Hiking In The Soča Valley, Slovenia
Soča River is an alpine river in Slovenia’s only national park, Triglav, and it’s the most beautiful river in Europe! At least that’s how we feel about it after visiting Soča Valley the second time. We’ve never ever seen such an incredibly turquoise river as Soča. Do you believe this color exists for real? Here it is, it does!
Then there’s a long and amazing hiking trail along the river, surrounded by the picturesque peaks of the Julian Alps. The road coming from Vršič Pass, the highest mountain pass in Slovenia also continues in Soča Valley, and it runs quite close to the river for the most part. Several picnic spots and hanging bridges gave us reasons to stop from time to time.
Tragic past and beautiful present
It’s hard to believe that this magical place has such a bloody and tragic past. During First World War it was the scene of twelve battles: the battles of Isonzo (after the Italian name of Soča which is Isonzo) between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Over 300 000 soldiers lost their lives here, and they say that the color of Soča turned red.
Today, everything reminds us of thriving life there. Soča is incredibly turquoise as it’s rushing through the valley. It’s a popular place for outdoor activities like hiking or rafting. And it offers countless hiking trails, short and long, easy and more strenuous. We don’t even try to tell about them all, but we’d like to show you both the most famous ones and some lesser known gems.
How to access Soča Valley
First of all, this area is not such a well-known part of Triglav National Park as easily accessible Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj. We had to drive the challenging, narrow but very scenic mountain road through Triglav to reach Soča Valley. In exchange, it’s usually way less crowded than the area around Bled and Bohinj.
Though there are summer shuttle buses to help hikers in the valley, we could only recommend renting a car to get to Soča Valley and then get around. We love road trips, and having your own car is the only way to stop wherever and whenever you want to – and you will want to stop in Soča Valley quite often.
Hiking to the spring of Soča
The source of Soča River is located high up in the Julian Alps – at an elevation of 876 metres (2874 feet) in Trenta Valley. There’s a short trail leading to the source and we were curious to see it.
We parked at Koča pri Izviru Soče mountain hut which is right next to the road a couple of kilometres before the village of Trenta. A lovely and easy trail starts at the hut and runs along the little cascading falls of baby-Soča. But the last section gets more challenging. The spring lies deep in a cave, and we climbed up supported by chains to see the crystal clear pool.
Less than an hour was enough for us to do this hike.
The Soča River Trail
So there’s a trail along Soča River starting from its source and ending at the town of Bovec. The overall length of Soča River Trail is about 20 kilometres. It’s a moderate trail, but you possibly won’t be able to do it within one day – or you can if you don’t have to go back or have a way of transport to get back to the trailhead.
But the good news is that it’s very easy to break this trail into several pieces. There are lots of pullouts by the road that give access to it, so you can hike shorter sections. If you prefer very short hikes, just stop at the footbridges, hike a bit along the river near them, then continue to the next footbridge.
Footbridges offer the most amazing views of the river, anyway! We stopped at most of the them while driving through the valley, even if only for a few minutes.
We hiked sections of the Upper Soča Valley Trail on our first visit, and the lower section just north of Bovec on the second, including Velika Korita, the Great Soča Gorge. Both turned out to be wonderful day hikes.
If we have to choose a favorite section then it’s Great Soča Gorge. The gorge itself is not that easy to access, but the trail along the river led us to several viewpoints – some of them were short detours from the main trail. And there’s also a footbridge where you can safely look down into the surprisingly narrow and deep gorge.
Slovenia’s highest waterfall: Boka
You can’t drive through Soča Valley and not see Boka, the highest waterfall in Slovenia. Mainly because it can be already seen from the road. But there’s also a short walking trail to a viewpoint that gives a somewhat closer view. 106 metres high Boka is impressive, the only thing we missed is that it’s not possible to actually walk to the bottom of the waterfall.
Short hike to Virje waterfall
Virje waterfall can be reached on a short trail near the small town of Plužna. We actually parked at the golf course and started on a paved road that led us to the trail.
And you can get as close to Virje as you want, even jump into the pool if you dare – we warn you it’s very cold. Anyway, it’s a place where you find refreshment on a hot summer day.
If you visit Virje and Boka, don’t miss Globoski potok either
This one is a lovely, easy and lesser known waterfall trail. Multi-tier Globoski potok waterfall is about an hour return hike from the town of Žaga. The trail leads through the forest, and we also got distant views of Učja canyon deep down below us. It’s worth a bit of extra time if you visit famous Boka and Virje waterfalls, because it’s quite close to them.
We are not yet out of lovely waterfall hikes, far from it. Actually, they are so easy and short we wouldn’t even call them hikes rather just nature walks. Anyway, the next one took us to what we think the most picturesque waterfall is in the Soča Valley: Slap Kozjak. It’s hidden in a narrow canyon – so narrow that only a few light beams could reach the waterfall and the pool from above.
The short trail through the forest starts from Kobarid. If you drive to the direction of Drežnica, you’ll soon notice a paid parking lot (and quite possibly, tons of other cars), and that’s where it starts. It took us about 20 minutes to reach Kozjak waterfall.
There’s an enchanting glen in Slovenia with a boardwalk running along the blue water with countless small cascades. It’s called Vintgar Gorge and it’s a popular and busy place near Lake Bled. And for sure, it’s popular for a good reason.
However, what a lot of people don’t know is that Vintgar Gorge is not the only place of this kind in Slovenia. Tolmin Gorges hidden in the Soča Valley (near the town of Tolmin, obviously) is also a fairy tale glen with clear water in all shades of blue. A 2 kilometres long, easy and rewarding loop led us through Tolmin Gorges. It’s the only attraction in the Soča Valley where there’s entrance fee to access.
The parking lot right by the entrance is a paid one, but several other lots that are located a bit further are free.
A tranquil loop walk at Šunik Water grove
Now let’s see some fascinating places that we found only on our second visit. One of our favorites is an easy 1 kilometer nature walk at Šunik Water grove.
Šunik Water grove is a series of pools, rapids and waterfalls on Lepenjica Stream, one of the crystal clear mountain streams that flow into Soča River. Here only blue and green exists. The gentle breeze and the sound of cascading water. We walked here late in the afternoon which made it even more peaceful.
A note if you like photography: this is the place to experiment with a tripod and photographing water and waterfalls. You want to spend hours here, anyway.
Conquering Mount Krn
There are plenty of peaks to conquer from Soča Valley, however, most of them are quite hard to do so. Trails to 2000+ peaks are usually long and technical. There’s one exception: 2244 metres high Krn peak.
It’s said to be an easy trail, but that is to say it’s not technical. No wire ropes, no helmets, no climbing needed. It’s still a demanding full day hike with about 1300 meters elevation gain. We started it at Kuhinja Mountain pasture which is already high up, and that meant great views all the way.
Even though we thought we had great views, we realized we saw nothing when we actually reached the peak. There a breathtaking 360 degrees panorama opened up! It’s one of the best mountain panorama we’ve ever seen. To the north, all the peaks of the Julian Alps can be seen, with Triglav peak (2864 m) towering above them all. To the south, we could see as far as the Adriatic Sea.
There’s a mountain hut not far from the peak where you can rest and eat on your way up or down. This was basically the only place where we could let our baby boy sit on a blanket and crawl around a bit, other parts of the trail are too steep for that. (Oh, yes, we’re proud to tell you that we hiked to Krn with our 10 months old boy in the carrier, and yes, it’s safe to do so, but it’s very tiring.)
60 metres deep Koseč Gorges are neither well-known nor easily accessible. But a well-maintained and easy, 4.2 kilometres long circular trail offers great views of the gorge at certain points. Also, we could admire four waterfalls on the Stopnik Stream on that same trail.
It starts at the chapel St. Just in Koseč, and takes about 1-2 hours to complete. Parking is a bit tricky, because streets are narrow and space is not really available in Koseč. You’ll better park outside of the village at a pullout. However, we asked one of the locals about parking, and he didn’t only speak English but also allowed us to park before his house.
Sopota and Krampez Falls
If you hike the loop through Koseč Gorges, then the waterfalls of Sopota and Krampež are really close. I mean, on foot. They’re like 15-20 minutes walk from Koseč and pretty enough so that they‘re worth the extra walk.
If you like steep ladders and challenges, you can climb up to the top of Krampež waterfall. Then it turns out you only see the lower section of the waterfall from below. The climb itself takes like 5 minutes. (And no, we didn’t do it with a baby carrier. We climbed up separately instead, while the other was taking care of our little Tomi at the pool of the lower fall.)
Možnica / Nemčlja Gorges
Možnica (also called Nemčlja) stream flows into the Koritnica River which later flows into the Soča River. All of them are clear, rushing and stunning!
Možnica Gorges are hard to access, but a small section of them can be seen from a footbridge. The footbridge can be accessed on a pleasant forest trail with some nice peak views. It starts from a small parking area behind Kluže fortress. On the way towards Log pod Mangrtom, look for a dirt parking lot on the left side.
It took us about 2 hours there and back. Though it’s nice, it’s not nearly as picturesque as Tolmin or Koseč Gorges.
How did we find Beri? It was raining all day, so we gave up on hiking to any of the peaks. Instead, we were looking for a shorter trail that we can do late afternoon once the rain (almost) stopped. Beri waterfall is exactly that. It starts from Tolmin, offers some views of calm Soča River and ends at a 25 metres tall waterfall.
Where to stay
Soča Valley is a remote paradise with no big cities nearby. There are lovely mountain towns though – like Bovec or Kobarid where guest houses and apartments are privately owned. You can also find some campgrounds in the valley. So are you ready to go?
This post was updated in July 2020.
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Bea is the co-founder of Our Wanders. She’s the writer and the trip organizer, and she’d love to help you plan your own amazing trips! She likes hiking, good novels and chocolate, as well. Her motto is: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)