The IdolThe Sudetes nowadays have one of the best reputation in Europe when it comes about mountainbiking terrain, either in Poland or Czech Republic. This is partly due to the two big champions below. Maja Włoszczowska is as pretty as talented, originating from the foothills of the Karkonosze range, 2008 olympic vice-champion, 2010 word champion and 2011 silver medal. She is becoming a sport icon more and more comparable to what Adam Małysz used to be in ski-jumping. No doubts her success in this discipline is drawing more and more people to the local competitions. I am myself a big fan of Maja Włoszczowska !
The Sudetes are shared with the Czechs, who recently got a comparable champion in the person of Jaroslav Kulhavý, 2011 world champion, originating from Ústí nad Orlicí in Moravia, in the east side of the range.
After ending the 2010 season with a lot of new trails in the range (this is perhaps now the MBPost area with most trails !), time has come for a new update.
I have started to use the GPX feature for the latest trails and plan to extend it to all existing ones.
The section about Trans-Sudetes MB traverse needs also some update.
View in a larger map
The Sudetes ("Sudety" in both Czech and Polish, "Sudeten" in German), are an important mountain range in Central Europe. There are various theories as to the origin of the name "Sudetes". Among them, despite not being most convincing, is an interesting one which derives the word from the Celtic words for "wild boar forest". No doubt the Celts lived here before the Germans and the Slavs arrived (see contemporary history...)
The Sudetes run from north-west to south-east along the northeastern which forms the bulk of the Czech Republic. The Sudetes span about 300km between the Elbe River near the city of Dresden (the capital of the historic kingdom of Saxony, Germany) and the Moravian Gate (depression that separates the Sudetes from the Carpathians), near Ostrava, the capital of the Czech Silesia.
In topographic terms, the westerly extension of the Sudetes is the Ore Mountains (Klínovec, 1244 m). At the other, east end, as shown on the map, the Sudetes may seem to link with the Carpathians, but from the geologic point of view they are a completely different formation, much older than the Carpathians and the Alps. The Sudetes are what we commonly call an old mountain range, like the Appalachians, the French Massif Central and Vosges, or the Black Forest.
Several major rivers of Central Europe - the Elbe (Labe/Łaba), the Oder (Odra in CZ & PL), and the Morava (Morawa) - rise in the Sudetes. Throughout its length, the major water divide corresponds to the Czech-Poland border (the Polish side is part of the historic land of Lower Silesia, its capital being the city of Wrocław), and in the west to the German-Czech border. The Sudetes are usually divided into the Western Sudetes, the Central Sudetes and the Eastern Sudetes.
It is interesting to note that the Sudetes form the northernmost mountain chain in the "continental Europe" (excluding the Scandinavian and British mountains). Consequently, as you can expect, their climate is comparatively harsh during all seasons, and the altitudinal zones extend at lower elevations than in all the nearby ranges (Carpathians, Alps). The weather tends to be very changeable and snowfall can be heavy in winter. No wonder that a couple of the most prominent summits in the Sudetes, namely the highest peak of all in the Sudetes and the second highest massif in the Eastern Sudetes bear names that translate as Snowy Mountain.
Except for a few spots, the Sudetes are rather gentle in shape, and mostly covered by spruce forests planted by man after the natural beech-fir woods had been cut down during the industrial era. The Sudetes were notorious for acid rains which gravely damaged the forests in the 1980's. Fortunately, thanks to huge reforestation efforts, now the woods look healthier than ever.
Despite they look green and gentle in slope, the Sudetes are surprisingly very rocky when we ride them for the first time. Only a thin layer of vegetation, humus and mold, cover the raw rocky horst of the range. Some large path also used to be cobbled a long time ago, by the Germans, and never maintained since then. What remains of this are chaotic rocks all over the path, and make some descents extremely bumpy. Having a suspended bike is a must-be in order to enjoy these mountains by bike as they deserve, and without suffering.
Hidden in the woodland are numerous crags, some of which boast a long history of rock climbing. Climbers from western Poland exercise on these rocky "isles", mostly of granite or gneiss, while German and Czech climbers can also have fun within their sandstone "rock cities". A dense network of both waymarked and unmarked paths, forest roads and narrow tarmac lanes makes the Sudetes a fantastic ground for activities such as mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing, cycling and orienteering - all very popular, especially with the Czechs.
Many popular summits of the Sudetes are topped by outlook towers, which allow panoramic views over the trees, and a fine reward for the cycler.
The definition of west end of the Sudetes is not very clear and vary according to the countries and their interpretation of geography. One possible reason might be the former hermetic border of the Iron Curtain.
The Poles tend to "end" the Sudetes where ends the south-bottom corner of Poland (Lužické hory/Góry Łużyckie/Lausitzer Gebirge), since most of the range makes the left half border of the country.
The Czech, as mentionned here, tend to avoid the term "Sudetes" as a range, and use sub-name ranges. So for them, the "Czech Switzerland" (České Švýcarsko) is a mountainous range like any other.
As for the Germans, they call their only little part by its name, "Saxon Switzerland" ("Sächsische Schweiz").
But, from a topographic and geologic general point of view, it makes no doubt this region makes one with the Sudetes.
The Saxon/Czech Switzerland, as it name mentions, is one region of surprising sandstone formations, which owns one of Europe's largest natural archs, Pravčická brána. I have never cycled in this area yet, but one will find more illustrations on the SummitPost page.
From the cycling point of view, these rocky labyrinth are not very proper for cycling, but there are few cycling trails between the different massifs. As for cyclotouring, the is a renowned route with dedicated cycling tracks, in a pleasant cultural and historical environment.
East from this region, but still in the Western Sudetes, lie a completely different area: the Iser mounains and the Giant mountains. Both form a huge granitic mountainous unit.
The Iser mountains (Góry Izerskie / Jizerské Hory / Isergebirge) tend to be very flat and gentle in slope, and make one of the most famous areas for mountain-biking. The stream of the river Izera, in the heart of this area, is a very photogenic place. The highest top is Wysoka Kopa, but the most popular destination is Smrek.
Let's note also that the Czechs have built two circuits entierely dedicated to mountain biking, Singltrack Pod Smrkem and Jablonecky Singltrack.
The Giant mountains, separated by the pass between the resorts of Szklarska Poręba and Harrachov, are rather mountainous. Here is located the highest top of the Sudetes, Sněžka/Śnieżka, 1602m. This one could almost be cycled up, since an observatory, served by a track, is located on its top. But this is forbidden by the national park regulations. Only a yearly race allows to bike it. However, a neighboring summit popping over 1500 and overlooking the resort of Pec pod Sněžkou, Luční Hora, is reacheable. The Giant mountains are also separated in the middle by a road pass famous for having the steepest slope of all Poland.
Talking more accurately about mountain biking, almost all the interesting tracks are located on the Czech hillside. On the westernmost end, Labska Louka makes a fine loop. There is almost nothing on the Polish side because too steep, and the park regulations (pedestrians only).
The Polish mountain bikers will rather fullfill their desires by cycling the neighbouring region of Rudawy Janowickie (above all very famous for rock-climbing), for example to the tops of Skalnik, Wielka Kopa, or the Sokoliki hills. Further north lies the volcanic region of the Kaczawskie Hills (Góry Kaczawskie).
Talking about the forehills but South, in Czech Republic, there is also an attractive region called "Czech Paradise" or "Bohemian Paradise" (map): Český Ráj, with many interesting cycling routes.
East of the area described in the above chapter, the topography of the Sudetes becomes more complex. The mountains divide into two NW-SE chains of different nature (which will join again in the Eastern Sudetes), separated by a centrally located depression: the Kłodzko Basin (Kotlina Kłodzka / Kladská kotlina / Glatzer Kessel). The term Kotlina Kłodzka is often applied to the whole of the historic land of Kłodzko, corresponding to a lozenge-shaped eccentricity of the Polish border, which one can easily identify on a general map of Poland in its left bottom corner.
This region is famous for numerous spas, but what lures most of the visitors are the sandstone tablelands that rise across the Polish-Czech border.
In the northwest corner of the Central Sudetes, where the mountains split into the two chains near Wałbrzych, there is a belt of steep hills composed mostly of red porphyry, called the Góry Suche (Dry Mts) by the Poles, and Javoří hory (Sycamore Mts) by the Czechs. Their highest peak is Waligóra (934m). This is an area with many trails, most of them convenient for cycling.
The western extension of the Dry Mts, is the Raven Mts (GóryKrucze/Vraní hory/Rabengebirge). Polish geographers occasionally call this group "Stone Mts" (Góry Kamienne), topped by Borowa (853m). A specific zone of this area, around the Książ castle owns the status of natural reserve, Książ Natural Park.
Then come the Wałbrzych Mountains (Góry Wałbrzyskie), first link in the northern chainfollowed by, the Owl Mountains (Góry Sowie/Soví hory) and the Bardo Mountains (Góry Bardzkie/Bardzké hory). This range is made of a straight horst with a rather flat, undulating top at about 1000m, made of gneiss that ranks among the oldest rocks in Europe. The main trail makes a fine cycling itinerary. The most popular attraction is their highest summit, Wielka Sowa, with and its beautiful old tower. Farther east, Kalenica, also has an metallic tower. The last, SE segment culminates in Malinowa, more anonymous although not far from the famous medieval fort of Srebrna Góra (Silver Mountain). The southeastern, much lower extension of the Owl Mountains is the Bardo Mountains (Góry Bardzkie), named after a little town (not Brigitte) at the mouth of the gorge carved by the meandering Nysa Kłodzka as the mountains were being lifted by tectonic forces. They constitute the northern link with the Eastern Sudetes, in which is their highest summit, Kłodzka Góra (765m).
The southern chain of the Central Sudetes ranges, is half made of sandstone tablelands, less continuous, and hides several "rock cities", or "rock labyrinths". This area, the Table Mountains (Góry Stołowe / Stolové hory), extends across the international border. The Czech usually call it "Broumovska vrchovina". The two most famous attraction are for sure the marvellous Adršpašsko-Teplické Skály - a maze of huge sandstone towers, and the labyrinths of Szczeliniec Wielki and Błędne Skały. Broumovské Stěny, between the two, is less known, but not less interesting. Despite the area looks more proper for hiking, there are numerous cycling trails circumventing these tables, and many fine circuits to be done.
They are continued south by the Eagle Mountains (Góry Orlickie / Orlické hory), another block of archaic gneiss, broad and flat, which hosts a beautiful peat bog, "Torfowisko pod Zieleńcem". This is a good area for easy cycling. On the Czech side, but not far from the border, stands the highest summit in all Central Sudetes, Velká Deštná, also a popular cycling destination. The lower ridge of the Eagle Mts is named the Bystrzyca Mountains (Góry Bystrzyckie / Bystřické hory), and makes the southern junction whith the Eastern Sudetes.
NE of the Central Sudetes rise a few isolated hills within what is called Przedgórze Sudeckie (Piedmont of the Sudetes). Their highest summit is Ślęza, the pet mountain of the inhabitants of the city of Wrocław, proudly rising half a kilometer above the lowland of the Odra River. Ślęza has a little sister, Radunia, also with the Oleszeńskie hills.
The Strzelin hills, culminating in Gromnik (392), are another cycling area worthy of a mention. They are made of two portions, the second one next to Henryków and its monastery.
The Eastern Sudetes are usually called the Jeseníky by the Czechs, whereas Poles never use the term "Jesioniki" for the Polish part of the Eastern Sudetes. These mountains hosts the tallest ranges after the Giant Mountains in the Hrubý Jeseník (High Jesenik), inside the Czech Republic and in the adjacent Śnieżnik/Sněžník Massif on the border.
These peaks are far from jagged, however, tiny rugged patches occur within this vast expanse of woodland, where one can seek all sorts of wilderness. Huge herds of red deer can be seen in these woods at dusk or dawn. All the high and low ranges of the Eastern Sudetes are excellent biking terrain.
East of the Bardo Mountains sits a group of mountains, where the physiographic nomenclature becomes tricky since the Poles and the Czechs often divide the area into different units, for which they use different names. What the Poles call Góry Złote (the Gold Mountains, northernmost) and Góry Bialskie (the White Mountains, next to Śnieżnik Massif) is in fact parts of a bigger sub-group that the Czechs call Rychlebské Hory (after German "Reichensteine", meaning "rich rocks"). To add to the confusion, Polish people do use their language equivalent of "Rychlebské Hory" ("Góry Rychlebskie") for the Czech side of these mountains, and the Czechs – although not very often – use the name "Bělské vrchy" for the Polish Góry Bialskie. This partly results from the complicated line of the frontier, which was virtually closed (except for the few crossings outside the mountains) for the second half of the 20th century.
These Mountains get higher and higher as we go south. One of the most popular summits is Borůvková Hora/Borówkowa Góra, not really a prominent peak, but its outlook tower provides great views. This place is also famous for having been a venue of secret meetings between the Czechoslovak and Polish anti-communist activists, and nowadays, this place is regarded as a landmark of the Polish-Czech friendship. More south follows the zone of Golden Mountains, culminating in Kowadło / Kovadlina (989m). Then the white mountains culminate at Travná Hora (1125m), a fine place with a dense network of trails. One interesting feature is the long valley of the Biała Lądecka, upstream from the town of Stronie Śląskie. The tarmac road runs up along the river as far as the remotest village, Bielice (several guesthouses/huts), then still goes up until the point called the "Pass of the 3 borders", which refers to Moravia, Silesia and the land of Kłodzko.
The road pass of Przełęcz Lądecka/sedlo Travná (until recently closed but open to cars since 2008) marks the northern limits of the White Mountains, and the other road pass of Przełęcz Płoszczyna/Kladské sedlo, marks the junction with the Śnieżnik/Sněžník Massif, with the highest peak (1425m) of the Polish Eastern Sudetes. Within the massif, north of the summit of Śnieżnik the conical top of Czarna Góra catches the eye. This mountain hosts a ski resort, and a cycling path to the top and a fine outlook tower.
East of Śnieżnik rises the massif of High Jesenik (Hrubý Jeseník/Jesioniki), which is the second highest mountainous block in the Sudetes (Jeseník is the German "Gesenke", which means "depression" or "basin", in which lies the eopnym town). It is made up of two units separated by the road pass of Červenohorské Sedlo. Close to Śnieżnik, in the north-west, there's the Keprník-Šerák Massif, a nature reserve, which has a mountain hut. In the south, the summit of Praděd/Pradziad/Altvater, flirting with the height of 1500m, is served by an asphalt road leading to the top, where a 162m tall TV tower. Given the monotony of the summit area, bikers can be more interested in the huge network of trails around.
East of teh town of Jesenik, another smaller unit of the Hrubý Jeseník is located : Medvědská hornatina, which culminates at Medvědí Vrch (1216m). But its main attraction are the peat bog and village of Rejvíz.
In the neighbouring hill, Studniční Vrch, and just like in the Izer Mountains, here was built recently a circuit entierely dedicated to mountain biking, Rychlebské stezky.
North of Rejvíz, by the Polish border, lies the town of Zlaté Hory, famous for its wooden gold mill still in use, which – besides the town's name – attests to the presence of gold in the area, similarly than the previously mentioned Gold Mountains. A popular biking destination is Biskupia Kopa (890m), with an outlook tower. These mountains can be considered to be the northern foothills of the High Jesenik.
South of the High Jesenik sit more mundane and less tall - despite being higher (Jeřáb 1003m) foothills, called Hanušovická vrchovina, known mostly for the popular rock climbing spot of Rabštejn (803m).
The southeastern reaches of the Sudetes comprise broad highlands named the Low Jesenik (Nízký Jeseník). Completely covered by woods, the mountains do not exceed 800m in height. Their southeasternmmost corner extending along the River Odra (Oder), which has its source here, is called the Oderské vrchy (Góry Odrzańskie in Polish). The Odra will empty into the Baltic sea, having collected all the water from the northeastern flank of the Sudetes.
On a clear day, from most of the summits above the tree line, the Czech Beskides and Lysá Hora, part of the Carpathian range, are visible on the horizon. Wooden churches in Maršíkov or Žárová seem to make for a foretaste of this region.
Coming from abroad, by plane, two major cities serve conveniently the Sudetes: Prague in Czech Republic, and Wrocław in Poland.
Prague is however more distant, and also bigger, but both cities are equally interesting, culturally and architecturally, if you plan some visit.
Ostrava, on the East side of Czech Republic, also owns a smaller airport.
By the road, the best infrastructures to reach the Sudetes tend to be rather from the Polish side, since the A4 motorway, going along all the northern side, is now finished, the last missing section between Görlitz and Bolesławiec beeing open since late 2009. Roads in Czech Republic are also good, but there is no other motorway north from Prague, and they tend to be smaller and more sinuous and we approach the range.
Don't forget to buy the motorway sticker in Czech Republic not to be fined. In Poland and Germany motorways are free of charge, but remember to keep lights on all year long (winter only in Czech Rep.)
By train, most cities and towns are well served. Trains tend to be often late in Poland, and availabilities of bike-carrying facilities a bit random. Czech railways are on the other hand very reliable and punctual.
In some touristic regions of the Sudetes, protected areas, it is forbidden to leave the marked trails. It is the case in Karkonosze and Hrubý Jeseník.
It is also forbidden in some regions, to take with bicycle trails marked only for hiking.
Most of the time, a sign shows this. Beware also of not leaving valuable items into your car if you park it in a remote location, or a place which doesn't seem safe.
There is a handfull of accomodation in all the Sudetes and in each mountainside/country.
In the villages in the bottom of the valleys, one will always find several guesthouses, B&B, cheap beds, pensions or hotels.
In the mountains, there is a dense network of mountain-huts. Those who undertake a long-distance cross of the Sudetes, or just wish the fun of spending a night in mountains with the bike will find it useful.
It would be vain to try to inventorize them here, but here are few links and tips. First, a little language lesson:
- "Accomodation" is translated as "Noclegi" in Polish, and "Ubytovanie" in Czech
- "Mountain hut" is translated as "Schronisko" in Polish, and "Chata" (or occasionally "horsky Hotel" or "Bouda") in Czech
With these few terms, typing a place name along in Google, one will almost always find what he needs.
In Poland, accomodations are listed in few portals like :
Still in Poland, 99% of the mountain huts belong to the national hiking association, PTTK, in whose site one will find all huts he needs:
(where we need to select province Dolnoslaskie to get the Sudetes)
In Czech Republic, the information is more scattered; the Czech tend to avoid the word "Sudety" for the mountain range, which rather refers to episodes of the war. Instead, they use region names of the range, such as Karkonosze or Jeseniky.
Also, the "border" between what one will would call a "hotel" or a "mountain hut" is more blur, as roads tend to go deeper into mountains and some hotels, accessible by road, are remotely located and quite similar to the standards of some mountain huts with good facilities.
Many places in Czech Republic have the logo "Cyklisté vítáni!" which means "cyclers welcome" (facilities for storing, fixing and washing bikes).
There is a portal in English about Czech Mountains in general (including the Sudetes), which indicates very clearly all kind of accomodations :
In Germany, "accomodation" is said "unterkunft". I have not much information about those regions, except perhaps this one :
Currently, neither Poland nor Czech Republic are using the Euro as a currency, and not willing to have it too soon (both countries have a reputation of "bad example" in this side of the European politic...). This doesn't ease the task of tourists who must have coins of two different sorts in regions near the border.
- In Poland, the Złoty is used, and the conversion is ealisy made by approximately 1€ = 4zł.
- In Czech Republic, the Czech Crown (Korun) is used, and the conversion is made by approximately 1€ = 30czk.
We need approximately 7czk to make 1zł, and 13zł make approximately 100czk.
Eastern Europe (more exactly, Central Europe here) has a reputation of being cheaper. This is not as true as few years ago but the difference is still significant. However the gap varies a lot depending on things.
- Accomodation and food (purchases or restaurants) are the first thing the Western visitor will find much cheaper, about half. One can reasonnably find a good place to sleep for 10€ (7/8 in a mountain hut), and eat in a reastaurant for about the same price. However, near the ski resorts, prices tend to increase.
- Petrol is a bit cheaper, but not much
- Trains and busses are significantly cheaper
- Repairing a car, or getting a bike fixed is much cheaper
- Buying a bike, or bike accessories is not, as most parts tends to be imported from abroad.
- Beer is cheaper, but alcohol in general not so much (not to say more expensive). If you think about trying local specialities, avoid the vodka and try instead some famous local beers :)
Trans-Sudetes MB traverse
From the moment I have started to ride the Sudetes, I have gathered a significant amount of portions of trails matching each other's beginning and ends. Despite some more and more rare gaps are still missing, a general shape is taking form.
Few of these gaps need to be studied and ridden, while few others, mostly road portions, look obvious despite I still haven't tried them. The most important lacks are logically the easternmost and westernmost ends, as I have never visited them.
Several ways to "design" a trans-Sudetes mountain-bike path are possible, but the most I visit different areas, the most I think the chosen regions below are the best for being ridden by bike, while they belong of course to the most scenically areas of the range.
As far as I know, after having read many local cycling guidebooks in polish, and opened occasionally few in Czech, such trail was never made before. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Schengen space, with the possibility to cross freely the border, making the best of both countries facilities, is too recent. However I reckon the idea has nothing revolutionary, for a linear range stretching from W to E, and many hikers do it on foot.
The map below summarizes the general shape of this trail. This is a very inaccurate drawing, which I made thanks to the Cykloatlas.cz maps, which shows only the general direction. One must be in possession of the paper maps to plan correctly such journey.
This trail is quite sporty, and take the minimum of asphalted roads possible, and the most possible forest path; however, not the steepest ones either, as the rider undertaking such traverse may need a minimum of luggage such as food and few accessories.
Many mountain huts are located along the way, as well as villages with accommodations into the valleys, at least one per stage, so the rider normally would not need to carry tents, duvet or stuff like this, then ride a bike quite reasonably comfortably.
You can watch the same map on other map servers such as Cykloatlas.cz (Shocart 1/50000 topographic czech maps), Mapa.ump.waw.pl (Bing maps with polish marked trails), or Geocontext.org.
The traverse totalizes about 450-500km (400 as a straight line), and is divided here into 20 main regions. However they are far to correspond to one day for each. Many can be made together in a day, mainly two or three. I would say that two weeks should be widely enough to achieve such traverse. For the fittest, and those having a logistic support following along the way, perhaps one week can be enough.
Considering the fact that the Central Sudetes, as mentioned in their chapter, divide temporarily into two sub-ranges, a southern variant is possible from the stages 8 to 16, taking instead the way to the Table Mountains, the Eagle and Bystrzyca mountains, the Śnieżnik Massif, and joining back the Jesenik range. However this variant might be less continuous than the northern one, more precisely at the level of the Table Mountains where more road-cycling will be necessary.
- Start : Elbe Sandstones
- Part 2 : Zittauer Gebirge
- Part 3 : Lužické Hory (Lausche)
- Part 3 : Jizerske Hory
- Part 4 : Iser mountains
- Part 5 : Karkonosze, Mumlava valley
- Part 6 : Karkonosze, Elbe valley
- Part 7 : Karkonosze, Obří důl
- Part 8 : Karkonosze, Jelenka from Kowary
- Part 9 : Rudawy Janowickie, along Skalnik& Wielka Kopa
- part 10 : Trójgarb region
- part 11 : Książ Natural Park
- part 12 : Jezioro Lubachowskie region
- part 13 : Wielka Sowa
- part 14 : Kalenica
- part 15 : Malinowa
- part 16 : Western Bardo Mountains
- part 17 : Eastern Bardo Mountains
- part 18 : Rychlebskie Mountains
- part 19 : Golden Mountains
- part 20 : White mountains
- part 21: Šerák
- part 22 : Keprník
- part 23 : Praděd
- part 24 : Low Jesenik
- part 25 : Petrovy Kameny
- part 25 : Odra Hills
CompetitionsAll along the high season and almost every two weeks, you can pick an event if you feel like participating in some local race or rallye. The atmosphere is usually very friendly, and the trails well marked. A good way to speed in mountains without worrying about getting lost !
* The SUDETY MTB CHALLENGE
* The BIKE MARATON stages
* The Powerade MTB MARATHON events
* The DIALLO UPHILL RACE on Śnieżka