Piatra Craiului National Park: Hiking Above the Clouds
Piatra Craiului National Park easily makes it to the top of the most beautiful protected areas from the Carpathians. Only a few kilometers away from Brasov and almost three hours from Bucharest, this national park is one of the most loved hiking destinations in Romania. Its many trails cross the small mountain villages from the base up to its long and narrow limestone ridge, one of the most spectacular in Europe.
Wildlife and rare plants
The national park extends on almost 9,900 hectares and is protected since 1938. Researchers have discovered here a true biological treasure: 35 world unique species of invertebrates and 91 completely new species, 216 species of butterflies, more than 100 bird species and over 40% of the mammal species from Romania. The large carnivores and the gracious chamois are top of the list.
Piatra Craiului National Park is also a haven for many plant species, around 30% of the total species registered in Romania. Almost all the typical mountain species from the Carpathians have here the best conditions to grow. Still, more than 180 are included on the Red List of endangered species.
The most beautiful plants, some easily seen during summers, are the endemic Garofita Pietrei Craiului, also the symbol of the park, the 41 species of orchids, the edelweiss, the sweet pea, the great yellow gentian or the picturesque rhododendron. The dense coniferous forests and the grasslands complete the landscape.
This protected area is particularly rich in hiking trails, making it both very accessible and challenging, depending on your choice. The main attraction for the most passionate hikers is the 25 kilometers long limestone ridge, the highest and longest ridge of this type from Romania. Hiking it completely and safely requires, nonetheless, almost two full days, but you’ll enjoy all the effort as the panoramic views are breathtaking.
Most hiking trails start in Zarnesti, Plaiul Foii or the small villages from the base, and you’ll have in total over 70 options from the easiest to the most intense. Don’t overestimate your strength when choosing the right one for you, there are scarce water sources above 2,000 meters, and it’s better to be on the safe side if you’re only beginning to hike. On the ridge, there are a few small refuges, but for longer trails carrying your camping equipment is the best option as, especially in the summers, the few chalets from the national park are fully booked.
You can find the complete list of the hiking trails here
The meadows from the base offer the scenic perspective of the traditional mountain village from the Carpathians, especially in Magura and partially in Pestera, from where you can see both Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains. You will find easy hiking routes that will take you from village to village, exploring rural landscapes lost long ago for the contemporary world. Don’t be surprised if you’ll constantly stumble upon cows, goats, sheep or horses grazing without a care in the world.
One of the most popular hiking destinations in Romania, Piatra Craiului National Park is simply a must-see of the Carpathians for all self-respecting hikers. Its overwhelming beauty and high biodiversity make it a dream destination for everyone who loves nature and is willing to make the necessary effort to see it from its very core.
Visit the Bear Sanctuary from Zarnesti, the most important wildlife sanctuary of this type in Europe. For the visiting schedule, check bearsanctuary.com
Save half a day for a tour of Magura and Pestera.
Read more about Piatra Craiului National Park on www.pcrai.ro