Trnovski gozd means "The Woods of Trnovo", and has its name by an unimportant village on the western part of the area. It is a broad, forested high plateau, one of the first mountain groups on the NW of Dinaric Alps. The attractiveness of the area lies in its diversity. The plateau itself would not be anything much special. Many rounded summits, rising out of it, are almost to their summits covered with woods, so only a few of them are attractive for hikers. Of course, forests are also attractive for hiking and biking. There are many paths and mountain roads, on clearings there are forest huts. Due to karstic terrain there are no surface waters on the plateau. Even on the southern part, which is grassy and would be appropriate for farming, water is a major problem. While in winters there are big amounts of snow, in summer the landscape can be very dry. A few interesting spots to visit are on the northern part of the area: a panoramic summit or two, sinkholes, filled with ice, a mysterious karstic lake near Idria. But southern part is for hiking much more interesting. There the plateau drops abruptly down towards Vipavska dolina (valley). The whole edge is very panoramic, the summits above it are grassy, some rock formations are even appropriate for climbing. Erosion caused some strange formations in the rocks, the most beautiful are two natural windows. And below, where limestone hits flysh terrain, water comes out of mountains in some spectacular sources. In the future, I believe on SummitPost there will be not many distinct pages of mountains, perhaps a few of crags for climbing. So, on this page I will briefly describe some spots, worth of visiting.
The southern border is clearly the lower part of Vipavska dolina (valley). From Ajdovščina (the main town, "ajd" means in Slovenian "pagan", so "pagan town") a good road deters up towards hills, following the natural passage in the line: Col - Črni vrh - Godovič. In the lower part the valley of Bela is the border between Trnovski gozd and Nanos plateau, rising further towards the SE. Godovič is the eastern corner of the area. There the main valley from central Slovenia to Idrija town (and Idrijca valley) goes. There is the border of our area, but where it hits the river of Idrijca, it turns towards the west. Idrijca is delimiting Trnovski gozd from Idrijsko hribovje (hills), specifically Vojsko plateau. In the upper part, the valley has the NW-SE direction, on the other side of Sleme (connecting ridge) there is already Trebuščica river, flowing towards the NW. The remote valley of Trebuša is the northern border of Trnovski gozd. From the last high hills of Trnovski gozd a distinct ridge goes far towards the north - between Trebuša on the west and Čepovan valley on the west. Let's not consider all of it as belonging to Trnovski gozd. It would be reasonable to set the border on the road which connects the two valleys over an undistinctive saddle. So, N of this saddle (Vrše) and NW of Čepovan valley is already the area of Banjščice plateau. In the last part the road from Čepovan to Gorica is the western border of Trnovski gozd.
That's the strict, narrow area of Trnovski gozd only. But to the long chain of Dinaric Alps also the plateau of Vojsko belongs. It is situated on the north of Trnovski gozd and has also a few spectacular natural landmark. The no. 1 of them is the wild gorge of Gačnik creek.
While the summits of Alps in Slovenia are almost exclusively made of triassic limestones, these are rare in the area between Soča and Ljubljanica river. Red colors on the picture left are showing that from upper triassic limestone (7) and dolomite (8, 9) only the northern summits of Trnovski gozd are made - those above Belica and Trebuščica. The highest summits of our area are made of jurassic limestones (6), of lower cretacious limestones (5) and of upper cretacious limestones (4). Almost around the whole mountain group in lower areas there is younger, eocena flysch (2), plus some paleocene limestones (3). It's well known that in Vipavska dolina (valley) there's the border between limestone and flysch. Water of several strong water sources is rushing out on places, where it hits flysch layers, while due to limestone, on the surface of Trnovski gozd, there's almost no flowing water. It all disappears immediately. Also the karst sources on the northern side, for example Divje jezero, the wonderful source of vaucluse type, is bringing out waters of Trnovski gozd (and the plateau of Črni vrh), only that they are flowing through triassic limestone.
Trnovski gozd is significantly shaped also by geologic faults. The biggest of course have the typical Dinaric direction: NW - SE. Such faults are Raša fault (goes by Vipavska dolina) and the famous Idrija fault. The latter stretches from Italy across Slovenia into Croatia, straight as if it would be designed by a ruler. On Trnovski gozd one more fault is worth mentioning. The fault of Avče goes by the middle of the group, from the creek of Avšček on the NW to the basin of Pivka, where it is dubbed the fault of Predjama. Due to it, the limestone faces in which the castle of Predjama is situated, are all perforated and the creek of Lijak all diasappears in those caves. Its waters are coming out on the other side of Nanos massif, in the sources of Vipava.
In the times of stronges glaciation in Europe also the highest summits of Trnovski gozd were covered with glaciers - but only the area NE of Golaki.
In the NE part of the plateau there are many rounded, forested summits which are probably not very interesting for hiking. The exception is...
This summit above Črni vrh offers open views on all sides. You can see forests all around, on meadows villages and in the distance many higher mountains of the central Slovenia. Ascent routes: A marked path crosses the summit in the north-south direction. From Zadlog village, 702 m, on the north, you have on hour on top, from Hrušica saddle (Cenc), 850 m, on the SE, you have a bit more due to the distance.
On some older maps the altitude situation is reversed, so you may find it that Mali (Small) Golak is the highest peak of Trnovski gozd, not Veliki (Big) Golak. As the name indicates its top is free of woods, so it offers a really broad panorama - from the Adriatic sea, over the hilly Central Slovenia, to the high and attractive Alps. Both peaks are also ascended with skis in winter. Depending on snow conditions, you can even have some downhill skiing, at least to one of the forest roads. SW of the summit, on 1230 m, there is a mountain hut, opened in summer.
Ascent routes: One marked path goes in the NE-SW direction, from Hudo polje (bordering Vojsko), over the summit of Veliki Golak and further to the SW to the hut and southwards to the hut on Čaven. Doing all that route is a long-distance trek, but you can capture it closer to the summit on one of the forest roads. If you drive from Predmeja village towards the NW (towards Lokve), you can leave the road on some 1000 m and again later on 1100 m, deterring right on the marked path. The other option to come directly on top is from Predmeja vollage - you leave the village in the northern part, capturing the marked path.
This rock, rising out of the woods on the edge above Trebuša valley, would be nothing special if there was not such a great northern panorama from it. Other, higher summits in the neighbourhood are covered with woods and rarely visited, but Poldanovec is rocky, so a marked path reaches it. The slope above Trebuša is high, very steep and rugged. Approaches from that side would be hard, but through one or two ravines ascents do go, requiring easy climbing and very good orientation. Ascent route: You start the tour in Lokve, a tourist village in the NW part of the area. By car you can follow a forest road towards the east (inscription: Lazna), but just to the second crossroads (the first road goes right on top of ski slopes). There the main road continues in the N direction, you must take the forest road right, towards the SE, which is closed for public traffic. Well, if the ramp is lifted, you may risk and continue driving, but that's your decision of taking chance. The road continues some 3 km, ascending only slightly. Reaching to Mojska draga (high valley) the road encircles the forested valley. The marked path takes a cart road even before the crossroads, it goes N and soon descends on the road. You continue by the road till the end of the valley, where it turns right, soon afterwards the marked path deters left from the road, gains the main ridge above Trebuša, and goes by it right. The marked path encircles Poldanovec, because the easiest ascent goes from the south.
This is the first higher summit above the edge of Vipavska dolina, coming from Col on the east. The summit is grassy, there are mostly abandoned pastures around, the southern slopes are falling steeply down. Panorama is very fine.
Ascent routes: The so-called "Grebenska pot" (Ridge trail) is crossing the summit of Kovk. Depending on your intentions it is a good advice to leave bicycles somewhere above, preferably in Otlica village, and do the whole ridge tour in 3-4 hours. If you start below, the marked path deters left from the main road some 750 m west of Col (on 620 m), taking first a dull cart-road. Only after some 20 minutes the marked path leaves the cart-road and does the ascent by at first forested edge. In many turns you gain altitude and finally exit on the grassy, panoramis summit. Continuation is very nice. Over open grassy plateaus you go towards the W and then NW, all the time the path keeps at the edge of the plateau, offering great scenes and distant views. So you approach Sinji vrh, which you detour by the southern side. Then you continue by the edge to Otlica natural window and (preferably by the pathless ridge) to Otlica village.
This is one of the most popular panoramic points on Trnovski gozd. From the NW an asphalt road reaches just below its top, where a nice tourist pension is located. From there, it's only a few minutes on top.
Ascent routes: besides the road on top, the other option is the path which comes by the edge of the plateau from Kovk (see above). If you want to ascend also Sinji vrh, you can leave that path when you're S of the summit and get back on the edge by the marked path (and summit road) which comes on top from the SW. From south of Sinji vrh the "Grebenska" marked path continues towards the NW, all the time by the edge. It passes Otlica natural window and continues all the time to Predmeja village. So, you may also start the tour in Otlica village, visit the natural window, go towards the SE and E on Sinji vrh and return by the road.
Čaven is the mountain area west of Predmeja village, so on the SW edge of Trnovski gozd. Even if we most often say only "on Čaven", there are several peaks, rising from the high plateau. The highest, again very panoramic, is Modrasovec. The southern slopes of these mountains are still steep and mostly rocky, above the main valley there are many nice villages with orchards and fine views around. For an easy tour, if you have an extra hour or two, it is worth visiting some of them. A nice place is the small church of Sv. Marija above Vitovlje, on some elevations the remains of prehistoric settlements were also found. You can see on the above map that there is a dense network of marked paths in the whole area of Čaven.
Ascent routes: We already mentioned the marked path which comes on Modrasoves from the north, from the hut below Golaki. But the majority of people reaches the summit from the south. There is a mountain hut on some 1250 m, which can be reached also by a forest road from Predmeja. It's only some 20 minutes on top from the hut.
This grassy and panoramic summit is nice to be ascended also from the south, from above Vrtovin village. From there we can do a round tour, using marked paths coming up from the villages. The second option is again a hike which goes all the time high, crossing by the edge of the plateau in the E-W direction.
Ascent routes: From the mountain hut on Čaven we have only some 30 minutes of walk towards the west. From Kucelj we can continue westwards. From above Vrtovin (some 350 m) we have up to 3 hors of walk on top. The path is easy and well marked, but can be hot in summer.
This is the northern edge of Vojsko plateau and it offers very nice views - along the Idrija geological fault (Kanomlja valley) and towards the JKulian Alps. The summit is easily reachable. From the village of Vojsko we walk (or bike or drive by car) northwards and then by the last farm (Žgavc) continue right by a marked cart-road.
Just south of Idrija, the waters of Trnovski gozd come out with a source of Vaucluse type. See more information on SP on the page of Divje jezero.
Between Idrija and Godovič in 1916 Austro-Hungarian army constructed a narrow gauge railway which went across very steep forested and rocky slopes. That unbelievable route is today an attractive hiking trail, the best way how to do it is bike & hike. More here.
If you continue from Divje jezero towards the W, following Idrijca river, and then deter left and follow its tribute Bela, you will see on many places interesting dams on the river. They are nowadays protected as a natural technical monument. Once they were used to hold water and then release it at once, using its stream to bring big amounts of logs down in the main valley. The most known are Belške klavže and Putrihove klavže. They can be reached by car, just stop by inscription plates which explain the story.
On Trnovski gozd there are many caves and sinkholes in which ice never melts. These sources were in the distant past (before we invented refrigirators) even used commercially. Big blocks of ice were cut on those high mountains and transported to Trieste port and further - they say even to Egypt and around. One of those sinkholes can be visited by a secured path. Paradana can be almost reached by car. From the road Predmeja - Lokve we deter right on Mala Lazna meadow (inscription). The forest road goes in the NE direction and we soon reach north of the sinkhole. The inscription on the parking place says: "Velika ledena jama v Paradani" - The big ice cave in Paradana. In a few minutes we are by the cave, take care when descending into it (good shoes are needed)!
This is the eastern of two famous natural windows in the limestone walls above Vipavska dolina. "Votel" means in Slovenian "Hollow". The window is some 12 meters high and 7 meters wide and is quite deep below the ridge. From the northern side, the slope leading into the window is forested, so we have an interesting view through the mountain down in villages near Ajdovščina. Ascent route: You best reach Otlica natural window from Otlica village, north of it. You best park by the cemetary and continue by a marked path towards the south. Some 20 minutes of walk to there. Otherwise the window can be also ascended from the south, from the main valley above Ajdovščina (near the source of Hubelj). The altitude of the trailhead is 240 m, the window is on the altitude of some 760 m.
On the far western side of the group, below Trnovo village, there's a place in the main ridge above Vipavska dolina where the walls collapsed and a beautiful natural arch was formed. The name "Skozno" means in Slovenian "Through". There is a fine view from top of the bridge, the whole scenery is great. Ascent route: It is best to ascend Skozno natural bridge from the south, from Šmihel village above Ozeljan or from Vitovlje, more to the east. The paths wind up comfortably and there are inscriptions on the main crossroads. Around 1 h to the arch (from Vitovlje 2 h). The second option is to approach the edge by mountain roads from Trnovo village (from the north, 30 min).
When driving by the lower Vipavska dolina (valley), you will certainly notice a huge funnel-like wall formation. Indeed the word "lijak" means in Slovenian "funnel". You can think than from its bottom a strong water source must come out, but that's only rarely a case. Only after really heavy rain out of the slopes on the bottom of funnel big quantities of water emerge from Trnovski gozd interior. At that time the place is worth visiting. You can reach the place from the main road W of Ozeljan, the ascent path goes by the western side of the stream.
In the walls of Lijak there are many crags, appropriate for sport climbing. Their difficulty varies from 4b to 7b. The overviev (in Slovenian) is on this page: http://www.plezanje.net/climbing/db/showCrag.asp?crag=597
A similar, but more constant source of water is above Ajdovščina. North of the town, water masses abruptly come out of the slope, the scene is again especially worth visiting after heavy rain when you can admire several waterfalls. Otherwise the source of Hubelj supplies Ajdovščina with water.
On Gačnik creek there are as many as 13 waterfalls. But the gorge is very hardly accessible. In Austro-Hungarian monarchy it was claimed to be the wildest gorge in the empire. And that's how it has stayed until today, only that the area has been depopulated and it more and more hard to get guides for the tour. But the highest watrfalls, those at Brdar farm, are easily reached. From the village of Vojsko a good road reaches Gačnik farm (agritourism there), then further on Brdar farm, where we deter right in the gorge. Three smaller waterfalls can be reached, the middle one is quite beautiful.
The creek of Pršjak flows paralelly to Gačnik creek and also has some beautiful waterfalls. Especially nice is the 27 m tal 2nd waterfall, called also Sopota. From the valley of Trebuša (Makuc restaurant) it can be quite easily reached in 25 minutes. To the promontory the trail is narrow, a bit exposed, but well beaten and in dry conditions not demanding (T3/T2), the descent from there down to the waterfall is more demanding (T4/T3, only traces of trail).
The area of Trnovski gozd can best be reached by the highway through Vipavska dolina. From Ajdovščina two good roads go up on the plateau. The eastern one goes around the massif and mountain roads deterring from it can offer east approaches. Towards the north goes a good road to Predmeja village, already on the plateau. From Predmeja you can drive either along the edge of the massif, or towards the NW to Lokve. The western part can be accessed from Gorica, driving up towards Trnovo and Čepovan. Along the northern border of the massif the roads through Idrijca and Trebuša valleys go. A useful source can be the map of the area on Geopedia. To see the layer of marked paths, click on the left: INFO --> Pohodništvo (means: hiking).
Besides the two mountain huts, there are many private huts and hotels in the area. But the forested part of the plateau is mostly uninhabited. The two mountain huts are:
There are no limitations in the area. Some forest roads are closed for public traffic.
Yet, the nature there is still very unspoiled, so please do everything to protect it!