Best Hikes In Slovak Paradise National Park — Our Wanders
Out of Slovakia’s nine national parks Slovak Paradise (Slovensky Raj in Slovak) definitely has the coolest name. But does it live up to it? If you like wild creeks, pretty waterfalls, adventurous glens and ravines and lush greenery, it will truly be your paradise. Picture long, wooden ladders that lead in impressive gorges, tiny metal plateaus attached to vertical cliffs or a series of metal ladders taking you up to the top of a 70-something meters waterfall. Don’t forget to imagine an ice tunnel either.
We’ve explored this small park thoroughly over the years, have hiked through all of its glens and ravines in every possible combination and fallen in love with it even more after each visit. In this post we show you all the highlights. It’s not an internationally famous park, but loved by Slovaks and hikers from the neighboring countries. If you visit Slovakia’s High Tatras, Slovak Paradise could be a nice addition to that trip. Its hiking trails are not that challenging, but they still feel like an adventure.
Information about this park and its gorge trails in English is not easy to find. We did our research in Hungarian (surprisingly — or not -, it was much more efficient), then simply went there and headed to find all the glens and waterfalls. After several hiking seasons, weekend and long weekend trips later, we finally have a post about it that we’re proud of, because it’s detailed and helpful. It’s this one, so keep reading. 🙂
One last note: we mainly use the Slovak names of the sights and gorges in the post, simply because that will be more useful if you actually do the trails — where everything is written in Slovak.
TOP 3 experiences in Slovak Paradise National Park
Visit Dobšinská Ice Cave
Not many ice caves in the world are located as low as Dobšinská Ice Cave in the Slovensky Raj. At an elevation of only 920 to 950 meters it’s still an icy wonderland all year! It belongs to the first electronically illuminated caves in Europe, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Dobšinská Ice Cave is open to visitors from mid-May until October. You can explore it during a 30 minutes long guided walk, which includes walking in ice tunnels and marveling at ice halls.
How to access the cave? Park at Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa. Walk about 30 minutes (1 km, 130 meters elevation gain) to reach the cave entrance. Buy tickets for the next tour and enjoy. Oh, have cash to buy your tickets, no card accepted. Check the current opening hours and prices here.
If you only have time for a short gorge trail: hike Suchá Belá
The Dry White Gorge, or roklina Suchá Belá as Slovaks call it, is a half day hike that you can perfectly combine with visiting Dobšinská Ice Cave. If you only have one day in Slovak Paradise, that’s what we recommend.
Suchá Belá is easily accessible, just a short walk away from the parking lot at Podlesok, and it gives a taste of what this park is truly like. You climb up on wooden ladders in the charming little glen, passing four lovely waterfalls on your way up. It’s a 3.5–4 hours long loop trail. Either start it early in the morning or late in the afternoon (after the ice cave) to avoid the crowds. Detailed description and map follows, just keep reading.
A full day adventure: Prielom Hornádu (Hornád River Canyon)
Hornád River Canyon is one of the longest routes in the park. It gives access to several glens, and there are different variations of this hike you can choose from. We’ll describe them below, but first of all, don’t start this trail if you want something short and pretty. Suchá Belá and others are more suitable for half day adventures, this one is better if you can dedicate your full day to it.
Hiking Suchá Belá, the most popular gorge trail in the park
Easily accessible, charming and adventurous. No wonder, it’s the most popular gorge in the park, and probably the best trail to start your explorations. The hiking trail runs in a narrow glen (really narrow at some places!) where you hike along (or in) the creek, and there are four waterfalls on the way. The highest waterfall is 29.5 meters, the smallest is 8 meters tall.
There are wooden ladders, chains and iron steps built in the rocks, so that you can safely climb the glen without any professional climbing equipment. Waterproof hiking boots are useful though, and there’s countless creek crossings on the way.
Hiking Prielom Hornádu, the Hornád River Canyon
Hornád River is the largest stream in the national park, and there’s a long trail in the canyon it carved. It’s larger but not as picturesque as many other smaller gorges. Still it has a few very cool and adventurous sections, and it’s a wonderful experience looking down at Hornád River roaming below your feet at those places (assuming you are not fearful of heights, we might add). It also connects with those lovely, smaller glens. You actually have different options to connect to other trails, and we’ll show you some nice variations.
Where to start: east or west?
You can start your hike at either end of the canyon: Podlesok or Čingov. Hiking the canyon all the way takes about 4 hours (one-way), then you can follow the same route to get back to the trailhead. Don’t do this though, there are more exciting options.
Western loop via Kláštorská roklina
If you start from Podlesok, you need to walk almost 2 km to the entrance of Hornád Canyon from the parking lot. It’s an easy, almost flat walk, but it adds about 30 minutes to your day. Then hike about halfway in the canyon, until you reach the crossing for Kláštorská roklina (Kláštorská glen).
Climbing up in this small glen makes your hike a loop, adding some scenic sections and two smaller waterfalls to it. As you hike above the glen, you reach the ruins of Kláštorisko monastery. In the 13 thcentury this place saved many people from Tatar attacks. It was also home of the silent Carthusian order. They named this place “raj” (paradise), hence the name of today’s national park.
You can find a restaurant and a mountain hut at Kláštorisko (and toilets, too), and it’s a great picnic spot. Meadows are covered with thousands of blooming wildflowers in late spring. But Kláštorisko is also a meeting point of many trails, and you can choose different routes from there. We’ve tried all throughout the years, so let’s see. If you’re tired or short on time, take a forest trail back to the Podlesok parking lot (route 1).
If you’re up for more adventures, explore some of the more remote (and less busy) glens and ravines, like Sokolia dolina (route 2), Malý Kyseľ (route 3) or Veľký Kyseľ (4). But you need to choose one of the three, because they go more or less parallel with each other. Whichever you choose, you can find your way back to Podlesok in the end.
Western loop via Kláštorská roklina & Sokolia dolina
Sokolia dolina (Falcon Valley) is one the most wild and remote ravines in the park. And it has the highest ladder to climb along 75 meters high Závojový Waterfall! Choosing this path will be the longest and most strenuous option of the three glens, but it’s also very rewarding.
From Kláštorisko you hike to Kyseľ along a lovely stream, then further to the entry of Sokolia dolina. Series of other ladders, footbridges and built-in iron footsteps helped us conquer this ravine, and we passed three waterfalls on our way, too.
The hike in Sokolia dolina is about 2 hours one-way. But getting there from Kláštorisko, then returning to Podlesok easily adds another 3 hours, so plan for a full day hike if you take this route.
Western loop via Kláštorská roklina & Malý Kyseľ
What’s special about Malý Kyseľ? It’s just as picturesque as any of the gorges, with wooden and iron ladders, bridges, waterfalls and some extremely narrow sections. If Sokolia dolina sounds too much of a challenge, this is an easier option to finish the loop.
Don’t confuse it with the Kyseľ via ferrata route though. Malý Kyseľ and Veľký Kyseľ are different gorges, and neither of them requires climbing equipment.
Western loop via Kláštorská roklina & Veľký Kyseľ
Eastern loop with the best panorama over the Paradise
You can choose to start your hike in Hornád Canyon from Čingov. What does this route offer? Tomášovský viewpoint (Tomášovský výhľad, 532 m), the only panoramic viewpoint in the park, and a different section of Hornád Canyon, because this area is east of Kláštorská roklina.
Hiking Veľký Sokol, the longest glen in the park
Veľký Sokol is the longest glen of Slovak Paradise National Park, and significantly less busy than either Suchá Belá or Hornád River Canyon. It also seemed the least maintained of all the gorge trails, but we managed to find a safe path all the way, and the solitude and beauty was definitely worth the effort.
You can access the glen from the road, it’s about 10 minutes drive from Hrabušice on an abandoned, narrow road that leads through the heart of Slovak Paradise. The pullout is easy to miss, but if you check your Google Maps and keep an eye out for a sign with yellow mark that indicates the trailhead for Veľký Sokol, it’ll be fine. Here, we marked it on Google for you. Parking space is very limited at the trailhead, but since our car was the only one, it was not a real problem. 😀
The yellow trail leads you through the glen, and you reach the entrance after a short walk along a lovely creek in the forest. It took us about 3 hours to hike through Veľký Sokol, but we did it at a comfortable pace. We met no one on the way, there were just us, the peaceful canyon, the wooden ladders and charming waterfalls.
Hiking roklina Piecky, the most secluded glen in the park
The hiking trail through roklina Piecky (Small Stoves Gorge) is not that different from the other glens: it runs along a lovely creek, features tall ladders, iron stairs and several waterfalls, the two largest ones 8 and 13 meters high. One of them is right by the entrance of the gorge which is very impressive: a tall, sheer rock wall decorated with that waterfall.
What comes next is spectacular, as well: the gorge is dramatic, and you’ll likely have it to yourselves. After climbing above it, you can have a picnic on a meadow that’s full of flowers in late spring. The challenging part of the hike is over, there’s a forest trail (surprisingly steep at some sections) that takes you back to Pila. Most of this trail is the same as the back route from Veľký Sokol.
This glen can also be easily accessed. The path to the entrance starts from the parking lot in Pila. The road from Hrabušice (the park entrance) to Pila is a narrow forest road, but its quality is fine, and the drive is short, anyway. Parking fee along with entrance fee to Slovak Paradise was collected at the entrance booth when we visited last time (2018).
Hiking Zejmarská roklina, the smallest canyon
Zejmarská glen ( Zejmarská roklina in Slovak) is the smallest in the park. It’s for you if you want to combine an easy hike with a boat ride on Palcmanská Maša, the water reservoir in Dedinky.
The glen can be reached on a short hike from Dedinky (about 20 minutes), or you can drive directly to the entrance at Biele Vody. Zejmarská roklina itself is roughly a kilometer long, so as soon as we got excited about the pretty waterfalls and dramatic views, the tiny glen was conquered. 😀 The full loop trail took about 2.5 hours, including the time to walk there from Dedinky.
It might be short, but it has ladders and chains, and offers the fun to climb up in the narrow glen. If you want a glen for beginners (or kids), start with this one.
When is the best time to visit Slovak Paradise?
When we lived in Budapest, Slovak Paradise was usually the scene of our first spring hikes and our last fall hikes in Slovakia. When it was too early (or late) in the year for hiking in the Tatras, we took weekend trips to Slovak Paradise, Great and Little Fatra National Parks.
The high season for hiking in this park is from mid-spring until late fall, but waterfalls are the most beautiful in late spring/early June after snowmelt. Be prepared with raincoats all the time, though summer showers are usually quick.
Where to stay
We preferred staying in the small town of Hrabušice. We definitely recommend Hrabušice if you don’t have a car since it’s walking distance from the Podlesok parking lot (maybe 15–20 minutes walk). And if you have a car, you can reach any trailhead within a 15–20 minutes drive from Hrabušice.
We stayed at various private guest houses on our weekend trips throughout the years, but our favorite is Apartment Mediasi. It offers nice, spacious, newly renovated rooms and a well-equipped, large, shared kitchen. To our pleasant surprise the staff speaks fluent English — which is not at all common at private guest houses in Slovakia -, we got a warm welcome and they made sure we have all the comfort and information we need for an enjoyable stay.
If you plan to drive through the park, and do some hiking in its southern area, Mlynky or Dedinky are nice choices, too. Last but not least: if you only visit the park as a day trip, Poprad is the closest major city that you can use as a base to explore the area.
Slovak Paradise hiking trails on a map
We took this picture at one of the trailheads, and it gives a good overview of the different hiking routes and their color codes:
Practical things to know before you visit
Entrance and parking fees
There’s an entrance fee to the park, and it’s collected at the trailheads or at the booths in the trailhead parking lots. It was 1.5 EUR/day/adult when we last visited (May 2018). If you visit the park outside of the main hiking season though, you might not find anyone in the booths. I guess, it’s not worth collecting the fee from those few hikers who might get by.
Most of the parking lots also have daily parking fees in addition to the entrance ticket. It’s usually a few euros.
Most glens are short, but not all can be easily accessed from the parking lots. You can combine more of them on different routes though. Just keep in mind that they are one-way routes (only up!). There’s a connecting forest trail outside of the glen that makes a loop and takes you back to the trailhead.
Stepping into the water can’t be avoided at some places. Wear waterproof hiking boots, forget about trainers on the gorge trails.
As in many European countries hiking trails are marked with colors in Slovakia. There are usually maps and signposts at the trailhead, and you should look for the color signs on the trees once you are on the trail. Signposts are often there to help you at crossings, but it’s good to have a map with all the trails and their colors (at least, take a photo of the map at the trailhead with your phone).
The gorge trails are not recommended for kids under 5. Of course, it depends on your kid’s abilities and physical features, too. Small kids can’t reach some of the chains or climb many of the ladders. But we definitely saw many children on these trails, and they’re very exciting to kids once they’re old enough to cope with them.
What about hiking with a baby in the carrier? Not the best idea. We haven’t hiked there since Tomi was born, and while we think that some of the trails might be fine with a baby carrier if you’re very cautious, it’s just not so much fun. There’s often too much risk that you hit your baby to the cliffs as you climb. We recommend doing a scenic ridge trail in Great Fatra National Park instead of the Paradise if you want to carry your baby.
Beware of bears
Yes, there are bears in the Slovak mountains. They are rarely seen, and no one has died from a bear attack in Slovakia for long years. We’ve also never seen any bears yet while hiking in Slovakia. However, it’s good to keep the general bear safety tips in mind. In a nutshell: make noise (talk loudly, sing, clap) to make your presence known; in case of an encounter, don’t ever turn your back to the bear, and try to leave the area slowly.
Disclosure: We paid for this trip ourselves and our hotel stay was not sponsored either. However affiliate links are used in this post, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you are ready to book your trip and would like to support this website in some way, here’s your chance. Thank you! 🙂
Originally published at https://ourwanders.com on March 8, 2022.