Spišská Magura is a long and low mountainous range, a wild hilly area that separates the Pieniny and the Tatras.
Most of the mountain consists in a long ondulating ridge whose most parts can be cycled. However, this area is not very frequented, with a lot of obstacles on the way such as fallen trees, marsh with mud, and so on.
From the pure biking point of view, Spišská Magura is not really a place where the cycler will enjoy 100% piloting the bike. On the other hand, this loop provides an extraordinary taste of adventure in a wild part of the Carpathians, with stunning views to the Tatras all along the way, and crossing pretty out-of-time villages here and there.
Check also the description in SP (from the hiking point of view)
The aim of the circuit I imagined was to visit the globality of this half-circle-shaped ridge, with both the southern part with views to the Tatras, and the well known Polish pass Przełęcz nad Łapszanką, meantime via the unmarked and rarely visited area of Repisko, highest top of the range.
The loop as I did it is not perfect, and probably the drawing of the circuit can be improved; also I didn't cycle exactly what I drew, but here is what seems to be the best after summarizing my trip and the orientation mistakes and bad choices I did. But globlally, assuming that the Repisko area could be better maintained, I am convinced that such loop is more or less the best way to visit Spišská Magura all at once.
From Kacwin, cycle to the upper end of the village which becomes a red-marked track. Not far later, you come to a junction where you must take left (red marked). Then the red trail crosses the river Kacwinianka on a funny bridge. Kacwinianka is the river that collects all waters of the half-circle formed by Spišská Magura, and this point is somehow the "entrance gate" of the range. The border also, while, without noticing it (the trail is still red marked), we penetrate into Slovakia.
Soon later we arrive to an asphalt road (one of the few of this circuit) that takes us to the town of Veľká Franková (not a really picturesque one). Follow the road in the direction of Malá Franková, at the entrance sign of which is located a yellow-marked trail elevating to the heights of Spišská Magura. The very beginning has a bit of bike-and-hike, but later the slope decreases so we can cycle (but still hard, it's going up all the time...) We cross some beautiful meadows before reaching the level of mountain forests. At the level of a little cross the slope almost disappears and we ride a flat ridge for a while. Until reaching the southern ridge whose main trail is marked in blue. The map indicates to follow the yellow. We are very tempted to make a diversion via the left as we reach the small ski lifts (and multiple flattened pseudo-tracks), but indeed this is not a good idea, because finding the blue trail will turn to be harder. Better accept this little walk to the top of the peaklet.
From now the blue trail runs comfortably to the West, in average quite horizontally, despite it is made indeed of small variations of height. First Slodicovsky Vrch (junction with the green trail on the left, then Magurka, overlooking the village of Ždiar, the tallest of them, where we cross the red trail. Later Priehrštie, on top of the Strednica ski lifts of Ždiar, with a fine panorama to the Tatras.
And, as we get closer to the end of the blue trail at Ždiarské Sedlo, we reach a wide junction where stands a big sign, titled "Rázcestie pri tablici" ("Crossroads under the sign", as simple as that !)
Now the adventure begins as we must follow an unmarked trail, which we see and which goes slightly behind the continuation of the blue trail. Some maps show that it is a skitouring track, but its state let us think that it was not used since long ago. The beginning is fine, but as we get under Repisko, we cross first a wide ravaged area were obviously a forest fire occured, and then a very burdensome part of the track with fallen trees every 50m from each other, which we must jump on foot. Undoubtely these are the remains of the 2004 big storm that haven't been cleaned yet. Let's hope this area will be improved in the future.
The way down from Repisko is also very arduous, but it gets better and better as we go down. According to the map there should have been junctions on the left to arrive in the upper end of the village of Osturňa, but I haven't seen any.
Getting nearer Osturňa, the trail becomes a real pleasure, a fine singletrack. In the end, however, it becomes both the local river and a land rover trail. I have seen many river-tracks of this kind in rural areas of Slovakia, this is one... The river is not very deep, and the rocks quite gripping, so it's possible to "ride down" the river, in a big water-sheaf that cleans perfectly the bike and the biker. A good fun !
We reach now Osturňa, a very remote and lone village, with very well conserved local traditionnal architecture. Watch the chalets and farms made of beams, the vivid paintings, the ornaments around the windows ! The village seems to be stuck in the time, like 50 years ago.
As I watched some other maps eventually at home, I found out that few of them mention a yellow trail elevating North from the middle of the village, but I never saw it. I cycled up to the very end of the village, where is a wide meadow, until I could find the Polish border the best way I could. This is the part that required the most flair, havig only a vague 1/1000000 map with me for this very area uncovered by any other map... However somehow I found a sharp trail on the right end of the meadow, elevating to grassy slopes where sheep were grazing.
No trail at all further, but the meadow is flat enough to be ridden. From a bump I saw the farms in the pass Przełęcz nad Łapszanką, and made my way though the clearings with my flair, turning back from time to time as few of them turned out to be cul-de-sac. With a more accurate map, I am sure this can be improved.
Finally, I reached a track where by chance I met a tractor. With Polish peasants, which meant I finally managed to get back to Poland ! I asked them the direction and followed the path going East, first going down (from which were my doubts), but getting back to the spot.
Przełęcz nad Łapszanką is a pass with a gorgeous panorama to the Tatras, on which stands a little chapel with a memorial. Below is a group of beautiful farms that belong to the village Wyżny Koniec.
From now, the trail is marked again in Blue (the blue comes from another direction so we couldn't follow it before). It follows the crest of the range for a while, and eventually leaves it, going down on the North side through the forests, with a very long and entertaining descent to ride. We finally reach fields, and get back to Kacwin via a track that becomes a street leading to the church and the car park.
Considering the shape of this loop, the most logical is to start in Kacwin, the only (and small) part located in Poland, since this trip lies mostly in Slovakia.
Kacwin (from the German "Katzewinkel", "Cat's corner"), is a small quiet peaceful village. The most convenient is to park in the car park of the church, both for the space and the car security, although this rural area is not unsafe at all.
Kacwin is best reached from Cracow, following the direction of Nowy Targ. Then, taking the direction of Białka Tatrzańska, but leaving this road near Trybsz, to reach Kacwin via Łapsze Wyżne and Łapsze Niżne.
However, for those willing to start the loop from Slovakia, the best would be to reach Ždiar from Poprad (ideally the pass Ždiarské Sedlo)
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