After my trips to Luční Hora and Labská Louka , I was keen in doing one more ride in the Central Karkonosze range in order to fill a missing gap. Just like the two others, on the Czech side.
The main interest of that portion is the Y-shaped source of the large European river the Elbe (see this too), that owns two magnificent mountain rapids, merging in the pretty mountain resort of Špindlerův Mlýn. Both the "Labe" (Elbe in Czech) and its sister "Bílé Labe" ("White Elbe") are featured with cycling tracks that allow admiring the blue pools dug by water erosion in the granitic bed.
This time, one issue is that there is no quick road access from Poland. So I decided to make a good use of the only cycling track of the Polish Karkonosze, the infamous "Karkonoszka Pass" (Przełęcz Karkonoska), known to be the steepest road of Poland with 28% in places, with an average of 15% on 820m of ascent ! The reason of this is that they once planned a road for cars, with laces like the Czech one, and built a preliminary road for engines. For some reason the project was never achieved, and only the engine road remained. Since then cyclers regularly challenge on it, like a local Tourmalet, and there is even a yearly race. I couldn't miss the occasion to measure myself to it as a prelude to the rest of the excursion.
The weather forecast showed a brilliant uniform sunny map of Poland for Sunday, and with no doubt I planned my trip. But here we are, my forecast mistake appears as I drive: a foggy barrier stands on the Karkonosze range, like a waterfall of clouds ! Locals call it "halny", which is not less than a common fœhn effect, with wet air coming from south and the mountains acting like a barrier. In short, half of my ride will be in the fog ! Fortunately, the focus of the ride is more the inside of the valleys than sub-alpine panoramas (the surrounding of the pass Przełęcz Karkonoska is quite ugly anyway, with lots of constructions).
With the autumnal tones, the sights were magnificent, despite the colour of the water is only a fake bait for swimming: it was bloody cold overthere ! A paradox for the southern mountainside of a range, while it was still summer on the Polish side... It felt like a temporary trip in Scandinavian autumn, or a place like that, like a dream.
The trailhead can be both Przesieka or Borowice, where I decided to park. One can even park on the very foot of the road to Przełęcz Karkonoska, but considering the nature of this portion, I thought a warm-up would me more than wise, which set my choice to Borowice. Both Borowice or Przesieka are easily reached from the local town Jelenia Góra, that owns a magnificent central market square.
The ride is also possible for the one who starts from Czech Republic. Then, it is as simple as parking in Špindlerův Mlýn. From Prague, the directions are Mladá Boleslav and Vrchlabí.
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The idea that shaped the map of my ride was to go as far as possible East and West, to cover the largest horizontal portion of the range, Špindlerův Mlýn being the bottom point of this lozenge. It was obvious that I would not connect exactly Luční Hora's westernmost point neither Labská Louka easternmost point, since both are located high on top of valleys that can be only hiked down into the Elbe valley, no cycling, so I picked the most suitable trails for this project.
No need to describe the road to Karkonoska pass, a straightforward slow ascent on an asphalted road, in bad state. Only just before the end, be aware that you can avoid the last portion by turning right on an unmarked section, that avoids the bump of 1213m, and get closer to Petrova Bouda.
On the West, after reaching the Karkonoska pass, I could continue on the ridge trail as high as Petrova Bouda, former mountain hut currently under reconstruction, and highest point of the ride (1288m). Then, the yellow-marked descent, indicated is bike-suiteable, leads to Davidovy Boudy, another hut. Then a blue trail, still marked on some maps as bike-suiteable (despite I found it very hardcore, with ruts to jump every 15m), lead to Medvědí Bouda, a hut, again...
The wild part of my project starts here, as we follow now an unmarked path still going west, and fading out in the forest at some point which, according to the map, is very close to the pedestrian trail going down the Elbe western stream (blue-marked). I had no idea about what to expect. The ride showed me a large track on most of the distance, ending on some wasteland where some pine replanting works seemed to be ongoing. A tiny trace in the high grass showed that I was not the only one to use the idea, and led me quickly to the Elbe valley in a story of hundred meters in wild vegetation.
The Elbe track turned first to be very friendly descended by bike, but shortly afterwhile it went far too steep, and I had to walk it down on most of the elevation till the highest point where biking is in theory allowed. That very section, which I had no idea of what to expect, and kind of illegal, was the main reason of making my loop anticlockwise.
After tons of photos along the Elbe, Špindlerův Mlýn is reached while staying on the the western shore of the river. If we choose to ride down until the centre of the town, it is worth elevating to the holiday houses located on the east hillsides to pick the yellow-marked singletrack, a lovely steady trail that brings back to the junction with the White Elbe ("Bílé Labe").
Some tons of other photos later, the Čertův důl valley is ridden until its highest cycleable point, where stands the hut Bouda Bílé Labe. The yellow trail that elevates North is in theory forbidden too, and leaving the hut surroundings should be done discretely enough. However having a more accurate look at the map, we notice this marked trail is made of a short steep pedestrian ascent reaching after a large land-rover track going steadily on the mountainside, which makes the presence of a bike more tolerable. We reach finally Josefova bouda, a hut just in front of the Czech road that gets back to the Karkonoszka pass.
Now time has come for the big ride down. Be aware that the road is damaged, and the deep potholes that can destroy your rim if you hit into one. Spare your disk brakes that will become quickly damn hot, by making one or two breaks, taking for example photos in the couple of place with open views.
When to bike
As long as trails are uncovered by the snow. Portions without asphalt very stony so no mud issue.