One of the ranges of the Sudetes mountains stands over the lot in terms of cycling, not only mountain biking but also cyclotouring and cyclocross. It is the westernmost mountains of Poland that stand over 1000m of height, at stone's throw far from Germany : the Izerskie mountains ("Góry Izerskie" in Polish, "Jizerské Hory" in Czech, "Isergebirge" in German).
They are somehow the western continuation of the nearby Karkonosze, and take their name from the Izera river, that forms the border, a magnificent mountain river that makes all the interest of visiting the area.
The Izerskie mountains are mostly a wide flat range, with many marshes and bogs, where we could picture ourselves somewhere in the toundra. And as you can easily imagine, most trails are straight with gentle slopes, a welcoming area for bikers...
This circuit is a triangle, whose upper corner (west) is the top Stóg Izerski. The two others are respectively the Polish and Czech resorts of Szklarska Poręba and Harrachov (remember this...).
The first part of the circuit consists in passing from one to the other via the pass Przełęcz Szklarska, that separates two countries, and geographically speaking, separates the Izerskie mountains from Karkonosze; mostly by avoiding the main road.
The second part, most interesting, consists in cycling up the magnificent Izera river, until the top where is located its source.
And finally, the third takes us back to Przełęcz Szklarska, visiting the surrounding of the other high top of the region (Wysoka Kopa) by a high pass, then a long never-ending exhilarating descent back to Szklarska Poręba.
Part 1 : From Szklarska Poręba to Harrachov
We must cycle the main road few hundred meters, passing the usual change-cabins, and stupid cigarette&alcohool shops that stand near every border. But we do not pass the border here, at Polana Jakuszyca, we take back another trail (green marks) that follows again the railway (this is a former railway linking the two countries, but not in use nowadays). First flat, then finished by a nice long descent, until we reach for good the border, in the forest (a little hut, not in use since Schengen, stands there). The end of the trail (still green marked), descend even sharper until the little train station of upper Harrachov, where we need to cross the rails on foot. Beware, the line is in use here, and there are trains from time to time. Just after the station surprisingly lies a wide golf terrain (welcome to Czech republic !) which we cycle down, following the red marks (true !), until it takes us to a junction and then a sort of restaurant on the shore of the Izera river (short but interesting descent). Behind the restaurant stands the little bridge that we need to get to the left side bank, in order to cycle it up while admiring the views to the bed of the river.
Part 2 : Cycling the Izera river up and the top
From this point starts a red-marked asphalted track that goes up steadily and comfortably (which, considering the elevation difference is appreciable). From time to time we see the bed of the Izer river and its huge granite boulders between the trees. At about one third of this section, we go under a very old viaduct of the railway we saw before. Nearer to the end, the peaklet Bukovec (as its name says, covered with beech trees) appears in the distance. As we get closer to it the alsphalt stops, and the track makes some sharp laces, until a sudden junction with a picnic table. Here starts the most interesting part of the trail, with a sudden descent by what is officially a pedestrian trail, but manageable with bike-handling skills, until the very last part, too steep, just before a wooden brige, not yet over the Izer, but a tributary stream. very beautiful and interesting place. Turn right after the bridge, still folowing the green marks, via a large track, until a nearby second bridge, the main one, which crosses the Izer and the border back to Poland. Again, very beautiful spot.
The trail that goes directly to the mountain hut of Orle was closed for maintainance when I passed it (however too steep for a bike), then we skip this place and continue on the left. The large track gets to a junction, where again we turn left (red trail). This is the main Polish trail of the area.
It seems to start crossing an endless area of high mountainous forests, until the view opens and we see again the magnificent bed of the Izer river, crossing a grassy wide meadow made of marshes and peat bogs. This is the view that makes all the celebrity of the Izer mountains.
We can stop already at the mountain hut "Chatka Górzystów" to have a break or continue.
From now, we have two options, a short asphalted one, and a long rocky one. As we are going to cycle up to the top of the region, better choose the first to cycle up easily, so continue straight following the blue track. At the end of the steep section, we reach a first junction with the red trail. Ignore it. Just after, at the real pass (Polana Izerska), is located an unmarked comfortable trail elevating on the left. This is the trail that all cyclers take to reach Stóg Izerski, despite unmarked (the red one is also cycleable but involves unuseful elevation on a peaklet). We also skip this way the crowdy mountain hut of Stóg Izerski ski station with its lift.
Then we reach a junction with green and yellow trails. The green takes us (again !) to the Czech border, behind which stands the real top, Smrek, just nearby.
The real interest of reaching Smrek is that it is topped by a nice metallic tower, from which we can examine the panorama over the trees. The very last section to Smrek is also a challenging part, that one can cycle up only with good bike-handling skills and a bit of perseverance. Most people prefer to walk there and only do the ride when returning down.
Part 3 : Returning to Szklarska Poręba
As mentioned, the way down can be done differently than the way up, thanks to a possibility of diversion, which crosses a friendly woody area into which run many nice tracks. Once we are back at the junction of Polana Izerska, cycle down still for few meters to Jarzebcza Polana, and take the trail going West (unmarked for pedestrians, but marked "13" for bikes). This leads to a junction, take south, and follow the yellow-marked trail in the direction of "Chatka Górzystów" in which, if you haven't already, you can make a break.
One more reason for it is that this time we really cycle in front of it, still following the yellow trail.
This trail passes a steep section in the bottom of which stands a wooden structure (let's call it a "brige"...) to pass over a stream. After few junctions (we keep straight, yellow marks), it goes up steeply, for the last very rude effort of this loop. The pass lies over 1000m, near the other high top of the region, Wielka Kopa, in a landscape of dwarf larches.
Then the long descent starts. If you turn back, you'll notice a granite mine behind you in the last section (Kopalnia Stanisław, not very interesting neither beautiful indeed).
The descent takes us to a junction with the road 362 that links Świeradów-Zdrój to Szklarska Poręba. This road is impressive: very flat and long, in an uniform landscape of fir forests. We could believe we are not in Poland but Canada...
Following it is not the best option for those who want to avoid traffic (tourists and motorcyclers of all sorts tend to take this road by curiosity). In this junction (named "Rozdroże Izerskie"), follow again the yellow trail that crosses the road and goes down the valley. Later, the yellow goes somewhere else but we keep going down the valley of the river Mała Kamienna, that soon becomes asphalt, until we reach back Szklarska Poręba. The next (and last) task is to get back to the car ! You can avoid cycling down until the main road by using the streets in the "upper" Szklarska Poręba: the black trail that we saw in the morning is a good idea for example.
Getting ThereThe best is reaching Szklarska Poręba (from Poland) or Harrachov (from Czech rep.).
However, Świeradów-Zdrój can also be a closer starting point for those who come from Germany for a day trip; the towns of Liberec and Frýdlant
Czech Republic in Czech Republic are also proper starting points for the area.
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When to BikeSpring, Summer, Autumn, as long as there is no snow.
Make sure there is no risk of thunderstorm too, there are a lot of exposed places in the range.
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