Forrest Mallard- May 29, 2020
Slovenian Mountain Trail
Distance: 499 km
Time: 5 weeks
Terrain: Forest Trails and Mountain Ridges
Website: Slovenia Tourism
The Slovenian Mountain Trail is a stunning, long-distance trail that winds across the mountains of Slovenia, a fabulous and relatively undiscovered country. The trail passes through this country’s best scenery, including the outstanding Julian Alps.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know to walk one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. Includes budgets, inside tips, trail stages, and complete list of trail resources.
|Opened||August 1, 1953|
|Natural/Cultural Heritage Sites||5|
|Trail Length||617.4 km|
|Total Climb||37.3 km|
|Time to Walk||Approx 37 Days|
Klemen Triler set the current record in 2012 of 8 days, 14 hours and 45 minutes.
If you walk moderately without breaks, they say you can make it in 28 days. According to the latest reliable information, only seven people have managed to run the trail in less than 14 days.
Doing this trail in less than 35 days would be a shame, as you would be rushing through one of the most beautiful trails in the world, and would not be taking the time to appreciate it.
A one-week segment of the SMT that takes you through the most iconic parts of the trail.
I had been asked many times for what I would suggest for an excerpt of the Slovenian Mountain Trail that could be done in a week. So I created this ‘Best of the SMT’ route that takes you through Triglav National Park. This trail, that begins and ends in Lake Bled, can be done in 5 days, but can be extended to include many more days, as the network of hiking trails through the park will give you many options to choose your own adventure and extend your route.
Word of advice: Train on the stair-climber before you start this journey.
If you are looking to get a leg workout on this hike, you definitely will. On the very first day, from Maribor (279m) to Mariborska koča (Maribor Lodge 1068m) and then finally to Ruška koča (1246m), when you factor in all of the hills in between, you will have climbed about 2km.
Since 1953, the Slovenian Mountain Trail (Slovenska Planinske Poti) has linked Slovenia’s vertiginous ranges: Pohorje, Julian Alps, Kamnik-Savinja Alps, and Karavanke, including Triglav—the country’s highest peak at 9,396 feet. Beginning in the alpine town of Maribor, the long-distance trail traces mountain ridges, peaks, and valleys, leading hikers through the Pannonian plains, across plateaus and hills, and eventually through rolling Mediterranean vineyards before ending in the coastal village of Ankaran. More than 50 huts and nearly 80 checkpoints line the well-maintained trail, not to mention two museums.
One of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world is not as popular as it should be.
A walk along the Slovenian Mountain Trail is an excellent opportunity to experience the beauty of the Slovenian landscape, to discover cultural sites, flora and fauna, hear the diverse dialects of the local residents and admire the architecture of the rustic mountain villages. You will be accompanied by the murmur of waterfalls, streams and rivers, and you can climb the highest peaks and fill your heart and soul as the sun sets behind the mountains.
There are more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km) of trails weaving their way through Slovenia, and of those, more than 80 percent are mountain trails. The E7, which runs from the Black Sea to the Atlantic, enters Slovenia in the region of Primorska and runs through the south of the country before exiting into Croatia. The E6 runs from the Adriatic to the Baltic seas, enters Slovenian territory at Koroska in the northwest, and runs south to Notranjska. Slovenia can be proud of its mountain trails, and not only its segments of Europe’s long-distance footpaths, either. Long before there was an E6 or an EZ or any other Es for that matter, there was the Slovenian Mountain Trail, Europe’s very first long distance trail.
Hikers can begin or end the Slovenian Mountain Trail in Maribor, Debeli rtič or anywhere else. The trail has no restrictions in terms of time and is marked by means of the Knafelc blazes (white dot with a red circle around it and an Arabic number 1.
Slovenians are avid hikers, but they are mostly DAY-hikers.
By your second and third day into the Slovenian Mountain Trail, when you tell people at the mountain huts that you began your walk in Maribor, everyone will talk about you like you are some kind of superhero.
The most heartfelt and genuine meetings are those with the local people in the various regions. Different seasons, weather conditions and our own attitude ensure that we never forget the impressions that the trail makes on us. And that is the reason that so many people return to it time and again, or at least to individual parts which they have come to love in particular.
As stunningly beautiful as Slovenia is, there are not many international tourists outside of the Alps region. Many times on the first half of the Slovenian Mountain Trail, I was told I was the first American they had ever met. At the hostel I was staying at in Maribor, the owner only ever had one other person stay with him that was planning to hike the SMT.
Opened in 1953, this popular trail, so beloved of the Slovenian people, was initially meant to be a circular trail that began and ended in the northeast in the medieval town of Maribor on the Drava River. It was then changed to link up the country’s wealth of mountainous hiking trails and now runs for 310 miles (499 km), from Maribor to Ankaran in the country’s deep southwest near the Italian border overlooking the Gulf of Trieste. The trail traverses all of the country’s primary Alpine ranges, including the volcanic Pohorje range, and the limestone-encrusted Julian, Kamnik, and Karawank Alps.
If you hike through, you’ll have ascended an astonishing 28 miles (45 km) on a direct route that includes the summit of Mount Triglav itself, which, at 9,396 feet (2,864 m) is Slovenia’s highest point, as the trail makes its way south over a series of east-west alpine ridges on its final approaches into sunny Ankaran.
There are more than 9,600 km (6,000 miles) of hiking trails weaving through Slovenia, and of those, more than 80 percent are mountain trails. The E7, which runs from the black sea to the Atlantic, enters Slovenia territory at Koroska in the northwest and runs south to Notranjaska.
Slovenia can be proud of its many mountain trails. Long before there was an E6 or an E7, or any of the E’s for that matter, there was the Slovenian Mountain Trail, Europe’s very first long-distance trail.
You do not need a permit to hike and the trail is stated to be ‘unconditionally open to the public’ and anyone can hike the trails at their own risk.
The first time I hiked this route I began in Maribor in late May. The weather was absolutely beautiful. By the time I got to the Triglov National Park (the Alps) it was mid-June and there were still a few trails through the mountains that were closed due to snow.
If you want to plan your trip so that you reach the Alps in late-June, then that will be perfect timing. You will beat the masses that arrive in July, and you will be late enough to miss the snow.
So if you are starting in Maribor, I would say the ideal time to start would be late-May. You will miss the snow on the mountains, and you will never have to fight for a bed in any of the most popular mountain huts.
Slovenian Mountain Trail TRAIL MARKER: The official trail marker for the SMT is a red dot, surrounded by a white ring, with a small number “1” just below the ring. This is the symbol for ‘Slovenian National Trail #1’ AKA SMT. You will often see the marking without the “1” and that would be a trail that is not necessarily part of the SMT. Then there are other parts of the SMT where they left the “1” off the marking. This isn’t that frustrating to get used to and you’ll get used to it. When in doubt, use your GPS.
As you are walking, you will notice that some parts of Slovenia are extremely well marked, and other parts of Slovenia not so much. Check your GPS regularly to make sure you are heading in the right direction.
ALPINE ASSOCIATION OF SLOVENIA (AAS): en.pzs.si
One of the first things you need to do if you are 100% sure you are going to attempt walking the SMT, is to join the AAS. Membership in this association will allow you to stay at all of the mountain huts along the trail for a reduced price. The 60 Euro cost for membership will be quickly recouped within your first few days.
When you arrive in Maribor, visit the Tourist Kiosk. They probably will not be able to give you directions to the starting point, but they will sell you the Slovenian Mountain Trail Hikers Passport.
TOURIST KIOSK MARIBOR
Phone: +386 2 2346611
GPS: 46.560203, 15.650586
Slovenian Mountain Trail PASSPORT BOOK: Visit the tourist information kiosk in Maribor to buy your SMT passport book. You will need to stamp each of the boxes in the book along the way to get your certificate when you finish the trail.
The cost for this book was 3 Euro when I did the trail in 2016 with one Euro going towards a foundation to keep up the hiking trails.
There is an astonishing lack of information regarding the Slovenian Mountain Trail online and in print. You would think that such a beautiful trail, a trail that consistently comes up in “Top 10” lists for most epic and beautiful trails in Europe, would have an enormous amount of reference information available. At the very best, you get a short descriptive paragraph on the Slovenian tourist website.
I searched every bookstore in Maribor for a Slovenian Mountain Trail guidebook and only found one book in one store, and it was in Slovenian. (I bought it anyways.)
You can easily do the entire Slovenian Mountain Trail with just the information here on this page. If you want a guidebook though, best thing to do is buy it before you go.
Make sure you have boots with a high neck for as much ankle support as you can get. Several of the trails will be extremely rocky and it could be very easy to twist your foot without the support.
Pack as little as possible! Seriously. You will be crossing three sets of Alps and the foothills of the Alps aren’t too easy either. Most Slovenians you see hiking carry just a daypack on their backs and will look at you crazy if you are carrying a full backpack. Not only will a lighter pack make your daily walk easier, but there are some points in the trail where having a full, heavy backpack could limit your dexterity when negotiating around rocks on cliffs.
None needed. There are iron spikes preset in the rocks and steel cables to hold onto when negotiating some tough parts of the trail. If you would like a harness to clip on to the safety wires on your final climb to the top of Triglav, these can be rented inexpensively at the mountain huts just before you start your climb.
There are some parts of the trail that get quite vertical. If your shorts do not have good stretch, you will have a hard time raising your legs high enough to walk up the sides of some mountains.
There are many GPS trekking apps listed on my Resource Page, but there is one app I keep returning to again and again.
MAPS.ME — This is a GPS app that is absolutely free. While you have a wi-fi connection, you will download any maps you need, for free. For the Slovenian Mountain Trail, you will need to download Slovenia East and Slovenia West. Once these maps are downloaded, you can turn off your wi-fi, and put your phone into airplane mode (to save your battery), and your GPS will still show you your current location on your map even when you are offline.
Before you even begin walking the Slovenian Mountain Trail, open the MAPS.ME app and put pins in at each of the checkpoint locations. Once you have done this, the app will show you the walking routes to your next destination, just in case you get lost. Your first priority should always be to follow the trail markers. If MAPS.ME is telling you there is a shortcut, don’t do it. Usually the shortcuts are much more difficult than the official SMT trail. If you are lost though or if you want to check the distance or how long it will be to your next checkpoint, this app will help you countless times.
Never let your phone go dead!
Remember, that if you are using your phone all day long, checking your route, you should also bring a battery recharger to make sure you don’t run out of power before you reach your destination.
This list will include 80 segments as well as the altitude and geo-coordinates of each place to help people through the Slovenian Mountain Trail. This doesn’t exist online, you must get this information from your Trail Passport Book.
NOTE: If one checkpoint number has more than one option (i.e. 07A and 07B) you only need to visit ONE of those locations to get the stamp in your Slovenian Mountain Trail hiker’s passport book.
|01||Spondee Radvanje||279m||46.53321, 15.62848|
|02||Mariborska koča||1068m||46.50146, 15.55559|
|03||Ruška koča||1246m||46.49501, 15.50816|
|04||Koča na Klopnem vhru||1280m||46.50164, 15.39879|
|05||Koča na Pesku||1386m||46.46721, 15.34401|
|06||Ribniška koča||1507m||46.4982, 15.25999|
|07||(A) Grmovškov dom pod Veliko Kopo||1377m||46.50274, 15.21015|
|07||(B) Koča Planinc||1010m||46.53172, 15.1722|
|08||Koča pod Kremžarjevim vrhom||1102m||46.52808, 15.12853|
|09||Poštarski dom pod Plešivcem||805m||46.49622, 15.01277|
|10||Dom na Uršlji gori||1680m||46.48474, 14.96514|
NOTE: The closer you get to the Alps, the more people you will encounter and the more expensive it will become.
|11||Andrejev dom na Slemenu||1,086m||46.43814, 14.96436|
|12||Dom na Smrekovcu||1,377m||46.41333, 14.90027|
|13||Koča na Travniku||1,548m||46.41586, 14.80769|
|14||Koča na Loki pod Raduho||1,520m||46.4093, 14.75913|
|15||Velika Raduha||2,062m||46.40999, 14.73722|
|16||Koča v Grohotu pod Raduho||1,460m||46,42344, 14,74332|
|17||Kocbekov dom na Korošici||1,808m||46.35569, 14.63973|
|19||Kamniška koča na Kamniškem sedlu||1,864m||46.35926, 14.5975|
|20||Frischaufov dom na Okrešlju||1,396m||46.3708, 14.5913|
|21||Kranjska koča na Ledinah||1,700m||46.37054, 14.5494|
|22||Križ (Koroška Rinka)||2,433m||46.36675, 14.565|
|24||Cojzova koča na Kokrskem sedlu||1,793m||46.34406, 14.54688|
|26||Jezerska Kočna||2,540m||46.35861, 14.52194|
|27||Češka koča na Spodnjih Ravneh||1,542m||46.3699, 14.53597|
|28||Planinski dom na Kališču||1,540m||46.33706, 14.41695|
|30||Dom pod Storžičem||1,123m||46.35938, 14.38969|
|31||Koča na Kriški gori||1,471m||46.35171, 14.33336|
|32||Koča na Dobrči||1,478m||46.37617, 14.246|
|33||Begunjščica – Veliki vrh||2,060m||46.42194, 14.23166|
|34||Roblekov dom na Begunjščici||1,657m||46.41779, 14.21228|
|35||Planinski dom na Zelenici||1,536m||46.429, 14.23359|
|36||Prešernova koča na Stolu||2,174m||46.43136, 14.17494|
The busiest and most expensive part of the Slovenian Mountain Trail.
Mountain huts can be 5x the price in this area.
At the highest altitudes, the mountain huts need to have all supplies brought in by helicopter, so beer is much, much more expensive.
|38||Alpine Museum in Mojstrana||641m||46.45795, 13.93623|
|39||Aljažev dom v Vratih||1,015m||46.40904, 13.84338|
|40||Dom Valentina Staniča pod |
|41||(A) Triglavski dom na Kredarici||2,515m||46.37893, 13.84879|
|41||(B) Dom Planika pod Triglavom||2,401m||46.37154, 13.84604|
|41||(C) Koča na Doliču||2,151m||46.36486, 13.81949|
|43||Pogačnikov dom na Kriških podih||2,050m||46.40193, 13.80076|
|46||(A) Tičarjev dom na Vršiču||1,620m||46.43273, 13.74462|
|46||(B) Poštarski dom na Vršiču||1,688m||46.43239, 13.74753|
|46||(C) Erjavčeva koča na Vršiču||1,525m||46.43909, 13.74937|
|47||Zavetišče pod Špičkom||2,064m||46.4102, 13.67795|
|49||Koča pri izviru Soče||886m||46.40953, 13.72543|
|50||Kugy’s Monument in Trenta||773m||46.40427, 13.74293|
|51||TNP Info Center Dom Trenta||600m||46.38045, 13.75266|
|52||Zasavska koča na Prehodavcih||2,071m||46.35856, 13.79229|
|53||Koča pri Triglavskih jezerih||1,685m||46.31861, 13.77944|
|54||(A) Dom na Komni||1,520m||46.28443, 13.77316|
|54||(B) Koča pod Bogatinom||1,513m||46.28768, 13.76332|
|55||Planinski dom pri Krnskih jezerih||1,385m|
|56||Gomiščkovo zavetišče na Krnu||2,182m||46.26535, 13.65717|
|57||Koča na planini Razor||1,315m||46.23516, 13.79314|
|60||Dom Zorka Jelinčiča na Črni prsti||1,835m||46.23095, 13.9315|
|61||Koča na Poreznu||1,585m||46.17916, 13.97607|
|62||Bolnica Franja (Hospital)||600m||46.1502, 14.02732|
A few hundred years ago, the vast wine region in South-West Slovenia was a dense forest. The entire region was cleared in order to supply the massive amount of wood needed to build the pylon foundation for Venice, which is not too far to the South.
|63||Planinska koča na Ermanovcu||968m||46.10933, 14.05309|
|64||Bevkov vrh||1,051m||46.08666, 14.00694|
|65||Sivka – Mrzli vrh||1,008m||46.05722, 14.04805|
|66||Koča na Hleviški planini||818m||45.98735, 13.99578|
|67||Mali Golak||1,495m||45.97861, 13.86444|
|68||Koča Antona Bavčerja na Čavnu||1,242m||45.92897, 13.85311|
|69||Sinji vrh||1,002m||45.90833, 13.9375|
|70||Pirnatova koča na Javorniku||1,156m||45.89487, 14.07555|
|71||Furlanovo zavetišče pri Abramu||900m||45.81924, 14.01893|
|72||Vojkova koča na Nanosu||1,240m||45.77205, 14.05309|
|74||Škocjanske jame (Caves)||395m|
|76||Tumova koča na Slavniku||1,028m||45.53386, 13.97547|
|80||Debeli Rtič||19m||45.59096, 13.70333|
Keep in mind that the mountain huts higher up in the Alps are not accessible by road. Supplies are hiked in on foot or by pack animal, and in some cases delivered by air. Running water is available at some lower elevation huts, but rainwater is the only source of water at some higher elevation huts, meaning there are usually no shower facilities. The trade-off is a warm bed, delicious food and drink, and gorgeous views. Spaced out a few hours walk from each other, hikers can decide between a leisurely pace or mile-crushing marathons.
In Slovenia, there are 181 mountain huts, shelters, refuges, and bivouacs with over 6000 beds. Walking the Slovenian Mountain Trail, there are mountain huts for overnight stays at the majority of checkpoints along the trail. There is absolutely no need to carry camping equipment, as there are mountain huts all along the way.
However, do daily research and contact each mountain hut in advance and let them know you are on your way and plan to stay there the next night. Some mountain huts are only open on weekends during the slow season. In August, the huts can also be extremely busy as Slovenians are avid hikers, and this is the time of year when everyone heads to the mountains, so you may need to book in advance in order to reserve a bed.
Hut menus focus on hearty comfort foods that meet the twin goals of satisfying your belly and fortifying your body after a calorie-burning trek. And at the risk of sounding sheltered, I’d never tried half of the foods I ate at the huts, making for an international expansion of my palate.
Warm dishes and cold beverages are offered at each hut, with options for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. While the offerings vary across locations, expect a homemade menu of warm soups, simple cold dishes, hot teas and coffee, and beer. While any of these would taste delicious in a city, everything tastes that much better after hiking in.
At Triglavski dom na Kredarici, the most expensive hut due to its high elevation, a bowl of vegetable soup costs $5.70, a beer $5, and a bowl of goulash for $11. Again, lower elevation huts are cheaper. Visitors are allowed to eat their own food at the huts, but cooking in the huts is not allowed. Remember to bring enough cash with you, as all transactions will be made to the innkeeper with real money, not credit cards.
Slovenian Mountain Trail mountain huts offer a variety of lodging options, from private rooms to 12-person bunk rooms. If the hut is really packed, the innkeeper may offer you space to sleep in the dining room. Most huts have a dining room, a washroom, restrooms, and outdoor seating areas. Large porches with sweeping views are also commonplace, and are a great place to gather with new friends, and cold beers.
The cost of lodging depends on the amenities provided, the elevation of the hut, and your membership in the Alpine Association. If you plan to stay for more than a night or two, I recommend joining for the cost-saving benefits. There are three tiers of lodging, Tier 1 usually being higher elevation and costlier, and Tier 3 being lower in elevation, sometimes with amenities like running water.
Don’t bother asking around in Maribor where the starting point for the Slovenian Mountain Trail is. Nobody knows. Even the tourist information kiosk couldn’t tell me.
SLOVENIAN MOUNTAIN TRAIL – STARTING POINT
STREET ADDRESS: Streliška cesta
GPS: 46.533216, 15.628483
Note: The first stamp you will need to put in your book as at this location on the side of the street. There will be several places on the route where the stamp location is just a little metal box with a molded metal stamp on the side of the box. YOU WILL HAVE TO BRING YOUR OWN INK TO GET THE STAMP AT THIS LOCATION. I broke open a ballpoint pen and made a mess for mine.
I started the walk from the Plague Monument near my hostel and then walked to the start of the trail from there. This added another 2+ hours to my day’s journey and I do not recommend this. The first day is hard enough and long enough that you don’t need to add this extra distance. Take a taxi to the starting point. It is not cheating, and there is really nothing to see along the way.
After you start the Slovenian Mountain Trail and head into the woods just outside of Maribor, it will be very easy to get lost and you will be very frustrated again and again. There are so many trails in this area and they cross back and forth over each other. You will really need to pay attention and look for the trail markings. Maps will not be much help here, so pay close attention to your GPS. The good thing though, this is the only part of the trail where I experienced this level of constant frustration while trying to stay on the right path. A few hours into the trail and all of these alternative routes will disappear.
The closer you get to the Alps, the more people you will encounter and the more expensive it will become.
When you finally do reach the Alps, prices for Mountain Huts will have quadrupled, and because all supplies are delivered by helicopter to huts high in the mountains, a beer will also cost 4x as much.
For example, at Triglavski dom na Kredarici, the highest mountain hut in Slovenia at 8,251 feet — and the most visited one due to its close proximity to Mount Triglav — a dormitory bed costs about $12 per person for Alpine Association members. A lower elevation hut might cost about $8.80 per person for the night. Bedding costs extra, so you can save money at some huts by using your sleeping bag. As payment is made to the innkeeper in cash, be sure to bring enough euros for your hut-to-hut lodging and dining needs.
Slovenian Mountains Take More Than 20 Lives Per Year
The majority of accidents were said to be caused by falls or slips on the rocks and the loss of control. According to the Slovenian Mountains Rescue Association, the second most common reason for accidents in the mountains is getting lost. This is followed by a lack of physical and mental strength, inappropriate gear as well as its misuse.
Mountain hikers use the trails at their own risk. Trail users must behave in a responsible manner so that they do not endanger or hurt themselves or others. A user must use mountain trails in a manner which does not cause any damage to the trail or to the land, property or buildings adjacent to it, nor causes any harm to the flora and fauna along the trail. It is prohibited to restrict access to mountain trails and to damage, remove or destroy trail markings, direction boards, boxes and protective equipment or any other labels. It is also prohibited to use unmarked shortcuts.
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