The Krkonoše Mountains (the Giant Mountains) are the highest in the Czech Republic and Silesia. With the Sněžka being the highest peak in the country, this unique landscape offers a great deal of wonderful hiking opportunities. This article will show you what makes these mountains so special!
For the best hiking experience in the Giant Mountains, your choice of starting point is all important! Various types of accommodation in both Poland and the Czech Republic are great options for a hiking-home base. Choose from the range of hotels, motels, guest houses, and hostels offering restaurants, full- and half-board catering or independent options. You are guaranteed to find something to suit your price range and style!
Before you decide on your route, it’s worth planning where you want to stay so that it’s not too far from local amenities like supermarkets. If hotel catering isn’t your thing, we would still thoroughly recommend a visit to a restaurant to sample some of the specialities from the Krkonoše region.
Many of the dishes are based on locally grown produce such as mushrooms, blueberries, and other fruits that grow in the area. Potatoes are a staple here and often serve as the focal part of a meal. The hearty sourdough soup Kyselo served with porcini mushrooms, scrambled eggs, and potatoes is a popular example of this.
The easy-to-prepare Sejkory potato pancakes used to be considered pauper’s food. Nowadays, however, they are very popular at festivals and fairs.
While you’re in the Czech Republic, try out Zelníky, a kind of savoury biscuit often containing sauerkraut and marjoram. Finish off your meal with pumprnikl, a gingerbread straight from the Giant Mountains. Rose hip, caramel, acorn, and sea buckthorn flour are added to the dough to create its distinctive warming, sweet taste.
When hiking in the Giant Mountains, you can reach dizzying heights via a number of great routes. Check them out:
Czech-Polish Friendship Trail
The 17-kilometre Czech-Polish Friendship Trail is a very popular route that attracts many visitors due to its fantastic view of the Krkonoše Mountains. The highlight of this trail is undoubtedly the Sněžka.
One starting point of the route is the Spindlerbaude, a hotel located on the border with Poland at the Spindler Pass. From there, you can access the red hiking trail that leads you up to the Sněžka.
You can make a small stop at the midday stone, and a little further on your way up you will pass the Little Pond and the Big Pond (Mały Staw and Wielki Staw). Both mountain lakes are located on the Polish side of the Giant Mountains. Wielki Stwa is the largest glacial lake in the whole range.
The next stop is the bright yellow Silesian House that’s located directly under the mountain pass of the Sněžka. From there, there are two paths to the summit – one steeper and one gentler. Once at the top, you can enjoy the view over the Krkonoše Mountains from the highest mountain in the Czech Republic, feeling like king or queen of the world!
From Spindleruv Mlyn to the Source of the River Elbe
Spindleruv Mlyn is a popular holiday resort and the starting point for several tours. One particularly awesome hike starts in the cable car to Medvědín (Key Mountain or Bear Mountain). You’ll have a beautiful panorama across the surrounding landscape during the ride. Journeying onwards, you take the cable car to Jilemnická bouda and then a bus to Vrbatova bouda. The resort is nestled on the side of a mountain, giving you an unparalleled view across the range.
From here, you start your hike on foot. The individual hiking routes are well signposted and marked with colours. The red trail leads past the highest waterfall in the country: Pančavský.
The next stop is the Elbe Cottage, located about one kilometre from the source of the Elbe. The brick ring of the Elbe spring is only symbolic, as the actual spring site is 300 metres further on the Elbe meadow. Unfortunately, access here is prohibited due to conservation efforts.
Starting in the village of Rýžoviště, another beautiful route is the Miner’s Trail. A yellow-marked trail takes you up to the Ptačince ridge. On the way, you will see the remains of the galena mine’s transport. Legend has it that both gold and silver were mined there. Learn more about the history and tales at the Mining Museum in Harrachov.
The Miner’s Trail also leads to the banks of the Mumlava River and the picture-perfect Mummel Falls. The waterfall isn’t the largest in the Czech Republic by any means, but the scenery has enchanted tourists for years. There is also a small restaurant nearby where you can take the weight off your feet and just enjoy nature.
Educational Bee Trail
The 3.5-kilometre-long bee trail starts in Harracho. You’ll have the opportunity to learn all about the little black and yellow critters and get an insight into the work of beekeepers. You can also buy regionally produced honey, soaps, and candles at various stops along the way. The path leads past a beautiful flower meadow, home to a variety of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees.
Flora and Fauna in the Giant Mountains
During your hike in the Krkonoše Mountains, you will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the diverse flora and fauna indigenous to this beautiful landscape.
The vegetation here is divided into four levels. The first level is the submontane, where you will find mostly spruce and, somewhat less frequently, mixed forests. A few smaller plants, such as the beautiful wood anemone, can also be found here.
Next, on the montane level, you wander through spruce forests, where the trees are covered with various mosses, lichens, and fungi. Between the forests are meadows where the yellow flowers of violets and arnica bloom.
A little further up is the subalpine plain, where somewhat rarer plant species can be found. Here, among the numerous moors, the climate is particularly harsh, and temperatures fluctuate. This causes the ground to thaw and freeze in cycles. Tundra here in the Giant Mountains was formed thanks to this process. Now, grass species grow in the tundra, and, in September, the landscape is dominated by the blue swallow-wort gentian.
The fourth and final level takes us to soaring alpine heights. Smaller plants such as herbs and lichens grow here. Keep your eyes open for these changes in the different levels of flora on your way up the mountains!
Great changes in the wildlife can be observed from level to level, too. On the lower levels, typical European forest creatures such as woodpeckers, hawks, eagle owls and larger animals like foxes roam the forest floor.
A little higher up, you can spot various beetle species, as well as various birds and even red deer. The mountain meadows of the subalpine plain are the perfect spot for admiring all different kinds of beautiful butterfly. Many different types of bird soar up high on the alpine level.
Myths and Legends
The majesty and mystery of the Giant Mountains has inspired many myths and legends. Every child in the area knows one such fairytale, the story of Rübezahl. This character is one of the most famous inhabitants of the Giant Mountains and often appears in the tales as a shrew or mountain spirit. Sometimes, he is portrayed as the protector of a mountain treasure, as an evil monk or even a wicked wanderer who leads people astray. In most fairy tales, however, he is kind to good people and only punishes those with bad intentions.
In the best-known version of the tale, Rübezahl lives in a kingdom underground and kidnaps a princess, so he can marry her. She promises to do so if he can tell her how many turnips are in his field. Rübezahl turns his back to start counting and gives the crafty princess a chance to escape. She mocks him for his carelessness, branding him Rübezahl (Turnip Counter), despite his real name being the Lord of the Mountains. Since then, Rübezahl has come to be regarded as part and parcel of the mountains. Many postcards and badges found in Giant Mountains gift shops sport his image. For Rübezahl super fans, a 9.5-kilometre hiking trail starts near the Bear Mountain (Medvědína) and tells the story of the character throughout the journey.
A spot of outstanding natural beauty, the Giant Mountains belong to the top class of European hiking areas. The different altitude levels set this range apart from its similarly beautiful counterparts.
While hiking in the Giant Mountains, you will discover hidden caves, raging rivers and waterfalls, and grand viewing platforms! In the surrounding area, you will be able to relax in the hotels, or visit exciting museums where you can learn about the nature and history unique to the Krkonoše Mountains.
What’s even more special is that there’s something to do in every season – whether it’s hiking in summer or skiing in winter. So, pack your hiking boots and prepare to set off to explore the fairytale landscape of the Giant Mountains!