Szlak Orlich Gniazd (Eagles nests trail), south half
The "Jura", identically named like the french/swiss region, is a wide limestone plateau that extends in the triangle between the cities of Cracow, Katowice and Częstochowa.
One of the main features of the lanscape are the countless freaky white limestone outcrops, next to some of which stand ruins of medieval castles. They are also hosting a fragile ecosystem such as eagles (from which the long distance trail takes its name). The most famous castle is Ogrodzeniec, that stands on the highest point of the region, 500m of height.
This trail explores all the south half of the area until the neighbourhood of Olkusz, switching from the woody hills to the pine forests on the sandy terrain located more south.
A very varied landscape all the way long and a very rewarding loop.
"South half" as the title says, because I plan to do the north half next time !
The region is marked with pedestrian trails, as well as bicycles trails. But, considering the morphology of the region, pedestrian trails are not very steep, and make ideally rideable MB trails. Official cycling trails make ideal itineraries for those willing to ride flat trails on city-bikes.
The described trail below uses mostly pedestrian trails. Those are not forbidden to bikes since it is not a national park with a specific regulation, however beware of not hurting the numerous tourists in the surrounding of the castle.
Attach a good map with you on the bicycle if you don't want to stop too often, there are many junctions not to miss all the way long.
From Ogrodzeniec, take the red trail that starts with a sudden descent in the direction of Ryczów-Kolonia, then meets the blue marks at a big junction in the forest (not less than 6 tracks in each direction).
Follow the blue SE, which corresponds to the official cycling trail, until Ryczów and another junction, where it separates from the cycling trail and goes NE inside a deep beech forest. One place is tricky as the trails seems to disappear, but keep watching on the left not to miss the junction.
It goes on the foot of a very large rock where rockclimbers usually go, then gets back to the road near Zlozeniec and Smoleń, where it meets back the cycling trail. Follow it, but not until the castle of Smoleń (unless you want to see it).
Keep following the blue trail around the hill, that goes to Zegarowe Skały, another large rocky outcrop on which a trail goes up, with a panoramic view on the top.
From here, you can either follow the red trail (same as cycling trail) or make a little extra triangle with the blue and the black, to meet the red later at Pustkowie.
From now, keep following the red to the south, passing Krzywopłoty, and some very entertaing hillets and descents in the forest.
It is not possible to cross the village of Krzywopłoty as the map shows, take the road that describes the "C" around it, and continue on the road until Bydlin, where it turns right into the forest near a holiday centre for children, crossing a dodgy athletism track...
Cross the pine forest on the sand until Cieślin, then continue until Golczowice, the southernmost point of this circuit, still on the red trail.
Cycle up the village to find the yellow marks that we are now using most of the way back to the north. Go along Kwaśniów, Pustkowie, Ryczówczańskie, where you cross some very beautiful desertic regions, half in forest, half in meadows with dwarf pine vegetation, still on sandy ground.
At Ryczówczańskie is located a war memorial, as well as one fishing lake with a fine view.
The rest of the trail to Ryczów is the most difficult. The terrain becomes extremely sandy and there is a long way up on a hill that cannot be ridden on all its lenghts, there is a bit of hike-and-bike. Then near Ryczów it becomes flat again, passes some rocky outcrops and crosses the village of Ryczów.
Use the blue trail to get back to the large junction we passed on the first way, and get back to Ogrodzeniec.
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 at Olkusz, but crosses some unattractive industrial areas; Ogrodzeniec is much more attractive. You can also park your car safe there at the car park of the Castle (1zl per hour).
Agrandir le plan
When to Bike
From May to end of October.