It was certainly a terrible time to go hiking in the mountains.
Though I guess they’re not really mountains, just the best that Czechia has to offer. It’s still a sight, but not the mind-numbing craggy peaks of the Alps or the Caucasus. It makes for a great day trek out of Prague though, for those here longer term and needing a breath of air outside the city. The area where I’m referring to is Krkonossky national park, but there are loads of beautiful nature walks all through the Czech Republic.
Perfect hiking weather
Tools of the Trade
Before I get into my own journey, here’s a few good tools to have if you want to make your trekking easy and painless.
The best thing I can think of, perhaps even better than driving, is to take the mass transit out of Prague. Take a train or a bus to your preferred hiking location. For that, it’s best to have Google Maps and an Internet connection. Google Maps for the most part, will refer to you what bus or train agency you’ll need. The two most common are Student Agency for the buses and Cesky Drahy for the trains, both of which have apps with booking and schedules.
The second part is to figure out where exactly you’ll be hiking.
typical scene in a northern Czech village
Czechia, and by extension, most of Europe, has loads of well paved hiking and biking paths, wrapped in a web across the Continent. Many of these paths can be found on Google Maps, but for the most part, they exist only in a shadow realm, reserved for the locals who know where they are and go. But there are some apps that have worked to reveal these spidery networks, and Mapy.cz, an easy-to-use open source map based off OpenStreetMaps, is one of them. The app is available in English, and works basically like Google Maps, but doesn't only focus on roads and mass transit, but also on biking and walking routes. It works with your GPS too, so you can follow along and see the easiest way to make your route.
the Bohemian countryside is full of streams and forests
Thus, armed with the transit maps and schedules and the trail maps, you’re ready for your countryside adventuring. Find a trail, find the nearest train station for the start and finish and go. Also, lucky for you, if you go by train stations, you don’t even have to make reservations. Just show up for the trains.
Where are the best places to hike in Czechia?
Of course, you’ll get different answers for that question. But if you’re in Prague, then here’s a short list. I’ve linked each of them to Google Maps:
Ceske Svycarsko – also known as Czech Switzerland, famous for its rock formations
Krkonossky Mountains – this range is on the border of Poland and hosts Czech’s highest peak, Snezka
Cesky Raj – “Czech Paradise”, offers some beautiful valley hiking and forests
Kokorinsky Dul – Where Houska Castle, the Pit to Hell, sits
Krivoklatsko – Hiking with some great medieval castle views
Sumava – Sort of mountains for those who can’t quite make it to Austria, plus Lipno Lake!
This is by no means and exhaustive list, just the best ones I know about and are easy enough to get to from Prague.
Hiking Up Snezka
We went as a work retreat. I work with Lipa Learning, a Czech children’s education company, making kids’ education games for the global market, and this was our yearly teambuilding event. I have half a mind thinking that perhaps the CEO just wanted to test us and see who really wanted to stick around, and that was the primary intention of the “teambuilding”. It wasn’t easy. But hardship binds people together, right?
real hikers use cable cars
We arrived at Pec pod Snezkou, which is a resort town snuggled away in the hills of the Krkonossky. If you’re wanting to hike the highest peak in Czechia, Snezka, this is probably the best place to start. There’s a cable car that can take you halfway or all the way up, depending on the weather, or you can do it yourself. It’s a steep jaunt, but it’s really not that high. At 1,602 meters, it barely hits the base altitude of the Rockies.
the view from the halfway point
The cable car is cheap enough, and if you’re in for the jaunt we did, it’s probably best to take it halfway. We got off there and decided that the weather was so terrible that, why not, let’s continue going! So then we finished the second leg of the journey, caught in the cold clouds and whipping winds. At the top there’s some heating huts, with cafes and bars, serving hot wine and liquors to warm up your bones again.
I was hoping we’d go back the same way. Short and easy. But our benevolent organizers instead decided to take us down the other side of the mountain, to a small café in Poland. Then we hiked across what seemed endless miles of tundra, and back down to Spindleruv Mlyn.
the weather doesn't get better than this!
The nature in the area was actually really interesting. Despite being so low in altitude, the ridges are completely devoid of trees, making an area quite like the Arctic tundra. The land is spongy and marshy, with long wood paths built over the high mountain marshes. There are pubs and guesthouses along the way, so it’s even possible to easily overnight on the trail, with a full belly and drinking experience at night. Now that’s what I call trekking!
the tastefully named "Pair of Deer" beer from a mountain microbrewery
Old Man of the Mountains
When you hiked around the area, or just visit it, you'll notice a small statue just about everywhere. There's a story behind this guy.
In the local folklore, there’s an old mountain spirit that roams the parts, named Krkonos in Czech or Rubezahl in German. Long ago, Rubezahl kidnapped a German princess. Living there in the mountains, the princess would get quite lonely and Rubezahl wanted to please her. So he’d take turnips and turn them into people. But the turnips would wilt, as would the people, so the princess would be left alone again. The princess asked Rubezahl to instead count the turnips, and while he was counting, she made a run for it. Rubezahl thus comes from the German words meaning “turnip counter”. He himself doesn’t like the name though, and prefers “Lord of the Mountains”, naturally.
Krkonos, or Rubezahl
These days though, you don’t have to worry about being kidnapped by the old goblin, though you do see him everywhere. The locals love to carve his likeness into trees and statues and he serves as a replacement garden gnome of the area.
How to Get There
To Pec pod Snezkou, you’d just take a train to Trutnov and catch the local bus to Pec. The direct train leaves at 8:07. There are also Student Agency buses to Trutnov.
To or from Spindleruv Mlyn is quite a bit easier. There’s a Student Agency bus from Prague. Or you can take a local KAD bus to Vrchlabi and pick up the train home. The last city bus is at 5:00 pm and the last Student Agency bus is at 5:45 pm, so plan accordingly. It might even be best to stay at a bed and breakfast and head out in the morning.
If you enjoyed this blog, make sure to check out my book, A Facetious Guide to Prague, available now on Amazon: