Running in the Czech Republic is amazing. About 15 years ago I was here as a young tourist, making my way across Europe. I got to the Czech Republic and I fell in love. Not only was everything familiar, since I grew up in a Czech home but the country is gorgeous. This September I got to go back to the Czech Republic and see a whole new side of the country.
Running is definitely booming in this country since my last visit, in fact, everything is booming in this country. Before leaving on my trip I googled some national parks to visit. The most recommended park to visit is the Czech Switzerland National Park. I put it on my to-do list and decided to not book anything until I arrived in Prague. I’ve learned a lot of things from travelling and some may disagree but the best way to save money is to wait to book anything substantial until you get settled at your destination.
The following day I had arranged my rental car, my very secluded cabin in the woods and left Prague for the north. The journey took about 1 hour and 45 mins and once you get into the park you’re on small winding roads. I arrived at the village of Jetřichovice, parked my car and went in search of my cabin. Rustic doesn’t even begin to describe what I had got myself into. It was a log cabin with only a car battery to give you a small amount of electricity to charge your phone and use the water pump. The cabin was only heated by a fireplace that didn’t keep anything warm. I got myself settled in, acquainted with the outhouse and headed off on my journey through the woods.
Most travellers will book a tour to get to and from the park. It’s not the easiest place to get to by train or bus, so a private tour is the best way. However, that costs money, and I was on a fixed budget. After reading many blogs and calling a few tour companies, I decided with a little bit of planning I could do this one alone. Do I recommend you do this alone? If you aren’t in a hurry and want to learn more about the area, I would recommend a tour. I wanted to cover as much of the park as I could in two days, so a tour would just slow me down.
I mapped out a loop starting and ending at my cabin that would take me approx 20km, getting me to all the lookouts and some really cool historical sites. The Czech Switzerland national park is now protected by Unesco. The trail is meticulously marked, and it’s hard to miss any of the historical sights even when you’re running like I was.
There are three different trails, green, yellow and red. I decided to go with the RED trail on my first day, which was the harder trail. It was definitely more technical and the uphills never ended. There were times I was climbing up very steep and skinny ladders to get to the peaks of the rocks. Once on top, the views were stunning and I was lucky to get most of the trail to myself that day.
Once you start your descend out of the trails, the markers will take into a village. Here you can stop, eat and drink. Packing for a hiking/running trip is really easy, you just need to pack cash! Once you have filled up the tank you continue through the village back into the woods until you get to the next village. The markers are easy to spot, and it’s hard to get lost, however, it’s still recommended you take your own personal paper map and a compass.
I finished my loop with about an hour of daylight left which I needed to prepare for my night in the log cabin. There was work to be done. I had to cut my own kindling to start the fire and then start boiling the reserved rainwater to make hot tea. I snuggled up with my Kobo that has it’s own backlight because the fire was really just for ambience and nothing else. That night I slept like a baby.
The next morning after eating my Stoked Oats and drinking my tea, I checked my map once again. I figured I could get approximately 40km of a different section done and again hit up all the spots I had come to see. So I checked out of the log cabin letting the owner know I wouldn’t need it for the second night.
I drove just a short 20 minutes to the village Hrensko. This is a hot spot for hikers and mountain bikers wanting access to the trail. The village is really beautiful, the only problem you encounter in Hrensko is parking. Unlike the other village I was at and most villages I came across, parking was free and easy to find. In Hrensko, you have to pay everywhere and it’s not always easy to find a spot. When I arrived the main parking area had 10 cars parked, by the time I got back to my car 6 hours laters, the car park was so full, I almost wasn’t able to get my car out.
I followed the green route from Hrensko and my journey was a straight 3km steady climb to the sandstone bridge. This natural sandstone bridge is said to be one of the largest in Europe. This particular site in the park you have to pay for (remember I said pack cash!) and although it’s only a few CZK, it’s worth it. There are plenty of amazing lookouts and you can stop for breakfast or lunch at the restaurant that is built into the mountain. If you don’t like crowds this stop might not be for you. It’s one of the most popular stops in the park and as the day goes on, it just gets more and more crowded. Lucky for me I was able to run ahead of the very first tour groups and get out just as they had caught up.
Once again on the trail, I was learning so much about this part of the Czech Republic. Once the bottom of an ocean 95 billion years ago, it was home to a very important trade route for the Czech people. The King at the time, having to protect this route, set up castles and lookouts along the mountain tops. Today those remains are either marked by a stone, while the looks out still remain.
The guides tell you to check out the old mill site. To be honest, this didn’t seem all that interesting to me as I read about it, but once I realized I was only a few kilometres away, I decided to make a small change to my plans. The trail descends fast and steep down to a beautiful river and along the river was the remains of a mill. The mill was first mentioned back in 1515 and today all that is left is the walls of the main mill and a few other small storage buildings.
Every time you entered a new section of the trail, everything changed. The trees, the temperature and even the ground under your feet. It was either layers of yellow sand or gnarled tree roots. My favourite section of the trail was by far the gorge. Again for a couple of CZK you get on a punting boat and you will be transported from one side of the trail to the other. There are three boat crossing locations, and the one I took was 1.5km long. It kicks you off onto the yellow which is an easy winding trail that follows the river all the way to Hrensko.
There was still one more trail I had to see. The Jetřichovice which was located about 15 minutes away from Hrensko. There were several options to get to the mountain I wanted to climb, but with the sun quickly setting, I had to take the easiest option. I parked in a village next to a pub and set off on foot following the trail system that would take me to top of the Růžovský vrch. It was a 1km hike from the top to the bottom and it was steep. This mountain used to have a restaurant on the top, where thousands of visitors would dine every year. It was struck by lightning and burned down, resurrected year later and once again burned down. All that remains today is the foundation of the restaurant as well as a giant wooden cross. This mountain used to be a volcano and what was more interesting to me was how rapidly the temperature changed from one side of the mountain to the other. I pulled out my map and read the description one more time only to find out that there were ice fissures on the north side of the mountain and the frozen water could be found all year long. If you’re a geologist or have any interest in geology this is one place you will enjoy exploring.
The Czech Switzerland National park is huge and it could take me years finding all the great treasures it has to offer. My trip had to come to an end eventually and I headed back to Prague. My map of the park was pretty beat up, but it’s very hard to find anything on the internet. I taped my map back together and have tucked it away for my next trip to this region.