Night hiking reaches peak interest in Czechia's Krkonoše National Park

Hiking in the night to catch the sunrise from the mountain ridges was a growing trend last summer and and fall.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 18.02.2022 18:00:00 (updated on 18.02.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

This past year has brought a significant increase in hiking and cycling in the Czech Republic. In particular, there's been a noticeable surge in night hikes, according to newly released information from Krkonoše National Park that tracked visitor behavior in 2021.

“The share of autumn traffic in the entire history of monitoring, that is since 2012, never reached such values. Covid measures reduced foreign tourism and increased the intensity of domestic tourism, especially for attractive natural localities,” the Krkonoše National Park (KRNAP) administration said in a press release.

Numbers show that more people than ever before are starting hikes in the pre-dawn hours to reach one of the park’s several mountain peaks, such as Sněžka, Luční hora, or Studniční hora, in time to catch the first rays of the sun crossing the horizon.

Further data revealed the most popular natural destination in the Krkonoše: Sněžka, the tallest mountain in the Czech Republic sits on the Czech-Polish border and has a spectacular panoramic view of both countries.

Sunrise over Sněžka in the Krkonoše Mountains.  (Photo: iStock, Petr Zbranek)
Sunrise over Sněžka in the Krkonoše Mountains. Photo: iStock, Petr Zbranek.

On some days, Sněžka saw over 10,000 visitors (though not all of them came to see the sunrise). The mountain reaches a height of 1,603 meters, but the actual peak is just across the border in Poland.

Other locations that drew high daily numbers of visitors include the park's second-most visited spot, the source of the Labe (Pramen Labe). Like all rivers, the Labe starts rather small and expands as it heads out, eventually reaching Hamburg and the North Sea. By comparison to Sněžka, this site may be a bit underwhelming.

A spring surrounded by a concrete ring and a nearby wall bearing the coats of arms of the Bohemian and German towns the river flows through mark the source. About 3,000 people a day visited the source of the Labe and Labská bouda, a nearby mountain hotel. The Labe is usually called the Elbe outside of the Czech Republic.

Coats of arms at the source of the Labe. Photo: iStock, Tomas Indrak.
Coats of arms at the source of the Labe. Photo: iStock, Tomas Indrak.

The summer months of July and August were predictably popular for visits to see the park's many attractions. This continued at unexpectedly high levels into September and October. The summer's total visits were a bit below the level of 2020, but then combined with the fall figures, the total surpassed that of 2020 to set a new record.

Another popular location in the area, Úpská rašelina, a peat bog near Pec pod Sněžkou, is a remnant of the last ice age. It formed some 5,000 or more years ago and is home to several rare plants. Hiking is limited to a marked trail, due to the delicate nature of the ecosystem. About 2,500 people visited daily on average.

Úpská rašelina. Photo: CzechTourism
Úpská rašelina. Photo: CzechTourism

The Monument to Victims of the Mountain (Památník obětem hor), a stone chapel between Luční and Studniční mountains, is the highest chapel in the Czech Republic and was visited by about 2,500 people a day. The chapel of St Lawrence on Sněžka is higher but is on the Polish side of the border.

Monument to the Victims of the Mountain. Photo: CzechTourism.
Monument to the Victims of the Mountain. Photo: CzechTourism.

Aside from an increase in people hiking to catch a glimpse of the rosy fingers of dawn, there was also an increase in activity from users of electric cycles, which provide a bit of assistance when going uphill.

The overall number of cyclists, combining both traditional and electric bikes, didn’t surpass the numbers from 2020, however. Compared to previous years, though, cycling is still higher than it was before the pandemic.

Estimates are based on automated counters on trails. The actual visitation numbers in most cases are actually higher, according to the KRNAP.

Anyone interested in hiking the area (either at nighttime or during more traditional hours) can visit the KRNAP website. Regular walks and outings are planned, many for a small fee, including an upcoming photo walk, and snowshoe event.

Trails are open in the winter and visitors can hike the park freely, however, roads that cross avalanche paths may be closed. For those interested in night hiking, note that camping isn't allowed, you'll need to book accommodation in the area in order to get your sunshot snaps.

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