Luční Hora is a great ride in many ways and I consider it as my best ride in 2010. First of all, and despite the uppermost meters are in theory forbidden for biking, the second tallest peak of the Giant Mountains (Krkonoše) is the highest place one can reach by bike in Czech Republic, and perhaps in the whole Central Europe if we don't count the yearly uphill race to Śnieżka (in my 2011 plans as well !).
Besides this pure mathematical aspect, the ride up Luční Hora unveils the most gorgeous landscapes and visits the most mountainous place in the whole Sudetes. Sněžka, 1602m, is seen under its most photogenic angles, and we cycle also into the deep glaciar valley on its foot, Obří důl. Imagine now singletracks riding down uninterruptedly all the elevation, the adrenaline, and lactic acid in fingers due to uninterrupted braking !
In the few locations we pass through, like Pec pod Sněžkou, architecture is gorgeous and wooden houses from last century, mixing German sophisticated influence and Czech warmhearted carpentry, are all well maintained.
On an early autumn day with perfectly blue sky like the Sunday when I went, popping a wide range of tones from brown to green, the trip is simply gorgeous.
Oh, and finally, may I mention that I found how to draw GPX routes from a Czech maps server, which I can embed into MBPost pages like I already did for trails in Slovakia. More practical than JPEGs isn't it ? I may try to feature all my trails with these maps, even on the Polish side.
I started this ride from Spálený Mlýn, on the low end of Malá Úpa, village near the border with Poland and Czech Republic. However, from the latter, one can also choose to start in Pec pod Sněžkou if more convenient (however car parks have fees there). In order to park near Spálený Mlýn, it is adviseable to drive up the little slope to Malá Úpa. In front of a little hotel, there are a couple of spaces aside the road. Perfect place.
Malá Úpa is conveniently reached from both countries :
- From Czech Republic and Prague, take the motorway 11 to Hradec Králové, and then head to the north in the direction of Jaroměř and Trutnov. As we get into the mountains, take Mladé Buky and Horní Maršov. Then according to your choice Pec pod Sněžkou or Malá Úpa.
- From Poland and Wrocław, take the direction of Jelenia Góra, but before, in Bolków, head south in the direction of Lubawka. As we reach Kamienna Góra, we take the road leading to Karpacz, which starts to be very mountainous. Instead of Karpacz, we follow the road 368, leaving on the right the 367 (Karpacz) then on the left the 369 (Lubawka). Road 368, tiny in the end, leads to the Malá Úpa border. Very scenerical itinerary.
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What I tried to test with this ride goes somehow in the background of my project of cycling all the ridge of the Sudetes. Krkonoše is an exception because the main ridge, being a national park and besides too steep, cannot be ridden by bike. Neither the Polish hillside with too few cycling tracks. The Czech side (I had a foretaste) is definitely the mountainside that can fulfill this project. I wanted to see how close we can ride along the main mountainside and, by this occasion, visit this famous area of the massif I had heard of long ago.
I started in Spálený Mlýn, in the lower end of the village Malá Úpa that spreads along a little road that makes its main street from the border. Spálený Mlýn is convenient in the way that it is a hub of junctions, including the "Pěnkavčí cesta" green-marked trail that we'll follow next, and the track to Janovy Boudy for the way back. Pěnkavčí cesta is a steep track without asphalt, unveiling splendid views on the East side of Sněžka in a quiet forest that we brutally leave once the crest is reached, and on which we find an asphalted road.
We ride this road until Portášovy Boudy where is met an unmarked trail going down on the left. It goes to Karlov where a green-marked trail is met. But unfortunately we need for this to cross the garden of one house, which I found quite uncomfortable as I had to request the owner for permission, which he did kindly. The descent reaches Větrník and the foot of the chairlift in the valley Obří důl, that we can ride up now or not (we'll visit it a second time later).
Thanks to the cycling track on the west shore of the river opposite the cars road, we ride down to the center of Pec pod Sněžkou, where we can possibly eat, drink or buy something. The long continuous ride up to Luční Hora starts as we get on the west side of the center where the red-marked trail starts.
A long ride up on asphalt starts. We first pass few hotels in a large meadow, then enter the forest. A steep climb, passing a junction to a mountain hut, "Zelený Důl". Another long steep climb, over 20% of slope in some places, and we reach a large junction where is a second mountain hut, Richterovy Boudy. Third stage and few more portions near 20%, we reach Chata Výrovka, far less romantic as it rather looks like a communist tenement. From there, we are on the crest, and we can leave the bike to walk few meters in the direction of Dlouhý Důl, a magnificent valley (green trail for pedestrians only).
A large sign shows no biking further despite the rest of the trail is on asphalt. The reason is the limit of the national park, but if early in the morning, you will not be blamed for a little derogation to the rule. You're cycling asphalt after all... This way we reach Luční Hora, not exactly, but the highest portion of road that reaches the water divide, and a little memorial to the victims of mountain on the right ("pamětem obětí hor"). Do not try to go any further because the next stage is the mountain hut Luční Bouda below. You can be seen biking from there and increase chances to be in trouble.
As we descent, it is advised to go quick, not to stop in Chata Výrovka and not looking at people there, still because of that stupid sign. The singletrack descent as we get back to Richterovy Boudy, where a red-marked singletrack goes left. Officially we are out of the national park, but watch out for pedestrians as it is narrow. The descent is really great. Modrý důl is a meadow where one gets perhaps the best view to the peak Sněžka.
Pec pod Sněžkou is reached with the rest of the red, but it is equally interesting to try the yellow marked singletrack going deeper into Obří důl. Some ruts make it more complicated, but handle-able by bike. It ends crossing the peat bogs of Obří důl on wooden ladders, interesting section.
Then, we can relax and cycle up till the end of Obří důl if not done yet. Back in the centre of Pec pod Sněžkou, we follow the Úpa river to the East, on the shore opposite the main road. In Velká Úpa starts the trail heading to Janovy Boudy, last steep climb of the day (friendly moutain hut on top, refreshments) before the ride down to Spálený Mlýn and the car. Wow !
When to bike
Most of the year, as long as no snow. Most of the trails of the area are with asphalt and can be done most of the year. For the singletrack portions, watch out for the conditions depending on weather.
The map below shows my itinerary in blue and with dots. Move and zoom like in a Google map. If the top banner is too invasive, use "Hlavička ON/OFF" to fold it up. In the banner, the UK flag will translate all in English. If you wish to download the GPX, click on "Zpět na detail výletu" and "Uložit Jako" ("route details" / "Save as").