In these tours you will be able to visit HPO's in Croatia's southern Gorski Kotar. Southern Gorski Kotar is a vast wilderness of forested mountains with karst landscapes and some broad rigdes. Inhabited by bear, shy lynx, boar, and deer, there are a few rural centres of human habitation, the largest of these being Ogulin and Mrkopalj.
I have walked many these HPO's at various times, more than any other mountain region of Croatia. The tours of Tuhobić, Samarske Stijene, and Bijele Stijene are fully complete.
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HPO 8.6, Samarske Stijene
Start from 13Km Parking on 5191
Start from MMP KT 1 Samarske St.
Start from MMP KT2 Stepenica
Start from MMP KT3 Piramida
Start from MMP KT 4 Veliki Kanjon
Start from Ratkovo Sklonište
HPO 8.7, Bijele Stijene
Start from 7Km Parking on 5191
Start from sklonište Miroslav Hirtz
Start from Bijele Stijene
Start from Boce
Start from Vela Vrata on 5191
Click to start at Ravno Podoljie
Click to start at Gornje Jelenje
Click to start at Dom Lepenica
Click to start at Tuhobić summit
Click to start at Vrelo Ranch
List of HPOs in Istria:
Ogulin, Town museum
Kula on Bjelolasica
Bijele Stijene & Samarske Stijene:
In southern Gorski Kotar, far from the cities and towns, lies a vast mostly uninhabited area of mountainous woodland called Velika Kapela, "the Great Chapel". Look on a map, and there is a road through the region, the 5191, but its rock, gravel, and dirt surface is not for the faint hearted. And perhaps that is for the better, protecting the Bijele and Samarske Stijene Nature Reserve from the hoards that would otherwise flock to this beautiful area famous for its white rock towers and other formations.
Matić poljana and it's row of standing stones, a memorial to 26 partisans.
Samarske Stijene (HPO 8.6) is the highest of the limestone peaks at the north eastern end of the nature reserve, and the first checkpoint of the Mrkopaljski Planinarski Put (MPP). Founded in 1990, the MPP makes a two day tour of the Samarske Stijene rocks in a very crude figure of eight pattern, zoom in and you'll see it on the map above. Each day covers either one of the stages below and starts at the 13Km parking area, though those staying the intervening night may wish to sleep at the Ratkovo Sklonište. The route is typically accessed via a long, and in some places brocken, marcadam road (that's compacted stones to you and I) from the village of Tuk near Mrkopalj. The road passes Matić poljana and it's row of standing stones, a memorial to 26 partisans who froze to death here in March 1994 during World War II.
KT1 Dvorac [The Castle] (1250m)
KT2 Južni vrh [South Peak] (1298m)
KT3 Amfiteatar [Amphitheatre] (1245m)
KT4 Razbijeni vrh [Broken Peak] (1285m)
The summit of Samarske Stijene.
Wild flowers, Piramida , and Ratkovo Sklonište.
The virtual tour here covers stage 1 checkpoints with a detour to the Ratkovo Sklonište. It's an absolutely brilliant route full of pristine forest, karst features, and plenty of challenges, the most difficult of these is the hard route through Veliki Kanjon, to which only an unprotected climb and nerves will unlock passage.
Tricky climb to the entrance to Veliki Kanjon.
Bijele Stijene (HPO 8.7) can be approached from a number of directions. Those making a day trip may wish to park at the 7Km parking area, follow the forestry track up hill for a while, then when the forestry track veers left beneath a makeshift shelter upon a low outcrop, take the waymarked path to the right up the wooded mountainside to reach the ridge and the Kapelski Planinarski Put (KPP) just south east of two mountain huts. On its climb to the KPP, the path twists and turns, seeking, for the most part, the easiest route between crags and sinkholes. The forest here feels untouched, the leaves a beautiful palette of greens, the trunks brown, grey, and silver with a complement of mossy emerald, and the creams of pancake like fungi.
The first of the huts to be reached is Planinarska Sklonište Miroslav Hirtz, a wooden emergency shelter open all year round, and it was here in August 2019 my son and I broke our exploration for a spot of lunch. In 2020 the hut was torn down and replaced with a beautiful glass fronted shelter and I'm intrigued to return. The second hut lays out of sight of the first, but just around the corner and across a small glade. This is Planinarska Kuća Bijele Stijene, aka Dragutin Hirc, which we found locked on our mid-week visit, but is open, according to the HPS website, on weekends from mid-May to mid-October. From the two mountain huts it is a short distance along the KPP to the foot of Bijele Stijene (1335m). The [white rock] is a fine limestone tower to whom the reward of a grand view is only given to those with a head for heights and an ability to scramble up the fifteen or so metres. In addition to the view, it is here one finds the metal stamps for HPO or KPP passbook. Bring your own ink pad.
Ascending Bijele Stijene. Descending Bogova Staza. Flowers in the wood.
Descending from the tower, and now on a section of the Kapelski Planinarski Put called the Vihoraški put [windy path] and named after the gales that sometimes blow here, there are further interesting scrambles as one hugs the high ground north westward. Those with time would do well to continue along the KPP all the way to the Ratkovo Sklonište at Samarske Stijene end of the nature reserve and then descend to the road at the 13Km parking area. Those with less time available will instead reach a junction at Boce and take the Begova Staza down towards Klanac Kosture and return to their car. The Begova Staza has plenty of charm and whilst well-trodden, a sense of the wilderness prevails. One would not be surprised if a bear was to wander out of the forest, cross the path, stare at you for a while, and then continue on its way. There are great sink holes around which the path twists, one with a cave in its vertical wall, and peering into one of these abysses can send a shiver down the spine. Klanac Kosture [Skeleton Gorge] when it is reached is not a fearful as its name might suggest, and whilst not impressive, is very atmospheric and one can imagine, if you watch a certain type of film, a party of orc warriors leaping out in ambush. From the gorge, it is a short walk back to the parking area.
Another approach would be along the already mentioned Kapelski Planinarski Put [Kepela Mountain Path)]. From it's start at the village of Tuk, the KPP passed through 50Km of hinterland mountain scenery before finally descending to the sea at the town of Klenovica, see map above. Hikers typically take 3 to 4 days to complete the full route founded back in 1979 by HDP Kapela. They'll visit Bjelolasics's Kula peak (1525m), and Samarske Stijene (1302m) before arriving at Bijele Stijene from the north west, continuing their journey south-eastward over Velika Javornica (1374m) and Kolovratske Stijene (1091m) to reach the Adriatic.
The photos for the Bijele Stijene tour were taken in 2018 with a Ricoh Theta S. The photos for the Bijele Stijene tour were taken in 2019 during a hike with my son. The Insta 360 One X 360 camera worked well, simplifying the process and allowing me to experiment in taking a sequence of photos that could be combined to produce a 3D image when viewed either on a smart phone in a VR headset, or by wearing cyan and red anaglyphs glasses.
Down on the beaches of Kvarner Bay, Tuhobić is one of the mountains that defines the skyline when looking east. Its long ridge had attracted my eye for many years. When the Zagreb-Rijeka motorway was built, engineers carved a tunnel through its centre, and today those driving under the mountain on their journey south from Zagreb can leave behind a world hemmed in by cloud and appear 2,143 metres later in a world bathed in sunshine.
Tuhobić is traversed by two of the regions long distance hiking trails, the Riječka planinarska obilaznica RPO (formerly the RT and still signed as such in many places), and the third section of the Goranski Planinarski Put GPP (which takes in many an HPO including Samarske stijene and Bijele stijene.
Parking near Gornje Jelenje, I joined these trails, which interweave as they climb up Tuhobić from the north. The RPO takes the most interesting route along Tuhobić long ridge through forest and along well trodden tracks and, as one reaches the ridge, narrow paths. The GPP in contrast follows forestry tracks until the final push up the mountain's steep north eastern slope to emerge near the summit. The summit itself is open grassland which offers great views and the temptation to continue south eastwards over Jelenčić and on towards 5068 road between Zlobin and Benkovac-Fužinski. Alas this virtual tour does not travel so far, though I hope one day it will.
At the summit of Tuhobić, GPP Zig (stamp) and triangulation pillar.
The photos for the tour were taken in 2012, the route extended northwards in 2013. I used a custom rig with an iPhone 4S and the now discontinued Microsoft Photosynth App which automatically stitch the photos into a spherical 360 image, but at only 4096 x 2048 resolution. They were remastered in mid 2021 before being uploaded to newer virtual tour format. In August the same year I revisted Tuhobić from the east, following the route of the yet unopened RPO from Vrelo Ranch, taking a forest track to reach an underpass of the A6 motorway just south of the Tuhobić tunnel before climbing to a col south of the summit. It was a clear but very windy day, the walk along the grassy southern ridge cool in more than one sense.