Velká Deštná from Polanica-Zdrój
Velká Deštná (Wielka Destina in Polish) is the highest top of this part of the Sudetes we call Orlické hory (Gory Orlickie in Polish, the "eagle's range"). This top lies in the territory of Czech republic but very close to the Polish border. On the other hand, most of the Gory Orlickie lie in Poland.
Gory Orlickie are some of the mountains of the Sudetes with the most gentle shapes, which make it a very fine range to cycle, with a dense network of flat tracks in beautiful mountain forests. There are even so flat that in one part lies one of the most interesting peat bogs in Poland, peat-bog "Torfowisko pod Zieleńcem", which results of stagnating waters, and presents a very original vegetation.
This is a fantastic introduction to encourage one to give the area a visit by bike !
September 2008 was particularly unfair with weather in Poland but the last week end turned out to be a generous exception. This moment of the year is also perfect to enjoy what Polish people call "Złota Jesień", (the "Golden Autumn", or call it "Indian Summer"), when leaves turn yellow.
Without the least hesitation I packed the bike, and left Wrocław at 6:am to make the most I could of the day, for a loop of 80km (I did slightly more than the map shows, thanks to my orientation mistakes !)
One year ago this trip wouldn't have been possible without all the passports fuss, now it is thanks to Schengen !
Trail descriptionThis is a poor scan of a map who was given to me by a Czech friend. Not all the colours of the cycling trails (dots) match the markings as they are in the trails themselves, in the area of Poland only (in Czech, the markings are as exemplary as always !)
I did this loop anti-clockwise, but after thinking it over, this circuit is perhaps better in the opposite direction (I'll mention where and why).
From Polanica-Zdrój, follow the yellow/green hiking marks that leave the city. Don't feel obliged to go through the train station instead of under the bridge where cars go (more convenient by bike..)
The first part is one of the steepest. As I did it I got over a sea of clouds (picture). As you leave the asphalt you enter the conifer forest, the ground gets flat, and follow only the green hiking trail, doubled with red cycling marks. At one moment near some farms, the green leaves the main track to follow some pedestrian narrow trail (which gives the rocks of Kamiena Gora a visit). This area is not suitable for bike, ignore it and follow red marks. Shortly after the green comes back.
Then, follows a quite long part with very confortable track to cycle. Several times you'll notice some signs "Punkt do Czerpania Wody", which are supposed to indicate the location of a source of water (I didn't see any however).
After a while, as you get closer to the peat bog "Torfowisko pod Zieleńcem", you'll notice another blue cycling marked trail on the right. From now, follow it because it will be more convenient than the green to cross the peatbog (the green is only for hikers).
peat-bog "Torfowisko pod Zieleńcem" is a very interesting place, with wooden panels on the trail to prevent from digging into the mud, and with several informative panels. At one moment, you'll notice a little way going on the left. Take it, it offers a viewpoint to the peat-bog, a marshy area without water, but very spongy, and with only dwarf birch trees growing in it. Later on, back on the main trail, on the right is located a wooden view-tower with a picnic table. The view from the top goes out of the forest and shows you what is made of the rest of the trail. Far ahead, after some meadows, the ridge of Velká Deštná stand on the horizon.
Leaving the peat-bog, the way goes down for a while, passing a car park at the white road. Soon, it reach the base of some ski-tracks and you get into a narrow trail which looks like a hiker,s trail, but suitable on bike. This trail slowly takes you to the yellow main road at Zieleniec, a little ski resort with no major cultural attraction except the nice church with wooden roof.
From Zieleniec, you are only few steps far from Czech republic, you have no idea how to reach the ridge as all the hillside is made of steep ski-slopes. The solution comes as you cycle down the main road (to east), and having passed few car parks, you take a little blue trail with a "V" bend. Most of this trail can be cycled up except the very last part (but possibly cycleable down). It takes you to a point where stand a border-panel, in front of the Czech mountain hut "Masarykova chata na Šerlichu", on the border of a road.
From there starts an asphalt track which goes the whole ridge of Velká Deštná, and which seems to be a very popular route for Czech cyclers, according to the number of people I saw.
The top of Velká Deštná is reached soon, the route is not steep until the top. A bit before the top, as you pass a little hut with signs, you'll need to ride 100m on a path with reddish stones to get to the real top of Velká Deštná. Here stands a view-tower from where you can admire the panorama, and from where you can see many of the other main ranges of the Sudetes, including most of the ones intruduced here on MBpost.
The route down from Velká Deštná to the Polish border is also made very quickly, always going down and always on asphalt track (which is another reason to make me think it's more convenient to ascend Velká Deštná in the opposite sense I did). At one moment on the left side stands another view-tower from which you can see the panorama on the Mostowice valley.
At the most remote point of this circuit, you'll reach a junction where you'll need to turn left and continue to descend following green marks. This takes you quickly to Orlické Záhoří, the town where a bridge takes you back to Poland in the sister-village of Mostowice.
Pass the church and cycle up few hundred meters. You'll see soon yellow marks which leave the road and venture left in the forest. This is one of the most unconfortable parts of this loop, this trail is very unconvenient by bike with deep muddy holes, branches over the way, etc. But short; soon it reaches a much better trail with multicolor markings. Follow it on the right for some 100m and turn immediately left, following the descent on the blue cycling trail. It takes you quickly to the bottom of a valley where lie a village called "Mlota".
From here it seems that you are in the end of the world ! The car is still far, you are getting tired and you don't feel cycling up after all this descent, and and there is a terrible way up to cycle before getting back to Polanica-Zdrój !
Take the road upstream (left) where you soon see the green trail going up in the forest. This is a large track, which at one point divides in two: one down again, where the green marks continue, and the other up. Believe it, you have to follow the unmarked ! These green marks are hiking marks only and the trail is not suitable by bikes (at least in this direction). So, follow the unmaked trail, up, up, up. You'll pass 2 or 3 junctions. At one moment, after a clearing, there is a green elevated hunting-hut, and a junction. Turn right. After few hundred meters you get back to the green trail.
From now the slope is more gentle but it keeps going up, until the point where green marks leave place to yellow ones (around the place marked Fort Wilhema). You get fine views to the Kłodzko valley and overlook Polanica-Zdrój.
From there the rest of the route is a very long descent. The track is paved with cobbles and stones which make it very uncomfortable to descent unless you have a suspended bike. Something also tells me it is easier to make in the opposite way... After some 20 mn of all-schuss descent you find again the asphalt road of the morning which takes you back to Polanica-Zdrój.
Time for a big meal in one of the restaurants !
Getting thereFrom Wrocław, take the main road south to Kłodzko. At the entrance of Kłodzko, keep on the main road which goes right (west from the city) and continues to Kudowa Słone, the Czech border. Before that, some 10-15 km after Kłodzko you'll see Polanica-Zdrój indicated on the left.
Polanica-Zdrój is a very famous and beautiful spa in the region in which you will certainly enjoy having a walk before or after the ride (more likely after, and eat a good dinner at some sunny terrace of restaurant in the main pedestrian street). It is in Polanica-Zdrój that is bottled Staropolanka, Poland's most famous mineral water. You can taste this water directly from the source for few cents in the main spa building, at the end of the pedestrian alley (you'll be shocked, it's bloody salty !).
As this town is very touristic and crowded during sunny week-ends, most car parks are not free. In this case I advise you to park in the Intermarche supermarket parking, at the entrance of the town, if you plan to see the center. Otherwise, park somewhere near "Starkówek" at the beginning of this circuit (residential areas, no risk).
There is also a handful of accomodation of all kind in the area so you will have no trouble to stay overnight if you plan to.