The trail is to the left before you cross the bridge. I memorized this tip from our Slovenian host as our car cautiously hugged narrow corners along the famously beautiful Vršič Pass in Triglav National Park. As our second trip to Slovenia, this place was high on my list. In search of the mountains, and Slovenia’s best natural beauty, Dan and I scoured the map until we settled on the quaint ski village of Kranjska Gora, located near the Austrian and Italian borders. Here, you have perfect access to the northern end of the Pass, immediately guiding you high into the Julian Alps. We had no plans to ski, but plenty of plans to hike. In the thick of winter solstice, we knew we had limited light and warmth to tackle the park, so we opted to fill our first day with a moderate 2-hour out-and-back hike to the mountain hut of Krnici.
And there it was: a wide forest road preceding the bridge that spanned Pišnica River, delivering clear, emerald waters a mere 15 minutes outside of Kranjska Gora. We parked our car and set off on foot, trail number 8. The hike began gradually, following a simple farm road weaving along the river, the only obstacles were frozen stream beds and warnings of grazing cattle. Eventually, mountain peaks made their appearance, framed by tall evergreen trees.
Soon enough, the river’s winter fate pushed away from the trail, leaving us to admire a large, dry, snow-and-ice covered riverbed. A small cottage nestled along its banks remained vacant and shadowed in the nonexistent solstice sunlight. Without hesitation, we explored. Trudging out on the riverbed, we were soon surrounded by towering peaks, a great reminder of our minuscule place amongst nature’s giants.
From here the path tucked in and out of the forest, eventually merging with several other trails (great options to take you further into the park). We started to ascend into the thick of the forest, reunited with the comforting trickle of the river. The ground here was soft, covered in debris, smelling comfortingly of nature. The green of the moss, clinging to boulders, contrasted perfectly with the gray tree trunks and the rusty leaves below.
Twenty minutes later, we found Krnici, a dark-wood hut with bright green shutters nestled majestically under impressive peaks. A Slovenian flag danced in the breeze, a trickle of smoke escaping from the chimney. It was mountain heaven. We ducked inside, greeted by outdated decor and a roaring fire. We sat and ordered two bowls of soup – traditional turnip and ham for Dan, roasted chicken and vegetable for me – and two cups of white mulled wine. It was surprisingly delicious and warmed us up just enough for our return trek.
From here, you can easily connect to other trails, including the summit of Špik peak or Ruska Kapelica (the Russian Chapel). We saved the chapel for the next day and the higher peaks for a hopeful summertime return. Needless to say, this walk in Triglav National Park was just what we needed.