Hiking the Fagaras Mountains
Hiking,  Recent,  Romania

Hiking Romania’s Fagaras Mountains: Avrig Lake and Scara Peak

If you’re looking for an adventure, then the Fagaras Mountains in Romania are for you! We discovered this beautiful, challenging 21km route which offers stunning views into the valley as well as dramatic mountain vistas, waterfalls and a glacial lake. Located only 50 minutes from Sibiu, it’s also convenient to reach.

Route Information: Avrig Lake and Scara Peak

  • Length: 20.57km
  • Ascent: 1,834 m
  • Difficulty: hard/challenging
  • Time to Complete: 7.5 hours
  • How to get there: 50 minute drive from Sibiu (car required)
  • Season: late May until late October.

About The Fagaras Mountains

The highest mountains in the Southern Carpathians, the Transylvanian Alps, are home to Romania’s two most famous peaks: Moldoveanu at 2,544m and Negoiu at 2,535m. However, that’s not all they have to offer, for the mountain range stretches like a spine across central Romania from roughly far East as Brasov to as far West as Sibiu, offering hundreds of kilometers of hiking possibilities.

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The hiking trails in the Fagaras Mountains are generally clearly marked and free of obstacles, and this one was no exception. The hiking area is also well provisioned with mountain huts (often providing food) and water springs. Despite the quality of the facilities, it’s still possible to find quiet trails and it doesn’t feel overly busy, even on a July weekend in perfect conditions.

One of the things we love about the city of Sibiu is it’s proximity to the mountains; in less than an hour’s drive, you can be starting your hike. There are plenty of entry points to the mountains; the most famous is the road to Lake Balea with it’s crazy hairpin bends (90 minutes from Sibiu). From here, you can hike the two highest peaks, Moldoveanu and Negoiu.

We chose to start our hike a little closer to town. Cabana Poiana Neamtului is a guesthouse nestled in the roots of the mountains and can be reached in around 50 minutes by car from Sibiu. It’s a popular area for camping; there’s also a deer park and various attractions for children. The hike begins at the end of the road, where there’s plenty of parking available.

1. Cabana Poiana Neamtului to Cabana Barcaciu

The first 5 km is a good warm-up; the path leads you through the forest up to Cabana Barcaciu. It’s steep in sections but a nice and easy forest path, marked with red and white flags. The weather was perfect for the start of our walk, clear and sunny. As we started early (around 8.30) it was still cool but we appreciated the shade of the trees nevertheless. Before reaching the Cabana, you get your first views of the astonishingly flat plane below – a great motivation which was needed this morning.

We met a friendly Romanian guy and his walking companions on the way up who, in perfect German, told us a little about about what to expect ahead.

2. Cabana Barcaciu to Avrig Lake

The path splits shortly after the Cabana; the red and white markers take you directly to the peak of Scara and continue Eastward in the direction of Negiou, the blue and white markers go towards Avrig first – which is the route we took.

As soon as you hit the blue and white track, the path lets you know you’re on a mountain now. It’s rocky and you have to climb over things. Nevertheless, the first kilometer or so is almost flat. After that, the fun begins and there’s a brutally steep 300m climb in less than a km. There’s no sun protection and it was rather warm when we got there!

Your efforts are rewarded immediately with this incredible view:

After this point, just a little more effort is required before you reach the beautiful Avrig lake at 2011m altitude. Avrig is one of many glacial lakes in the Fagaras Mountains which are topped up each year with the melting snow. Even in mid-July there was still snow on the ground! We were reliably informed by the friendly Romania that, in some years, patches of snow remain year-round and it can even snow as early as the end of August.

We took a short break to gaze at the lake. Surprisingly we were the only people up there. Although, we could see another hiker on the ridge of Ciortea, a mountain directly above the lake. We considered extending our hike and completing the two additional peaks: Ciortea East and West, but decided our legs couldn’t take it (a wise decision).

3. Avrig Lake to Scara Peak

The next part of the route, we had been prewarned by our Romanian friend, would be a bit of an adventure. Actually, this is my favourite part of hiking but it’s not for everyone!

The path between Avrig and Scara teeters on a narrow ridge, with sharp drops either side. On the one side, you have a wonderful view of the valley you just ascended with all its little streams from the melting snow. On the other side, you see a wooded valley and deeper into the mountains. The path itself is not such a challenge but you do need to be careful.

Whilst we were crossing, we were fascinated to watch a cloud forming in the valley below. What started as nothing became a dense fog of white but quite astonishingly, it hit the ridge like an invisible wall and didn’t go further. Nothing but white was visible on the left, yet we had a perfectly clear view on the right.

Shortly before we reached the summit, Steffen got a bear alert on his phone! Romania uses a warning system called Ro-ALERT which broadcasts messages to cell phones in the vicinity of a potential threat to alert them to possible danger. We received one previously regarding a building fire in Sibiu. Unfortunately, we didn’t recognise the name of the place and had no internet to check. As there didn’t seem to be any bears nearby we pressed on.

At the top, we met a couple more Romanians (also fluent in German) who put our fears to rest by letting us know that the bear sighting was far away from Scara! The warning system seems a great idea though, especially in a country which has the largest population of bears in Europe.

4. Scara Peak to Cabana Barcaciu

The return trip is thankfully much more gentle, which our knees appreciated! On the way down, we saw a guy herding his huge flock of sheep and then bumped into our friendly Romanian again! We chatted to him for a bit longer; it turns out that he’s quite avid traveler himself, having recently returned from an incredible trip to Namibia. After living for 30 years under communism where he couldn’t even go as far as Hungary, he’s taking full advantage of the opportunities he has now and also plans on heading to Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa this year. His friend gave us an apple and we continued on our way.

The route ends the same way at started back at Cabana Barcaciu. We made a final stop off there to drink a huge mug of an incredibly sweet lemonade which turned out to be made from pine needles. The extra sugar was needed for the final stretch; we really felt those last 5km!

Final thoughts on the Avrig Lake and Scara Peak Hike

We’d describe ourselves as pretty avid hikers and have racked up hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers in many different countries. Romania’s Fagaras Mountains really impressed us with it’s incredible mountains and the fact it is really set up for hikers. We’d definitely recommend it for your next hiking trip!

If you have any questions or comments, get in touch below or write to me on Facebook (Hopelessly Nomantic), Instagram (Hopelessly_Nomantic) or Twitter (HopelesNomantic).

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