Since 1953, the Slovenian Mountain Trail 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.
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.
One of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world is not as popular as it should be.
Slovenians are avid hikers, but they are mostly DAY-hikers.
By your second and third day into the SMT, 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.
As stunningly beautiful as Slovenia is, they don’t get many international tourists outside of the Alps region. There were many times on the first half of the SMT when I was told I was the first American many of these people 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 do the SMT.
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 55 Euro cost for membership will be quickly recouped within your first few days.
In Slovenia, there are 181 mountain huts, shelters, refuges and bivouacs with over 6000 beds. Walking the SMT, 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.
TOURIST KIOSK MARIBOR:
P: +386 2 2346611
GPS: 46.560203, 15.650586
SMT 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. (3 Euro)
SMT 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.
TIME NEEDED: I read many places that you could walk the trail in 30 days. I was walking 12 hour days over the mountains, and I still was not on target to finish on this schedule. I would suggest a MINIMUM of 5 WEEKS to finish the whole trail from start to finish.
— HIKING BOOTS – 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.
– BACKPACK – 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 with a lighter pack made 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.
— CLIMBING EQUIPMENT — 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.
— STRETCHY HIKING SHORTS — 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.
— HIGH CAPACITY BATTERY CHARGER — Never let your phone go dead!
DIFFICULTY: If you are looking to get your hiking legs in shape the first few days of the trail, you definitely will. You will have well over one km combined climb on your first day as you travel from Maribor (279m) to Mariborska koča (Maribor Lodge 1068m) and then finally to Ruška koča (1246m). In reality, you will have climbed quite a bit more as you are crossing many small hills along the way.
YOU. WILL. BE. TIRED!
The passport book has 80 checkpoints between Maribor and Ankaran.
I was walking long days and I was able to make 2 checkpoints per day. I tried one day to do three checkpoints, and it nearly killed me.
GUIDEBOOKS, MAPS and WEBSITES: There is a staggering 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 an SMT guidebook and only found one book, in one store, and it was in Slovenian.
CHECK OUT: Interactive Map Online
GPS: The best tool you can get for yourself to walk this trail is a GPS offline tracking system. You do not have to spend a lot of money on a GARMIN tracking device, there is a brilliant app you can download for free.
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 SMT 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 battery, and your phone GPS will still show you your current location, without any wi-fi or phone signal.
Before you even begin walking the SMT, 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 to your next checkpoint, this app will help you countless times.
STARTING POINT IN MARIBOR: Don’t bother asking around in Maribor where the starting point for the trail is. Nobody knows. Even the tourist information kiosk couldn’t tell me.
SMT STARTING POINT
STREET ADDRESS: Streliška cesta
GPS: 46.533216, 15.628483
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.
(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.)
PLEASE NOTE: That if one checkpoint number has more than one option (i.e. 07(a) and 07(b)) that you only need to visit ONE of those locations to get the stamp in your book and continue on your trail.
01. Spondee Radvanje – 279m – 46.533216, 15.628483
02. Mariborska koča – 1068m
03. Ruška koča – 1246m
04. Koča na Klopnem vhru – 1280m
05. Koča na Pesku – 1386m
06. Ribniška koča – 1507m
07. (a) Grmovškov dom pod Veliko Kopo – 1377m
07. (b) Koča Planinc – 1010m
08. Koča pod Kremžarjevim vrhom – 1102m
09. Poštarski dom pod Plešivcem – 805m
10. Dom naUršlji gori – 1680m
(This list will include 80 checkpoints as well as the altitude and geo-coordinates of each place to help people through the trail. This doesn’t exist online, you must get this information from your Trail Passport Book.)
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.
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.
After you start the 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.
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