Hiking Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park

by gigigriffis
Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park: It’s just as pretty as they say. 

If you’re looking to live vicariously, here are the highlights of my hikes. If you’re looking for hiking info, scroll to the bottom of the photos.


(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)


Want to experience the park for yourself? Here are some relevant details: 

Directions

There are two official entrances to Plitvice Lakes and each has a selection of hiking trails. Entrance 1, where I stayed, has A, B, C, and K. 

Trail A takes 2 – 3 hours according to the signage and takes you through the canyon (where many of the iconic photos are from) and past the largest waterfall in the park. 

Trail B takes 3 – 4 hours according to the signage and includes the canyon and its waterfalls, as well as one of the upper lakes.

Trail C takes 4 – 6 hours according to the signage and covers most of the park: upper lakes, lower lakes, waterfalls. It includes a tram ride back to a stop near Entrance 1.

Trail K, which you can take from either entrance, covers basically the whole park and, according to signage, takes 6 – 8 hours. Now, when I did it, it took about 5.5 hours, but the park was pretty empty that morning, so I didn’t get stuck behind tour groups or photo lines. I assume on more crowded days, their estimate would be more correct. 

Trails are generally pretty well marked, though if you do trail K, there are a few places where the trail splits off and it’s not clear which way to go. I definitely took a detour at one point and ended up on trails 1/2/3 which lead outside the main lake area. If you run into signage for 1/2/3, you probably went too far away from the lakes and may need to turn back.

Keep in mind that some days, parts of the park may be closed. On my first day, the canyon was closed due to rock falls. There were crews clearing out the rocks and fixing up the pathways and it reopened the next morning, so I went down that way on day two. (With this in mind, I recommend staying a couple days instead of just treating Plitvice as a day trip. You’ll be able to get an early start (read: less crowds) and have more flexibility in case of rain or park closures.)

For more hiking info, this article is extensive.

Hiking times and local transportation

Trail K took me about 5.5 hours. I stopped often to take photos, but the park was fairly empty for the first half of my hike, so I didn’t start getting stuck behind groups until I was on my way back toward the entrance. 

To get to Plitvice from Zagreb, I took a bus from the main Zagreb bus station and asked the bus drive to stop at Entrance 1 (this is important, since there are two entrances and they don’t always stop at both). The ride took about 2.5 hours (maybe a little more) and the road is a bit swervy, so if you get car sick, bring your meds.

Dogs on trails and in the park

The good news is dogs are welcome in the park as long as they on a leash. For small dogs, you may also want to bring some sort of sling or backpack because some of the trails are wooden walkways and the gaps between boards are big enough for little paws to slip through. I carried Luna across several sections.

It’s also worth noting that if you are traveling with a dog, not all buses are dog-friendly. I took the “ask forgiveness not permission” approach and just carried Luna’s carrier onto the bus without asking. I can’t say whether they even knew she was there. One bus that for sure does not take dogs is Flixbus, so if that is the only option on a given day, you’ll need to travel another day or pick another transit option. 

Is the trail crowded?

In summer, for sure. In the shoulder season, I’ve heard it can get crowded, but my experience was that a cloudy Friday in early May was extremely quiet in the morning (I didn’t see another hiker for at least 45 minutes) with more people showing up as we got toward lunchtime. Saturday morning, quite a few more people were there right at opening time and I got stuck behind a few inconsiderate groups as I tried to get to the big waterfall. 

What to bring

As always with hiking, wear good shoes (these are the ones I use) and weather-appropriate clothing. Parts of the trail are in the sun, so good sunscreen is a smart packing choice. Carry plenty of water, especially if you’re taking Trail K (where restaurants are fewer and farther between). 

For the dog, I always carry a small carrier backpack just in case she needs a ride (which is getting more common as she gets a bit older). And because I love taking photos, you won’t find me on a trail without my camera (All the photos above were taken with my Sony a6000.)

Happy hiking!

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