Slovenia Day Trips: Hiking to Grmada and St. Jakob Hills
I’m sometimes accused of having my head in the clouds. I don’t mind so long as I’m afforded the opportunity to peak out from time to time. That’s especially important here in Ljubljana, where late autumn and early winter often veils the Slovenian capital in a thick, gray, misty fog. Enter Grmada and St. Jakob Hills.
Indeed, we, and those who visit, needn’t venture far to find ourselves above the clouds, as illustrated in the image above, taken from the summit of Grmada Hill.
As the crow flies the peak is just 15 kilometers northwest of Ljubljana, but on days like the one pictured here, it may as well have been on an entirely different world.
Slovenians are avid walkers, hikers and trekkers, with plenty of trails packed into nearly every corner of the country that appeal to and provide offerings to those of every level, from the technically difficult ascents in the Julian and Karavanke Alps to the more accessible hikes in the Alpine foothills. That’s what this post is focusing on, where options to stick your head above the clouds abound.
Case in point: The Grmada, and St. Jakob’s (Jacob) Hills, located in the Polhov Gradec Hills –the Polhov Gradec Dolomites to the locals— located less than a thirty minute drive from Ljubljana. These are just two examples of hundreds that dot the tiny country.
They’re not, by themselves, considered ‘top’ tourist attractions, but that shouldn’t keep visitors to Slovenia from exploring them if the opportunity should arise. They’re extremely popular with locals and the views can be sublime, as I hope is adequately shown in the nineteen photos here.
I’m highlighting Grmada and St. Jakob together for three reasons: first, as you’ll see in some of the photos below, they’re relatively close to each other and both can easily be hiked over the course of the same day by hikers in relatively decent shape; second, because they both afford beautiful panoramas in all directions; and third, because I hiked both very recently. And took lots of photos from above the clouds.
Let’s begin with with Grmada, which is the Slovenian word for pile or pyre, or more vividly, a stake, as in where accused witches were set aflame and burned alive. (Oh yes, that went on in Slovenia, too.)
Grmada: The nitty and the gritty
Trailhead: Dedicated parking lot in the village of Topol pri Medvodah (651m / 2136ft) Destination: Peak of Grmada Hill (898m / 2946ft) Duration: Approximately 1hr 15min one way Difficulty: Easy, with just a few moderate and short steep inclines, along a well-marked path Elevation Gain: 247m ( 810ft); along the trail, 300m (985ft)
Trail: It’s well-marked and well-trodden, so don’t worry too much about losing your way.
From the parking lot head south through the village on the road towards the village of Bela; after about ten minutes you’ll reach a fork. There head right, where soon the car track will narrow and eventually turn into an ascending walking path through a pleasant forest.
After leaving the initial forested area, the trail takes turns hugging the edge of two hills and following a rolling ridge line — which means ample views north, south and east along the way.
Nine more photos from or of Grmada below.
St. Jakob Hill: The nitty and the gritty
Trailhead: Dedicated parking lot in the village of Topol pri Medvodah (651m / 2136ft) Destination: Peak of St. Jakob (806m / 2645ft) Duration: Approximately 45min one way Difficulty: Easy, along a well-marked path, mostly across a meadow. The only incline is over the final few hundred meters Elevation Gain: 155m ( 508ft); along the trail, 165m (542ft) Trail: As you’ll have seen in some of the photos above, St. Jacob’s Hill isn’t far from Grmada, and makes for a nice and picturesque destination of its own.
There isn’t any need for too many notes for this segment since your goal, the 17th century hilltop church, will mostly be within view.
Even if you plan to do just do one of the hikes, it’s easiest and most convenient to start and end both in the village of Topol pri Medvodah where parking is plentiful — as are a handful of well-established restaurants.
The busiest and most popular is Gostilna Na Vihri ( gostilnanavihri.com | Facebook), or Na Vihri Guesthouse, known for its variety of regional fare, locally-produced spirits and graciously-sized desserts. And the views to the south into the evening are phenomenal.
From Ljubljana you can arrive from two directions: via Medvode to the north, or via Polhov Gradec from the southeast.
Public Transportation: There is no bus service from Ljubljana to the village of Topol pri Medvodah, but you can also reach Grmada from Polhov Gradec (roughly 90min one way), which has a bus connection hourly to and from Ljubljana for the 35min journey, starting at 05:20 outbound on weekdays. The last bus back to Ljubljana is at 21:43 on weekdays, and 18:45 on weekends. Be sure to check the Ljubljana bus station timetables before finalizing any plans.
By Bike: I’ll write in detail about Polhov Gradec at a later date, but in brief: the village is about 20km from Ljubljana and I’ve bicycled there many times, a few of those combining it with a hike, so that’s a very viable option. If you decide to try this route, pick up a local hiking or topographical map (Ljubljana and its Surroundings 1:50,000) either at the village’s visitor’s center, or better yet, at a book store in Ljubljana.
Here’s a common bicycle route, with Ljubljana’s Three Bridges as the starting point. There’s a QR Code here if you want to download it to your mobile device.