[Romania] Family hike in Piatra Craiului
Piatra Craiului Mountain Range is one of the smallest ones in the Central Romanian Carpathians, but most probably one of the most fascinating, when talking about the landscape, the flora and the fauna. In July we had our first trip to Piatra Craiului, a 2 days short weekend trip with our daughter (and a couple of other friends), on an excellent weather, enough to convince us that we have to come back to explore this mountain’s paths some more.
The Piatra Craiului mountains form a narrow and saw-like ridge, which is about 25 km long. The highest elevation in the massif is the “Vârful La Om” at 2,238 metres. The ridge is regarded as one of the most beautiful sites in the Carpathians. The two-day north–south ridge trail is both challenging and rewarding. The descent at the southern end leads into a karst landscape of deep gorges and pitted slopes where water penetrating the rock has carved a series of caves.
As we had our 4 years old daughter with us, we had to chose a rather easy hike, that wouldn’t last too long. So we decided to spend one night at the Curmătura Chalet, which is the main starting point for the ridge hiking trail, from the North, going South. In order to do this, we left Sibiu Friday afternoon, after work, in the direction of Zărnești, stopping at the Botorog Campground, where we parked our car and also settled the tent for one night.
As it was summer and easy to reach by car, the campground was already quite crowded by the time we got there and it got even more crowded after our arrival. Of course, people tend to become a bit “unpolite” when going outdoors (especially in Romania) and, even though we were hoping to have a quiet night, sleeping in the tent, hearing only insects humming around, we had our share of loud music and people making noise until late.
Leaving that aside, we woke up the next day ready to conquer the world and started our ascent to the Curmătura Chalet. Again, as it was summer and the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm (hot actually), we didn’t find any available room in the chalet when I called to book so we had to carry our tent and sleeping bags with us.
From the Botorog Campground, you have two options to go up to the Curmătura Chalet. Yellow line path directly through the forest or the blue line path going first through the Prăpăstiile Zărneștilor (Zărnești Gorges). We chose for our ascent the second option, mainly because it was an easier trip for our daughter, with not such a hard ascent. Next to the Botorg Campground is also the only water spring until reaching the Curmătura Chalet.
Prăpăstiile Zărneștilor is one of the most visited spots in the Piatra Craiului National Park and it can be reached by anyone who is into a short walk. The gorges are quite spectacular, it’s actually a long and rather narrow corridor surrounded by tall stone walls all covered in vegetation. When entering the Piatra Craiului National Park you have to pay a visit fee and there is normally a ranger there to get the cash.
From the Botorog Campground, through Prăpăstiile Zărneștilor, it’s about 4 kilometers of forest road to reach the point where the blue line path goes up into the forest in the direction of Cabana Curmătura. From here, you have 1:30 – 2 hours until reaching the chalet. For the first 30 – 45 minutes it’s a steep ascent, then a relatively easy walk through the magical forest, until getting out to a meadow with one of the most beautiful views in front of your eyes.
The last one hour or so of the trip is a rather easy hike, with not so much of an ascent, except for the last 10 – 15 minutes before reaching the Chalet. But for sure it’s the most spectacular part, as you get to see mountains all around.
For us getting the the Curmătura Chalet took a bit more than expected, considering that we were with young kids who were moving a bit slower than the others. It took us about 5 hours to reach our destination from the Botorog Campground, but normally, with a light backpack and in a good physical condition it should be around 3 hours.
Finally getting to the Chalet, we rested for a bit and tried to find a place to put our tent for the night. That was also a challenge as there were already many tents in the camping area, but we managed to squeeze in just fine. The Chalet offers warm meals and drinks, so we didn’t have to carry food with us. The food is fresh and tasty, but if it’s a crowded day, you will have to wait in line for a while. The Chalet was also recently renovated and it looks excellent. They have a nice team of people working there, always friendly and willing to help.
As we were with kids, our trip for the day ended here and we spent the rest of the day just enjoying the view, playing with the kids and letting the mountains give us all that good vibe and energy. If you are still up to do some hiking, there are plenty of hiking trips towards the ridge that start from the chalet.
The next day we woke up rested and relaxed, had a rich breakfast and a good coffee and after a while packed our stuff and started the descent back to the Botorog Campground where we had left out car. This time, we chose the yellow line path , just to have another perspective of the mountains around. The descent was easier, even for the kids, and the view was very nice. It took us about 3 hours to get back to our car.
A very nice surprise was to find these mountains in full blossom and we were constantly admiring all the colorful flowers we found on our path.