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Poland's steepest road and the sources of the Elbe

Poland's steepest road and the sources of the Elbe

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Poland\'s steepest road and the sources of the Elbe

Page Type: Trail

Location: Czech Republic/Poland, Europe

Lat/Lon: 50.74167°N / 15.60745°E

Technical Difficulty: Easy

Aerobic Difficulty: Easy

Layout: Loop

Route Quality: 
 - 1 Votes


Page By: Visentin

Created/Edited: Oct 4, 2010 / Jul 2, 2013

Object ID: 279029

Hits: 5511 

Page Score: 74.92%  - 5 Votes 

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Riding down the Elbe source valley
Elbe river, larger
A beautiful bed of the river
High Elbe river

The writting says  Don t get dropped  (in other words don t slow down), probably from the yearly race
Karkonoszka pass : don't weaken !

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 bed of the Elbe source valley
Elbe bed near Špindlerův Mlýn

Pass Przełęcz Karkonoska as foggy as it was earlier
Crossing the foehn barrier...
Very neat foehn effect over the Karkonosze range
Foehn effect on the range

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 bed of the Elbe source valley
Amazing Elbe

Getting There

Very neat foehn effect over the Karkonosze range
Foehn effect
Polish road to Przełęcz Karkonoska, now riding down
Near Borowice
A hot chocolate in Moravská bouda
Coffee in hut Moravská bouda
The bed of the Elbe source valley
Amazing Elbe
Reaching the asphalted part
Elbe asphalt portion

A beautiful bed of the river
Amazing Elbe
A beautiful bed of the river
Amazing Elbe
A beautiful bed of the river
Amazing Elbe
The bed of the Elbe source valley
Amazing Elbe

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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Špindlerův Mlýn
Špindlerův Mlýn

Trail description

The Przełęcz Karkonoska, Poland s steepest road (28% !)
K. pass, sudden start !!
Przełęcz Karkonoska, Poland s steepest road (28% !)
Karkonoszka pass, middle
Pass Przełęcz Karkonoska
Crossing the border
Still some rills to jump over...
Blue trail
Joining back the trail of the Elbe sources
Meeting the Elbe trail
Still some steps to jump over...
Some jumps...
User Profile Image
Elbe source valley
Reaching the asphalted part
Highest asphalt point
In the bed of the Elbe
White Elbe
A pool in the Elbe
Elbe pools
Riding up the White Elbe souce
White Elbe
In the bed of the Elbe
White Elbe
Bouda Bilé Labe (Elbe s hut)
Bouda Bilé Labe
Getting rocky !
Yellow trail, rocky

Yellow trail junction
Yellow trail junction
Polish side, suddenly sunny !
Back to sunny Poland

Sunny start Near Borowice

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.
A pool in the Elbe The Elbe Pools

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.
The granitic bed of the Elbe The Elbe Pools

When to bike

Bridge over the Elbe source
Bridge over untroubled water
The bed of the Elbe source valley
Amazing Elbe

As long as trails are uncovered by the snow. Portions without asphalt very stony so no mud issue.

Interactive Map

Pedestrian bridge over the river
Bridge in Špindlerův M
Špindlerův Mlýn
Špindlerův Mlýn
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").
The bed of the Elbe source valley
Golden autumn