Just a couple hours northwest of Ljubljana, tucked along the mountainous borders with Austria and Italy, sits Slovenia’s sole national park. First established as a protected area in 1924, Triglav National Park is actually one of Europe’s oldest reserves. Home to Slovenia’s swath of the Julian Alps, Triglav offers a host of activities for outdoor enthusiasts – extensive hiking and skiing trails, as well as kayaking, canyoning, rafting, and rock climbing. Adding to its appeal, Triglav National Park seems to see significantly fewer tourists than some of the other parks we’ve visited (this was only helped by the fact that we visited during the early autumn shoulder season).

Always itching for some mountaintop panoramas, we set our sights on an out-and-back summit hike up Mount Krn, towering over the southwestern corner of the national park at 7,365 feet (2,245 meters). Several trails lead up to Krn’s summit, and we opted for the one that passed by Krn Lake (Krnsko Jezero), Slovenia’s largest alpine lake. We began from the trailhead in Lapena Valley, which was tucked behind a small mountain lodge (Dom dr. Klementa Juga). With over 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) of elevation gain, the trail started climbing immediately, with the well-marked, dirt track hairpinning steeply up the densely-forested hillside. After just over an hour, the canopy abruptly opened, giving way to undulating meadows peppered with evergreen trees. From there, it was just a short walk further until we arrived at the lake – a large, cobalt pool surrounded by rocky peaks that tumbled to the shoreline. While a number of other hikers had stopped to enjoy a quiet morning along the lake’s sandy shores, these were, surprisingly, the last people we’d see until we arrived at Krn’s summit; once we continued our ascent from the lake, we never saw another soul.

From Krnsko Jezero, the trail quickly transformed from well-packed soil to rock and scree, winding through a vast valley that showcased a number of neighboring peaks before, again, climbing steeply up Krn’s scenic slopes. It took us about 2.5 hours from the lake to arrive at the summit – about 2 hours to Krnska Skrbina (the saddle between Krn and Batognica), plus another 20 minutes or so to the summit via the path to the right. When we reached the top of the rugged crest, we were treated to magnificent views of the surrounding summits of the Julian Alps. While the morning sky had been largely clouded over, some warm sunshine awaited us atop Krn’s chilly, windswept crown. We shared the summit with only five or six other hikers, and were able to enjoy a tranquil lunch looking out over the layers upon layers of pointed crests unfurling ceaselessly in the distance. To the northeast, we peered deep into the valley at Krn Lake, now just a tiny, blue hourglass in the lush valley. Directly to our east, we were likewise entranced by the sandy, sun-drenched summit of neighboring Vrh nad Peski (whose name aptly means ‘the summit above sands’).

When we eventually forced ourselves to leave the sweeping panoramas behind, and head back down the mountain, we were sprinkled with a couple of quick sun-showers. At one point, as we passed alongside a towering, craggy slope, we heard a brief, hollow rumble in front of us. We stopped to inspect the hillside, as it sounded like a rock had come tumbling down. Stephan looked up towards the top of the hill and spotted a lone goat, perched precariously on a small outcropping. Likely the culprit of the falling rock, the goat watched us curiously, and intently, as we passed through his picturesque domain. Later that evening, we coincidentally learned of the local legend of Zlatorog (‘Goldenhorn’), a mountain goat with large, gilded horns that guarded a secret treasure on Mount Triglav. According to the legend, one day Zlatorog was shot by an unruly hunter out to claim the treasure for his own. Before the goat died, though, he fortuitously ate a cluster of magical, healing flowers growing on the mountainside, bestowing up on him the gift of eternal life. Hence, we had to wonder if we’d caught a glimpse of the majestic Zlatorog, granted with the power to forever roam the ridges around Triglav.

Total distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation gain: 5,206 feet