This is the Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih, a mountain lodge nestled quietly in the Triglav Lakes Valley in Slovenia’s Julian Alps. Even framed by the gray skies and daunting clouds –elements I generally find inviting– this was one of the most beautiful mountain scenes I’ve ever witnessed. And it took less than four hours to reach on foot – by any measure, a just reward for breaking a sweat.
Most who visit Slovenia and are eager for a taste of its mountain scenery set aside a day to visit the well-known alpine lake at Bled or its slightly more remote cousin Lake Bohinj, just another 25km up the road in Triglav National Park. When the weather allows, both offer up some very memorable vistas of this eastern Alpine range.
But if you really want a feel for the rugged mountains the country has on offer you need to head for and into the hills. Hiking is the national pastime in Slovenia for good reason. And while its peaks don’t quite reach as high as those of the ranges in neighboring Italy and Austria and nearby Switzerland and Germany, experienced and well-traveled alpinists will tell you that Slovenia is anything but Alps-lite.
The hike to the Triglav Lakes Valley, named for the country’s highest peak (2,864m/ 9,396ft) and the national park in which it sits, is among the most popular. The valley is named for a system of (at least) seven lakes that sit in this high mountain valley. The lodge (1,685m /5,528ft) that serves as the destination for this hike rests at the valley’s southern edge at the Dvojno Jezero, or Double Lake in the heart of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park.
There are several trails to the hut; to kick off this occasional Slovenia Day Trips series I picked the one which begins in the Blato Valley near Bohinj; it’s considered the easiest — and my knees have reached a point where they cry out, sometimes loudly, for easy. It’s also extremely picturesque, and a well-rounded representation of the geography and geology of the area, passing through high alpine meadows, valleys and pastures and lush deciduous and evergreen forests.
The hike is about seven hours round trip, making it an easy and fairly relaxed day trip if you’re spending the night in Bohinj or Bled. It’s possible from the capital Ljubljana (1hr 15min drive one way) in a day, too, if you’re an early riser, have your own transportation and set out when the days are still somewhat long. (Pulling it off in a day from Ljubljana using only public transport is probably next to impossible.)
A breakdown of the trail, along with a few dozen images, is below. As with any mountain area, weather can change quickly. As you’ll see in the photos, we began under nearly clear blue skies which later changed to shades of gray. Fortunately, that didn’t equate to rain.
The nitty and the gritty:
Trailhead: Forest service road near Blato Valley (Planina blato), 1147m (3,763 ft)
Destination: Triglav Lakes Mountain Hut 1685m (5,528 ft)
Duration: Approximately three-and-a-half hours; distance about 6.5km (4mi), one way
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate with no technical climbing involved but it does include several steep inclines, particularly in the initial portions
Elevation Gain: 535m (1,755 ft); along the trail, 700m (2,296 ft)
Weather forecast (Slovene): [Stara Fužina][Ribčev Laz][Bohinjska Bistrica]
Getting there (arriving by car or bus from Bled): When you arrive in the village of Ribčev Laz at the eastern edge of Lake Bohinj, turn right towards the village of Stara Fužina. Follow the signs for Planina Blato (Blato Plateau) and the Voja Valley (Dolina Voje). Soon after leaving Stara Fužina you’ll reach a toll stop where you’ll pay a 10 euro parking fee (cash only). From there, follow the narrow and windy forest service road for another 15 minutes to the trailhead near Planina Blato. If the lot is full, parking along the road is allowed.
Planina pri Jezeru
The first hour is mainly an ascent through forest until you reach Planina pri Jezeru –in Slovene, planina is mountain and jezero is lake– a large clearing with several shepherds’ huts and a larger mountain lodge, the Koča na Planini pri Jezeru (1,453m/ 4,767ft). The lodge only operates during the summer months when food and drink is also available.
About 30-40 minutes later you’ll come upon Dedno Polje (1,560m/ 5,118ft), a high altitude pasture area where you almost expect gnomes to emerge from the tiny doorways of the shepherds’ huts.
Though most of the huts have been converted to weekend vacation dwellings, locals still produce cheese and other dairy products here which are available for sale during the summer months. One of the huts also has refreshments available in-season (June-September).
Čez Prode Trail
From Dedno Polje, it’s about another hour and 45 minutes to the Triglav Lakes Valley lodge.
When you reach the Planina Ovčarija (fifth image below), you’ll have a choice between two trails: ‘čez Štapce’ to the right or ‘čez Prode’ to the left. From this direction, I recommend sticking to the left and taking the Prode route where the ascents are more moderate and the views exhilarating, and then later returning via the Štapce pass, as illustrated further below.
Triglav Lakes Valley
And finally, arrival.
A hut was was first built here in 1880 by an Austrian hiking club, rebuilt in 1955 and expanded in 1988. It currently has four dining rooms with a capacity of 150, 13 rooms with 30 beds and another 13 rooms with 170 bunks in all. Additional info and a price list is here.
Štapce pass trail
As mentioned above, I suggest returning via the ‘čez Štapce’ pass over Tičarica (below) that looms over the valley. The initial ascent is very steep –one portion has cables for support– but it only takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the crest where you’ll be afforded your final views of the valley.
Start and Finish
And finally, a couple snaps near the start. This is parking at about 10am on a late September Sunday morning. Fortunately, the trail didn’t feel crowded at all. And below, the trailhead.
A couple more useful links:
- The Alpine Association of Slovenia (Planinska Zveza Slovenije)
- hribi.net – detailed mountaineering and hiking info for most Slovenian mountains and ranges, and also includes info on mountains in neighboring countries
And finally a few closing thoughts about this new occasional Slovenia Day Trips series: As I alluded to above, my knees are on a serious decline. I was reminded of just how serious when we made our way back down from this walk. And again the following day. And the day after that.
I only mention this because as much as I would like to plan otherwise, I know that this series can’t and won’t focus on hikes in the mountains. It’s unfortunate because there are so many beautiful areas in this tiny country covered by hills and mountains, most of which I’ll never get to see. That said, bike riding and hiking that doesn’t involve steep descents is still very much in the cards. Hopefully for a very long time. So, if there is anything or any place you’d like me to focus on in the future, get in touch and let me know. I’m always happy to oblige.
All images © Bob Ramsak 2015. All rights reserved. High resolution images available.
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