This article is for all of those friends and colleagues from foreign countries that live in Zagreb and want to hike Medvednica but don’t know how.
I’ve been hiking Medvednica since childhood, so for me getting to Sljeme’s peak is not something that I’d consider a challenge. I ran from home to the top, from Bana Josipa Jelačića square as part of the Boroša race, and on a weekly basis I either run, hike or bike from numerous other directions.
Still I will be focusing on two trails, paths that are most commonly used to get to the top or at least to the first mountain cabins where you can refresh and have a nice meal, grab a coffee, tea or a beer.
But first be aware of the most important fact about this hike thing – it’s a mountain. It’s not a flat park so don’t expect to have an easy walk. It goes up and when you reach the top, you go back. Very simple, right? For those who are not in shape and think it’s a bit more than walking in Maksimir park, I can tell you right now – think twice. Yet don’t feel discouraged. It’s not that hard, my kid hiked it to the top when he was 5 years old. So let’s begin.
Leustekova staza or Leustek trail
Probably one of the most famous trail paths you can take to get to the area on the top of Medvednica. This path will take you almost directly to Stara Lugarnica mountain hut, famous for it’s apple strudel, excellent goulash, drafted beer and funky staff. Freud’s Runners highly recommend this place but keep in mind that this is a mountain hut, not a downtown restaurant and if it’s crowded you’ll have to stay in line to order food. The earlier you come, the easier you get things.
There are two ways to approach Leustek path. One is to park at Meridijan 16 shopping center and walk up to the Sljeme Tunnel and then pass it on the left going above it and just follow the road as it is visible in this activity. From there on you will get to the 2 sets of steps and when you finish those steps you’ll find yourself on the road curve from where you go straight to the wide hiking path. It is quite impossible to get lost there but still I would suggest for you to download a phone app to help you out. I’d recommend OsmAnd. After 1st kilometre you will reach the top of the first hill, lining up with old cable-car below on your right which can be your second point of departure as it is visible from other activity I offer to you. In this case you would be parking on Bliznec creek parking lot and that may be crowded place over weekend unless you go very early. You’d be surprised, but people very often hike/bike/run Sljeme after work, even when it’s dark in winter. Anyhow, this parking would be important for the other recommended route to take after being done with explaining Leustek trail.
If you are going from cable-car building, you will go from parking lot South-West bound taking paved road to old cable-car building and passing it on the left side you will get to stone brick road where you get to the trail and start climbing towards West. It’s a single track trail until you reach the top of the hill. If you are hiking Leustek for the first time, maybe this would be a bit tricky to going through narrow trail. Just saying…
So, after getting to the top of the first hill, either from Sljeme Tunnel or the old cable-car building you can proceed either on a wide gravel road or you can go to the single track trail on your right (about 100 yards from that top) and it will take you to the wide space, deforested lately, and just follow the main path taking you 12 o’clock straight to the woods, around 1.8 km (a bit to the right).
The path goes on and on and you will reach small wooden shelter to your right at 2.8 km which is like reaching 1st third of the trail. After that trail goes up to the left and in about 3.4 km you will be crossing Sljeme road and keep on going further till you reach second wooden shelter at 4.2 km and gravel road 10 meters later (completing 2nd third of the trail).
From gravel road you will see the trail going up on your left side facing the mountain towards north, and from there on there is no way to go in the wrong direction since this is the only way. Let’s say this is the last step to Stara Lugarnica which is just above intersection of vehicular roads going to Tomislavov dom (left) and further do the eastern cabins (right). You should be at your destination and if you wish to go to the top from there anyone around you will be able to tell you that you need to climb up to the meadow above and follow ski slope to the top (average of 15-20 minutes walk). Getting to Stara Lugarnica which is at around 950 m above see level should take you about 90-120 minutes of average hiking pace and over weekend it should plenty of hikers to make you feel comfortable. Cell phone coverage is good. It should take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes to go back. Leustek trail is about 6 km long (4 miles) and known for constant but moderate incline, suitable for family hiking.
Bikčevićeva staza or Bikčević trail
Another fantastic trail to get to the upper part of Medvednica. There is not much to go wrong here. You just need to keep climbing up till you reach Puntijarka cabin. You are entering trail from Eastern side of Bliznec creek parking lot (to your right when arriving with the car).
As it is visible on the activity you will be walking for about 1 kilometre to reach a fresh water well, and yet another 1.2 km to the wooden shelter at Njivice where you will keep to your left and follow the trail towards Puntijarka cabin.
Not like Leustek trail, Bikčevićeva trail is shorter but more intense. It’s a about 4.5 km (3 miles) long and the first part to Njivice shelter is moderate but as you get closer to your destination it will get more challenging for moderate hikers, especially the last half mile. The important thing is to keep to the main trail although there are several paths being offered throughout the whole path. Pacing yourself you should be up to the cabin in about 60-70 minutes while family hike will be up to 1.5 hours… ok, sometimes more depending on how old are your children. Cell phone coverage is good for the most of the trail.
Puntijarka cabin is open the whole year and will offer refreshments at least in the evening if you choose to hike later after work, but food there is also delicious. From there to the top of Sljeme you can take trail which will bring you to the Snježna kraljica and from there on to the before mentioned meadow and ski slopes, passing small church Majke Božje Sljemenske. That should take additional 30-40 minutes moderate hiking pace.
None of these two trails is considered hard but for some can be intense. In case you are a trail runner, this may be interesting to know that there is a summer trail running league going Thursdays at 18.00 hrs on Bikčević trail while Leustek trail is part of a famous 13K race called Boroša going from Zagreb’s main square to Sljeme TV tower on top of Medvednica. Think about adequate hiking shoes and clothes while going up Medvednica and have enough water on you, as well as a fully charged cell phone just in case something goes unexpected. There are no dangerous animals there and hikers let their dogs walk unrestrained, which is quite normal for Medvednica.
Hope you found this article helpful and in case you want to join us weekdays after work for a hike or trail run, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to reach you or at least hook you up with someone from Freud’s Runners. Weekend is usually connected to very early bike rides or mid-morning family hikes.
Enjoy Medvednica and keep her clean.