How to spend 5 days in the Slovenian Alps

Thirty-six years ago, the concept of creating a protected area in northwestern Slovenia’s Julian Alps — which had survived two world wars, imperial dissolution and border changes — resulted in the establishment of Triglav National Park — the country’s first and only.

Adorned with primeval forests, glacier-carved valleys, crystal-clear lakes and paths that tendril throughout, the hut-to-hut route we recently backpacked (which doesn’t require interpretive map reading) avoids the teeming crowds of tourists.

Stomping through Slovenia. Photo: Clementine Gray

You’ll enter the park along a high-altitude ridgeline and circle it with the Triglav — Slovenia’s highest mountain at 9,395 feet — in your sights. Don’t forget to bring cash; the huts — which offer simple accommodation and food that allow you to travel lighter and faster, not fancy digs — don’t accept credit cards.

Here’s how to tackle a five-day trek. Walking times are rough estimates and can vary accordingly to your unique level of fitness and ability in alpine terrain.

Day 1: Cerkno to Porezen

Peaks covered in carpets of forest. Photo: Clementine Gray

Distance: 4.7 miles
Walking time: 3.5 hours
Elevation gain: 3,579 feet

Fly to Ljubljana, Slovenia, and hop on a bus to Cerkno. In Cerkno, take another short bus ride up to the Franja Partisan Hospital, a haven for wounded anti-Nazi resistance fighters in World War II, to commence the hike.

Designed daringly just a few hours from Austria and central parts of the Third Reich, the hospital was built within the natural contours of the gorge. The patients were even blindfolded to ensure absolute secrecy.

You’ll stamp up a steep climb through scenic hamlets, dense forest and flower-strewn meadows to arrive at the Porezen hut. This refuge is ideally located overlooking the Triglav and is just a 10-minute jaunt from the Porezen summit, with its intricate WWII memorial dedicated to soldiers.

Arrive hungry, as the hut guardians serve superb Slovenian mountain fare. Think sauerkraut stew with freshly baked bread dotted throughout with sausage — perfect to mop up the soft soupiness.

Day 2: Porezen to Crna Prst

Endangered in many alpine regions, here edelweiss brazenly springs up everywhere. Photo: Clementine Gray

Distance: 9.2 miles
Walking time: 7 hours
Elevation gain: 3,629 feet
Elevation loss: 2,815 feet

Head sharply down the mountain and pass through Petrovo Brdo. (Stop in the hand-built mountain hut and be sure to ask Rudy for coffee; trucker stories from the former Yugoslavia are included.) Next, start ascending the mountain, passing through all sorts of topography from oppressively thick forest to open alpine meadows to the first taste of steep terrain snaking up.

Take care not to tread on the profusion of edelweiss. Toward the end of WWII, the image of the flower was adopted by anti-Nazi resistance groups within the Third Reich.

By the end of your trek, you’ll have arrived in the Julian Alps within Triglav National Park. Stay the night at the Dom Zorka Jelincica na Crni prsti hut.

Day 3: Crna Prst to Rjava skala

Get ready to scramble. Photo: Clementine Gray

Distance: 7.5 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 784 feet
Elevation loss: 1,736 feet

The signs say this section is a “pleasant walk,” but this is slightly apocryphal. Be prepared for minimal trail and extreme exposure, and attempt this crossing only in excellent weather. It’s technically easy, yet not recommended for those with vertigo, as clinging to rocks with a heavy backpack will certainly provide a different sort of alpine thrill.

The trade-off is exceptional views; beloved by botanists, the ridge brims with rare flora. To the south, past folds of forest-clad hills, lies the Adriatic Sea, and to the north, the Triglav.

It’ll take around 4.5 hours to arrive at the Vogel Ski Resort. Call it a day here and head down to town on the gondola to sleep at Rjava skala hut.

Day 4: Rjava skala to Dom na Komni

Peer down to the far left to spot this hazel-colored, homey hut. Photo: Courtesy of Luca Guidori

Distance: 8 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 1,483 feet
Elevation loss: 1,539 feet

Traverse along the ridge with views of Lake Bohinj; at 13,451 feet long, it’s the largest natural lake in Slovenia. The path is scattered with remnants of border stones between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

After descending from the ridgeline, plow through the thick virgin forest, complete with ancient trees whorled with decorative fungi, and dense limestone overgrowth to reach the Dom na Komni hut.

Day 5: Dom na Komni to Trenta Valley

Where green meets gray: an ideal lunch spot near Prehodavcih. Photo: Clementine Gray

Distance: 12 miles
Walking time: 7 to 8 hours
Elevation gain: 1,808 feet
Elevation loss: 4,757 feet

Push on through overgrown rocky pastures up a plateau of pine trees to reach Koca pri Triglavskih jezerih, a hut perched in front of a crystal lake. If you’re keen to climb the Triglav, traipse on to the Trzaska koca na Dolicu hut; unless you’re an experienced mountaineer, however, it’s recommended that you enlist the services of a mountain guide.

After passing the Koca pri Triglavskih jezerih hut, keep striding up to Zasavska Koca na Prehodavcih, You’ll pass through the Valley of the Triglav Lakes, a whopping glacial basin. Trot down to Trenta Valley for some well-earned rest and tons more outdoor adventures in the Triglav park, or catch a bus back to Ljubljana.

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