Probably one of the least known but definitely the youngest national park in Slovakia is Great Fatra National Park (Veľká Fatra in Slovak). It’s also the wildest. It’s the land of large continuous forests – mostly beech, pine and yew tree -, long valleys and green hills. Actually, those hills are around or above 1000 meters since Great Fatra National Park includes the mountains of the Outer Western Carpathians.
Mountains of the Great Fatra don’t have sharp and dark cliffs and narrow glacial valleys like their neighbour, the High Tatras. But they have endless forests, long trails leading into the heart of the wilderness and scenic routes on the saddles of the green mountains. Some bears. Wildflowers. Solitude.
Our most memorable day in the Great Fatra is the one when we conquered both of its highest peaks: Ostredok (1592 m), the highest and Krížna (1574 m), the second highest one. Of course, it started as a casual hike in the fresh greenery on a sunny day in May…
Start the trail in Staré Hory
We easily found the parking lot and the trailhead to Krížna right behind the church in Staré Hory, a small village that’s surrounded by the mountains of the Great Fatra. The hike started in the forest, but we got some nice views of Staré Hory from above quite soon.
Then as trees got sparser we hiked through colorful meadows covered by flowers and got some pretty views of the hills and forests below. The cliffs of Majerova skala was our favorite viewpoint at about halfway to Krížna peak. From there we hiked mostly on the saddle and enjoyed panoramic views of the landscape.
Let’s conquer Great Fatra properly!
We reached Krížna sooner than we expected. But before we sat down to have our well-deserved rest (and the regular chocolate prize we give ourselves after conquering any mountain peak), we noticed a sign towards Ostredok peak. Ostredok is not so much higher than Krížna (exactly 18 metres higher), still we knew it’s the highest peak of Great Fatra. 50 minutes was the standard estimation to reach it from Krížna.
Anyway, how cool is that to conquer two of the highest peaks of Great Fatra in a single day? No, we didn’t have a rest but headed to Ostredok immediately. 😀 We hiked on the saddle all the way there which meant pretty views and a consistently ascending-descending route. By the time we reached Ostredok we felt we really earned our chocolate prize.
Getting back on a loop trail
We got back to Krížna and Pod Liskou on the same route. But from there we chose another trail to get back to our car in Staré Hory. It was a shorter route towards the small ski resort of Turecká that finally ended in Staré Hory. It mostly lead us through lovely meadows and we reached the parking lot in the village around sunset.
Well, we never get back too early from full day hikes, we just can’t help it. But it was that kind of a long, tiring, fulfilling day we can’t ever get bored of.
Best time for hiking
Any season except winter is suitable for hiking in the Great Fatra (and winter is also a great season but rather for skiing). It means the time roughly between mid-spring and mid-autumn – or even late autumn if the first snowfall comes late in the year. But out favorite time is May. By then the landscape turns green and millions of wildflowers are in bloom! Then summer comes with long bright days. Followed by the red and yellow colors of autumn.
Where to stay
Several lovely villages are located in the Great Fatra. One of them is Staré Hory where the trail starts to Krížna and Ostredok peaks. Others are Liptovská Osada, Liptovská Lúžna or Donovaly. Larger cities still close to Great Fatra National Park are Ružomberok and Banská Bystrica.
Our favorite place to stay is Pension St. Maria in Staré Hory. It offers nicely renovated, cosy private rooms in a beautiful, quiet environment.
Have you ever hiked in Slovakia? Would you?
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