Exploring Lika - hiking Premužić trail
Updated: Nov 26, 2022
For nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts, the region of Lika has a lot to offer. In only 2.5 hrs drive from Lilly’s Cozy Cove, we arrived to the village of Krasno and hiked the first section of the Premužić trail, in the Northern Velebit National Park. Since 1978 Velebit is a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, containing 2 national parks, 4 strict and special nature reserves, and 150 caves. On this trip, we hiked the first section of the Premužić trail and visited 3 special reserves: Hajdučki and Rožanski Kukovi and Štirovača valley. In this post, I describe our hiking route. In the next post, I talk about other nearby places to visit.
Premužić trail has been on my hiking list wish for a while. When my brother said he and my younger nephew were hiking the first section, I was game in. The trail is 57 km long, and it takes 3 days to hike the entire length. Most hikers, as we did, start at the most northern point, the mountain lodge Zavižan, and hike south, to Skorpovac and Baške Oštarije. More about the trail’s special features and its engineering can be found here.
The site I always use to get informed about trails anywhere in Croatia and to get a GPS tag is planinarenje.hr. The trail we took, described here, is rated as Difficult, passing through shady forest patches, over exposed rocky terrain, and through soft mountain meadows. The elevation gain is 939 m. Hiking shoes are necessary, as well as 3-4 liters of water per person, and a hat during summer. There is no water on the trail, until the end of the hike, at the Alan shelter. My 12-year-old nephew hiked with us without a problem, but he is a hiker and has many long tracks under his belt. The trail description states that the hike is suitable for families and I would add with kids who are used to hiking. Parts of the trail are narrow and rocky, passing on the side of a mountain, with a steep drop down. The section through the nature preserve Rožanski Kukovi is steep down the high steps and through a narrow pass. Getting familiar with the weather that day is also necessary, as well as being prepared for rain, wind and heat. The weather changes fast anywhere in Velebit.
We stayed in private accommodation in Krasno, at the apartment Ruža. Teta Ruža welcomed us with a big loaf of her homemade bread and shared a handful of green onions from her garden. Krasno is a small village located on the slopes of Velebit and inside of the North Velebit National Park. Krasno is still very rural and farming is a big part of the livelihood, as well as wood mills. For someone like me, who grew up in a village, being surrounded by the smell of hay fields and the chirping of the chickens, I felt like going back to my childhood. Every morning I sat on teta Ruža’s large terrace and sipped my matcha tea, watching the green hills of Velebit and feeling peaceful inside.
Our starting point at the Zavižan Lodge was a 30-minute drive from our accommodation in Krasno. Logistically, one would need two cars to complete the three 15-17 km sections of the Premužić trail, unless hiking a shorter section and returning to the starting point. Since our 16 km hike for the day was a one-way in, we hired Dragec transport to drop us off at the starting point and pick us up at the end. Dragec is an entrepreneur who saw a need of transporting hikers from point A to point B, so in 2013 he started his own transporting business. He offers a van ride for 700 kn and gladly combines different groups to make the ride more affordable. He runs a flotilla of 3 vehicles, with two more drivers jumping in, when needed. Dragec is a mountain enthusiast himself and very knowledgeable about the area. His stories motivated our plan for the second day of our visit: Velebit House museum in Krasno, the best exhibit I have seen yet in Croatia, and Štirovača picnic area. In my next blog, I describe day two of this trip.
After a 30-minute pleasant ride and a chat with Dragec, we were at the Zavižan mountain lodge (1594 m), ready to start at 10 am. From Zavižan is the first amazing view to the sea and the soft grassy meadow below. We started down the meadow, about 1.5 km to Premužić trail. Zavižan has the oldest weather station that has been collecting weather information since 1953. More about the unique climate of Velebit and the role of this weather station is here. At Zavižan also is Velebit botanical garden and the climate educational walk called the Temper of Zavižan weather.
Hiking for 6.5 hrs, we changed the terrain many times, walking through shady forests, exposed rocks, and grassy meadows. We ate lunch at Rossi’s shelter, after about 2.5 hrs of walking. This is a turning back point for hikers who park at Zavižan and hike only this section of the trail. We then continued through Hajdučki and Rožanski Kukovi, the two nature preserves since 1969. Hiking through this area offered breathtaking views, with tall, pointed rocks exposed and raising high above the tree line. Read more about the area here. The end of our hike was at the mountain house Alan (1412 m), where we ate the rest of our food while waiting for Dragec, who showed up right on time. There is water there from a barrel, and drinks to buy. Ordering food in advance is possible, but we were recommended not to bother. This is where the Premužić trail through-hikers spend their first night before they get on the second section of the trail. Our ride back to Krasno was an hour-long.
Lastly, I'll say a few words about bringing dogs on this hike. Some people do and their dogs did just fine. I brought our two dogs this time, but would not again. Amali is our fast runner and free spirit girl. She runs at least twice the distance we do. She tore the pads on her front paws, running over the sharp rocks on the trail. Rudi was fine. He stayed close to us more and was visibly more tired in the last fourth of our hike.