The Eagles' Nests Trail (Szlak Orlich Gniazd) is a long distance pedestrian trail that runs from south to north in all the region of the Polish Jura. It is doubled by a its bike trail version, but rather a cyclotouring itinerary. Combining bits of both allow building a fine mountain-biking route. I had already made the southern portion a year and half ago, and waiting since then to explore the north. Ogrodzeniec, Mirów, Zborów were places my wife and I had already visited occasionally on foot and by car, and I knew the area was full of potential MTB delights...
I go cycling in this region only when we give my mother in law a visit, and if weather allows a decent ride. With a warm southern wind making the weather unusually warm for a beginning of November, and the last beautiful moments of the golden autumn, I decided that the Tomac well deserved to finish the 2010 season this way (no dog bitted me this time !). The spots already visited on foot drawn my route : The same car park near he Ogrodzeniec castle; Mirów, another castle, and also Bąkowiec and Bobolice, not seen yet. All of them built long ago in the limestone outcrops of this original landscape, an unique region in Poland. Amongst them "Okiennik Wielki", the pierced rock near Skarżyce, and the Zborów hill, locally as famous as Sainte Victoire in Provence was for Cézanne; ephemeral moment of the ride reminding a terrain like high dolomitic mountains...
There is still another norhternmost part to be done before I complete the whole long-distance trail until Częstochowa. Perhaps next year ?
On the A4 motorway, take the exit to Chrzanów, in the direction of Olkusz first, then Ogrodzeniec.
It is also possible to reach Ogrodzeniec quickly from the Dąbrowa Górnicza exit on the S1 main road.
From the north of Cracow, the road 94 is also a better alternative to reach Olkusz.
The trail can be started from any other point on the loop, but the access via small roads is more complex and remote; Ogrodzeniec is the most simple and most attractive too. You can also park your car safe there at the car park of the Castle (1zl per hour).
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From Ogrodzeniec, we cross the main road, ride slightly along it till we find the red marks and the trail heading North.
This trail follows a wide gravel path crossing empty fields. Only one small white outcrops breaks the uniformity of the landscape near a piece of forest. The trail goes on the right of it.
We reach the small village of Karlin, where we follow the main street a short while and turn right as the marked trail goes there.
Then the same red crosses a small wood where the relief starts being hilly, and where limestone outcrops start being more numerous. As we pass a beautiful little chapel, then cross a large meadow, we merge to a small road that leads to the surroundings of the town of Żerkowice. Nice villas are seen on the side.
Crossing the road, we still follow the red-marked pedestrian trail, that follows a large gravel path bordered with larches. As we enter a more sandy terrain, we notice a large hollow rocky outcrop named "Okiennik Wielki", the "Pierced Rock", on the foot of which is a nice specimen of house with the typical Jura architecture. A very photogenic place for a stop; some may feel like climbing this rock.
The trail turns right and reaches the village of Skarżyce. After it, we pass in front of another outcrop named "Okiennik Maly", the little brother of the other one, also with a hole in it. A long section of forest follows, in which we meet the castle of Bąkowiec. It ends as we reach Podlescice, near which is a beautiful picnic shelter for bikers. In Podlescice, as we have to cross the road, one can choose to follow straight, and avoid the Zborów hill, or for the fun of trying to bike it up (despite it is not entirely possible), take the pedestrian trail that goes on top of it.
Zborów hill provides an unique feeling of being suddenly in the Dolomites. It's a complex maze of chalky rocks, into which many hikers enjoy going, rock-climbers challenging its walls. This area is protected with the status of natural reserve. It's likely one might tell you to "f... off" with your bike, but don't pay attention to it, there is no restriction on biking in the area and you are not harming anything more than dirty visitors who leave picnic remains there. The summit panorama is breathtaking, and we can picture ourselves during some long minutes on top of some huge mountain. The descent, like the ascent, cannot be biked down except for the most experienced; however this is the bush in the lowest part which is most likely to cause problems, but heading east we quickly find back the main red trail.
We pass a railway line near Hucisko, and from now a little exception regarding the red trail can be done; instead of following the main road, we can continue straight, entering again a wide sandy terrain with straightforward forestry paths, until Zdów. We pass the main road in Zdów and leave the artificial lake on the right, heading in the direction of Bobolice, first on a wide path, then a little road.
Bobolice, as it was during that visit, was almost entirely restored. This should be now completely finished, and its appearance is like a beautiful middle-age castle straight from a Walt-Disney tale. It should now draw many tourists in the years to come, there is a large car park for this purpose... Notice also the beautiful natural arch that stands near its entrance.
Apart it is made of the same dry bright rock, Mirów looks like a Scottish ruin, a haunted fortress, standing in a place occupied by other rocky outcrops of almost the same size. The picture is almost surrealist. U2 would have chosen this place for a clip without any hesitation if they had the opportunity to see it ! Unfortunately this feeling is broken as we ride down in the direction of the road, where reality suddenly brings us back to rural Poland: A snack-bar, on whose terrace usually sit some loud tourists drinking beer, colorful souvenirs, smell of fried sausages, noise of the cars trying to park correctly...
The whole return to Ogrodzeniec can be made the same way, by variants, or entirely by the road for lazy ones like me. Well, a strong wind was blowing against my direction, which convinced me this was the best option that day to be quickly home... The routes goes via Kotowice, Góra Włodowska (the well named; it's on a hill), Włodowice, Kromolów, and Ogrodzeniec. Before Kromolów, a nice and almost equally long better variant goes via Morsko and Skarżyce, a nice photogenic road where cars are more rare.
When to bike
All year long. Not too recommended after rain.
There is no Cykloserver map since the Jura is too remote from Czech republic (map provider of Cykloserver), so here is the map on mapa.ump.waw.pl. The support is made of the Bing maps plus colored lines corresponding to the official PTTK marked trails.