Best Summer Hikes In Central (Or Eastern?) Europe
Summer is our favorite hiking season! That’s the time to take the high mountain trails and conquer those goddamn peaks. So we share our favorite summer hikes in Central Europe with you in this post.
We are those people who look forward to summer days not to go to the beach, but to head to the high mountains. Though some snow can still be found at high elevations even in June or July, high mountain trails lead through majestic pine forests and lush green meadows covered with colorful wildflowers. They lead along rushing, clear streams. And they reward us with magnificent peak views.
Clear, long summer days can be ideal to conquer challenging peaks. But there’s an important thing to keep in mind: high mountains can be harsh even in the summer. Especially when the weather is very hot, thunderstorms and hailstorms are common, and they can be very dangerous. So always check the weather forecast, and avoid hiking to peaks when you hear thunder or see lightning. Otherwise, dress in layers and have waterproof layers, as well. Even if it’s very hot in Central Europe during the summer months, the air is cooler at higher elevations, and clouds and rain can make temperatures immediately drop by about 10°C.
Now let’s see our favorite places to hike in Central Europe in summer.
High Tatras National Park, Slovakia
Slovakia’s High Tatras are our favorite hiking destination for summer. It’s close to our home in Budapest, and it’s not as well-known and much cheaper than the Alps. It’s not such a huge mountain range as the Alps either, so even local people and hikers from the nearby countries can make the busiest trails feel crowded in the summer. But oh, it’s so beautiful! It offers wild peaks, countless pristine alpine lakes and some very challenging routes, too.
Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Triglav is the only national park in Slovenia, but it’s fabulous enough so that this tiny, wonderful country doesn’t even need more. They have Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, the Julian Alps, the fairy tale valley of Soča River and lots of pretty waterfalls.
2864 meters high Triglav peak is a demanding hike. An easier and quite short trail to Slemenova špica offers amazing 360 degrees panorama of the surrounding peaks, as well. If you like waterfall hunting, you can choose among several relatively easy trails, like the one to Savica or Peričnik waterfalls.
Soča Valley itself offers fascinating outdoor activities for several days: hiking in the valley, finding Virje and Kozjak waterfalls, rafting or canyoning in the Soča River.
Read our detailed hiking guide about the Soča Valley here!
Kamnik-Savinja Alps, Slovenia & Austria
This mountain range of the Southern Alps lies in northern Slovenia, except for its northernmost part that lies in Austria. It’s kind of a barely known gem, because people don’t usually go to the Kamnik-Savinja Alps neither when visiting Slovenia nor when travelling in Austria. Why? Probably because it’s so out-of-the-way. Definitely not because it lacks beauty, challenge and breathtaking panoramas.
We spent a great long weekend in Logar Valley, one of the most wonderful glacial valleys in the Alps, and explored some of the amazing and challenging trails of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. We can tell, it’s a place that tempts you back.
Read our detailed hiking guide about the Logar Valley here!
Krka National Park, Croatia
The waterfalls of Krka are less famous and less busy than the waterfalls of Plitvice National Park in Croatia. Most people, however, take only the easy, undoubtedly beautiful trail to Skradinski Buk, the longest waterfall in the park. And they don’t know what they miss. Because Krka offers so much more!
Its Roški slap area can be accessed from a different entrance than Skradinski Buk. Roški slap is a waterfall made up of a 22.5 meters high main waterfall and countless backwaters, cascades and travertine islands. Then you can do some actual hiking, too. A trail from Roški slap leads to a viewpont where you can see Krka Canyon and Krka River. Another one ends at a small cave that hosts an exhibition about prehistoric times in the area. Needless to say that barely anyone explores this area, everyone just visits Skradinski Buk – a huge mistake in our opinion.
Read our detailed guide about Krka National Park here!
Retezat National Park, Romania
Remote, harsh wilderness. Retezat Mountains are among the least developed areas in Romania. It means astonishing, untouched nature, long, demanding trails and often bad roads. Retezat National Park has more than 20 mountain peaks over 2000 meters. The highest is Peleaga with 2509 meters.
One of the easy trails leads to lovely Lolaia Waterfall. Of course, you can continue further, if you want to: towards Retezat peak. Bucura Lake is more challenging to access, but it could be a great base to further explore the Retezat wilderness. We did the hike to Zănoaga Lake as a day hike though.
Read our detailed guide about Retezat National Park here!
Făgăraș Mountains, Romania
Făgăraș Mountains are another wild and unspoilt place that offers challenging trails. It’s easier to access than Retezat though, thanks to the Transfăgărășan Highway (road DNC7). This pretty scenic drive in the Făgăraș Mountains climbs to the second highest mountain pass in Romania’s. Its highest point is a tunnel that connects the northern and southern sides of the drive at Lake Bâlea.
Several trails start at the stops along this drive, a short one leads to 60 metres high Bâlea Waterfall. Peaks like Buteanu (2507 m) or Negoiu (2535 m) are for the adventurous ones. Beware that just like in Retezat, weather is unpredictable and quite rainy in the Făgăraș Mountains even in the summer.
Read our detailed guide about driving the Transfăgărășan Highway here!
Székely Land, Transylvania, Romania
With its own history, culture and traditions, the Székely Land is a special part of Romania. It includes Harghita, Covasna and parts of Mureș counties, and its landscapes become colorful and beautiful by the summer. You can hike to Sfânta Ana Lake, Romania’s only crater lake, walk around iconic Red Lake with stumps in the water that are remnants of a flooded pine forest or drive through Bicaz Gorge.
There plenty of scenic trails to medium-high peaks, too, like Kis-Cohárd (1344 m) or Nagy-Cohárd (1507 m). And the highest peak is iconic Madarasi Hargita with 1801 metres.
Read our post about the natural beauties of the Székely Land here!
So obvious, right? That’s why we left it to the end, because everybody heard about the fascinating high mountain trails of the Alps. They stretch across eight countries, and Austria has its fair share. But there’s another reason we mention it last: we haven’t hiked too much in Austria – yet. We’ve been to the Dachstein region, but we still just plan to hike in Hohe Tauern National Park, Stubai Valley or around Nassfeld and Tauplitz.