If you’re looking for a nice trail near the Pirin Mountains, this hike to the St Nikola Waterfall and Church is a great option. This trail is located at the foothills of the mountains and only takes 2-3 hours to do but the views are very rewarding!
We heard about the St Nikola Waterfall and Church near Bansko from a friend and decided to check it out together to see if we could find it.
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It’s an awesome 10 km roundtrip walk with little to no elevation. If you’re looking for something to do after work or just to get out of town for a few hours, this hike is a great option.
Especially in late spring and early summer when the snow hasn’t melted up in the Pirin National Park yet, this trail is good to do because the altitude is so much lower.
The viewpoint near the St Nikola Waterfall is really cool since you can see Bansko and also Dobrinishte. The panoramic view from there is arguably cooler than the waterfall but it’s definitely worth doing the whole hike to see them both!
How to find the trail to St Nikola Waterfall near Bansko
The nice thing about the St Nikola Waterfall trail is that you don’t need a car or wait for a bus or shuttle to get to the trailhead. You can literally start the hike right out your front door in Bansko.
The trail map we’ve created for the St Nikola Waterfall starts right at the park in Bansko but you can just adjust it to start from your accommodation.
It’s a really nice and easy trail that leads you to an incredible viewpoint at the foothills of the Pirin Mountains.
Of course, it’s not the same views you get from Vihren Peak or Sinanitsa Hut. Instead, you get this incredible view of the area between Pirin National Park and Rila National Park and it’s absolutely stunning!
You can also see both Bansko and Dobrinishte (the neighbouring town) which is pretty cool.
It truly is the perfect 2-3 hours ‘hike’ from Bansko if you’re just looking to get out and enjoy the nature nearby.
Practical information about the trail to St Nikola Waterfall
Distance: 10.9 km return / 6.77 miles return
Elevation: 255 m / 837 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail (can be done as a loop as well)
Length: 2-3 hours return (depending on where in Bansko you start)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a picture near the beginning of the trail up to St Nikola
Starting the waterfall hike in Bansko
One of the easiest places to start the hike to St Nikola at is at the park in Bansko. It’s also the starting point on the trail map here.
The beginning of the trail is really just walking through the streets of Bansko to get to the edge of town where the first dirt trail starts.
Honestly, the beginning of the hike is almost as fun as the end because you truly never know what kind of experience you’re going to get or who you’re going to run into while walking the streets of Bansko.
There’s a famous “one horse-power car”, the classic woodchoppers, and other random people trying to sell you hats and gloves.
It’s always an experience walking through Bansko and that’s one of many reasons why we love this place.
Bansko is such a charming town and as you walk the streets and look up at Todorka and Vihren Peak in the background you can probably see why we enjoy being in this beautiful town so much!
Slowly you’ll make your way to the edge of Bansko where you’ll find some country dirt trails that will lead you to the base of the Pirin Mountains and eventually the waterfall.
Up the dirt road towards St Nikola
The hike itself isn’t the most beautiful hike. It’s nothing compared to actually hiking up in the alpine meadows near Bezbog Hut or Sinanitsa Hut but the view at the end near the waterfall will make it worth it.
You’ll really see rural Bulgaria as you make your way on this dirt trail. You’ll pass by some cows, a few farmhouses, and most likely a bunch of chained dogs that are guarding some of the local farms.
It’s a pretty unique experience and you get a good taste of countryside Bulgaria which is super cool!
As you get past the country homes you’ll get closer and closer to the mountains and eventually make your way onto a trail in between the trees which will lead you to the St Nikola Church.
St Nikola Church to St Nikola Waterfall
After a short walk through the trees with a bit of uphill, you’ll find a little church by an archaeological site. That is the St Nikola Church. You can take a look inside the church and admire all the pictures while you’re here.
There’s a little picnic table where you can have a snack but we recommend continuing on the trail to the viewpoint right above the waterfall instead.
You’ll walk through the archaeological site by the church downhill for a few minutes until you find a bunch of rocks where you get an insane view of the countryside in front of you.
This is where you’ll be able to see both Bansko and Dobrinishte from the viewpoint. It is a little steep and it drops off so just be careful while you’re up there!
To finish off this short little hike from Bansko you can walk a little further down to where you can hear the running water and that’s where the St Nikola Waterfall is.
There isn’t a whole lot to see and it’s quite small but if you do get close to the end you can see a bit of a waterfall!
It would be really cool if you could see it from below and get a better angle of it but the forest is quite dense and it also didn’t look that safe so we didn’t try!
It’s a really cool spot though and the fact you can hike there straight from Bansko town is awesome.
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St Nikola Waterfall back to Bansko
There’s not much to this trail! It’s not very technical and it’s super easy to follow.
There are a few spots to catch some good views. The rest of the time you’re just walking at the foothills of the Pirin Mountains in the Bulgarian countryside.
On your way back, you can decide to go back the same way you came from. Back up to the church and then down through the dirt trail.
Alternatively, there are a few other trails you can take that connect back to that dirt trail as well…
If you’re feeling adventurous you can make your way up the mountain a little bit and make your way back to Bansko that way. There you’ll actually be on some nicer mountain trails instead of the dirt road but it will take a little longer!
You definitely have a few options so it just depends on who you’re hiking with and what you guys are feeling! Check out Mapy.cz or another trail app to check for alternate directions.
Grab some lunch back in Bansko
We always enjoy grabbing some lunch with the peeps after completing a hike! And a coffee or beer 😉
After completing this hike, we went to a little sandwich shop in town called Le Petit Nicolas Bansko which is on the way back from the trail in Bansko.
So once you’ve hiked to St Nikola Waterfall you can stop by Le Petit Nicolas Bansko and treat yourself to a sandwich and maybe a dessert. (Their desserts are seriously good)!
Le Petit Nicolas a tiny little sandwich shop that serves a variety of sandwiches. We’ve tried a few different ones by now and they’ve all been so good!
Of course, since this is located in Bansko you never really know when a place will be opened or closed. So if by chance they are closed you can always check out another one of these restaurants in Bansko.
Hopefully, this hike can make for an awesome morning or afternoon (2-3 hours depending on how much time you spend at the viewpoint).
As we mentioned before, it’s an awesome way to go for a short hike in Bansko and still have the rest of the day to work or go to one of the hot springs in Bansko.
What to bring on the St Nikola Waterfall hike
From Bansko to St Nikola it’s max an hour-long walk if you are in shape for walking. Since it’s such a short hike you don’t need to bring too much.
The nice thing is you’re only at the foothills of the mountains so if the weather does look like it’s going to get worse you can always turn around quickly and go back to Bansko.
Packing list for St Nikola Waterfall:
- Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes and even during them when we can. If you go down towards the waterfall there’s a small ‘gorge’ and a creek where you can refill your bottle.
- Sunscreen is good to have especially during the summer months in Bulgaria when it gets absolutely roasting. We actually got pretty lucky with quite a bit of morning sun to start the day on this hike.
- You can also consider bringing a power bank. You don’t want to run out of battery while hiking, especially not in a foreign country. It’s a short hike but it’s always good to bring a power bank.
- Bring some snacks to enjoy during the hike. The viewpoint at the end near the waterfall is the perfect place to enjoy a little break.
- Hiking poles are always good to have! It’s a short hike but there’s a bit of elevation and it’s always nice to have your hiking poles with you. Plus they’re great for all the other hikes in these mountains.
- A rain jacket in case it starts raining during the hike (you never know in the Pirin Mountains).
You can check out this great list of hiking gear to get some more inspiration!
The best affordable camera for beginners
If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.
This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.
It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.
Before you hike the St Nikola Waterfall trail
Check the weather
As a rule of thumb, you should always check the weather before you go hiking in the mountains. It’s always good to be prepared even though the weather in the mountains can be a bit unpredictable at times.
The weather can change up in the mountains quite quickly but, thankfully, for this hike, you’ll be down in the foothills underneath the mountains so it is a little more predictable there.
Wear hiking shoes
We always recommend hiking shoes or trail shoes on almost every outdoor adventure we do. But especially when you’re hiking up in the mountains or even on the dirt trail on this hike.
If you plan to do some different hikes in Bansko and the Pirin Mountains you’re definitely going to want some proper hiking shoes.
If you’re looking for inspiration, we can highly recommend the Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot from Columbia!
Leave no trace
When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of others.
Best time to hike the St Nikola Waterfall trail
This trail is good to do anytime the sun is shining where you can get a few people together (if you like hiking in groups).
We went with a few fellow nomad friends on a Saturday morning while the sun was shining and had a great time!
Since the trail is quite safe and easy to follow we actually talked about how fun it could be to either get up there for sunrise or sunset next time.
You’d get this amazing glow while overlooking the whole area and into the Rila Mountains.
The other nice thing about this hike in Bansko is that not too many people know about it so it’ll never get that busy. We only saw a handful of people on the trail and that was on a Saturday in June!
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- How to Hike From Bansko to Vihren Hut
- The Best Ways to Get From Sofia to Bansko
- How to Hike to Bezbog Hut in the Pirin Mountains
Where to stay in Bansko
Bansko is quite diverse since it’s a mountain resort town but still very local. Over the years it’s also turned into quite a digital nomad hub thanks to all the different co-working places that have popped up.
We have a few hotels in Bansko we recommend that vary in price. Hotels in Bansko start from €40 and can go as high as €200 a night for the most expensive hotels.
The nice thing is there’s a place for everyone here in Bansko so depending on your budget and what you’re looking for you’ll find a hotel that fits your description!
Recap of hiking St Nikola Waterfall near Bansko
There you have it — another great hike in Bansko to add to your bucket list!
This hike is It’s great that you can do it by yourself or grab a few friends to do the hike and go stop for lunch somewhere in town after.
If you have any questions about St Nikola Waterfall or other hikes in Bansko then feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below!
We love sharing awesome things to do in the Bansko, especially hikes in the Pirin Mountains and other outdoor adventures.
Enjoy this awesome viewpoint overlooking Bansko and Dobrinishte in the Bulgarian countryside!