With over 6,000 kilometers (approximately 3,728 miles) of marked hiking trails in Croatia, this country is quickly becoming one of the most popular mountaineering destinations in Europe. Croatian themselves are avid hikers and are among the first seven nations in the world with a climbing and mountaineering organization.
The mountains reflect the incredible diversity of Croatia’s landscape. Those that lie in the Croatian lowlands are typically covered with thick woods, while the highland mountains are rocky and bare.
Croatian mountains are not particularly high – the highest peak is Sinjal on the Dinara Mountain and it stands at only 1,831 meters. This makes Croatia the ideal hiking destination because you can reach most peaks in a day’s hike. Combine that with the incredible scenery and beautiful viewpoints and you’ll understand why many decide to spend their Croatia holiday hiking and exploring the mountains.
As a passionate hiker, I’ve been to many Croatian hiking trails, but to ensure this post covers the best among them, I’ve enlisted professional help. So I’d like to thank the hikers and climbers of the Croatian Mountaineering Society “Sisak” for providing me with helpful climbing guidebooks and numerous Croatia hiking and climbing tips!
Things to Remember and Pack before You Go Hiking in Croatia
Choosing the best hiking trails in Croatia is a challenging task. There are over 1,100 trails to choose from and each one has unique natural or historical landmarks. Considering that most people visit Croatia to relax and have fun, I’ve opted for listing the most attractive hikes in Croatia that are also among the easiest and are not too hard to reach.
For getting to these trails, I strongly recommend you rent a car. You can get near some of them with public transport, but train and bus stops are located quite far from the trails.
We’ve rented cars dozens of times in the Balkans through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in Croatia here.
On this post, the amount of hiking required on each trail is about 2 – 3 hours each way. The only exception is the Premužić trail on Velebit, which can take longer if you want. Try to remember that the days are much shorter in winter, so if you decide to go on a hike and marvel at the snow-covered mountains, start early. That way, you’ll have enough time to climb down before dark (and bring a headlamp for safety!).
The Croatia hiking trails listed in this post are mountain trails, so it’s important to remember that you’ll be venturing into the wilderness. That means that you’ll have to be careful of certain things and pack accordingly. Here are the do’s and don’ts and what you need to know to have a great and safe time hiking in Croatia!
Never Go Hiking Alone
Unless you are a highly experienced hiker or climber, you should always bring a company to your hiking trips. Accidents happen, and you don’t want to end up being trapped on the mountain without anyone to help you.
In case you need help, The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service is available 24 hours a day, and you can reach them by calling the number 112.
Pack the Hiking Essentials
Every year there are at least a couple of rescue missions of tourists that have wandered on the mountain in their flip-flops, carrying just a small bottle of water. Do your research before you go on a hike, so you know what to expect. This is a great mountaineering map of Croatia, where you can check out the locations of trails and mountain lodges, along with the forecast and useful websites for hikers.
Every hiker will tell you that the appropriate shoes or boots are the most important thing to have when you go hiking. They should be firm, but comfortable. Opt for mid- to high-cut models, because they hold your ankles and prevent dislocation. I recommend this pair for women and this pair for men. Trekking poles are also helpful for keeping proper footing.
Be sure to bring enough food and water on your hike. You’ll need nutrition after all that walking and fresh air, but it’s good to have some extra provisions in case of an accident.
Always bring a warm hat and gloves, no matter the season. In some Croatian mountains, especially Velebit, the weather can change from hot to freezing cold in a matter of minutes, even in the middle of summer. Also, pack a raincoat or wear a rainproof jacket (we love this women’s jacket and this one for men).
Never Go Off the Trail
Croatian hiking trails are marked with a red and white circle. They can be found on trees and rocks along the trail. Sometimes, when there is not enough surface to paint a circle, a trail is marked by three parallel lines. Always look out for those, follow them, and don’t go on unmarked trails.
The marks painted in blue and white signal caves and caverns. The crossroads are marked with an X, and the trails are generally well equipped with signposts.
Beware of the Wildlife
As I said before, you will be going into the wilderness, so there’s always a chance, albeit a small one, that you’ll have an encounter with certain animals.
The karst mountains, like Velebit or Dinara, are home to bears, wolfs and lynxes. Wolves can also be encountered in the lowlands region of Croatia. Bear mothers with cubs are especially dangerous, so if you do see one of those, don’t try to approach it or touch it. In case of any encounter, try to remain calm, don’t run and don’t make hasty movements. When you hike in Croatia, always speak in loud voices because that will warn the animals you’re there and they’ll run away. Remember that the animals will not attack you unless provoked.
The most poisonous snake in Europe can be found in the Croatian mountains. The horned viper comes out in early spring and often sunbathes on rocks and trails. Again, it will not attack you unless it feels endangered. The vibrations you make when you walk will usually warn them you’re coming and they’ll go away.
However, be extra careful when you’re climbing the rocks and don’t put your hands in bushes, holes or dents. In summer, be sure to occasionally look up and check out the trees. The snakes climb the trees in search of bird’s nests and they mate on the branches. Also, avoid walking through tall grass if you don’t have high-cut boots.
Remember that this is all just a precaution – sightings of these animals are extremely rare. They avoid hiking trails that people often use, and the majority of hikers in Croatia never encounter them.
Respect the Nature
It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – do not litter! Bring an extra waste bag and throw it in the dumpster once you get off the mountain. If you’re a smoker, bring a portable ashtray. More than one devastating fires have started because of cigarette stubs.
Remember that some of these Croatian hiking trails are a part of a national park, so picking flowers is strictly forbidden. Some of the plants you’ll see are endemic and protected, and it’s up to responsible hikers to keep it that way.
Now that you’re ready and packed, here are the best hikes in Croatia!
The Leustik Trail on the Medvednica Mountain
This is an ideal way to spend a day in nature if you’re visiting Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Medvednica towers over the city with its highest peak – Sljeme. There are over 70 hiking trails you can take and a dozen mountain lodges. But the most popular trail is the Leustik trail, named after a forest ranger that first marked it. The trail leads you to Sljeme, and you’ll be able to experience the amazing view of the whole region.
To get to the trail, you need to take a tram or a bus from Zagreb and exit in Gračani. From there, the signposts will lead you to the start of the trail.
The hike is a relatively easy one. You’ll be gradually climbing the whole time, but there are more than enough stops to rest. One of them is Adolfovac, a popular wooden pavilion. The trail is well marked, so you won’t get lost on its many crossroads. Just follow the signs, and you’ll get to the peak. There are a few restaurants along the way, where you can relax, try out the local cuisine, and have a cup of coffee.
This is a great summer option because the trees shadow the whole trail, so you won’t stand in direct sun. That’s why this is a popular destination for those who want to hike in Croatia with children and pets.
The West Medvednica Trail
The terrain of the western part of Medvednica is mostly made up of karst, with a few caves and caverns. Here, you can visit the Veternica cave, one of the biggest in Croatia.
To get to the trail, take a tram or a bus from the city and exit in Gornji Stenjevec. From there, the marked trail will take you to the cave. Veternica is popular and most known for its huge bat population. But it’s also a place where the prehistoric Neanderthals dwelled, as confirmed by archaeological findings. You’ll also be able to see many beautiful fossils.
You can go on a guided tour of the cave every weekend and on holidays, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The tickets cost 40 kuna ($6 USD) for adults and 20 kuna ($3 USD) for children. Bring a warm jacket, since the air is much colder there. If you’re claustrophobic, you might want to skip it altogether cause you’ll be going pretty deep into the cave.
From there, you’ll walk to the mountain lodge on Glavica where you can rest and dine. If you continue your hike, you’ll arrive at Ponikve, a beautiful grass valley with several little creeks.
From Ponikve, you can take a trail to Sljeme, or continue straight to discover the impressive dolomite rocks called Kamenisvati. In Croatian, “svati” means wedding guests and the name is connected to the legend of how the rocks came to existence – an unsatisfied mother of a groom cast a spell on the wedding guests so they all turned to stone. Here, you can also find a small mountain house, which serves drinks on the weekends.
Again, the whole trail is well marked and full of signposts so there’s no chance you’ll get lost.
The Japetić Trail
If you drive just 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Zagreb, you can visit a charming little town called Samobor. Known for its delicious custard pastries called kremšnita, it lies beneath the Samobor mountain range. The most popular trail is the one that leads to its peak, Japetić. It’s very well-marked and easily accessible.
To get to the hiking trail, start from Samobor. Follow the signposts for Japetić. You’ll have to drive for about 10 kilometers (6 miles) on a very narrow, winding road. You’ll pass the village Smerovišće and get to the Šoić House, which, by the way, serves amazing food. Park here and you can start hiking!
Two trails lead to Japetić from here. One goes over the mountains pass Velika Vrata, and it is a shorter but a little harder trail. It’s much steeper than the other one, so if you want an easier hike, I’d recommend you take the second trail. You’ll be passing through the woods and beautiful green meadows.
The trail is well marked, so just follow the signs for Japetić. At the top, you can climb a huge lookout and take in the wonderful, scenic views of the mountain. Continue further if you want to get to the Žitnica mountain lodge where you can try out their tasty food or just rest a bit.
To get back down, you can take the same trail, or use the one over Velikavrata.
The Ravna Gora Trail
Ravna Gora is the northernmost Croatian mountain. It’s entirely covered with forests and the trails are well marked.
The trail starts next to the castle Trakošćan. It’s easy to reach from Zagreb; just follow the road signals in your rental car. You can park next to the Trakošćan hotel.
The castle was built in the 14th century and is now a museum. You can visit it before or after the hike. The museum is open every day, and the working hours are 9 AM to 8 PM from April to October, and 9 AM to 5 PM from November to the end of March. The tickets cost 40 kuna ($6 USD) for adults, and 20 kuna ($3 USD) for students and children up to 18 years of age. Children under 7 years old have free entry.
From the castle, follow the road to the hotel and then turn right on the trail. You’ll be walking for about 50 minutes through the woods until you reach the little village Vrbanići. From there, walk another 10 minutes and you’ll get to the crossroads – turn left and follow the trail through the vineyards and small cottages.
Here, you’ll find another crossroads. You can go left to reach the Velikapećina cave or right to get to the Pusti Duhmountain lodge. If you opt for the cave, you should know that the tour is quite challenging – you have to use cables and cords to navigate the cave, so if you’re not in good shape, it’s better to skip it.
Once you reach the lodge, where you can rest, you can continue to follow the trail to the top of the mountain. There’s a small, picturesque church near the top, and a huge iron pyramid you can climb to take in the beautiful view of the surroundings and see why this is one of the best hikes in Croatia!
You can turn back here, or continue following the markings to another lodge from which you can take a second trail to go back to Trakošćan. That would take you another hour or two if you rest often.
The lodges here serve drinks, so make sure you bring enough food.
The Klek Trail
From the northern part of Croatia, we travel south to a region called Gorski Kotar. It’s a mountainous, forested area, popularly known as “the lungs of Croatia”. The hiking trails here are some of the most popular in Croatia. Forests and karstic rocks blend here into breathtaking views.
The Klek Mountain lies above the small town of Ogulin. It’s a place of many old legends and myths. According to one, the mountain is actually a petrified giant. And when you look at it from afar, the outline of the mountain really looks like a sleeping giant, with his feet up in the air. Some say that witches and fairies assemble on Klek on stormy nights, and their cries and screams terrorize the people in Ogulin.
This Croatia hiking trail is a little harder than those on Medvednica, but it’s not overly challenging. It’s quite steep in some parts, so it will take you longer to get to the top. That’s why I recommend you start early in the morning, especially if you decide to hike during winter. You’ll need to have enough time to get down from the mountain before dark.
The trail starts at the end of the small village of Bjelsko. From Ogulin, you’ll have to drive on the so-called Rudolf’s road for about 10 minutes to get there. There are signposts everywhere, so just follow those that say “Klek” or “Bjelsko”. When you get to the village, park your car next to the Scout Society House.
From there, simply follow the markings on the trail to the mountain lodge. It should take you about an hour or more if you rest frequently.
From the lodge, you can take a trail to get to the top of the mountain. It should take about 30-45 minutes, and you’ll have to climb the rocks for the portion of it. It’s not hard, but if you don’t like climbing, just rest in the lodge. However, the view from the top will make up for all the sweating and climbing.
If you’re feeling adventurous and are in good physical shape, you can take the Klečice trail from the lodge. You’ll have to do some serious rock climbing, so be careful and don’t take it if you’re not an experienced climber.
In any case, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful nature and breathtaking views from the top. Klek is one of my personal favorite hikes in Croatia, so I highly recommend you take this trail.
The Risnjak Trail
Risnjak is one of Croatia’s national parks and one of the highest peaks of Gorski Kotar. This is the only national park in Croatia that you can visit only by foot. Its natural characteristics are its beautiful woods and endemic plants, such as edelweiss (Leontopodiumnivale).
Remember that this mountain flower is protected and picking it is strictly forbidden. Risnjak is one of those places where you should look out for wild animals – there have been some reports of hikers stumbling on bears or lynxes.
You can get to Risnjak by taking a bus from Zagreb to Rijeka, but you’ll have to walk A LOT to get to the trail from the main road. That’s why I recommend you drive to the village of Gornje Jelenje. From there, you can either walk or drive to Vilje, a small woodland glade. This is the start of the trail that leads to the peak.
This hiking trail is quite easy and well-marked. After 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at Medvjeđavrata (The Bear’s Doors), a formation of rocks where hikers usually rest a bit. The next leg of a trail goes through a karstic area and a small woodland zone. Again, it’s not challenging and you’ll arrive quickly to a small clearing on the ridge of the mountain.
Here you visit the mountain lodge Schlosserov Dom (Schlosser’s Home), named after the botanist and the first president of the Croatian Mountaineering Society, dr. Josip Schlosser. You can have a bite to eat at the lodge (the meals are simple, but yummy) and buy a map of the national park.
You’ll also have to buy a ticket for the park here. Adults will pay 45 kuna ($7 USD) and students, children and retirees 25 kuna ($4 USD). All children under the age of 7 have free entry.
From lodge, you can take a trail to the top. It will only take 10-15 minutes, and you’ll have to climb over the rocks for a bit, but the view from the top is definitely worth it. You can see almost the entire Gorski Kotar and parts of the Snježnik and Učka mountains.
The Premužić Trail on North Velebit
It’s hard to choose the most beautiful hike in Croatia, but if I really had to, it would be Velebit. It’s diverse, wild, unpredictable, and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s the longest Croatian mountain with two national parks (North Velebit and Paklenica), two nature reserves (Hajdučki and RožanskiKukovi) and many natural, cultural, and historical areas protected by Croatian laws.
There are many trails on Velebit, each one more beautiful than the last. I couldn’t possibly cover them all in this post, so I’ll list some personal favorites.
Because North Velebit is one of Croatia’s national parks, you’re going to have to buy a ticket. It costs 45 kuna ($7 USD) for adults, and 30 ($4.5 USD) kuna for children aged 6-14, retirees and students.
Once you get to the charming village of Oltari, take a road to the village Krasno. I highly recommend you visit a small family cheese shop here. They offer a variety of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses, and they’re all delicious.
There’s also a museum in Krasno called Kuća Velebita (Velebit’s House) and it’s one of the most attractive museums in Croatia. It’s highly interactive, with 4D projections, a lift that takes you in a cave, 3D maps, and even a wind simulator. I dare you to try out the bora wind – it will knock you off your feet! Check out the price list here.
From Krasno, follow the signposts to Babić Siče, the park’s entrance (you’ll buy the tickets here). You’ll have to drive another few kilometers to get to the Zavižan on the gravel road.
Zavižan mountain lodge is the starting point for many trails on Velebit, including the Premužić trail. This trail is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s over 50 kilometers long, but there are a couple of stops along the way at which you can rest, and turn back.
The trail is named after Ante Premužić, an engineer who built the trail with his team in just four years. They built it without machines, concrete or any modern technologies. All they used were their hands and pikes. Imagine clearing the 37 miles of karstic path on a rocky mountain with nothing but your hands! Thanks to these enthusiasts, we now have access to some of the wildest and most beautiful parts of the mountain.
To get to the trail, walk from Zavižan lodge to the road beneath it. There, you can check out the Velebit Botanic Garden (it would take you about an hour of walking) or go straight to get to the trail. There are many signposts, so you won’t get lost.
The first part of the trail takes you through the woods and across beautiful meadows. As you go further, the surroundings change to a rocky, karstic one. The trail is actually quite easy – there are just a couple of short slopes and the rest is a straight, flat path. Many take their kids and pets with them. However, I would recommend you don’t bring your dog with you – some parts of the trail are very rocky and they could hurt their paws.
People usually hike to a small stone lodge called Rossijeva Koliba (The Rossi’s Hut) and then turn back. I would recommend you do the same unless you want to hike for another couple of hours. Sometimes, people arrange that a ranger waits for them at the end of the North Velebit Premužić trail, which is the mountain lodge at Alan, and drives them back to Zavižan. In any case, you’ll be walking for 6-7 hours total, so bring enough food and water.
The trail continues to the Middle Velebit, and can’t be hiked in one day. So the best option is to go to Rossi’s Hut and turn back or continue to the lodge on Alan.
If you decide to continue further to Alan, you’re in for a treat. You’ll be passing through Rožanski and Hajdučkikukovi, a unique formation of rocks and one of the most impressive karstic areas in Croatia. Most of it is still unexplored because the rocks form an impenetrable barrier, so you come to appreciate the efforts of Premužić and his team even more. From there, the trail leads through the woods and soon you’ll reach the lodge on Alan.
If you want to arrange for transport from Alan to Zavižan, here’s the contact info of the parks officials.
The Paklenica Trail on South Velebit
The Big and Small Paklenica is, along with North Velebit, the most popular destination for hikers and climbers. This southern part of the mountain is even more karstic that its northern part, but it also contains many beautiful forests and clearing.
Again, Paklenica is a national park, so you’ll have to pay for the tickets. The entrance is right next to the main state road D8. Follow the signs and turn when you pass the small St. Peter’s Church. You’ll drive for a couple of minutes through the village of Marasovići and you’ll get straight to the reception. You can check out the alternative roads and detailed instructions on how to get to Paklenica here.
The prices vary depending on the season. The tickets for adults cost between 20 – 60 kuna ($3 – $9 USD), and 10 – 30 kuna ($1.50 – $4.50 USD) for children aged 5-14. Check out the detailed price list here.
Paklenica has many trails, and most of them can be challenging for beginners. That’s why I recommend you take the trail to the Paklenica mountain lodge and then go back.
The trail starts at the reception and goes through the impressive canyon, considered by many to be the most beautiful part of the park. It’s a narrow road, encircled with enormous rocks. You’ll soon arrive to the Anića Kuk, the biggest rock on Velebit and probably the most famous one in Croatia. You can climb on the rock and it would take you about 1.5 hours.
The road then takes you through a beautiful pasture field and to the entrance of the Manitapeć cave. You can visit it from April to October, and it will cost you 30 kuna ($4.50 USD) for adults and 15 kuna ($2.50 USD) for children. The entrance to the cave is locked, so you’ll have to announce you want to visit it when you buy the tickets for the park. The park officials will then send someone to meet you at the cave.
From the cave, it will take you about 1.5 hours through the forested canyon to reach the mountain lodge. They don’t serve food, only drinks, so make sure you bring enough provisions.
These hiking trails are just a fraction of what Croatian mountains have to offer. As I said before, it’s impossible to pick the best hikes in Croatia objectively, but those listed here are considered the most attractive because of their uniqueness and beautiful, wild nature. I hope this list motivates you to spend a day in the fresh air, walk through the wilderness and marvel at the natural beauty of hiking in Croatia.
So be safe, respect nature and enjoy yourself!
What to Pack for a Croatia Hiking Trip
If you’re going for a hike in Croatia, be sure to pack these things for a fantastic day out.
Mosquito repellent: You can bring ones with DEET or without DEET, or I love having some of these mosquito repellent wipes that I can keep in my bag in case I suddenly start to get swarmed and don’t have my regular repellent with me.
Sunscreen: You can buy sunscreen in Croatia, but it’s likely cheaper at home or bought online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions
A rain jacket: There can be some surprising weather sometimes even in the summer in Croatia, so bring a jacket that can handle rain and a bit of wind – especially on the mountains. We like this Columbia rain jacket for men and this Marmot Precip jacket for women. For colder weather, an ultra-light down jacket rolls up and packs easily in your day bag so it’s good to bring along – I have one really similar to this.
Comfortable walking shoes: You’ll want to wear at the very least good sneakers for your trip to Plitvice Lakes, and you may be more comfortable with hiking shoes if you’re planning to do several hikes in Croatia on your trip. I recommend these Ahnu hiking boots for women, and these Keen boots for men.
Trekking poles: If you want to keep your footing during trickier paths, a set of trekking poles are great — we recommend these easy folding ones.
Snacks and plenty of water for your day out: We recommend bringing a water with a filtration system like this GRAYL water bottle so you can refill your water bottle from streams, lakes, and rivers in the mountains! Here are some great easy to pack travel snacks.
More Croatia Travel Resources
Headed to Croatia? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Croatia, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Croatia packing list with detailed season by season tips.
If you’re still putting together your itinerary, here’s a great list of places to visit in Croatia, our Croatia national parks guide, and Croatian waterfalls guide to help you choose. We also have a day trip guide for Dubrovnik and Split if you’re to be visiting these cities as well.
Next, check out our Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Croatia and local tipping customs.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Croatia (or really, any part of the world) — especially if you’re hiking! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.
Tea is a native Croatian and a passionate promoter of Croatia’s cultural and historical heritage. She holds an MA in History and has been working as a tour guide and museum educator. She enjoys hiking and traveling with friends, and believes that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with Balkan food.