Retezat Mountains Hiking Trip: A 4-day Itinerary

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Our Retezat Mountains hiking trip was one for the books: filled with crystal-clear glacial lakes, tall, rocky peaks and stunning green valleys. Difficult trails through dense, lush forests lead us towards tall plateaus with fabulous views and scenic backdrops. The path was the most difficult one I’ve ever been on. Carrying more than 1/5th of my weight uphill for 9 straight hours proved to be more challenging than I initially thought.

But in the end, the effort was more than worth it. The Retezat Mountains are truly impressive throughout and I’m telling you right now that the photos will definitely not do it justice. In reality, the majestic range of the Southern Carpathians is more beautiful and stunning than you can ever imagine. I’m here to show you just a small portion of it, which we were lucky enough to explore 2 autumns ago, back in September of 2015. 

Day 1 – Getting to Bucura Lake

Even though we started our day at the crack of dawn, we only managed to get to the beginning of the hiking trail in the small village of Râușor at 1 PM. We were already behind our planned schedule, but unforeseen circumstances forced us to be a bit late. Once we found a safe place to park our car for the next few days, we put on our packs and went on our way. After leaving the ski complex, we started our ascent through a dense forest dotted by mature trees.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Following the red line we made our way through the forest. As we slowly ascended, the tall trees turned in to smaller ones, which were then replaced by tiny evergreen shrubs. It was not long before we arrived to the first plateau that would offer quite a view over the surrounding mountains. Retezat Mountains Hiking

As we reached Ștevia Lake, we were already at an altitude of 2,060 meters. It was already quite an impressive ascent from the 1,185 meters where we left our car. Our campground next to Lake Bucura was just over the tall peaks in front of us (or so we thought by reading the map). In reality, most of the trail was still in front of us with difficult climbs, huge unstable rocks and long trails. But somehow we managed to power through and keep on going.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Retezat Mountains Hiking

After what seemed like a fraction of eternity, we reached Retezat Peak at 2,485 meters. By this point I was fairly tired and after looking at the map I was also discouraged. I was also somewhat happy and excited about reaching the peak and sat down to enjoy the view  and catch my breath for a few minutes.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

I soon started doubting the fact that we’d make it to the campground as we discussed the possibility of calling it a night and putting up our tent between two major peaks. The sun was setting after all, and hiking in the dark was less than ideal for us. Even so, we decided to keep on going, since we didn’t have any water for next morning and it would’ve been quite a pain to hike an extra hour or two without it.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

The sun went down faster than we anticipated. We put our headlamps on and tried our best not to fall on our faces as we descended from the peak towards Bucura Lake, situated at an altitude of 2,041 meters. By this point in the hike I was too exhausted to see the trail properly. The fact that a few huge shepherd dogs were barking from who-knows-where didn’t actually help my mental state and my will to go on. But as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. We reached the lake and its campsite safe and sound, had a few biscuits for dinner, drank some fresh spring water and set up our tent in a record amount of time. I think I fell asleep the second I put my head down on the pillow and didn’t wake up for the next 12 hours.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

 

Day 2 – Exploring the Lakes

The next morning we woke up pretty late. Every inch in my body was aching from the muscle fever resulted by the huge effort from the day before. But the view from our tent was SO worth it!

Retezat Mountains Hiking

We had a copious breakfast and a nice cup of instant coffee to help us wake up better. I’ve never had a breakfast with such a heavenly view and I was so excited and so happy that we were hiking in the Retezat Mountains. I couldn’t wait to finish breakfast so we can kickstart the day’s new adventure.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

For this day we chose a very easy trail through the glacial lakes of the Retezat Mountains. They are just a stone’s throw away from the campsite at Bucura Lake and are very scenic.  Some of them can get totally dried up during summer droughts, whilst other are abundant in water. They all boast crystal-clear waters and they also differ in size. Another common trait is that they carry female Romanian names and are called Ana, Lia, Florica and Viorica. But instead of yapping around, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. PS: Can you spot us on the first shot?

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Retezat Mountains Hiking - Lakes

Another highlight of the day was that this was the first time ever we encountered marmots on our route. Can you see the little guy in his camouflage below? It was extremely interesting to see how they communicated with each other (mostly in a high-pitched repetitive bark) and they actually let us pretty close to take some shots of them before they hid away.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

At the end of the day, as if the sunset itself weren’t amazing enough, some horses decided to step into the light making the scenery even more dramatic. It was a dreamy end to a day of surreal natural beauty.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

 

Day 3 – Climbing the Peaks

The next day we decided to tackle a more difficult challenge. We wanted to conquer at least a few of the surrounding peaks to admire the view from above. First on our list was the tallest one in the entire range, Peleaga Peak with its 2,509 meter altitude. The trail towards it conveniently starts at the Bucura Lake. For a regular climber, it takes maximum two hours to get to the peak. Naturally, it depends on how much you stop along the way to admire the scenery.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

The terrain is rugged, dotted by rocks and cliffs, often slowing people down. Luckily we had plenty of time and weren’t in any kind of hurry, so we managed to leisurely climb up to the peak. The trail is well-marked with a yellow cross and is easily visible throughout the entire trail. I wouldn’t say the path is too difficult, however you really need to watch your step, especially if you’d like to avoid stepping on some rocks which can easily move and can contribute to an accident.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

From the top of the Retezat Mountains you can enjoy an unobstructed view of Bucura Lake and the campsite, along with a few other glacial lakes in the background.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

After breathing in the surroundings, we decided we had enough time to conquer an additional peak and headed towards Păpușa Peak (2,508 meters – its name actually meaning Doll Peak). The path might seem steep from this angle, but it was actually pretty okay and once again, very well marked. We continued the way following the yellow cross sign.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

As you trek over towards Doll Peak, you can see the lakes of the Bad Valley towards the left , towards north (Lacurile din Valea Rea) and the turquoise-colored Peleaga Lake to the left (south). Both are pretty fascinating sights, so make sure you watch your step as you drool over your surroundings.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

 

Retezat Mountains Hiking

The terrain is once again rugged and might even count as a bit more difficult than towards Peleaga Peak. The boulders are big, but if I remember correctly, they’re a bit more stable than the ones that lead the way towards the previous peak.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

The view, once again, is exceptionally beautiful. The lake you can see in the far background is called Peleguța Lake, referring to the smaller sibling of the much bigger, turquoise Peleaga Lake featured in the photo above.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

After enjoying the view, we headed back to our campsite and arrived less than two hours later to a magnificent Lake Bucura rewarding us with quite a mirror-like effect. A perfect end to a perfect day!

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Day 4 – Getting back to Râușor

We enjoyed our last breakfast on the shore of Lake Bucura, packed our tent and stuff and began our descent from the Retezat Mountains early in the morning on our last day. By the time the sun reached the top of the mountains, we were already looking back to the lake from the Bucura II Peak (2,378 meters). Somehow the landscape reminded me of a photo I saw of a lake in Greenland and at that moment I was infinitely proud that this scenery was part of my homeland.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

We also managed to squeeze in a quick stop at Bucura I Peak (2,433 meters) to admire the glacial lakes of the Retezat Mountains, only this time from above. The peak is very easily reachable and it would’ve been quite a shame to miss out on unforgettable panorama.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Afterwards we started our long descent from the Bucura Lake complex. We didn’t hesitate to take a moment and admire the Gemenele Scientific Reserve towards the west, which is a restricted area to tourists and only people with a special permit can enter there. But it was still nice to take a glimpse of it from above, on our way down from Bucura Peak.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Instead of going the same way down, we decided to take a different route and chose the valley of the Stânișoara River instead. This route is marked with a blue triangle and lead us through a totally different scenery than during our ascent. The valley was filled with lush trees, shrubs, small lakes and a plentiful river leading the way.

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Retezat Mountains Hiking

After a while, we’ve encountered a crossroad in our path. The blue triangle leads the way towards the Pietrele Mountain Cabin, but the route we needed to take was the blue cross, leading us back to Râușor. Before we said goodbye to the blue triangle route, the boys took a quick detour to see Stânișoara Waterfall.

Stânișoara Waterfall

We went on our separate way, following the blue cross, and ended up in a huge forest of blueberries. I was honestly expecting to bump into a bear in the massive field of the animal’s favorite fruit, but luckily we got away without encountering one this time. Although the road towards the car seemed never-ending at one point, we were very happy to finally arrive to it, even if it meant the end of our Retezat Mountains hiking trip.

Practical Info – Hiking Routes

Day 1: Râușor – Șaua Lolaia – Vârful Retezat – Șaua Retezatului (red line) – Vârful Bucura I (red dot) – Lacul Bucura. Distance: approx. 10 km, Difficulty: difficult, Duration: 9 hrs one-way (I don’t recommend it to beginners and I would certainly choose a different route for next time because of its length and difficulty).

Day 2: Lacul Bucura – Lacul Florica – Lacul Viorica – Lacul Ana – Lacul Lia – Lacul Bucura (red dot); Distance: approx. 3 km, Difficulty: easy, Duration: 3 hrs round-trip

Day 3: Lacul Bucura – Vârful Peleaga – Șaua Pelegii – Vârful Păpușa – Șaua Pelegii – Vârful Peleaga – Lacul Bucura (yellow cross); Distance: approx. 7 km, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 5 hrs round-trip

Day 4: Lacul Bucura – Curmătura Bucurei – Vârful Bucura II – Vârful Bucura I (red line) – Șaua Retezatului – Valea Stânișoara (blue triangle) – Șaua Ciurila – Râușor (blue cross); Distance: approx. 10 km, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 8 hrs one-way

Retezat Mountains Hiking

Where to Stay and What To Eat

We decided to camp (hence the heavy backpack) on the shore of Lake Bucura. Unfortunately, there were no toilets there when we were there (I really hope that’s not the case now and someone finally bothered to put a few toi tois at least), so everyone just goes into the bush to do their duty. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I survived 4 days like this in the wild. We bathed in the river and just tried to make the most of the experience.

If you’d like a bit more comfort or just plain and simply don’t want to carry a pack, then you should know that there are a few mountain huts in the area (like Cabana Pietrele, Cabana Gențiana or Cabana Buta).

Retezat Mountains Hiking

As long as food is concerned, we carried our own Primus and cooked our own food. It mostly consisted of canned food, a few packs of ramen, instant coffee and some cold delicacies like cheese, butter and salami. Don’t forget to pack some chocolate for an instant energy boost! If you’d like to serve a hot meal, I think you can get them at the cabins, although I’m not 100% sure of this information.

A key information is the fact that you should NEVER EVER DRINK FROM LAKES OR STREAMS in the mountains of Romania. Unfortunately, cattle and sheep often drink from these and pollute the waters involuntarily. The only place you should drink fresh water from is fountains which have the inscription IZVOR on them. We encountered some tourists even here in the Retezat Mountains who said they drank from a stream and were throwing up and very sick all night afterwards. So please learn from their mistake and only drink from designated, safe water sources.

Since our Retezat Mountains hiking adventure I’ve been on a fair amount of trips. But I can honestly tell you that it’s still my most challenging and probably the most memorable of journeys so far. If you liked the post, please Pin it over to Pinterest to help spread the word. And if you have any questions about these fascinating trails, make sure you contact me so I can help you out with any additional info!

Retezat Mountains Hiking

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