Pilis is the highest mountain of Pilis Mountains, and the second highest of Hungary's Transdanubian region. It has the shape of a flatiron, with the "nose" pointing SE. Its highest point is called Pilis-tető (756 m), literally meaning "Pilis-roof". In fact, the top of the mountain is rather flattish, plateau-like. Its prominence from the surroundings is about 550 m.
Several decades ago Pilis used to be a popular target for hikers. However, at present no marked trail goes to its very top (only a traverse in its side), as an air defense base was built there in the 1970's. Military presence meant no trespassing until 1996, when the base was dismantled (actually, not completely - the bunkers' remains can still be seen). Since its "liberation", Pilis-tető has become an "unofficial" target for hikers and paragliders.
The top of the mountain has the potential of a 360° panorama, yet the north view is blocked by trees. The former geodetic tower, rising higher than the trees, could have been utilized as a lookout, but due to various reasons, it is now used as an amateur meteorological station, therefore it is not accessible to the public.
Apart from its height, Pilis is interesting for other features as well. Underneath the surface, several beautiful caves (most of them only accessible to cavers) hide within the Dachstein Limestone, which is the building material of the mountain. At various spots of the mountain's perimeter, this rock gets exposed to the surface. Among these rocky parts there are some notable ones, like Vaskapu (a scenic double arch) or the outcrop where the prehistoric cave dwelling (Szántói-kőfülke) is to be found.
Two villages lie close to the feet of Pilis mountain: Pilisszentkereszt (Slovak: Mlynky) to the E, and Pilisszántó (Slovak: Santov) to the SE. Both can be easily accessed by regular buses from Budapest, which depart from the Árpád-híd (Árpád bridge) bus terminal. Pilisszentkereszt is easier to get to, as it's on the way to Dobogókő mountain resort, where buses are more frequent.
Pilisszántó can be approached from Budapest by an alternative route as well: take road no. 10 to Pilisvörösvár, and there look carefully for the road sign to Pilisszántó (in fact it can be a little tricky to find the right street for the first time). You can find suitable parking place at the northern end of the village, besides the road, near to the quarries.
Another option is to drive further up from Pilisszentkereszt towards Dobogókő, and leave the car at the junction where the road bifurcates for Esztergom and Dobogókő. This place is called Két-bükkfa-nyereg (Two Beech saddle), and there's a little parking place by the road. Here starts the asphalted service road created for the military base on Pilis-tető (now closed for motorized traffic). This place is also a good place to approach Vaskapu from.
Pilis is part of the Duna-Ipoly National Park. Visiting of the park is free of charge, but you should obey some important rules, especially if you're leaving the signed trails. Several rare and protected plants live here: Greater Pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis), Purple hellebore (Helleborus purpurascens), Yellow pheasant's eye (Adonis vernalis), Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) etc. It is essential to take care and avoid disturbing their habitat, especially in the rocky areas.
One of the plants needs special attention. This is Ferula sadleriana, a very rare, strictly protected endemic species (having a symbolic value of 900€), whose largest contingent (making up about half of the entire wild population) can be found in the SE part of Pilis-tető. As the plant is not particularly attractive, it is not threatened by collection activities, but rather by grazing of wild animals and the trampling of humans who visit the area (this place is one of the best takeoff points for paragliders). If you'd like to enjoy the view, better choose the top of the bunkers, and do not venture into the SE part of the plateau. It's less romantic, but environmentally more responsible.
Numerous unmarked trails and forestry roads criss-cross the mountain, hovewer, as mentioned in the overview section, no marked trail leads to the top of Pilis. The safest and most environment-friendly way to get there is to take the former service road (asphalted) of the miltary base by bike or by foot from Két-bükkfa-nyereg. This is kind of boring to walk, though.
Panorama trail routes
There's one marked trail (green stripe) that traverses the SE nose and the SW side of the mountain. This "panorama" trail has nice lookout points and offers possibilities to reach the top. The first one is from the first lookout point (called "László kúpja"), where the trail takes a sharp turn around the "nose" of the mountain. Although this path features some nice rocks along the way, its upper section involves the habitat of Ferula sadleriana (see the Red Tape section), and thus, it is discouraged to take. Then after a few switchbacks, there will be another trail to the right (see the map below). This one goes in the forest (for a long section by the side of a fence set to keep off grazing animals from the protected area) and leads straight up to the former military base. Once you notice the trailhead, it's hard to get lost.
On the NE side of the mountain, the unmarked trail of Vaskapu-szurdok (Vaskapu ravine) offers a spectacular, yet not hassle-free approach. If you continue further up from the Vaskapu arches, first you will reach a lookout point, soon after which the terrain flattens out. Now, this is where things get more difficult, as there's not much help for orientation in the forest. A GPS device with a proper map can be helpful from here on, but of course you should have a paper map and a good sense of orientation as well, just in case. Keep in mind, that the asphalted access road is about 1 km towards the west, plus make sure you remember the way back if you'd fail.
The meteorological station on Pilis-tető provides on-line weather data for the past 24 hours and hosts a webcam as well.
Click on the image to see it enlarged.
Below you can find accuweather.com weather forecast for the two villages below the mountain:
See the Parent page.
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