Bikepacking Slovenia: The West Loop

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Joe Cruz - Pedaling in Place

Joe Cruz

Pedaling in Place
Slovenia—east of Italy’s Dolomites, south of Austria and sharing borders with Croatia and Hungary—has everything an intrepid cycle tourist could want. This loop includes remote dirt roads through rolling hills, picturesque towns, steep climbs, and bits of single track to keep you grinning. It’s a great introduction to this wonderful country.
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Slovenia is a small country with immense adventure potential. This mixed terrain loop in the western half has it all: rugged jeep roads, alpine ridge and meadow singletrack, abundant WWI history, castles, long rolling dirt sections through vineyards and orchards, cobbled switchback climbs, quaint villages, and a terrific European capital city. There are sections on the Austrian border and a more substantial foray into Italy. Asphalt roads link it all together, but these are invariably beautiful and pleasant. Make no mistake, this is a route for a capable mountain bike with a bikepacking setup. Touring Slovenia this way opens up an incredible backcountry and a fascinating landscape latticed with remote tracks.

Special thanks to Marko Šajn for help with planning the later sections of the route.

  • Distance

    302 Mi.

    (486 KM)
  • Days

    7

  • % Unpaved

    70%

  • % Singletrack

    5%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    6

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    32,232'

    (9,824 M)
  • High Point

    5,878'

    (1,792 M)
  • Highlights
  • Must Know
  • Camping
  • Food/H2O
  • Ljubljana—the capital of Slovenia and starting point for the route—is pleasant and charming, well worth spending a day or more in.
  • Lake Bled is a jewel of the region.
  • Ride through Triglav National Park, in the shadow of Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in the Julian Alps.
  • Go over Vršič Pass on the fascinating old WWI road, with the remains of bunkers, tunnels, and gun emplacements all around.
  • Turquoise water swimming holes.
  • The descent off of Mt. Stol (starting at mile 140) is one of the great gravel descents anywhere. The ascent that got you there, through a tunnel of trees, is also notable.
  • Unmistakable rhythms of Italy near the border, and food and wine to match. The time spent in Italy itself is tantalizing and wonderful.
  • Amazing limestone caves at Rakova kotlina pri Rakeku (mile 252).
  • This is a bikepacking route; a traditional touring bike will sometimes be overwhelmed.
  • A perfect landscape and track for a couple or a group with riders of different experience levels or fitness for bikepacking. Can upscale it by staying in a few hostels instead of camping, or can make it harder by covering more distance. Everyone will be happy.
  • Most Slovenians speak excellent English. Adventure sports are very popular, and you will receive advice, encouragement, and help wherever you go.
  • Larger towns in Slovenia and Italy have well stocked bike shops.
  • Wild camping is officially illegal in Slovenia. In practice, we had no trouble finding discreet places to pitch our tents every night of our tour. In fact, locals often encouraged us to do so. Little used dirt and farm roads are abundant. Please #leavenotrace.
  • Food is readily available throughout the tour in small and large towns. We usually carried no more than a few meals. For our nights in Italy, we ate dinner in town by getting takeout and eating in the center square. We would then bike a half hour out of town to find camping.
  • There are abundant water sources on the route. We were usually able to fill our bottles at a public fountain in the villages we passed through. We carried two bottles each and this was sufficient, even in the heat of summer.
  • mikeetheviking

    Man this looks freakin’ great! Loving the ancient architecture and the greenery!

  • DavidHine

    Sold

  • http://www.fueledbyporridge.tumblr.com Mario Angst

    This looks amazing. I have spent a couple of days mountainbiking in Slovenia on a cross-alps trip and after Switzerland and Austria, Slovenia felt like a voyage to the Alps in the 1970s. Great! Besides, Ljubljana is one of the most vibrating, young and enchanting cities in Europe I have yet been to. Thanks a lot for putting this together and great to see more European routes. On another note, congrats on the great redesign and rebranding of the page.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ bikepacking.com (Logan)

    Thanks for the encouraging words, Mario! I’m definitely excited to learn about great routes from this part of the world, and hope to get there to ride them, soon…

  • Daniel

    so… is there an east loop too…? :-)

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ bikepacking.com (Logan)

    Not yet… that I know of; seemed like a good name though. Somebody needs to create an East Loop to match!

  • Joe Cruz

    Thanks, Mario. For sure I had an incredible time in Slovenia and I look forward to going back for more exploration.

  • markosajn

    Actually a 1800km long loop is in the making… it will cover roughly 55.000m of altitude and a big part of Slovenia. The routes have mostly all been checked out, the only thing that remains now is to get some of the land owners approval, since mountain biking in Slovenia is illegal(long story that would cause a lot of facepalms if I would go into it). And that’s also slowly but successfully happening, so hopefully this will be legal soon!

    Some info: http://www.pzs.si/novice.php?pid=10006

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Interesting. Thanks for the insight!

  • http://www.packgofind.com Erkki Punttila

    Thank you for a great inspiring website with interesting routes and great info! I spent last week in Slovenia and took a variation of this route modified slightly to suit a cross bike better. Here is my trip report: http://www.packgofind.com/slovenia

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Cool, thanks for sharing!

  • Joe Cruz

    Erik, I’m so glad that you took this route! Your photos and narrative are wonderful, and bring me back to beautiful Slovenia. I hope we cross paths some time. —Joe

  • http://www.packgofind.com Erkki Punttila

    Thanks! It was truly a great route with spectacular scenery. Currently planning to do a couple of similar routes in Europe next summer.

  • Alan Parsons

    Great work guys, would love to come over to slovenia to ride this, be great to meet up with Klemen as well.

  • Graham Plant

    I’m going to Slovenia for the second time this year on a mountaineering trip! After reading this there may be a second trip being planned for this year to explore this beautiful country by bike.

  • Depestel Christ

    Looks great .Thx for sharing.

  • http://www.spokwerks.com/ wunnspeed

    So, an American, a Welshman living in Italy and a Brit with an Italian name meet in Slovenia… sounds like a joke eh? Well, we attempted the West loop in late March and found out that it’s a bit too early. We came up with a “winter version” that we can share, if anyone wants it. Unfortunately, on the next to last day, one of our trio ended up with food poisoning and we had to take the train back to Ljubiana. That was.. er, interesting as the lady at the train stationed seemed to only know the word… “No!” when we asked about bikes on the train. In the end, we got on, paid for the bikes on the train and all was good. Aside from the train lady, people were amazingly friendly, food, coffee, schnapps, etc. were all great and shockingly inexpensive compared to Switzerland where I live. Luckily, I get to go back at the end of May. Woohoo!

  • Chuck Kuykendall

    Great photos! What kind of camera setup did you use?

  • Joe Cruz

    Hi Chuck—I think I was shooting on my Panasonic G7 with a pany 25 prime lens and an Olympus 9-14 wide angle.

    Joe

  • Clément

    Hi Joe, Hi Logan,
    Thanks for sharing this great route!

    Antoine and I have done this tour, two weeks ago, on the other way around, starting from Postojna.
    We had an amasing time meeting friendly slovenians, swiming and fishing in this cold turquoise water and enjoying calamar, cevapcici on the way :)
    Mount Stol and Vršič Pass were challenging, but so rewarding on the top.

    From an advise of locals, we have made a change on the route. At Nova Gorica, we did not cross the italian border, instead we have followed the river Soca all the way up to Tolmin. There is a very nice bike path all along the river Soca. We went back on your track trough Kobarid road.

    Cheers
    Clement

  • Jack

    Hi Joe, this route looks great, many thanks. We are a group of about 8 from South Africa, planning to go last week of June. We are planning to go very light and stay in Airbnb type accommodation along the way. Rough plan is as follows:-

    1 Ljubljana to Lake Blad 68ks 2064m
    2 Lake Blad to Kranjska 59ks 3140m
    3 Kranjska to Bovec 51ks 2041m
    4 Bovec to Robidisce 49ks 2473m
    5 Robidisce to Gorizia 68ks 1756m
    6 Gorizia to Postojna 69ks 2156m
    7 Postojna to Ljubljana 64ks 1386m
    Any advice or tips
    Jack

  • gonebybike

    @disqus_rJ9iGEvkVx:disqus Do you think this route be doable creditcard style? I see there are many hostels/hiking huts in Slovenia?

  • Marc Hardeman

    Hi Clement,

    I’m thinking about doing this route in April next year and I was hoping to include 1-2 days of fishing too. I am very interested which part of the river you fished and where you got permits. Maybe we can share some info via Facebook?

    Kind regards,

    Marc Hardeman (add me!)