One of the many routes up to the Bucegi Plateau, this challenging trail heads up a narrow cut in the forbidding face of the Caraiman Peak. You’ll start in the forest, crossing back and forth over the babbling river that created the gorge, with the top third of the mountain boasting a collection of ladders, chains, and narrow footpaths.
Type of Hike: Trail with some minor rock climbing
Time: 3.5 up/2.5 down
Distance: 3.5 kilometers
Number of Wrong Turns: 0!
Finding the Trailhead
From the center of Busteni, follow the signs to the aeriel tramway. From here, head up the road about 250 meters and you should see the signs leading into the forest. Note the open dumpsters filled with garbage, perfect for enticing bears, but seriously, be on the lookout for bears on this one.
On the Hike
Get ready for some elevation. This hike doesn’t waste any time heading straight up the mountain. The first two-thirds of the journey take place in shaded forest, so plenty of protection from the sun, although there are far fewer opportunities for views of the sweeping vista below.
As the small river valley narrows, so does the trail, and at a few points it may resemble a goat walk. If there’s been rain or you even suspect snowfall in the forecast, I would not recommend this route. Speaking of goats, keep your eyes open for mountain goats on the adjacent hillside!
Next you’ll enter the valley of chains. The top third is quite steep and over the years, a number of bolted chains have been added to aid hikers. These all felt for the most part stable, but you’ll want to give a good tug or two on each one before committing your full weight (and life) to it.
Finally, you’ll reach the saddle and the staffed Caraiman Cabana. Here you’ll find restrooms and beer, along with some sunny fields, perfect for eating your half-melted picnic of brie, bread, and dark chocolate. You may even close your eyes for a moment to enjoy the last moments of sun before winter. You may even fall asleep.
From the cabana, it’s less than 30 minutes to reach the summit. Here you’ll find some of the most famous and the least impressive sights of the region – a couple of giant rocks called Sphinx and Babel. You will also find loads of selfie tourists arriving via the tram to this spot.
Expanding the Hike
Here’s a map of the route. I recommend expanding the hike so that you can hit up the Crucea Eroiler Neamuli (that sick cross on top of the mountain, that you see from the bottom of Busteni) – unless of course, you fell asleep for an indeterminate amount of time and are worried about catching the tram before it closes.
If you don’t want to take the “Tram of Shame” back down the mountain, my two recommendations are to head back towards Sinaia Ski and take either the ski route or the Royal Path. Both routes will add 3-4 hours to your day, so plan accordingly.
Five years ago when I started rambling around the Carpathians, this was one of my first hikes. We missed our bus, took a later train, and arrived in Busteni at eleven in the morning only to find that that the tram was closed due to high winds. We decided to climb up the frontside through the steep Valea Jepilor route. At the risk of losing the light and hiking in darkness on an unfamiliar trail, we gave up only an hour away from the summit, and since then, I’ve always vowed I would go back and conquer it.
Three years later, I returned! But it was winter, and all I could do was ride the tiny Busteni ski lift while the peak continued to mock me. Now, five years later, I struggled through a massive allergy attack to finally get up this damn peak.