A tour that was in the planning for quite some time now finally happened on a perfect weather weekend of October 2019: the trails around Cabana Bârcaciu in Făgăraș, The Carpathian Mountains.
We are usual guests at Cabana Bârcaciu, we go there often for our hiking, trekking, ski touring trips (more at www.mountainguide.ro). With bikes it is more difficult, as it is located at some distance from our home trails around Brasov city – which are pretty abundant. And it is strategically located at the end of a 5 km length climb of about 800 m altitude gain on a technical trail.
If you can go over those hurdles, and we recommend you do, the mountain is your oyster. Făgăraș Mountains don’t have many places suitable for mountain biking, but Bârcaciu area definitely is one of them.
If you are in a hurry and your legs can survive the abuse, you can go in one day from down the valley up to Scara Peak, and then down. Stop on the way at Bârcaciu hut, enjoy some of the great stuff Coana Mariana is always offering. But if you can spare a whole weekend, it’s better: you can thoroughly enjoy the trail going from Poiana Neamțului to Cabana Bârcaciu in one day, both up and down. You will have to climb it twice, of course, but look at the bright side of it: the second time it will be with an easier backpack, as you’ll leave the overnight stay items at the hut, and you will really get to know the trail. Which is quite important, if you are to enjoy it. As we did, have a look here:
The second day you can go for the high altitude pastures, on Bârcaciu Ridge, Scara Peak and Puha Valley, before going down all the way to the valley. From 2300 m on the peak to about 700 m down there is a more than 1500 m altitude drop (don’t be fooled by the result of a simple arithmetical calculus, it never is that easy when biking up the mountains). You can use the main touristic trail for the descent, the one you already know from the first day, and you will probably enjoy it even more. Or, like we did, thanks to our friend Tudor Oprea, you can carry on the old trail called “Drumul Tunurilor” and enjoy some off-the-beaten track riding. No markings, though, so beware:
To get up on Scara Peak we left the marked hiking trail and continued on the ridge before the peak. It is quite steep, definitely carry-bike, but the shorter option to get up there. Not an option for an e-bike, though. If you are enjoying the assistance of electrons in your mountain biking adventures, you’d rather stick to the marked trails towards Puha – basically the same way you’ll be coming down.
What time of the year should you go? To enjoy the whole tour we did, end of September or early October should be the best bet. Up to Cabana Bârcaciu you can safely go from late April or early May till late October, mid November (look on the weather forecast, though, a freezing or snowy spell is always possible). Higher up on the ridge it’s a different story. Snow can still be present till mid June. In July and early August the grass can be quite big and hide traps on the trails, especially if the sheep are late for the pasturing. High bushes can obstruct visibility on less circulated sections (like the lower part of Drumul Tunurilor), and the falling leaves can make trail riding a festival of (unwanted) surprises at lower altitudes. But, if you have Făgăraș Mountains and Cabana Bârcaciu on your sight as a mountain biking destinations, you should already have enough mtb experience under your belt, therefor all the problems listed here should be just extra reasons to enjoy the riding.