One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Romania was to hike. When my dad and I originally picked the location for our next trip, it was simply because we had never been to Romania before and it had mountains. Romania is dominated by the gorgeous tree-covered Carpathian mountains that cover over 600 miles of terrain in the shape of an arch through the heart of Romania. In fact, over 30% of Romania is mountainous affording tons of opportunities to hike, bike, ski, climb, cave, horseback ride or simply just enjoy the beauty and peace of one’s surroundings.
Oddly enough, I had first learned about Romania’s impressive landscape as well as it rich culture and history from the Romanian summer staff at a resort I used to go to in Northern Minnesota. I remember asking them where they were from and when they said Romania, I instantly asked if there were mountains. When they told me, “Yes, of course there are mountains! The Carpathians!” I was instantly intrigued and Romania was moved up on my travel wish list.
Several years later the opportunity to go to Romania became a reality. We would go for a week in July. Unfortunately our time in country would be too short to do a week-long hike journeying hut to hut over the high peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. Instead, we would have to settle on a one-day hike because sadly that was all that we would have time for. I was disappointed but in my opinion it was better than nothing.
We had only five full days on the ground in Romania and a lot of things to see. We had spent a day in Bucharest and then headed south to the charming town of Brasov for the remainder of our trip. It was an excellent choice because it is beautiful and centrally located to numerous hiking trails as well as castles and towns to visit.
Figuring out what hike to do was extremely challenging. I read the Lonely Planet and searched online before we left for the trip but soon became completely overwhelmed. There were way too many amazing hikes and most of the good ones were multi-day treks. We decided to wing it and just ask at the local tourist office in town when we reached Brasov.
When we arrived at our hotel and checked in, we discovered that one of the employees at the front desk, John, was also a mountain climber and tour operator on his off days. After inquiring about the best day hikes in town and talking with the tourist office, we found an intriguing day hike to do yet wanted a local guide. John would be perfect and he just so happened to have the next day off of work. He agreed to take us and we were thrilled. Judging by how much we had already been lost in Romania and how the hiking map was all in Romanian, we didn’t want to take the chance of going by ourselves. We would later find out that it was fairly easy to find our way around but having a local guide along to tell us all about Romania made it highly worth it.
We set off at half past seven the next morning with a freshly packed lunch from the hotel. Unfortunately my dad had woken up with a nasty cold and fever certainly picked up from our international flight two days before. Yet we had already made the plan to hike and he was determined and stubborn enough to do it.
It was roughly a thirty minute drive southeast of Brasov to the base of the Piatra Mare Mountains where we would pick up the trail to the Canionul Sapte Scari or “The Seven Ladders Canyon”. I’m glad we had John with us as we clearly would have missed the pull off onto the trail. There was a sign but it was a bit unexpected.
Once at the trailhead, we followed it along a beautiful forest and creek until we reached the park entrance. I had to admit I was a little spooked about the bears. We have bears in Northern Minnesota and I’ve seen one the size of a small VW bug outside the window once but never hiking on the trail. I was still nervous despite the fact that John had carried a handful of firecrackers and matches with him to scare them away in the rare event we saw one.
The weather was temperamental that morning with a high chance of rain. That together with my dad’s constant sniffles, runny nose and fever wasn’t making our chance of an enjoyable hike great. Yet John had a wealth of information on the politics, history and culture of Romania. Like almost all Romanians we met during our short stay, he was warm, welcoming and a delight to be around.
After about a half an hour, we reached the park office and the canyon. Many people come here to relax, picnic and enjoy the zip-line park through the trees. After paying a small fee, you can rent a helmet and gear to zip-line or else continue on to the hike.
The first thing you have to conquer is the seven ladders that lead you up and over the canyon. Despite my love of hiking and climbing, I confess to having a strong fear of heights. Climbing and holding on to the wet railing of the seven ladders was enough to make me nervous. But I tried not to panic and definitely did not look down. I grasped the handles with clenched hands and carefully pulled my way up not letting go until I was safely on the next ramp. It was nerve-wracking but not the worst thing I’ve ever done.
I admit, I did not like the ladders one bit. We decided to take the longer way back on the way down in order to avoid the ladders. Here is a slideshow of the last six ladders. Ladder seven was by far the steepest and the worst. I not once looked down.
Once over the ladders, I was relieved. The rest of the hike up to the hut was relatively easy except for my poor dad who was growing sicker by the minute. Then it started to rain making it even a little bit worse for him. At least it was lovely in the lush, green forest.
John told us that the Carpathian Mountains are divided into three major ranges: the Eastern (Oriental) Carpathians, the Southern Carpathians (also known as the Transylvanian Alps), and the Western Carpathians. There are hundreds of hikes throughout these mountains and many are serviced by huts where you can spend the night and have a hot meal. If only we had more time!
Finally, we neared a clearing and realized that we had to be close. John had to turn back since he had to work the night shift at the hotel. Despite my dad’s miserable cold, he continued on. That’s my dad. He never quits even if the challenge is tough. Although it is definitely an admirable trait, I felt terrible that he was feeling so awful.
As we approached the hut, we were greeted by a beautiful white Pyrenees looking for some handouts. He reminded me of the puppy I’d left behind at home with my family. I didn’t give him any of my sandwich but did take his photograph. I couldn’t resist.
You can spend the night at the hut and continue on throughout the mountains. We had our sandwich and then headed back down the mountain before it began to pour rain. Too bad it wasn’t clearer as I’d have loved to get a view.
We found the trail and continued downward for two hours until to my dad’s relief we were back at the car. His head was pounding and we both knew it was time to find a pharmacy for some medication. He didn’t want to spend his entire time in Romania in bed sick.
It was too pretty to not stop and take a few quick photos. This would be it for my attempt to hike in Romania. But it was certainly enough to inspire me to come on back. It is a beautiful place!
If you go:
I found the Romanian Tourism office in the town of Brasov to be very helpful. You can also check out their website for some basic information.
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I greatly enjoy the relationship I have with you, even if I have to share you with so many others. You purchase and pack equipment, put up with TSA abuse after spending good money for tickets, fly to a country with a language you don’t speak, ascend great heights with danger, live on a sandwich or two a day, and take beautiful pictures of a beautiful land for me to enjoy while comfortable, well-fed, and free of danger. Thank you.
I must say I lived on much more than sandwiches as Romanian food is extremely good, hearty and relatively low cost. 🙂
Spectacular hike and photos!
Thank you Jane! It is quite a memory especially given my dad’s horrible cold. When we got back he slept for 15 hours! 🙂
Are you glad we did it????
Good-looking hiking country! I like the ladder routes most of the time although they are a little less fun in the rain when big, clunky lug soles want to slip on the rungs! 😮
You would love it Lexi! Future trip for you?
For sure! My husband would like that one, and he needs a trip with me after all my solo gallivanting this summer!
Does he like to hike too Lexi?
Very much so. He just can never take as much time off as I can. He did Mont Blanc, Inca Trail, western US national parks, and the Paine Circuit with me, but has missed out on all of Asia because those trips are just too long. Romania is doable!
That is fabulous Lexi! My husband and I used to do hiking trips before the kids. We are waiting to someday bring them too!
How beautiful! I love all of these pictures. May be booking a flight soon. 😉
Thanks! I loved Romania. A wonderful country.
How beautiful! Not sure about the ladders, though.
Yes I did not like the ladders but it was beautiful. 🙂
Sounds like a mixed bag – not so good weather, and your dad’s struggles, but then some lovely country to explore, and always the joy of being out in nature. I’d have loved the ladders! The photo with the donkeys is beautiful.
Thanks Alison! Yes it was actually a memorable hike despite the fact my dad was so sick he hardly talked (normally that is all he does!). I have such a fear of looking down. It just seems to make me nervous. But I’m glad we did it. Hope all is well! 🙂
Those ladders remind me of something out of Indiana Jones. Would’ve tested my nerve too but it all looks so beautiful. What a shame your dad had a cold.
Yes they were quite slippery and the fall down was too crazy so I didn’t even look.
Your article was so nice. Since I am from Romania, I must confess, the landscapes are one of the most beautiful things of our country; especially in the area of Transylvania. I am from Cluj-Napoca and hikes around Cluj are also a delight. If you ever return there I will be more than happy to show you around.
It was really nice to read this and I really hope you enjoyed your time there.
hugs from Cluj-Napoca!
Thank you! Yes Romania is quite a lovely country. The culture is rich, the landscape stunning and the people so warm and friendly. I would love to come back and check out more someday. 🙂
Good for you to persevere through this beautiful hike Nicole.
Seeing you map reminded me that Dave makes his maps by starting with Google Maps and using a tool like Snag it to then put the base into power point. Then he uses the tools there to enlarge names add text, etc.
Thanks Sue! I will have to investigate how to do the maps. Sounds like it takes a bit of effort but I love how you include them in your posts!
I do think it really helps readers get a sense of the place. Thanks!
Yes I do too! I’ll have to figure out how to do it now!
like you work. It not only tells about your journey but also benefits the future traveler who will be going to that place and that may be the reason why I am following you on each and every social platform. This time, you have made it again. Keep on going 🙂 Hope to see more about travel in mid-west(US).
Thank you so much! That makes me smile! 🙂 I’ve been blogging now for almost six years. I enjoy it!
SIX years? that is very long. Well, keep it up. will be following each and every post. have a nice journey.
Thanks so much! 🙂
Reblogged this on necltr and commented:
A beautiful country! And Ceausescu is gone!
Awesome hike, though I can certainly see why you didn’t like the ladders. The “hut” looked much nicer than my mental picture of a hut! I hope you can go back and stay for awhile.
Thanks Marilyn! 🙂
Looks so beautiful. I really want to travel to Romania, but I don’t have enough money.
Yes it is beautiful. Romania is actually relatively quite inexpensive once you get there. Much less than other destinations in Europe.
The ladders look a little scary, but the landscapes are amazing and you captured them beautifully in your pictures.
Thanks so much! I am glad I got a tiny taste of the Romanian mountains even if I didn’t get too high. It is so beautiful!!!
Given all the hiking you have done Nicole, I was a little surprised to find you have a fear of heights. Those ladders do look a bit intimidating but the countryside looks well worth the effort. Your father is such a trouper. Sounds a lot like someone else I know. 😉
Yes I just hate heights like ladders or anything that is straight up and you could fall far down. So yes I kept thinking not to slip as there was no bail out at all. That is why I am scared of heights! 🙂
I am claustrophobic and don’t like narrow trails that angle down over a precipitous drop-off. Terry despises heights!