In our previous post about hiking in Bulgaria, we gave some general tips about how to pick a base city, how to get around in the area, and other things we wish we would have known before going on our hiking adventures in the Rila Mountains.In this post we’re focusing on more detailed trail notes for the 7 Lakes hike and the Mt. Musala hike, as well as photos of the landmarks and scenery on each.
Hiking the 7 Lakes
We started the 7 Lakes hike at Vada Hut, which is 11 km from the town of Govedartsi. It is possible to drive from Govedartsi and to Vada Hut, provided you have an off-road vehicle (we actually saw a 4-door sedan attempting this that got overheated and didn’t quite make it).
From behind Vada Hat, there is a left and right path; the right path is marked as the route to the 7 Lakes. After about 30 minutes, you’ll come to a map and some signage. If you keep going straight on the path, you will take the longer but somewhat less steep route up to the lakes via Lovna Hut. If you turn left you will take a bit of a shorter trail that is somewhat steeper.
Along the paths there are marked signs periodically pointing towards the next hut (in Bulgarian) and the trees and rocks are spray painted with color-coded trail markings at regular intervals. It is not uncommon to see three, four, or five markings when looking along a path section, making it very hard to get lost. Once above the tree line the markings are typically painted on the ground with large poles rising above indicating the direction of the trail. Like the lower parts of the hike, it is not uncommon to see many of these poles rising off in the distance.
We went up the shorter, steeper route (blue markings), and after about 90 minutes of hiking up, we made it above the tree line and into a flat clearing. Just a bit past the clearing is the first lake, Dolnoto Ezero, or Lower Lake. From there, you must hike another half hour or so uphill to Ribnoto Ezero, or Fish Lake, where there is also the 7 Lakes Hut with some very basic toilets but no food or water). Then it’s another 20 minutes or so to the third and fourth lakes, Trilistnika (The Trefoil) and Bliznaka (The Twin), which are very close to each other.
To reach the remaining three lakes you have to hike up another very steep trail for probably another 30 or 45 minutes, which we chose not to do. We hiked back down the trail via Lovna Hut, which we didn’t think was all that faster or easier than the way we had hiked up.
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Another option for reaching the 7 Lakes is to take the Panichishte ski lift, newly built in 2009. After reading about the hordes of people who opt for this route on summer weekends, we were very glad we chose to hike up. The ski lift does have the benefit of dropping you off at a higher point so that you can easily see the fifth lake, The Kidney, with a 20-30 minute walk, though.
Hiking to Mt. Musala
Unless you’re a very advanced hiker, you’ll want to take the ski lift (10 lev roundtrip) in Borovets up to Yastrebets hut to cut down on the hiking time to the top of Mt. Musala.
After about an hour of hiking the flat, slightly downhill trail, you’ll reach a lake where they’re constructing a huge ski lodge. Now the fun begins! Now you must scramble up a very steep, extremely rocky trail for about half an hour.
Your reward is another beautiful lake, probably my favorite lake from both of the hikes. Another hour hiking along the extremely rocky and at times steep trail brings you to Musala hut which sells hot drinks (no water).
It was at this point that we had to turn around in order to make it back down in time to meet our ride in Borovets. Fellow hikers told us it was another 60-90 minutes to hike all the way up to the peak, making reaching the top and returning to the ski lift a challenge for those who do not get there as soon as the lifts open in the morning.
As you can tell, the scenery on both of these hikes was absolutely stunning. Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, as long as you bring plenty of food and water and give yourself periodic breaks, you can do these hikes without a problem. Hiking was certainly one of the highlights of our trip to Bulgaria, and we highly recommend getting out and enjoying the mountains if you find yourself in this beautiful country!