Hiking with kids in Romania: Two accessible trails

Prapastia-Ursului

Winter – not that it’s been a particularly long and cold one this year, thankfully – at last appears to have given way to spring, which for those of us who live for the mountains means it’s time to put the skis away and get the walking boots out again.

Romania is blessed with some of the best walking and hiking terrain in Europe, and the pursuit is very much a national sport: walking up the nearest mountain has long been viewed as a birthright in this country, something every local does as soon as they are old enough; it is just a shame that more recently the dickhead Dorobanti cocalar brigade has begun to think that driving up the nearest mountain should also be a birthright.

Fortunately, the dickheads do not venture very far into the mountains, and you can leave them behind very easily – even on some trails relatively close to Bucharest, two of which we walked (amongst others) last year. We are highlighting these two for they are both suitable for kids (if far from easy), while also being doable as day trips from the capital (either by car or by train). They also both start and end at the same point.

The first is above Sinaia: a superb (and sparsely-walked) circuit which starts at Cota 2000, goes around the Varful cu Dor and ends up on the Drumul de Vara, which is followed down to Cota 1400. The second is at Timisul de Jos, a trail which passes an amazing series of tiroliane (by the way: does anyone know the English word for tiroliana? Deathslide? Dropslide?) and climbs up through the Canionul Sapte Scari to 1200 metres before descending via the Prapastia Ursului and Drumul Familiar.

There’s not a kid in the world – including the grumpiest of teenagers – who will not enjoy both, particularly the trail through the Sapte Scari.

Trail 1: Around the Varful cu Dor

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro
Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

You will need to start early, as access to the start of the walk is via the old two-stage Sinaia cable car. The first leaves at 08:30. In good weather or at the weekend it’s wise to get here early, as the queues after 10:00 or so can be long.

At the top, you need to head out of the cable car station and head for the Valea Dorului chair lift. Built in the stone age the chair-lift is infamous as being the slowest in Romania (which, as you can imagine, is a fairly tough competition). Walk down one of the slopes on either side of the chair lift and after a few hundred metres you will pick up the actual hiking trail on the left-hand side, well marked with a yellow cross.

valea-dorului-chair-lift

Follow the trail – gentle at this stage – and before long all signs of ski lifts and such like disappear. You will likely not see another soul all day, beyond the odd shepherd with his high-altitude flock. As you are well above the tree line here there is little vegetation and the surroundings are generally gorgeous, with extensive and rather spectacular views in every direction.

varful-cu-dor-trail

After walking a couple of kilometres the yellow cross trail meets another, marked with a red dot: it is this trail you want to take, heading left. The trail climbs a little before once again descending, this time into the valley of a spring (the Izvorul Dorului), which it follows for a good few kilometres. Look out for what are known as the lakes (La Lacuri): three small lakes which have formed at the point where the spring meets the Valcelul Clinului. If you’ve been sensible enough to bring sandwiches, a nice spot above the lakes is the perfect place to tuck into them.

The fun really begins when the trail starts to climb away from the river, and back around the Varful cu Dor peak. Almost at once it heads into deep forest, and although no part of the trail is particularly difficult, there are more than a few tricky sections, especially if it has recently rained. For a good hour or so the trail goes up and down like a tart’s knickers, crossing two or three brooks and the occasional waterfall. It’s often misty, and all a bit spooky. As we say: the kids will love it.

misty-sinaia

After around three hours at a decent (but not exactly fast) pace, a final push uphill will bring you onto the Drumul de Vara, a ski run that leads down to the intermediate cable car station at 1400 metres. Red horizontal stripes mark the way down. If you want, you can continue all the way back to Sinaia, but as this is hiking’s equivalent of the M25 it is best avoided: it will put you off the Bucegi mountains forever. Take the bottom part of the cable car back down instead.

In all, including the cable car ride up and down, and a couple of stops for food, you are looking at a five or six hour day trip. Well worth it.

Trail 2: Dambu Morii, Sapte Scari & Prapastia Ursului

Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro
Screenshot from gis.modulo.ro

If the trail above Sinaia is merely very good, then this trail is fabulous.

It starts in Timisu de Jos: take the road into the village from the DN1 (a right turn if you are coming from Bucharest), and after 300 metres or so you will see a makeshift car park opposite a couple of pensions. A number of trails start from here: the one you want is marked with a vertical yellow stripe.

Easy to begin with, the trail climbs steadily through the trees for just over three kilometres, and after about an hour you will reach the newly opened (last autumn, we believe) tiroliane. There are 21 tiroliane in all, of which the longest is more than 2000 metres in length. They are open from 10:00-18:00, and cost from 20-50 lei (depending on how many you want to go on). Note that the tiroliane are only open to those over 12.

You will also need to pay – 10 lei adults, 5 lei for kids – to pass through the Sapte Scari themselves, five minutes or so beyond the tiroliane. Unique in Romania, the Sapte Scari canyon and waterfalls were formed in the Jurassic era and extend for 160 metres, climbing steeply in the process. Access is via a number of steel ladders, usually soaking wet.

cascada-sapte-scari

sapte-scari

2014-09-12 12.10.44

Beyond the Sapte Scari you have a number of options. If you want to head back down the same route (via the tiroliane), take the red dot trail which bypasses the waterfalls. You can also continue along the yellow stripe trail up to the Piatra Mare cabin at over 1600 metres: it is a very tough climb however, and not recommended for small kids. Instead, do what we did and take the blue triangle trail through the Prapastia Ursului (Bear’s Cliff). The first portion up to the highest point of the trail (1200 metres) is tough but short. From there it’s downhill all the way, via what is known as the Drumul Familiar (Popular Trail), marked with a red stripe. As you would expect given the name, it’s wide, free of any real danger and you might even see the odd fox in the middle of the trail. It’s long though: allow a good four hours for the whole trip (and that’s without factoring in any time on the tiroliane).

The only downside of this route is that the bottom part is also used by loggers, and can be horribly muddy. It’s also rather awful to see how huge swathes of Romania’s forests are being chopped down.

forestry-timisu-de-jos

2014-09-12 15.34.29

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31 thoughts on “Hiking with kids in Romania: Two accessible trails

  1. The closest word in English for ‘tiroliana’ would be zip lining, though on Wiki I noticed they call it ‘foefie slide’ in South Africa

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  2. You would never get me on that chairlift; I hate heights and that thing looks like it would sway in the wind like a mofo.

    Do you ever see wolves, bears or linx?

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    1. Yeah I meant to say Lynx and not Linx cos I am da grammar and spelling police innit bruv!

      Youz won’t catch this high flying double luxury Benz V8 drivin mofo making a spelling mistake like Linx bruv.

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  3. It’s also great hiking from Busteni up to the Cabana Diham and then on towards Predeal. A very easy hike, absolutely doable for kids from about 6 years old. If you arrive a little later, you can also stay at the cabana.

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  4. They used to be called death slides when boys were real boys but now they are known as the slightly less intimidating zip lines.

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      1. Sorry Geronimo, Roger’s having another little meltdown after promising to leave the site forever. I have no problem with you and never have, so just assume any abuse that appears to come from me is actually Roger throwing his toys out of the pram again.

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      2. However Geronimo I must say I wasn’t that impressed with you calling me a dick after I merely mentioned my two luxury cars and how I probably earn more in a month than the average Romanian does in a year.

        So I suppose you had every right to call me a dick based on that alone.

        Oh and the fact I’m using a new name ‘Woger’ is because I never allow anyone to annoy me or indeed get under my skin on here, nor am I posting on here practically 24/7 or busy making cries of it wasn’t me it’s Roger – is absolutely no way a sign of me having a personal meltdown whatsoever. I didn’t even spell Lynx incorrectly, it was Woger.

        Got it !!!

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  5. Thanks for the hiking suggestions. Any problems encountering sheep dogs being a bit over protective of their herd? I imagine it’s not much of a problem in these more popular hiking areas but I’ve heard some scary stories when hiking in the more remote and less-popular areas of Romania. Any experience with this?

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      1. Nah you’re miles off son. These are proper big nasty fuckers. However, I always venture out with my trusty Indiana Jones whip.

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      2. O.k., so you’ve convinced me to avoid Greece. And personally I prefer pepperspray for such occasions. Whips are a little overly-macho/compensating if you know what I mean.

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    1. Although I’m slightly hypocritical as when he’s in Romania he’s a wealthy ex pat, just as I am.

      I own a V8 Benz mofo, but I’m scared of heights and homophobic.

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    1. I’d have just drove past in my V8 Benz mofo, as I’m a wealthy ex pat and most of these Romanian people are jealous of me, like florin, and his median salary, whilst living in his grotty apartment with his parents.

      It’s true, just read my comments as Anon, I have 2 luxury cars don’t you know, and a pet linx.

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    2. It seems that you think preferable not to answer. Your choice.
      Anyway, how about your children being treated by my people the same way our children are being treated by your people ?
      Have you ever considered to leave this country ?

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      1. Are you trying to tell me with a straight face that a British child walking into a policestation in Cluj, alone without ID or money demanding a McDonalds and taxi back to Bucharest would be treated much better?

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      2. Treated much better? A sarnie and a call to the parents is pretty much spot on. Which is more than can be said for the original comment.

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      3. Why should I comment on the comments of my ‘compatriots’? What have their comments got to do with me?

        I take no pride in the achievements of others – in which I have played no part – just because they are English. Likewise I do not feel responsible for anyone’s failings. I am not a nationalist, and can therefore afford to be totally indifferent to what anyone else who holds a similar passport does and says.

        As for my kids turning up at a police station at 3am, I would expect them to get a clip round the ear, a cup of tea and the rest of the night in pokey until I turned up to collect them.

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  6. Thanks, Bucharestlife. We just tried the sapte scari walk on your recommendation and loved it. We have a 10 and 11 year old who managed it well. The longest of the ladders is a bit squeaky (as in bum) but great fun from the top!

    Thanks.

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