A new walking trail lets you cross the entire Czech Republic on foot

Inspired by the Pacific Coast Trail and Canada's Great Divide, the 1,000-km journey takes about forty days to complete.

Marcus Bradshaw

Written by Marcus Bradshaw Published on 15.01.2021 14:00:00 (updated on 15.01.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Cesta Českem is a brand new, 1,000-km, thru-hiking trail, the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. This marked trail begins in the mountains on the Czech/German border and traverses the mountainous north of the country until it reaches the Slovak border in the east.

Broken down into ten stages, each ranging in length from 36.5 km to 170 km, it takes about 40 days to complete the entire hike. Of course, this doesn’t need to be done in one go, it’s a challenge that can be spread out over months or even years.

Two hikers with backpacks
One of the many beautiful views in the lowlands. Courtesy: Cesta Českem

“The idea for the trail came to me in Canada in 2019,” says Martin Úbl, the creator of Cesta Českem. “I was on the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies – it’s pure nature. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to establish a similar trail in the Czech Republic, when as a nation, we just love hiking.”

Upon his return from Canada, Martin spent the winter planning possible routes with friends, and in April, they went into the field and started their research in the mountains. By September, they had gathered enough data to prepare a website, which they officially launched in October 2020. During this period of research and preparation, Martin says that he was surprised by some of the smaller, less well-known mountains.

On the summit of Králický Snežník in the Jeseniký mountains
Martin Úbl and friends on the summit of Králický Snežník. Courtesy: Cesta Českem

“Everyone knows the Krkonoše National Park, almost everybody has visited the Jizerské Mountains, but the smaller mountains like Broumovsko highland, Rychlebské mountains, Lužické mountains... these are really hidden gems.”

One of unique features of the trail are the Trail Angels, a concept that Martin borrowed from thru-hikes in North America such as the Great Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Trail Angels are volunteers who live on or near the trail route and who offer their help to hikers for free. They offer a range of small kindnesses, anything from providing lifts to hikers, to letting them charge their devices in their homes or pitch tents in their gardens.

Trail Angels are volunteers who offer what they can, either because they like the idea of hiking or they just want to help, and Martin has been thrilled with the local response to the idea.

A certificate of completion of the entire trail
A certificate of completion of the entire trail.

 “We publicized the idea that it would be nice to have a similar system here and people just started to come and volunteer to be Trail Angels. Personally, I feel this is one of the best things on our project – so many people came and said that they would like to help for free, just because it makes sense to them.”

When asked what advice he would give to people who would like the idea of a walk in the mountains, but who wouldn’t necessarily have the equipment or experience it, Martin stresses the importance of proper research and preparation.

A small weir on a stream with two houses in the background
Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of rural villages along the route. Courtesy: Cesta Českem

For those who are interested in trying thru-hiking, he urges them to start small and to adopt a trial-and-error approach to packing: “Choose a short trip for two or three days and then look at what you packed. You will see what you missed, and what you packed but didn´t need. Adjust your packing for your next section of the trail.”

If you’re based in Prague, have one or two days, and you’d like to sample some of the trail, Martin recommends the Adršpašské mountains and part of the Broumovska highlands, as it’s easy to find accommodation (either camping or in a hotel when the are open), the route isn’t very demanding, and it’s easily accessed.

The Pravčická Gate in the Bohemian Saxony National Park. Courtesy: Cesta Českem
The Pravčická Gate in the Bohemian Saxony National Park. Courtesy: Cesta Českem

If you have more time (4 days), he promises that you won’t be disappointed by a trip to the Lužické mountains. However, he cautions that inexperienced hikers would be better served by waiting until spring, as he does not recommend winter hiking for those without the proper gear and experience.

Finally, when asked what a hiker should never leave home without, Martin says that it all comes down to where you want to sleep. “If you want to use hostels and hotels, then you don’t need much, but if you want to do it on your own, you’ll need more gear. But the Big Three is always clear: shoes, backpack, tent.”

Anyone heading into the hills should prepare themselves well in advance, which they can do by visiting www.cestaceskem.cz. The site contains information about the routes, gear needed, and many other tips.

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