly onto the asphalt road, then re-enters the forest.
A steep zig-zag climb leads to the Pian del legname (timber clearing),a very evocative name. A short and adventurous equipped section begins, where some iron footbridges and a metal cable allow you to pass the most exciting passages just above the streambed.
Attention: if the via ferrata intimidates you, it is possible to bypass this section by taking advantage of an obvious and well-signposted secondary trail that branches off to the right just before it.
With the right caution and attention, even children can overcome this exciting crossing. For greater safety, if you wish, you can rent a via ferrata kit in town, which is especially useful for the little ones in this case.
After crossing a beautiful bridge, you start climbing, always accompanied by the sound of the stream and the waterfalls that you can now admire in all their beauty.
The waterfalls of the Federa River are not very high, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the spectacle is truly worth admiring.
Now the path enters the woods again, and then emerges onto the road near the Fedèra Bridge (1603 m). After crossing the road, we continue on our journey through the Ra Gores di Fedèra, which continue to amaze us with some characteristic passages among the rocks. In the first section, you will encounter some wooden works created by local artists, who wanted to give a touch of originality to our hike.
Exiting the woods onto the clearing of Malga Fedèra offers a magnificent view of Becco di Mezzodì and Croda da Lago. Soon we reach the mountain dairy, where after a well-deserved break, we will decide whether to continue to Lake Fedèra or not.
To reach the lake and the refuge, one must continue along the dirt road which presents some steep climbs, but it is definitely worth making this last effort. Just beyond the mountain dairy, in the woods on the left side of the road, numerous blackberry bushes grow, to the point that the entire area is called i Jajenèš .
To return to the car there are various possibilities, but certainly the drivable road is the shortest route, even if it is the least enjoyable from a hiking point of view.
Considerations on the realization of the Federa Gorge path
Water is a precious resource, but unfortunately, entrepreneurs who are not sensitive to its true value too often seek easy profits at the expense of the common good. Below is part of an article published in “Voci di Cortina”, the monthly newspaper that focuses on the city’s life, culture and current events of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
In February 2017, a new hydroelectric plant project was presented to the municipality of Cortina to exploit the Rio Federa. The idea was to pipe the stream for 1,361 meters and build the entire project on private property owned by the Regole, to their disadvantage.
The opposition of the Regole d’Ampezzo, the outcry of environmental associations and the observations of private citizens contributed to the rejection of the project by the Regional Technical Committee for the evaluation of environmental impact. The Decree of August 29, 2019, specifies — at the conclusion of the 40 pages of evaluations — that “overall, the intervention entails significant negative environmental effects.”
In practice, at the same time that the Commission rejected the (almost) draining of the stream for private use, the same site was enhanced for a collective use that respects the environment and the tourist hospitality vocation of our town.
Therefore, the realization of the Gorges of Federa path certainly did not cause any environmental damage, but on the contrary, it served to sustainably enhance a magnificent area of the Cortina territory. This is what is stated on the website of the Regole d’Ampezzo:
Among the underlying reasons that prompted the Regole to propose such an itinerary, following the positive trend of the already tested and known Canyons and Waterfalls of Fanes and Travenanzes, there is also the intention of bringing residents and enthusiasts to better understand the natural beauties related to watercourses and to make them understand the immaterial value they bring, beyond the mere hydroelectric energy they develop in their descent towards the valley, which is currently in the crosshairs of many exploiters. Energy can be produced elsewhere, while the irreplaceable beauty is a wealth that only the Ampezzo valleys and few others have.
The Gores de Federa trail starts just upstream of Lake Pianozes and ends near Malga Fedèra, below Croda da Lago, in the municipality of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
No, the short equipped section presents no technical difficulty. It is a matter of following the stream on its left bank, a few meters from the water. A metal cable serves as a handrail, while there are some grilles for the feet. Only in a couple of places, it is necessary to use the natural rock supports, but always assisted by the metal cable.
The complete uphill route takes about two hours, walking without haste.
From the first parking lot to Malga Federa, the elevation gain is about 615 m.
From the second parking lot to Malga Federa, the elevation gain is about 560 m.
If you want to continue from Malga Federa to the Croda da Lago refuge, there is an additional 230 m of elevation gain..
In Ladin language, “Gores” means “Gorges” (gorge = a very deep valley shaped like a corridor, cut by a river). Fedèra is the name of the area, and the term means “sheepfold”.
Regarding Barìza in cu
At the beginning of the Gores de Federa trail, a signpost displays the name of the place, “Bariza in cu.” Those who, like me, speak Ladin are intrigued by this toponym, as it is uneasy to interpret.
First of all, it is necessary to understand the two terms:
It was a small wooden barrel with a handle on the side, with a capacity of about 10 liters. During the time of large-scale logging, the workers were divided into groups, and each group had its “boy” (šcotón) who provided drinking water. The precious liquid was sometimes found far from the work site.
The šcotón acted as a shuttle between one lumberjack and another, and once the water supply was finished, he returned to the fountain to fill his Barìza, which he carried on his shoulder using a curved stick, the bigòl.
2) in cu:
Going “in cu” means falling.
Another thing to know to better understand the meaning of Barìza in cu is this:
In addition to a first name and a last name, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, a nickname is used. A surname may be the same for many families, not necessarily related to each other. To distinguish them, they use the soragnòn.
Some examples of Ampezzo nicknames are: Mardochèo, Grìš, Zachèo, Coleto, Lète, Deo, and also Barìza. It is therefore conceivable the barrel was dropped by the šcotón while falling, or that in the Barìza in cu area, a šcotón with the nickname Barìza fell.
1) Brìte in Italian means “malga,” a mountain shelter for animals and their caretakers.
2) In Ladin Fedèra means “ovile” and derives from “fèda,” which means “sheep.” In the wide space in front of the malga, only sheep used to graze, which were later replaced by cattle and calves.
Needless to say, it is this alpine pasture that gives the name – Fedèra – to the valley we are walking through, to the stream, to the lake from which it originates, and to everything else
3) Jajenèš means blackberry plants, Jajenéi the plant. Jàjena is the blackberry fruit, plural Jàjeneš.