21 May 2013
One of the highlights for my Macedonian 1week trip was the day hike at Pelister National Park. As I only had 1 day to spare – chose the most popular trek within this park called “Rocky Trail”.
The trek is really memorable – medium challenging for seasoned walkers and more difficult for those unaccustomed to rock scrambling. The whole trek will take about 4 hr to reach the first peak (Peak Svit at 2,468m).
(Looking at the mountain peaks from foot – shortly after Kopanki Hut)
First half takes one through the serene pine forest, largely consisting of their local pine species called Molika. The 2nd portion is the tougher part which requires both hands to scramble across big boulders all the way to the 1st peak. May be nerve wrecking at times, as one is near the rock edges at most times. Rock scrambling came with some icy surprises – there were still pockets of snow left over from the winter even during this 3rd week May.
(Patches of snow encountered during the trek up)
Gateway to Rocky Trail is nearby Hotel Molika. From Bitola town, take a cab which costs standard Eur5 one-way. Upon arrival at the hotel parking, the trail start is directly opposite the hotel entrance across the open parking space.
(At Hotel Molika carpark – Start to Rocky Trail lies just beyond those 2 cars in the background)
The trail is clearly marked, but do get a simple trail map from Hotel Molika’s reception or take a picture of the huge map just outside the hotel’s entrance.
From the trail start, it is uphill all the way to the 1st checkpoint – Kopanki Hut 30min. Used to operate as a popular mountain hut, but has closed since a fire destroyed it early 2013.
(Kopanki Hut which unfortunately was damaged by severe fire early 2013)
From hut to Fountain (downhill flowing stream), it is an easier trail amongst the pine forest. As it was spring, encountered plenty of wild flowers along the way.
After the fountain stop, it is a steep zig-zag trail amongst more dense pine forest. It was a magical atmosphere with the smell of pine in the air and perfect weather for walking.
(Zig zag trail through the heavily scented pine forest)
Upon reaching a bigger open field, the trail turns left and this is the start of the rocky portion. Earlier parts is still easy as the boulders are more scattered around amongst the pine trees. From the field to the wooden platform, it will take about 10 min.
(Platform specially built to give walkers incredible views below & mountains beyond)
After catching your breath with the 360° view from the platform, it will be a challenging 2 hours of rock scrambling uphill. The trail is still clearly marked with the usual white circle with red in the centre. There are also metal guidelines or steps specially bolted to the rocks to aid crossing for more difficult areas. I had to stop halfway to refuel, as my legs were turning into jello from the constant hand & legwork. Anyway, it was awesome to just have a break to enjoy the beautiful scenery and warm sunshine. Would have love to sit longer, but the pesky mosquitoes were buzzing around me & trying to go up my nostrils and into mouth.
(Scrambling up the big boulders – here are some metal guidelines)
With a final push, I reached the first peak at 11am, after 4 hours of trekking. From the top, I could see the next 2 peaks, with Pelister peak 2,601m being the furthest & highest. Looking at the walk ahead, which involves going down & up again – I contemplated about pushing forward. With the naggling thought of returning the same way with 2 hours of rock scrambling and being all alone in the mountains, I decided against trying for the official peak.
Instead enjoyed the next 30min sitting there with my lunch and savouring the breathtaking scenery and weather. Satisfied that I didn’t give up when I first look up at the mountain peak 4 hours before. This is definitely one of the best day hikes I have done todate.
(Enjoying the views from top of Peak Stiv. Looking out beyond are the other 2 peaks – Pelister being the furthest & highest with the telco tower)
(Pelister Trail Map)