We found very little on the internet or in writing about the Slovenia Mountain Trail as we prepped. Below are some thoughts that we hope may guide other hikers who wish to head out on a trip similar to ours.
Keep in mind that these thoughts are coming from a thru-hiker perspective. We recommend taking what you need and little else.
Slovenia Alpine Association – https://en.pzs.si/
We advise purchasing a 1 year membership to the Slovenia Alpine Association – you get a discount on every lodging at the mountain huts and some rescue insurance is included in the membership.
- The guide books and current maps, as well as GPS files (that we could find) do not include much water data. The typical hiker here is day hiking or out for just a couple of days, with maybe one or two nights in a hut. Accordingly, hikers are not typically relying on natural sources en route. They pack water from home and buy more if they need at one of the mountain huts.
- The Pojorje Range in the east has springs and natural sources fairly frequently.
- A capacity to carry 4 liters should be sufficient, at least it was for us.
- Use mountain huts on route to pickup additional water.
- Much of the water that is available from a sink at the mountain huts is labeled ‘Voda Ni Pitna’ (water not drinkable). We still drank this water, but just treated the water as if it came from a natural source. It is rainwater in most cases. Only once did it taste poor….otherwise it is good.
- Bring some kind of sterilization or small filter (like a Sawyer Squeeze) so that you can use water that is labeled at the huts as non-potable (voda ni pitna).
- At some point, you will find yourself paying for water unfortunately. Some huts have no well source or running water for guests. We purchased water three times at huts. It is expensive, as it is usually brought in by helicopter with the hut’s food supplies. Expect to pay as much as 5 Euro for 1.5 liters
- Occasionally we did find natural source water on route later in the trail, and usually treated it as ‘bonus water’ and drank up a good bit of what we had and then refilled at the surprise source.
- The hut caretakers can be a source of water information for the area as well, as they often know if there is a spring or creek with water. Ask them before you set out each day.
Lodging – Huts, Reservations, & Camping
- Plan to sleep in the huts each night.
- If you are willing to sleep in a bunk room, the price is very cheap. Even if you get a private room, the prices are reasonable.
- Camping is notably, expressly forbidden in Triglav National Park.
- There is some information on the internet that implies you can camp outside of Triglav NP, however, the Slovenia Alpine Association has explicitly told us that “wild camping” is illegal throughout the entire country.
- We met one couple who was camping on the Slovenian Mtn Trail. They said it was going OK.
- If you would plan to camp, keep in mind you are bringing more gear than you actually need for some of the hike, and coupled with the via ferrata gear, your pack gets big and heavy.
- It is generally easy to get private rooms, especially outside of Triglav NP.
- Usually, you only need a few days advanced reservations. For booking within Triglav NP, maybe try to book all of the anticipated huts one week out. Most of the huts in Triglav NP can be booked through the online system. Whether you book online or by phone, you can move dates as needed.
- The huts are generally reasonably nice, though they vary in that some are ready for an update. We found that many of the huts were under renovation.
- All but one hut that we stayed in at had electricity…often even in our room.
- May huts had internet.
- We had cell service at most huts.
- Majority of huts had showers. Only one shower was a pay-per-use coin operated, the rest were included.
- All huts had blankets.
- Linens are available at most huts, but we recommend bringing a sleeping bag liner. There are lightweight silk sacks available at sports stores in Ljubljana.
- Outside of Triglav NP, we wouldn’t have needed a reservation if we were willing to share a room. Our preference was to not share a room, so we always made reservations ahead of time.
- All the huts are listed here, and each huts page has phone numbers or a link to the online reservation system – https://en.pzs.si/koce.php – The online system is for the Alps, and I recommend setting up an account to make reservations faster. Here are the huts that are part of the online reservation system – https://en.pzs.si/vsebina.php?pid=268
- The huts were a nice place to socialize with other travelers.
- Many huts have playing cards and boardgames.
- Huts ranged in price from 11 Euro to 26 Euro per person. Here is the recommended hut pricing put out by the Slovenia Alpine Association – https://en.pzs.si/vsebina.php?pid=17
Food & Drink
- We carried very little food during this trip. Usually we picked up a couple bars (per day of hiking) and a box of crackers, and some gummy worms when we passed through a town.
- Keep in mind that convenience stores and grocery stores are closed on Sundays and only open half days on Saturdays.
- Within Triglav National Park, where road and cable car access is limited, the food portions were smaller at the mountain huts. We wish we had packed additional food for the week that we were hiking in the park.
- One of the beauties of the hut system is that they serve food all day long. We could get breakfast at the huts, eat a few snacks during the day (that we brought) and then get meals at the huts in the evening. On some occasions, our timing worked out so that we bought lunch or strudel at a hut when we passed by mid day.
- All the food is Slovene cuisine and can range from quite excellent to just OK, depending on the cook. Lots of stews and soups. Barley, cabbage, beans, meat, kiobasa, pasta, eggs, bread are all fairly regular items. Some huts have cheese and meat platters for breakfast, some have eggs, some have both. A cup of tea or coffee is always included with breakfast.
- Vegetarian options were always available in our experience, though sometimes there is only one option. While Slovene cuisine seems very meat-oriented, all of the huts would ask if we were vegetarian.
- Even at more remote huts, there was always plenty of drinks. I suspect that much of the lodge’s funding is from the beer sold at the huts. Folks drink beer for breakfast here.
- Beer, schnapps, soda, and water were all available at every hut we passed, and all had a variety as well. We particularly liked a weak 2% beer called Radler, which has a grapefruit flavor and is very refreshing.
- Beer prices varied from 2.50€ to 5€.
- Dinner prices varied from 6€ to 11€.
- The huts offer half board. This includes lodging, dinner and breakfast. The dinner and breakfast are fixed selection if you get half board. By the end of the trip, we did not get half board very often because we wanted more flexibility to choose from all the options
- or order two entrees.
Navigation, Guidebooks and Maps
The navigational aids and resources that we used :
- Slovenian Alpine Association Maps purchased at the Alpine Association HQ in Ljubljana.
- These maps showed a large overview of the area.
- They were good for planning , but not great for navigating as they were too small scale at 1:50,000.
- These maps were general area maps (not specifically for the SMT) so at times it could be difficult to know which trail was actually the Slovenian Mtn. Trail.
- GPX track that we loaded into GAIA GPS.
- Beardoh found the track online and we are unsure of the source.
- Here is a link to this track.
- We use GAIA GPS a lot in our hikes and wanted to use it on the SMT as well. GAIA can be free depending on what background maps you need to use, the GAIA background map called GAIA Topo (Meters) was adequate.
- Even though the track has some inaccuracies, it was probably our best navigational aid.
- We could read contour lines clearly.
- Can see additional trails that are on the GAIA background map.
- GPX waypoint file came from the Slovenian Alpine Association website – https://en.pzs.si/gpx_koce.php
- The Alpine Association Maps via the Avenza app (geo-located raster images). These were helpful when our GPS track in GAIA was off, but they have the same limitations as the paper maps listed above.
- Cicerone Guide Book “Slovene Mountain Trail”
- The book is written to give a very structured itinerary to hike the trail, rather than a pile of information with which to plan your own trip.
- There is no information on huts that the guidebook doesn’t have you sleeping at each night, and the information on the huts is limited.
- Included in the guidebook is estimated time for travel between the huts as well as kilometers between huts. We believe that the time listed was reasonably accurate.
- Each hut to hut section has a difficulty rating. We thought that the difficulty rating was not always accurate, and ultimately became a point of frustration for us.
- All the phone numbers for the mountain huts listed in the guidebook that we tried were incorrect.
After seeing a copy of the guidebook that the Slovenia Alpine Association publishes, we wish we had it rather than the Cicerone guidebook. The guidebook can be purchased from the Slovenia Alpine Association online store – https://planinskatrgovina.pzs.si/product/slovenian-mountain-trail-slovenska-planinska-pot
- We believe that the difficulty ratings are more accurate in this book.
- Distance, elevation profiles, and mini overview maps are included in this book.
- Descriptions from hut to hut are also in the guide. There is also contact information for the mountain huts that is more up to date than the Cicerone guide.
Link to Slovenia Alpine Association Online Store – https://planinskatrgovina.pzs.si/?lang=2/
The Footpath, Pace and Difficulty
- A general note if you are from North America – Typically, in Europe, all trail signage to notable points is listed in time and not distance. While this may not make sense at first, we found the listed time to be more useful than a distance. While your time maybe faster or slower than the given distance, after a few days we knew how to alter the time given our pace. As noted below, there is a wide variety of difficulty in terrain.
- The guidebooks and the Alpine Association have 3 levels of difficulty (Easy, Demanding, Very Difficult). Most hikers coming from North America have likely not hiked on trails that would be rated harder than ‘easy’. These difficulty levels do not refer to steepness or level of strenuous-ness. Rather, these refer to dangerous-ness, exposure (in the life threatening way), necessary use of hands for climbing, and/or use of cables and steel pegs/posts that are fixed into rock. A trail that is gaining 1000’ per mile and in very rugged shape would still be called easy. The hardest traverses on any of the Triple Crown Trails in the US would still be listed as ‘easy’ from the perspective of the Slovenians.
- We avoided several/most of the ‘very difficult’ sections. After going through a couple of the sections, we decided that they were not in our wheel-house. Additionally, they were unpredictable in their level of danger exposure. On one section that was categorized as ‘very difficult’, we were climbing out of a valley on fairly steep terrain for 3 hours, but this didn’t feel terribly exposed. On another section that was labeled ‘very difficult’, there was a high level of danger exposure (a fall is a fall to most certain death) where there were portions that didn’t have via ferrata when we really felt we needed it.
- If you enjoy rock climbing at any level and have a head for heights, you probably would enjoy the portions that require via ferrata.
- Some context: SweetPea and I have very different comfort levels with terrain and heights, and they didn’t predictably play out on this hike. While I am more comfortable walking to the edge of a cliff than SweetPea or climbing a ladder/scaffolding higher to work on a house, she was more comfortable in areas that presented real danger and required via ferrata on this trail. Other trail sections that are steep and loose, but not life threatening in the case of a fall, SweetPea feels less comfortable, and I am inclined to cruise down them.
- We needed to alter our route to skip the sections that had the very difficult ratings. We tried to do this in our planning once we were in Slovenia and had experienced some sections rated ‘very difficult’. This was not hard when done in advance. The Alpine Association maps and the maps in Avenza helped us do this. Much of the SMT in Triglav NP was rated as ‘very difficult’, however, there are a lot of different trails in the park, and it was pretty easy to put together our alternate route.
- Often the trails in Slovenia are not built trails, and are just footpaths which have come to have more and more traffic over time. They can feel like trails in New England that just take the shortest path to the top.
- The trail, in general, is definitely an up and down affair that feels a bit like the Appalachian Trail, though there are more rewarding views throughout.
- We did not hike the southern 100 miles of the trail, but it appears that there is more and more time spent on roads, cutting in and out of the forest.
- Much of the time, we felt like we were hiking AT pace, and not PCT pace.
- We typically were 5-10% faster than the estimated signed time for sections that were largely uphill, and we were either 5% slower or on-time with the estimates for downhills. Everyone’s experience will vary, but making mental notes early in the trail will help a hiker gauge their time.
- Our start time was usually between 8 and 9am each day, and we finished between 3 and 5pm each day. This gave us a much shorter window of hiking than we typically have on a thru hike. Quickly, we readjusted our expectations to the terrain, the trail-life that makes use of the mountains huts, and enjoyed a more relaxed pace.
- The trails were largely clear of blowdowns, with the exception of an alternate route we took to avoid a ‘very difficult’ section.
- In the month that we hiked, we didn’t hike through any burned forest. Most of the forests were very healthy.
- Trees that we saw on the trail: Larch, Mountain Pine, Red Spruce, European Beach, Moutain Ash and to a lesser extent, Sycamore Maple and a species of Oak that we can’t we remember.
Packing and Gear
- Less is more (enjoyable).
- You have the opportunity to take very little gear, yet hike a big distance, take advantage of that.
- We took ULA Ohm packs. These were bigger than we would recommend. Packs that are around the 35 Liter capacity is what we would recommend. You’ll see most Slovenians carrying a pack of this size whether they are day hiking or out for a weekend, and it’s enough. We saw a lot Deuter, Quechua, some Osprey packs…many with helmet straps on the back of the packs. Here is an example of a pack that we’d consider – https://amzn.to/3dluV9i
The gear that we took:
Backpacks – ULA Ohms…take something smaller.
Trash compactor bag liner for backpack – yes.
Hammocks with suspension – skip.
Down Jacket – skip.
Warm hat and gloves – take hat, not gloves.
Wind shirt and wind pants – We’d both take our wind shirts, SweetPea no on the wind pants, Beardoh yes on the wind pants.
Rain jacket and rain pants – We’d both take our rain jackets, SweetPea yes on the pants, Beardoh no on the pants.
Silk sleeping bag liner – yes.
Via Ferrata gear (harness, via ferrata kit with clips, helmet, gloves) – This really depends on you.
Plug in adapter for Slovenia -yes.
Battery Backup – Probably, we only used this a couple times….much less than a typical thru hike.
Travel Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap – yes, since you can shower a lot.
Travel towel – yes.
Extra set of clothes – yes. Having dry clothes to wear at the hut was very nice. Take very lightweight shirt and shorts or pants.
Extra pair of socks – yes.
Sleep socks – skip. Summer is warm, and there are blankets.
Head bugnets – skip…very few bugs.
Deet – skip.
Stamp pad for stamps in the trail passport book – yes…some of the summits do not have stamp pads.
Sunscreen – yes
Compass – yes, but we didn’t use it…habits??
Headlamp – yes.
Grocery bag – yes. We each have a small Walmart re-usable plastic bag. This is useful for storing food and shopping.
Toilet paper – not all of the huts had toilet paper.
Electrolytes – It was hot and humid during our trip and we sweat a ton every day. We didn’t take these and really wished we had them like we typically do on a thru hike.
Alternative ways to hike in the Slovenian Alps
One could stick to the Slovenian Mountain Trail and have a great hike. But, there are some alternatives that are worth mentioning. Travel in Slovenia by bus and train is quite available and allows for a different hiking trip if you want it.
- Hike the SMT as created by the Slovenian Alpine Association
- Hike all the ‘easy’ and ‘demanding’ sections, and use alternate trails around the ‘very difficult’ sections. With this option, you would not need to carry any via ferrata gear. This may require a couple hitches to connect sections of the trail. This wasn’t difficult for us to do.
- Use accessible huts as a base and day hike for a couple days from a variety of different huts at notable sections of the trail. One could pick the nice huts that have water and lots of food (because they have cable or car access).
- Slovenian culture is a culture that really values hiking and the outdoors, more-so than we have seen anywhere else. The day-hiking, “hike-to-a-hut and have lunch and a beer” culture is pretty huge here, and made us feel that it is really missing in the mountains of North America.
- People are generally very welcoming.
- They are quite surprised to see Americans and would ask why we choose to come to Slovenia.
- Slovenia is a very clean country, whether on trail or in villages or the city.
- Prices are on the reasonable end for European lodging, food, and transportation.
- Most people under 30 years of age speak English very well.
- With Slovenians over 30, it is a wide range of fluency.
- Knowledge of German could help in the Northeastern part of the hike, and possibly Italian in the Southwestern part of the hike.
- In general, we found we could get by very well as non-Slovenian speakers.
- We learned a few words and phrases in Slovenian and we found that helpful:
- Dober Dan – Hello
- Dober Tek – Enjoy your meal
- Hvala – Thank you
- Prosim – Please, also You’re welcome
- Koča – Mountain hut
- Vrh – Peak
- Pot – Trail
- Dobro – Good
- Slab – Bad
Other places that we enjoyed in Slovenia
We hadn’t planned to visit anywhere besides the capital city of Ljubljana (passing through and picking up gear) and the Slovenia Mtn Trail. While we were there, folks encouraged us to check out some other places.
Lake Bled – This is a pretty famous lake with a church on an island in the lake and a castle overlooking the lake. While the area is bustling with tourists, we enjoyed going there and paddling out into the lake, a nearby gorge, the variety of food, quaint village, and a couple days of rest from hiking. Beardoh is still bummed that he didn’t rent an electric kick scooter and ride around the lake. We spent 3 nights there.
Piran – This coastal city is described as a little Venice. It definitely feels like Italy with small streets and high density housing. It is super quaint in that Italian way. Tons of dining, easy access to swimming, walking paths along the water, an ancient city wall with look out towers. It was a very relaxing way to complete our time in Slovenia. We spent 3 nights there.