One day bike ride in Maramures: Breb – Hoteni – Hărnicești – Șugatag – Iezerul Mare peat bog – Tătarului Gorge – Runcu Dam – Mara – Desești Hărnicești – Hoteni – Breb. Moderate difficulty – 46 km – asphalt, gravel, dirt, up-hill and down-hill off-road.
As we mentioned in our previous article, the Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului area has a lot to offer but today we will focus on cycling.
We had no idea that there is a place in Romania where people have created a vast and reliable infrastructure for bicycle lovers. We are fortunate to find out that EcoMaramureș saw a big potential in the area and have allocated resources, time and hard work to make this region great.
As Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului is an Eco-touristic area bicycling is more than welcomed here and you have plenty of options to experience it. There is a little bit for everybody out of the 160 kilometers of tracks, might you be a total beginner or an adrenaline junky. You can find more info on all tracks here up until we manage to explore them all 🙂
We were over thrilled when we found out that during the info trip we could opt-in for a bike tour in the area. We chose to bring our own bikes but rest assured that you will find quite a few places from where you can rent them and the protection equipment. Check out this page for more info.
But wait, there's more! Not only that you have a lot of marked trails in the area, you also have maps, touristic info centers, and guesthouses specialized in two-wheel tourism. How about that? We don't know how you feel about it but since this kind of services are scarce in Romania we are overjoyed to see that people in this area have thought things through and are on the right track. Here you can find the accommodation options of the area and all services on offer.
Igniș – Mara track
The sun was shining with clear, blue skies – 5 degrees Celsius in the morning with a maximum temperature of 14. Weeehaaa! What a perfect day for cycling! Bring it on baby!
We ate breakfast and quickly made some sandwiches for the road after which we took the bikes out of the car and met with our guide. And we must say, like a real bike guide, one great dude from The North Quest. A few words about these guys, do you want to cycle? If the answer is yes call them right away as they are a group of experienced and fantastic people that organize trips in Romania but also in other places (like… The Italian Dolomite… hmm… wink, wink!).
Our guide for the day was Cristi. Our track: half day by bike through the surrounding villages and overlooking hills!
We decided to start our track from our accommodation at Marioara Guesthouse and we followed the one lane narrow road that intertwines up and down in the direction of Breb and Hoteni villages.
Between the villages of Hoteni and Harnicesti, the asphalt road gets wider and up until Sugatag, you can relax going downhill. In Sugatag village you need to make a left on the uphill road that will surely get your blood pumping for the next ten kilometers. It doesn't sound like a lot but my energy was starting to get low fast. A break here, some push bike there, some talking… pfff… it is not easy, but man, it is fun!
The good side is that we had this ascent at the start of the track and that it is on a recently paved road which made it substantially easier than on off-road.
On the right side, you can see the ridge of Ignis mountains and all around everything is shrouded in tranquility. There is something really special about Maramures that you can feel through your every pore!
After about 16 kilometers we start the off-road section of the track. Luckily you don't need to ascend anymore from here on out.
The dirt road is in excellent condition and provides good traction as the morning dew hydrated the soil just enough. A word of caution, you are highly likely to encounter mud on this section if you go after periods with heavy rains.
All around the low mountains are already dressed for the fall and the warm sun is shining just enough to make it a perfect day!
We take a short break when we reach the peat bog Iezerul Mare where we have lunch and take some shots of a small viper snake that was chilling in the road.
From this point, we continue on the dirt road until slowly it fades in the grass. There is a small climb followed by a technical descent through grass patches that stop your bike in its track. I gave up and go for the push-bike strategy downhill, I am scared not to meet the group up close 🙂
The funny part was that when we reached Tatarului Gorge I had a consistent collection of grass and pebbles in my shoes. That is what you get when you chicken out on descent. 🙂
Tatarului Gorge consists of impressive walls of stone but you don't have access only to a small portion of their total length.
We continue on the gravel road that leads to Runcu dam, a site that is still under construction for about 20 years and will be completed in about two lifetimes. We continue our descent to Mara village on the paved road at the footsteps of Ignis mountains. In Mara, we go on the national road leading to Harnicesti village and from here we return to Breb on the same road we came on in the morning.
On the national road I encountered a horse cart and went on a mission. My goal was to overtake it so I started speeding up while the downhill slope still helped in this regard. The overtake was successful and I left the two horse traction vehicle behind. When I looked behind and saw my companions weren't coming I thought that probably they didn't have what it took to bypass the cart. All my dreams came to an end when Alex called and told me to turn back as I had missed the right road back to Hoteni.
We finished the circuit in about 6 hours and we had a great time with excellent weather! The track wasn't extremely easy, but t wasn't hard either and all in all, we can honestly say it is totally worth it! Please don't take our word for it, go on, try it and see for yourselves!
All the best regard to EcoMaramureș for showing and helping us discover another region with great tracks and hikes!
Good to know
Before going on any track or hike it is good to study the route/area and to take into consideration the:
- Weather forecast;
- The track difficulty and your physical condition;
- Hydration points and places to eat (not a lot outside villages);
- Get some info about the local wild and domestic animals. Note that in the area people still practice traditional shepherding and as such there are many sheepdogs which are not necessarily biker friendly. With a little care you will be fine!
- Lastly, don't forget your protection gear!
Total distance: 46 km
Total duration: 6 h 15 min (5 ore moving time)
Vertical relief: +/- 960 m
Altitude heights: 365 – 1041 m
Max speed: 50 km/h
Average speed: 9.2 km/h
Track: asphalt, gravel/dirt road, off-road
Equipment: MTB + backpack
Period: September 2017
GPS Wikiloc track