Radovna Valley Loop Ride - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

June 14, 2022

Radovna Valley Loop Ride

When I first designed my tour of Slovenia, I’d intended to go up past Kranjska Gora to Treviso and then take the Alpe Adria cycle route south to Venzone before circling back north to Bovec/Kobarid. The section of the Alpe Adria from Terviso to Venzone has received rave reviews in a number of Cycle Blaze journals so it seemed a shame to miss it as I was so close. When the start of my trip was delayed, I had to alter my route in such a way to avoid canceling my June 17  “can’t miss” dinner reservation at Hiša Franko in Kobarid. My solution was to eliminate the section of the route up to Kranjska Gora and down the Alpe Adria. I would instead take the train through the Julian Alps to Most na Soči, leaving me a short ride to Kobarid for my reservation on Friday. Today’s loop ride through the Ravonka valley was designed to make up a bit for the roads not taken.

The day started out a bit overcast but the clouds soon lifted and there was sunshine all day, with temperatures in the high 60s – an excellent day for cycling. I started out along the southwest side of the lake, getting my first clear views of Bled Island and the Bled Castle. The views down the lake opened as I circled around to the west end of the lake, following a bike past the pletna boats docked waiting to take visitors to Bled Island. I continued on the bike path around to the north side, lost in the wonder of my surroundings when I realized I’d missed the turn that would take me away from the lake and towards the Radovna Valley.

My pre-derailleur hanger route included a section Alpe Adria from Treviso through Venzone before circling back into Slovenia. The blue circle approximates the eliminated section of the original route
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My first clear view of Bled Island and the Assumption of Maria Church
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Bled Castle, sitting atop a 125 meter cliff
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Peltna boats awaiting passengers to Bled Island
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Bled Island. from the west side of Lake Bled
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One final image with all three Lake Bled landmarks: Bled Island and the Church of the Mother of God on the Lake; Bled Castle; and the spire of St. Martina Parish Church
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A bicycle ride through the Radovna Valley came highly recommended by a variety of sources, including our fellow CycleBlazers Scott and Rachael Anderson (see here). The alpine valley is wholly contained within the Triglav National Park, so it is undeveloped and there is virtually no vehicular traffic. But the road is quite popular with cyclists. As I made my way toward the valley I passed/was passed by both day riders and touring cyclists. The normal route from Bled crosses the Radovna Valley River at Krnica, which lies at the southwest end of the valley. Before descending into Krnica, however, I encountered a number of bikers heading back up the hill, saying the bridge was out and confirming the signage that the road was closed, even to bikes. I was not keen to undertake a long detour and thus paid little attention to the detour instructions offered by a passerby to a now growing group cyclists. They all headed off back toward Lake Bled and I slowly followed, resigned to the fact that my loop ride was destined to be an out and back.

I’d not gone far when I saw a yellow and black arrow directing me down a small road a across the river. Thinking it was a detour sign, I turned left, excited that my loop ride was still in play. I descended a short, narrow, steep, and curvy road that took me across the river on a one-lane bridge into the hamlet of Grabče. But the pavement ended at Grabče, and the only way back to the valley was up a rocky dirt track. It really was not too much of a problem for Vivien George, but I wondered how the road bikes had fared, or if this even was the detour that the others had taken. I later came to realize that black and yellow signs in Slovenia are directional arrows to towns, not indicative of detours. In any case, this “detour” worked for me and I soon rejoined my original route in Krancj. 

The ride up through the Radovna Valley was indeed special. Heading north along the river through narrow alpine meadows and woodlands, surrounded by peaks of the Pokljuka and Mežakla plateaus. The valley road rises gently for first ten miles to the small settlement of Zgornja Radovna where you have spectacular views up the Krma and Kot Valleys to the high peaks of the Julian Alps, including Mount Triglav. At the end of the valley, there is a steep one mile climb followed by a two mile descent, dropping over 700 feet into the small town of Mojstrana. There were some jaw-dropping views on the way down, but I was too focused on making a safe descent to stop for photos. You’ll just have experience it for yourself.

Like most cyclists, we presume road closure signs do not always apply to bicycles. Not this time
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Crossing the Radovna River in Grabče
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Leaving Krnica and entering the Triglav National Park and the start of the Radovna Valley
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In Radovna Valley. Small sheds and these ladder-like structures were common sights in the narrow fields of the valley. I believe these are racks were used for drying hay
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Scott AndersonI’ve also seen them or ones similar used for drying corn.
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1 month ago
In Radovna Valley
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In Radovna Valley
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In Radovna Valley - looking back down the valley
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A large group of young mountain bike riders on a guided outing. I saw this several times in Italy, where adults lead groups of young children on mountain bikes. A great way to foster cycling and hone bike handling skills.
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Radovna Massacre Memorial located at the remains of the Smolej farmhous. The memorial honors the 24 villagers who died when the Srednja Radovna settlement was burned on September 20, 1994 by German forces in retaliation for the a previous attack German soldiers.
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In Radovna Valley
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In Radovna Valley, looking up the Krma Valley
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In Radovna Valley, looking up the Kot Valley, with Mount Triglav rising in the center left
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Guillermo and Antoine, two touring cyclists from France that I met at various points along the day. They've stopped for a bite to eat before heading over the Vršič Pass to Bovec.
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The sign says 18% grade but RWGPS recorded 23%. All I know it was steep - I made it up this section but admit to walking about 25 meters of an even steeper section
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Rachael AndersonWow! I bet that hurt!
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Safely down the mountain and time for a photo-op
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The village of Dovje across the Sava River
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At Mojstrana, I joined the the D2 cycle route for a nine mile stretch along the Sava River. Unfortunately,  much of this section was adjacent to the autoroute, quite a change after the serenity of the Radovna Valley. I’d planned to stop for lunch in Jesenice, but the D2 route bypassed any town center, taking me through an industrial section of town where I resorted to coffee and cake at an outdoor café associated with a giant Spar complex. Just past Jesenice, I crossed the Sava on a spur of the D2 that headed south toward Lake Bled, up and down on a combination of highway and small roads.

The Sava River
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On the D2 cycle route, heading for Lake Bled
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On the way to Lake Bled
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Nearing Lake Bled
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It had been a pretty full day already, but I decided to have an early dinner and hike up to Bled Castle, which sits atop a 125 meter cliff. It is not a hike for the faint of heart – once you reach the base of the stairs at St. Martina Parish Church, there is a near vertical staircase of 220 steps up to the castle grounds, followed by a curving stone ramp that ascends another few meters to the ticket office. For the price of the  €13 entrance fee you get pretty spectacular views of Bled Island and the surrounding area, but not much else. Similar to Ljubljana Castle, the interior of the castle has been modernized with open spaces and eateries, along with a token museum and several gift shops. It seems that this is true of most other castles in Slovenia, so I consider myself forewarned as I make my way around the country. But for today, it seemed a perfect way to cap off an extraordinary day in the Julian Alps.

Lake Bled and Bled Island
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Bled Island with a flotilla of sculls
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The town of Bled and surrounding area
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St. Martina Parish Church and associated buildings
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The sun begins to set on a wonderful day in the Julian Alps
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Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 1,289 miles (2,074 km)

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Rachael AndersonWhat a great ride!
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1 month ago