OverviewLow Tatras is Slovakia’s biggest national park (slov. Národný park Nízke Tatry - NAPANT) and second, after High Tatras, most visited mountain range in the country. The highest peaks are located in the western part of the massif where, on the steep slopes and grassy highlands, flocks of timid Tatra chamois can often be spotted. The massif of Chopok (2024m) is also the largest ski resort in this part of Europe. The eastern part of the range, which stretches to the east of Certovica Pass, is much less developed and less visited section of the park. It is also home to the largest predator of the Tatras - brown bear which became the symbol of the Low Tatras National Park. The rich fauna of the park also includes lynx and wolf (both rarely visiting the upper parts of the mountains) as well as eagles and falcons. There are about thousand kilometres of marked hiking trails in the zone but it is the red-marked trail running over the main ridge that is the most important and most interesting route in the area. The length of the entire path (from Telgart to Donovaly) is nearly 90km (43km of which is ascent and 47 descent) and covers a section of the 750-kilometer* long Slovak National Uprising Heroes Trail (slov. Cesta hrdinov SNP), which in turn forms a part of the E8 European long distance path totalling 4390km*. Although the trail runs at an average altitude of 1500 - 2000 meters above sea level, the elevation difference is as high as 10,455 metres. Most hikers take up the challenge by beginning the trek in Telgart and complete the whole trail in 5 days. Of course there are those who do the trek in 3-4 days, and even madmen who can do the whole ridge in 16 hours (!). In winter, the trek is much more demanding and, depending on weather conditions, you might need snowshoes and crampons in addition to skis. Below you’ll find the traditional itinerary for crossing the range and plenty of other useful information on the trail.
* Various sources give different lengths of these trails
Getting ThereGetting to (and from) the beginning of the trailhead is relatively easy with public transport.
You can check bus and rail connections in Slovakia here
Route DescriptionDAY ONE: TELGÁRT - KRÁĽOVA HOĽA - ANDREJCOVÁ
Walking time: 7-8h
Map: VKÚ No. 123 Nízke Tatry - Kráľova hoľa
Accommodation: Andrejcova shelter
Escape routes: from Zdiarske sedlo by blue-marked trail to Pohorela (1:35h) or from Andrejcova to Pohorela - first by yellow (0:20min.), then blue (1:05h)
The path leading to the main ridge starts near the railway station in Telgart (881m). After about three hours of strenuous approach, you will reach Kralova Hola (1946m), at top of which stands a tall, visible from afar TV transmitter mast. The station building has a room where you can wait out bad weather (which happens quite frequently in this area), and in case of emergency, even stay overnight and/or call for assistance. The nearest water source is located an hour earlier at an altitude of 1625m (source of Zubrovica stream) so you might want to stock up earlier on a few litres of H2O (the next water source only on Andrejcova). From Kralova Hola the trail leads to Orlova (1840m) along the grassy ridge with numerous boulders scattered over it, continues through meadows and dense shrubs of dwarf mountain pine to the top of Bartkova (1790m) and then passes through the high grass to Zdiarske sedlo pass (1473m). From the pass the path climbs up through the forest to Andrejcova (1519m), where on the right side you’ll see a wooden shelter.
DAY TWO: ANDREJCOVÁ - RAMŽA SHELTER
Walking time: 6-7h
Map: VKÚ No. 123 Nízke Tatry - Kráľova hoľa
Accommodation: Ramza shelter
Escape routes: with blue trail from sedlo Priehybka (1:35 h) and yellow from Priehyba to Helpy (1:00 h); blue between Kolesarova and Oravcova to Zavadka (2:25 h) and green from below Homolka to Polomka (2:25 h) (all on the southern side of the ridge)
NOTE: The windstorm, which in November 2004 wiped out a huge part of High Tatras’ forests also visited this part of Slovakia, leaving plenty of windfall. Even though it’s been more than six years since the calamity, a few sections still have a lot of fallen trees blocking the path and, in some places, hindering orientation on the trail.
From Andrejcova shelter the trail climbs up to the Helpiansky vrch (1586m), from where it carries on to Priehybka pass (1468m). Next there is a steep climb up the Velka Vapenica (1691m) followed by a demanding descent to Priehyba Pass (1189m) where you can fill up your water bottle (the stream is located nearby on the yellow trail northwest of the pass). The next section includes a steep ascent through the storm-destroyed (see above) part of the trail to Kolesarova (1507m), where, after an easier stretch, you’ll enter a dense pine forest. The path reaches Oravcova (1544m), and from there, through meadows and dwarf mountain pine, continues onto Zadna Hola (1619m). After that, there is Homolka (1659m) and Havrania polana, from which the trail once again enters the forest, and, after a while, joins a forest road. When the path leaves the forest and enters an area of felled trees, you have to be careful not to lose the trail: the forest road turns left here, while the poorly marked trail climbs the narrow path to the right. After another hour you should enter the Ramza glade, where 50 meters to the right of the trail marker stands shelter.
DAY THREE: RAMŽA - ČERTOVICA - CHATA M.R. ŠTEFANIKA
Walking time: 6-7h
Map: VKÚ No. 123 Nízke Tatry - Kráľova hoľa, VKÚ No. 122 Nízke Tatry - Chopok
Accommodation: Chata M.R. Stefanika chalet
Escape routes: to the north of Bacusske sedlo pass to Vysna Boca by a blue trail (1:15 h) or by bus from Certovica to the civilization
From Ramza the trail leads to Bacusske sedlo Pass (1319m) and then to the pass behind Leniva (1378m). A number of fallen trees make crossing of this bit of the trail a little difficult and in places you might have to go under, over and around them to move forward. From the pass za Lenivou to Certovica (1238m) there is an easy-to-follow dirt road. A paved road runs through Čertovica, separating Kráľovohoľské and Ďumbierske Tatras. From there you can catch a bus to Liptovský Hrádok or Brezno, or, if necessary, put up a tent behind the inn. There are also a few huts and hotels (no stores), where you can get some food (not very good) and regain the strength for the rest of the hike. From Čertovica the trail goes steeply up the Lajštroch (1602m), from which you'll get a beautiful vista of the surrounding valleys. Through Kumštové sedlo (1548m) the path continues along the hilly, covered in mountain pine bushes ridge. Leaving the pass behind you'll pass Pánska hoľa (1635m) and then go straight up the massif of Králicka, behind which starts the serpentine descent to the "Stefanikova" (1749m).
DAY FOUR: CHATA M.R. ŠTEFANIKA - CHOPOK - ĎURKOVÁ SHELTER
Walking time: 6-7h
Map: VKÚ No. 122 Nízke Tatry - Chopok
Accommodation: Útulňa Ďurková
Escape routes: green trail to Trangoska from Chata M.R. Stefanika mountain hut (1:15 h), yellow from Chopok to Kosodrevina (1:30 h) and then by chairlift to Srdiecko; yellow from sedlo Polana pass to Demanovska Valley (1:45 h)
From the mountain hut the trail traverses hillsides of Ďumbier (2043m) to Krúpova Pass (1921m), from where you can ascend the highest peak of the Low Tatras (because of erosion the direct route from Chata Štefanika to Ďumbier is only open during the period when the trail is covered with a thick layer of snow). Next, along the "cobbled" path to Chopok (2023m), below which stands Kamenná chata chalet. From here, through Ďereše (2003m) to Poľana pass (1837m). Behind the summit of Poľana (1889m) the trail turns left to Krížske saddle (1774m), and on Kotliská (1936m), where, looking south, you can see the spectacular avalanche gullies of Skalka (1980m), once more turns right. From here it is relatively close to the Chabenec (1955m), behind which lies sedlo Ďurkovej. Not far below the pass is another shelter - Ďurková.
DAY FIVE: ÚTULŇA ĎURKOVÁ - VEĽKÁ CHOCHUĽA - DONOVALY
Walking time: 8-9h
Map: VKÚ No. 122 Nízke Tatry - Chopok, VKÚ No. 100 Okolie Banskej Bystrice - Donovaly
Accommodation: In Donovaly there are lots of hotels and guesthouses
Escape routes: blue trail after Zamotska hola to Magurka(1:45 h), yellow from sedlo pod Skalkou pass to Liptovská Luzna (1:30 h), north from Hiadeľske sedlo to Korytnica (1:00h blue trail)
The last, probably the hardest part of the trail (especially considering the fact that it’ll be your fifth day): firstly, steep 300-meter walk back up the ridge, and then to the summit of Ďurkova (1749m). Next, "up&down- up&down" style via Zamostska (1612m), Latiborska (1643m) and Velka Hola (1639m) to sedlo pod Skalkou (1476m) and then up the dwarf pine-clad slopes of Skalka (1549m) to Velka Chochuľa (1753m). The next two peaks are: Malá Chochuľa (1718m) and Prašivá (1651m), from which the trail descends steeply to Hiadeľske sedlo (1099m) - the official border of the Low Tatras National Park. On the pass stands a shelter (built three years ago) and a few meters below it there is a spring (the only one between Ďurkova shelter and Donovaly). Hiadeľske sedlo pass is not the end of the main ridge though - trail continues further through Kozí chrbát (1330m) to Hadlanka pass, and then across the meadows to the summit Kečki (1225m), from where it is only another hour to the nearest bar in Donovaly!
Essential GearGood hiking boots covering ankles (well broken in!), rain jacket, sleeping bag and sleeping mat, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, cell phone.
shmu.sk - Slovak national institute for weather forecasts
kamennachata.sk - current conditions on Chopok
laviny.sk - Avalanche Information Service
hzs.sk - Mountain Rescue Service (slov. Horská zachranná služba)
napant.sk - Low Tatras National Park's official website
Map of the area
WarningThe largest predator of the area - brown bear - inhabits the park in quite large numbers. However, it rarely shows up on the main ridge, living mainly in the lower part of Low Tatras. The best thing to do is to try and avoid it by not leaving marked trails and, if camping, storing food away (at least 200 meters) from the tent.
When doing the hike you should also watch your water supplies - the main trail runs along the main ridge, where there are no streams and drinking water is always a few hours walk away.
AccommodationShelters on Andrejcova, Ramza and Hiadeľske sedlo as well as the room in the building of TV relay station on Kralova Hola are free (and unmanned) shelters. Camping (1-2 nights) is allowed on the mountain passes by the shelters mentioned above, by Ďurkova hut, and on the Priehyba and Čertovica passes (behind the inn on the latter one). Also, putting a tent up near any of the other mountain huts should not be a problem. Fire can only be made in the designated areas near the shelters using only dry branches.
Útulňa Andrejcová - 25 beds (sleeping bag and a mat necessary); source of drinking water by the shelter
Útulňa Ramza - 30 beds (sleeping bag and a mat necessary), spring located 5 minutes from the hut (you'll have to go back to the trail, walk further up and then turn right at the barely visible sign "voda")
Stefanikova Chata pod Dumbierom - year-round mountain hut with a great atmosphere, toilets, hot showers and hearty, tasty meals - do not miss their speciality - lentil soup! (Slov. šošovicová polievka)
Tel: (+421) 48 619 51 20, Mobile: (+421) 90 497 84 39
Price: 14€ (with breakfast)
Kamenna Chata pod Chopkom - year-round chalet and restaurant, 22 beds, latrine, no drinking water (you can buy it in the restaurant)
Tel: (+421) 48 617 00 39
Price: 10€, 12.40€ (with breakfast)
Útulňa Ďurková pod Chabencom - year-round shelter, hot meals, water spring a few minutes walk from the hut
Mobile: (+421) 91 809 15 89
Price: 5€ (with your own sleeping bag)
Hiadeľske sedlo - 5 beds in the attic, source of drinking water (a few minutes south of the pass)