We’ve been planning to write a comprehensive seasonal hiking guide to Central (or Eastern?) Europe since ages. We live here, we hike here A LOT! So let’s see the best hikes to do in early spring first.
Oh, and whether it’s Central or Eastern Europe, we’ve already written a long post about that. In a nutshell, we are going to write about hiking in Austria, Czechia, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and our home, Hungary in this series. And we call them Central European countries.
What’s early spring like in Central Europe in general?
First of all, when is early spring? It’s from late February until mid-April in general. In some years it’s really warm and sunny, in others it’s almost like winter. We remember that a couple of years ago we actually had a snowstorm in March. It can happen.
But early spring is usually the time for the first wildflowers to bloom. Snowdrops and snowflakes are the first ones and also the most well-known. Sometimes you can see them already blooming in February. But seasonal forests are still bare in early spring, trees start to blossom only in late April. This also means lots of small flowers carpeting the bottom of these forests, because trees don’t block the sunshine yet.
Where to go hiking?
Aim for hills and mountains up to the height of about a thousand meters. They’re either snowfree, or the snow is not too deep, and hiking in it is a fun challenge by this time of the year. Or they might be muddy because of the slowly melting snow. Then get used to the fact that you’ll be very dirty at the end of the day. 🙂 These medium-high mountains are usually covered with seasonal forests, so wildflowers are in bloom there in early spring.
Melting snow in the high mountains can be dangerous in spring. High mountain trails are often closed until late spring or early summer, anyway. Early spring is still skiing season there, or you can try snowshoe hiking.
But let’s see where to go hiking then. We won’t name all the medium-high mountains or hills that could be suitable. But we name those that we know and love, and we hope to give you some great ideas where to start.
Hunt for pasque flowers in the Buda Hills, Hungary
The most straightforward hiking destination if you visit Budapest is the Buda Hills. Our favorite time to hike there is early spring and autumn. And the most beautiful early spring flower to find there is protected pasque flowers. These violet or blue beauties are particularly frequent in Hungary, including the Buda Hills.
Some of the most scenic trails lead to Nagy-Kevély, Nagy-Kopasz or Hármashatárhegy peaks. And the best time to find pasque flowers is exactly from February to April.
Balaton Uplands National Park, Hungary
Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe and a national symbol of Hungary. Spending a week at Lake Balaton each summer is a very Hungarian thing to do. However, we like visiting it the most in spring and autumn, when hiking in Balaton Uplands National Park is the most pleasant. (Okay, there’s another reason, too: it’s crazy crowded in the summer.) This national park covers the northern shoreland of Lake Balaton and offers countless scenic and easy hiking trails. Our favorite ones are the loop around Tihany Peninsula and the hikes to the basalt mountains of Badacsony and Szent György Mountain.
Read our detailed guide about Balaton Uplands National Park here!
Bükk National Park, Hungary
We can hike in the Bükk Mountains in any season, but we like it the most in spring. Bükk Plateau, a large karst plateau with rock formations and natural viewpoints is especially pretty in spring, when millions of tiny, colorful wildflowers are in bloom. Some of the famous peaks to conquer are Istállós-kő (with 959 meters, this one is the highest), Tar-kő, Pes-kő or Bél-kő.
Read our detailed guide about Bükk National Park here!
Pohorje Mountains, Slovenia
Slovenia’s wonderful Alps are still under deep snow this time of the year, but there’s a region that offers some nice hikes – and some lovely towns, as well. We think of Maribor and its Pohorje Mountains. Pohorje is a mostly wooded, medium-high mountain range south of the Drava River. Its highest peaks rise above 1500 meters. Spring arrives here with lots of wildflowers, and it’s an ideal season to visit waterfalls, too.
Like Skalca waterfall (Slap Skalca in Slovene), an easily approachable beauty. It’s a short hike from a pullout by the road from Maribor to the Areh skiing resort. Keep an eye out for the sign that indicates it. The path leads through the forest, then a series of wooden stairs took us down to the bottom of 16 metres high Skalca waterfall.
Our favorite waterfall in Pohorje was Veliki Šumik though. The way there is longer and more challenging, but we had no doubt it was worth it. It started as a forest path from the Areh skiing resort. There was some snow and thousands of blooming snowflakes and crocuses. The last section is down in the valley of Lobnica stream. It’s steep, so be careful if it’s muddy or icy. Luckily, some chains are there to help you on the way. And Veliki Šumik is a mighty reward. If you dare, you can continue to Mali Šumik waterfall on an even steeper path.
Mátra Mountains, Hungary
Mátra Mountains is the only place to find a peak higher than a thousand meters in Hungary. Well, exactly one peak: Kékes, reaching to 1014 meters and being the highest in the country. Hungary is not the land of high mountains. But this is the reason that they’re suitable for hiking all year and full of blooming flowers in early spring.
Mátra is also home to one of the few waterfalls we have in Hungary. 10 meters tall Ilona Waterfall is the tallest natural drop of water in the country.
Mecsek Mountains, Hungary
Mecsek is a mountain range in the southern part of Hungary, close to Pécs. With its highest peak being 682 meters, it’s maybe more of a hill than a real mountain. But it offers dozens of pleasant forest trails.
The most scenic one is probably the trail to Babás szerkövek on Jakab Hill (Jakab-hegy in Hungarian). It starts from the small village of Kővágószőlős and leads to exciting rock formations. Zsongor-kő is the best viewpoint to see both the rock formations and the countryside below. We ended the hike at the abandoned ruins of a monastery. It takes about 3-4 hours to do it there and back.
Medvednica Nature Park, Croatia
Last but not least, we have a favorite early spring hiking getaway in Croatia, as well. If you visit Zagreb, it’s very close: Medvednica Nature Park. You can access it by car or by bus from Zagreb.
Its highest peak is Sljeme with 1035 meters. Bikčevićeva Trail is said to be the nicest to access it, and that’s what we followed. It led us in the forest where trees were bare and flowers were blooming. It takes half a day to reach the summit and get back, so it makes for a nice, short trip from Zagreb. Look for Bikčevićeva staza to find the trailhead. It’s the name of the bus station near the trailhead, and you also find a parking lot nearby.
More seasonal hikes in Central Europe
Well, that’s it for early spring. Stay tuned for the next piece about fabulous late spring hikes, we’re working on it!
Anything we missed? Where do you go hiking in early spring?
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