This is a difficult mountain biking trail with a lot of elevation difference, sharp slopes up and down, but visiting some of the most interesting areas of both the Slovak and a part of the Polish Pieniny national parks ! It covers the two countries thanks to the recent possibility to circulate from one to the other with the Schengen space.
This route is about as mountainous as the Dunajec loop was flat and quiet... (in the same area but only on the roads)
The Polish part of this trail is described in this translated link from a Polish bike magazine.
This trip can be done either as a traverse, if you and your possible partners have a second car, or as reasonably as a loop, making the return (or aproach) via the Dunajec cycling track already described here.
Unfortunately, when I did it, I had in the end the frustrating feeling that I made it in the wrong direction, since in many places it seemed more appropriate to cycle down than to push up the bike... So, I will start from the end ("my" end) and describe it as it would have been in the "right" direction...
The start is made in the high end of the famous spa resort of Szczawnica.
There are several ways to make this loop, with different lengths; it all depends the place you want to reach the main ridge marked with blue signs.
- The longest, and most logical version, is to cycle until the very end of the valley, the village of Jaworki, and follow the track marked with yellow signs until the pass Przełęcz Rozdziela.
- A shorter version is to use the unmarked track from the village of Szlachtowa, going up to the ski lift of Durbaszka.
- An intermediary version, not cycleable (except going down like I did), but more interesting from the geologic and scenerical point of view, is to go through the green trail in the Homole gorge. The trail is very rocky and there are several equipments like scales or bridges, so in many places it is not for bikers.
Except for the short version, there is one spot on the main ridge, near the green and blue intersection, at the level of peaklet of Wysokie Skałki, where we need to push bikes on foot, as the trail circumvent the peaklet by its sharp side, and not cycleable. Otherwise, all the rest of the ridge consists in a large wide crest suitable for cyclers.
This ridge slightly goes down until the level of the Durbaszka ski lifts, and then climbs again near Wysoki Wierch.
Arrving on the north side of this peaklet, at the junction with the yellow trail, one can decide to go back down to Szczawnica directly from this place, but the aim of this circuit is to visit the whole of the Lower Pieniny, so we follow the yellow trail... on the other side, crossing the Slovak border.
The descent is made via a field with high grass where the location of the trail is hardly visible, but whose bottom is flat enough. Later, it goes flat, and finally takes us to the pass Sedlo Lesnické (see here).
From Sedlo Lesnické, we follow now the red trail going uphill, into the heart of the Slovak Pieniny. First, we continue to follow the grassy fields, going up until the forest. Once inside the forest, it soon stops climbing, and a very entertaining part of the trail starts, until the peaklet Plašna.
The trail crosse a beautiful forest of pines, on a nice singletrack with a lot of bends, circumventing limestone outcrops here and there (we are in fact on the top of the Haligovské cliffs).
After Plašna, the trail becomes large again, and a serie of short downhills is starting. Just under Plašna, it is recommended to follow the diversion of the skitouring track instead of the pedestrian red signs, indeed to stay on the main large track instead of the small.
It takes us to the pass Sedlo Cerla, where is located an intersection of many trails. Still staying on the large track instead of taking the pedestrian narrow laces, we get back very quickly to Červený kláštor after another serie of sharp downhills.
Unless you started the loop here, you must now get back to Szczawnica via the Dunajec track.
It is possible to reach this loop in many spots, both from Poland or from Slovakia:
* From Slovakia, 2 possible starting points equally far from Poprad: Červený Kláštor (via the road 542) or Veľký Lipník (via the road 77 then direction of Haligovce)
* From Poland : From Szczawnica, as described in the trail, but also from Sromowce Nizne and the pedestrian bridge to Červený Kláštor. Both are reachable from Cracow, Nowy Targ, then Krościenko for the first or Niedzica for the other.
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When to BikeSpring, Summer, Autumn, as long as no snow and not too wet...