Who knew that the mountain range in the Pirin National Forest was this spectacular? Bansko has already blown us away. Naturally, one of the first things we decided to do after arriving in Bansko was to go on a hike! And our first-day hike from Bansko has been right from the front doors of our apartment all the way up to Vihren Hut.
Bansko to Vihren Hut gives you the perfect taste of the Pirin National Park. A good chunk of the hike takes place on the ski hill. From there it goes to more forest before finally getting into the meadows up in the mountains that are covered by alpine lakes and beautiful mountains (you’re seriously in for a treat).
Vihren Hut is one of the main starting points for many of the hikes including the famous Vihren Peak in the Pirin Mountains but we decided to hike from Bansko to Vihren Hut to experience all of this Bulgarian mountain range and oh my were we ever surprised by the beauty of these mountains!
Everything you need to know about the hike from Bansko to Vihren Hut
The hike up to Vihren Hut isn’t exactly the most popular hike in the Pirin National Park but it’s one you should do at least once during your stay in Bansko.
You’ll start right in Bansko which is about 950 meters above sea level and end up at Vihren Hut which is about 1920 meters above sea level. So it’s a solid 1000 meters’ elevation gain but it’s spread out over a long distance which makes it very manageable.
The hike up to Vihren Hut will give you a little taste of what this beautiful mountain range has to offer. As we mentioned before, there are so many beautiful hikes that start from Vihren Hut to other huts, alpine lakes, and even up to the second tallest mountain in Bulgaria. So get ready for some fun because the Bulgarian mountains are calling your name.
Practical information about the hike up to Vihren Hut
Distance: 21.2 km return / 13.17 miles return
Elevation: 985 m / 3231 ft. elevation gain
Type: In and out trail
Length: 6-8 hours return (Including a break at the top)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a picture of the beginning of the trail up to Vihren Hut
The beauty of this hike is the fact that you can start right out your front door. Since we live up past the gondola we have it a bit closer than from the center of the town.
Once you get past the visitor center, and out of the town you will find a yellow marked path!
The yellow trail will guide you through the forest, across the road, and back into the forest a few times until you reach the ski resort where you’ll end up in the middle of a ski slope. So if you end up by the ski resort and start walking up the mountain on a ski slope you’re on the right path!
How to get from Bansko up to Vihren Hut (trail guide)
Meet at Bansko Ski Gondola
So the beauty of this hike (as we mentioned before) is that it basically starts at your front door. If you’re hiking up with a few friends we say the best place to meet up is at the Bansko Ski Gondola parking lot. It’s on the main road toward the mountains and everyone has to pass it going up the mountain so it’s a perfect place to meet.
Follow the yellow path through the forest and up the mountain
Now the fun starts! As you hike out of Bansko you will look for a yellow trail as soon as you get into the forest. There should be some signage with Vihren Hut on it.
The trail is pretty straightforward as long as you stay on the yellow trail. About 10 minutes into the trail, the hike will split in two. As long as you stay on the yellow trail you shouldn’t have any problems. You can always check back on your map to make sure you’re on track.
This first part is a nice gradual incline through the forest. It’s nothing crazy but it’s a good little warmup to get you ready for the 1000 meters of elevation you’ve got ahead of you. We definitely recommend hiking boots for this hike. We love our Colombia hiking shoes as they’ve been halfway around the world with us already. Jo and I take them literally wherever we go. I (Dom) personally roll my ankle on almost every hike so they help a bunch.
Up the ski slope you go
After following the yellow trail for some time you’ll end up at a ski slope! From there you’ll basically take the whole ski slope up until you reach a gondola station.
This might not the most exciting part of the hike but if you turn around once in a while you’ll have beautiful views overlooking Bansko with more mountains in the background. And we personally thought it was so nice to just be out in nature.
We literally had no idea about the amazing hiking in Bulgaria before we joined Coworking Bansko and heard about the crazy hiking here in Bulgaria. We thought Bulgaria’s mountain felt like a combination of the High Tatras in Slovakia and the Canadian Rockies in Canada.
Back to the trail… You will continue up the ski hill until you reach a flat area with a gondola and a few restaurants and cafes. Once you get to this point, you’re about halfway to the top. On a sunny day, this is a beautiful spot to take a little break and enjoy the views. Depending on what time of the year you go, the restaurants and cafes may be open.
Through the forest to the famous tree
Now the real fun starts! So make sure you get your reusable water bottle filled (there are a few places to fill it up on the way up). The hikes continue up through the forest. Make sure to keep a lookout for the signs that say Vihren Hut. They are quite noticeable but we almost missed them a few times.
You’ll finally enjoy some shade since you’re in the trees and what feels like a proper hiking trail and not just a ski slope. You’ll continue along for a bit until you run into what seems like a brand new staircase.
The staircase leads to what we think is one of Bulgaria’s most famous or oldest trees. Hey, maybe it’s a combination of the two. If you figure it out please let us know down below or DM us on Instagram!
The last stretch up to Vihren Hut
This is the last (and our personal favourite) part of the hike! This is where the Pirin Mountains really come to life and you get a proper taste of hiking in Bulgaria. At least that was the case for us. You end up in this beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains with Bansko now far out in the distance.
Enjoy these breathtaking views and take it all in before the last stretch to the hut. At this point, it’s probably already in view and the smiles from everyone are starting to creep in.
You made it to Vihren Hut!
This hut is one of the most popular huts in the Pirin Mountains besides Sinanitsa Hut which is a bit further into the mountain range. First of all, because it’s quite easily accessible by car (yeah, you could’ve driven up here instead of sweating for a solid 3 hours). Secondly, the second tallest mountain in Bulgaria is only a short but exhausting hike away, Vihren Summit! We’ll save that one for a later day.
Now that you’re here, take a break, fill up some water, and enjoy the fresh mountain air. You’ll probably meet a lot of people who are just starting their hikes but you’ve made it to your final destination so you should be proud of yourself.
We truly enjoyed hiking up to Vihren Hut all the way from Bansko but if you want to do more hiking in the Pirin Mountains, we recommend driving up to the hut next time 😉
We thought we could hike from Bansko all the way to the Vihren summit (an additional 3 hours from the hut) but had to save this for a different day. It was too optimistic of us, haha!
Instead we went to Okoto Lake which is only an extra 10-15 minutes from Vihren Hut. So if you want to see a beautiful alpine lake and have a nice place to relax at then Okoto Lake is the spot. You can go spend some time there before going back to Vihren Hut and down the mountain.
Back down to the city
After you’ve taken in all the views, you can slowly head down the mountain the same way. Since it’s an in and out trail there’s really just one way up and one way down. At this point, if the path allows it we usually jog a bit to get down quicker.
This trail grade is quite nice and it’s easy to slowly jog down the mountain (especially on the ski run). But it’s also nice to just take your time to chat and enjoy the views. At this point, our knees are usually killing us. If you’re like us, maybe bring some hiking poles for support.
Once you make it down the mountain you can stop at The Hub right at the edge of Bansko for a nice beer to celebrate crushing the hike up to Vihren Hut. Sometimes they gave 2 beers for 5 Lev. What a steal 😉
Before you hike up to Vihren Hut
A few things to consider before hiking up to Vihren Hut is the fact that the weather can change drastically. If it’s warm and not very windy in town then it can be scorching up at the top (don’t forget to bring some environmentally friendly sunscreen).
On the other hand, if it’s a little chilly down in town it might be freezing up top. So definitely bring a few layers because it is a long hike. You can see the weather forecast for Vihren Hut here.
It may be a good idea to download the app Mapy.cz (click here for Android or here for iPhone) to follow the trail. It’s honestly our favourite app for following the trail during our hikes because of how detailed it is. It works in any country we’ve been to so – even offline when we’ve loaded the map beforehand.
What to bring on the trail
Since it is quite a long hike, we highly recommend bringing a backpack because you’ll want to bring a bunch of stuff. We always stuff our Osprey bags and they are amazing. Even though we have it full of snacks, camera gear, and random other things it still feels light compared to any other backpack we’ve used in the past.
Things we recommend bringing:
- Reusable water bottles! We love our Lifestraws because of it’s filter! Although we fill it up with fresh mountain water on almost every hike you just never know if it’s actually drinkable or not.
- Sunscreen is a must! Vihren Hut is near 2000 meters above sea level so it can get toasty up there.
- Extra layers for the chillier days (long-sleeve shirt or a windbreaker jacket).
- A sun hat or bucket hat + sunglasses for the sunnier days.
- A camelbak (backpack full of water) is never a bad option.
- If you want to take some cool pictures a portable tripod or a #selfiestick is nice to bring.
- As we mentioned above, hiking poles might be nice to have on this hike before the knees start to get too sore.
How to get to Bansko from Sofia
A quick note here if you’re in Sofia and want to come hiking in the Pirin National Park… You can find this guide on how to get from Sofia to Bansko. It’s quite easy to get to Bansko from Sofia. We took a bus from the city and it really wasn’t that difficult. We bought our tickets at the station and hopped on the bus all the way to Bansko!
You may also like…
- 5 Beautiful Hikes to Do in the Pirin Mountains
- The Best Ways to Get From Sofia to Bansko
- Hiking the Beautiful Sinanitsa Hut and Peak – Pirin National Park
- How to Hike the Famous Vihren Peak in Bulgaria
- Exploring Alpine Lakes in the Pirin National Park
We hope you enjoy hiking up to Vihren Hut in the Pirin National Forest. Bansko is such an awesome town for exploring the outdoors. You can literally leave out your front door and be in nature in a few minutes. That’s what we call paradise.
Dom & Jo
Red White Adventures