When we first visited Little Fatra (or Malá Fatra in Slovak) two years ago, we knew we would return. But we had no idea that this lush green, rocky mountain range will be one of our favorite weekend getaways. The more trails we explore, the more it tempts us back again.
Home to Little Fatra National Park, several protected areas, waterfalls, dramatic peaks and gorges, romantic Vrátna Valley, and the most fabulous ridge trails we’ve ever found, Little Fatra is a hiker’s dream. Located at a bit lower elevation than the High Tatras, weather is milder and sunnier, and hiking season is also longer here – it lasts from mid-spring until mid-autumn.
In addition, Little Fatra is much less crowded than its more famous brother, the Tatras. Mostly locals visit it, we rarely hear any other language than Slovak. Even a lot of Hungarians have never heard about this mountain range – despite Slovakia being our neighbouring country. Off the beaten track? It’s actually full of well-beaten, well-marked, wonderful hiking tracks. 🙂
We’ve collected our favorite day hikes to help you getting started with an adventure in Little Fatra:
Waterfall wonderland for adventurers: Jánošíkové Gorges loop
Jánošíkové Gorges (or Jánošíkové Diery in Slovak) is a series of three picturesque gorges: Dolné diery, Nové diery and Horné diery. It reminded us of the Slovak Paradise National Park which is full of these kind of pretty canyons with even prettier little waterfalls.
The loop through Jánošíkové Gorges is not too hard, but you should be prepared for steeper sections where chains and iron ladders help you to climb up safely. Climbing above a charming waterfall that’s right below your feet is a special experience, and we think conquering the little canyons is altogether fun. Families with children can also do this hike.
The prettiest mountain peaks: Malý Rozsutec – Veľký Rozsutec loop
Uniquely shaped Malý Rozsutec (1343 m) is one of the prettiest peaks in Slovakia in our opinion. Veľký Rozsutec (1610 m) is its taller brother, and these two rocky crowns are the most well-known peaks of Little Fatra. The only two rocky peaks of Little Fatra, actually.
There’s a challenging, wonderful loop trail that accesses both of these peaks, and offers countless views of them along the way, as well. It starts in the lovely little canyon of Horné diery, but then you soon hike above the pine forests and get those views.
Medziholie and Medzirozsutce are two large, open meadows with lots of wildflowers and magnificent peak views. Just in case you are looking for perfect picnic stops on the way.
To shorten the loop, you can skip the trail up to Malý Rozsutec, since it’s a detour anyway (you need to hike back to Sedlo Medzirozsutce afterwards, and continue the loop from there). But it was our favorite section of this trail. 🙂
The best panorama over Little Fatra: Veľký Kriváň – Maly Kriváň loop
The highest peak of Little Fatra is Veľký Kriváň (1709 m). The trail to conquer it starts from fairy tale Vrátna Valley, and it’s a steep, scenic route. If you feel you need some help, there’s a ski-lift from Vrátna that operates in the summer, too, so you can skip most of the steep climb if you choose that. Of course, we didn’t. 😛
Veľký Kriváň then offers astonishing 360 degrees view of Little Fatra. But what we liked even more is the trail from Veľký Kriváň to Malý Kriváň peak (1671 m). It runs on a narrow ridge, and it offers incredible views all the way. And you can enjoy them twice, since Malý Kriváň means a short detour. You need to hike back to Sedlo Bublen afterwards to continue your way towards Vrátna.
The largest waterfall: Šútovo Waterfall – Chleb peak loop
Little Fatra proudly presents one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Slovakia! At least we think so. Šútovo Waterfall (Šútovský vodopád in Slovak) with a vertical drop of 38 meters is the highest waterfall in Little Fatra.
There’s an easy trail from the village of Rieka to the waterfall. It’s about 1-1.5 hours walk in the forest, along a crystal clear, pretty mountain stream. At the end, there’s Šútovo Waterfall waiting for you, and you can get very close to it.
But that shouldn’t be the end of your adventure. After relaxing at the waterfall – and taking countless pictures, of course – we continued our way to Chleb peak (1645 m). A steep trail led us up there that goes through large meadows full of colorful wildflowers. We got above the forest pretty soon, and we enjoyed the scenery all the way, especially on the ridge before Chleb.
From Chleb, there’s another nice route that takes you back to the trailhead. Chata pod Chlebom is a pleasant rest stop on the way down. It’s protected from the wind, and you can buy some snacks or ice-cream in the mountain hut.
Amazing rock formations: Sokolie
Vrátna Valley reveals some of its beauties even when you simply drive through it. But there’s a trail that starts in the heart of the valley, and leads to amazing views of it from above.
The trailhead is at a larger pullout in the Tiesňavy gorge. It’s easy to notice, because there are several smaller waterfalls by the road that will make you want to stop there, anyway. Then you’ll notice the vertical rock formations towering above the valley. The first time we’ve seen them, we knew we wanted to get a closer look. That’s exactly what the first section of the hike towards Sokolie peak offers.
This first section is actually quite steep. There are hundreds of stairs carved into the rock and the slippery soil that helped us getting higher safely. But we had a bunch of excuses to stop on the way, because several viewpoints reward with astonishing panorama of the rock formations and Vrátna Valley. This was our very favorite section of this trail – even though it’s the hardest section, too.
As we left the rock formations behind, the trail continued in the forest towards Sokolie peak, with occasional natural viewpoints. Then 1171 meters high Sokolie peak offered a nice 360 degrees panorama over Little Fatra. We also noticed dark clouds approaching and heard the first thunders as we were eating our well-deserved snacks at the peak. We weren’t even surprised. Mountains and summer thunderstorms, they go hand in hand. And they usually time their arrival when we (try to) reach a peak. 😛
So we decided to continue our hike down towards the valley. We enjoyed distant storm views (storms look so exciting until you’re caught in one, aren’t they?), also some pretty peak views, including picturesque Malý Rozsutec and Veľký Rozsutec peaks. Then the storm arrived. So we finished the loop by walking along the road back to the parking lot. The nicer (and harder) route would have been to climb back to the first crossing and enjoy the views of the rock formations on our way back, too.
Off the beaten track: Poludňový grúň – Stoh loop
Last but not least, we reveal one of the lesser-known gems. Though Stefanová is one of the busiest trailheads in Little Fatra, most people choose the Jánošíkové Gorges or the loop through Malý Rozsutec and Veľký Rozsutec starting from there.
But there’s another loop through two peaks that offers amazing views, and it also starts from Stefanová. And it requires you to invest some energy in exchange. It’s a steep trail, that’s what I mean. 😀
First, we reached Poludňový grúň (1460 m). It surprised us with the best views of Vrátna Valley from above. Then we continued on a scenic ridge trail towards Stoh peak (1607 m). Stoh is a weird one. It looks rather like a giant hill than a mountain. But that 1600 meters still mean something. Wonderful panorama in the first place.
Then comes the route from Stoh to Medziholie. It offers the closest and very best views of Veľký Rozsutec peak. And Medziholie is that wide meadow we’ve already mentioned. From then on the route is the same that takes you back from Veľký Rozsutec peak to Stefanová.
Where to stay
The lovely village of Terchová is located in the heart of Little Fatra – and very close to most of the trails we’ve mentioned. We’ve particularly enjoyed staying in Homestay Gustav Halas, a privately owned guesthouse with cosy rooms, well-equipped shared kitchen, and pretty views of the mountains. Just be sure to book your place in advance in the summer. Terchová is a small village, and guesthouses fill up quickly.
If you can’t find available rooms in Terchová, you can check Párnica or Zázrivá – they are also villages close by. Or you can stay in Ružomberok or Žilina – the closest larger towns with a wider choice of accommodation.
Have you ever heard of Little Fatra? Any temptation to visit?
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This post was updated in August 2019.
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