Who knew Bulgaria’s mountain ranges were so beautiful!? After hiking up to Vihren Hut and getting a taste of the Pirin National Park it was only a matter of time until we decided to hike up to Vihren Peak.
Vihren Peak is the tallest mountain in Pirin National Park and the second tallest mountain in all of Bulgaria. Only Musala is taller. Vihren is 2914m and Musala is 2925m. At some point, we’ll have to hike up Musala as well. But for this post, we’ll stick to Vihren.
Let’s just say hiking from Bansko to Vihren Hut was a nice warmup because my oh my is Vihren Peak a challenging hike!
Everything you need to know about the hike from Vihren Hut to Vihren Peak
The hike up to Vihren Peak is probably the most popular and challenging hike in the Pirin National Park. We do love a good hike to Sinanitsa Hut as well. But the hike to Vihren Peak is one of those that locals check off the list of must things to do in Bulgaria. It’s the second tallest mountain in the country and the views you get from the peak are incredible so it makes sense why.
It’s crazy to think how high the elevation is because Bansko is right around 950m and Vihren Hut is 1920m. Then to Vihren Peak is another 1000m elevation so it’s quite a bit.
The hike starts from the Vihren Hut but if you’re daring enough and in good physical shape you can start from Bansko and hike up to the hut and then continue to the peak (we don’t recommend this though as that is going to be very hard physically).
The hike itself is amazing though. The views are incredible. The fresh air, the sun beaming down on you, and the friends you share the experience with all make for an amazing day.
We’re gonna be honest and tell you it is a hard hike. It’s a lot of hiking with no flat parts. It’s mostly straight up to the peak and straight down to the hut with only a little section of flat. But the feeling once you get to the peak is absolutely worth it.
Practical information about the hike up to Vihren Peak
Distance: 8.5 km return / 5.28 miles return
Elevation: 931 m / 3055 ft. elevation gain
Type: In and out trail (can also be done as a lollipop)
Length: 5-6 hours return including breaks for pictures and a lunch break
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
There will be a few signs pointing to Vihren Peak. The main trail will have red signs and arrows on rocks and signs so you should easily be able to find the way. Worst case just keep hiking upwards and you’ll eventually end up at the peak.
How to get from Vihren Hut up to Vihren Peak
From the hut up the mountain
This isn’t like the hike from Bansko to Vihren Hut where it gradually gets a bit more challenging. The hike up to Vihren Peak is challenging right from the beginning. You’re basically hopping on and off from rock to rock. So hiking shoes with ankle support are lifesavers.
This first section with all the rocks is just a little taste of what’s to come. It’s basically just straight up the mountain until you reach the summit.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the views of the Pirin Mountains and all the alpine lakes. And the closer you get to fall, the leaves really start to change colour to more orange and red. It’s absolutely incredible. Being that high up and seeing it all is something you can only experience for yourself.
The decision to go left or right up to Vihren
Uh oh…there’s a fork in the road! You’ll see a little stream of water where the two paths fork.
Go left: If you want to take the easier and safer way up. This is the way we took and this is the way we recommend unless you’re an experienced hiker who wants a bit more of an adrenaline rush.
The left route is still challenging and hard but it’s the safe route and offers amazing views and a proper trail.
Go right: We can’t comment too much on this section because we didn’t do it. But from Vihren Peak you can see how challenging it is. It’s a lot of ridge walking with cliffs on both sides.
There is a chain along the ridge that you can hold on to for support which makes it a bit safer. But it was still a pass from us. Again we’d only recommend taking this route if you’re a very advanced hiker and scrambler.
To ensure you take the right path, you can always check your map here on the trail from Vihren Hut to Vihren Peak.
A little bit further until the perfect lunch spot
After the fork in the road (where we turned left), we hiked a bit further up the mountain until we reached the perfect lunch spot. At this point, you can see your destination (Vihren Peak) in the distance. You have a beautiful alpine lake below you not too far away and Hvoinati Peak right next to you. You can’t go wrong with a view like that!
We found that there wasn’t much wind in this spot. Plus the views and everything and the exhaustion of hiking up all that elevation already made sense to have a little break before the last section up to the peak.
The last stretch up to the peak
Yay! The last and hardest part. At this point, we just wanted to get there and every step felt like a battle. It’s the last stretch up to Vihren Peak and even though it doesn’t seem too far away it takes a while. Hiking poles would have definitely been useful at this point (which is probably why a lot of locals brought them lol). We can only blame ourselves for not bringing them.
The zig-zags up this last part may feel never-ending but soon enough you will make it to the top and you can tell everyone you conquered the second tallest mountain in Bulgaria!
From the top, you can see just how small Bansko looks. Also, you’ll be able to see the ridge you would have had to hike up if you went right at the fork instead of left. You’ll probably thank us for not recommending that way! 😉
But yeah, the view from the top is incredible and it’s definitely one of the best hikes you can do in Bulgaria. Locals and expats alike love it and for most people, it becomes a once-a-year ritual to hike up to the peak.
Back down to the hut
Time to go back down. It’s best to take the same way back down because the ridge side is even harder going down than up. At least that’s what we’ve been told. So take the same way down as you came up.
If you’re up for an adventure you can even hike down to that lake you can see from the trail. Just know that you can’t go swimming in it. There’s a law in Bulgaria that says you can’t go swimming in the alpine lakes in national parks. We didn’t know and almost did it when someone (thankfully) called us out on it. They told us the fines start at 2000 Euro. No thanks!
So whether you go to the lake or not, you want to eventually end up back at the hut. Follow the red and white trails (trying to think of a funny play on words with our blog name). Eventually, the hut will come back into sight and you’ll be back at the parking lot.
If you want a nice little relaxing spot you can hike an extra 10-15 minutes to Okoto Lake before coming back to the hut. It’s not that far out of the way and well worth the visit. The lake is beautiful and it’s such a nice spot to sit back and relax at.
How to get to Vihren Hut
You can totally hike up to the hut like we mentioned before. It’s challenging because it basically adds an extra 20 km to an already hard hike to the peak but it is possible. For all the information about hiking up to Vihren Hut, you can check out this post: How to hike from Bansko to Vihren Hut.
Go by bus
If you’re going solo up to Vihren Hut then the bus is probably the best option. You can see the bus timetable between Bansko and Vihren Hut here. The price for the ticket is 8 Lev ($4.5) cash.
The bus runs consistently from February to mid-September. The time schedule is all on the website we linked above. There’s also a phone number you can call to double-check if the bus is actually going (sometimes it runs on what we like to call Bulgarian schedule). It takes just under an hour to get to Vihren Hut by bus.
Go by car
If you rented a car or have friends with a car, then that would definitely be your best option. If you’re a digital nomad like us and at Coworking Bansko then you can also rent one of their cars for the day (they even have a Lada).
There are a few parking areas up on the mountain. There’s a small car park right at Vihren Hut but unless you leave at 7am you likely won’t get a spot. There are plenty of spots on the side of the road up the mountain as well so you should be able to find parking there.
For the first 20-minutes of the drive, the road is very decent! But just to give you a bit of heads up, the roads are quite narrow near the top close to Vihren Hut. So if you’re not super comfortable with narrow roads then maybe park a little further down the mountain. There’s a big parking lot a bit further down and from there it’s about a 40-minute walk to Vihren Hut.
Go by taxi
Going by taxi is probably the easiest and most convenient way, and if there are at least 2 of you it’s also pretty affordable. A one-way drive up the mountain will cost you about 25 Lev ($15). Here are the phone numbers for the Bansko taxi services.
We usually keep the phone number of our driver so we can call him again after our hike. That way we know we get a driver we can trust.
By taxi, the trip is about 30 minutes. So a lot quicker than taking the bus (and cheaper if you’re 2-4 people).
Before you hike up to the peak
A few things to consider before hiking up to Vihren Peak is that the weather in Bansko can be quite different from the weather up in the mountains. Just think that whatever the weather is like in Bansko, it’ll be a bit more extreme in the mountains.
If it’s cold in Bansko, it’s very cold at the hut. If it’s warm in Bansko, it’s likely warmer at the hut. It’s always good to bring some extra layers to keep you warm or to protect you from the sun.
It’s also 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 hiking 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 you should consider bringing a backpack. Our Osprey bags are always full of sunscreen, snacks, tripod, camera, and other small nicknacks that we bring.
Things to consider bringing:
- Reusable water bottles! We love our Lifestraws because of the 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 (eco-friendly of course)! 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.
- If you want to take some cool pictures a portable tripod or a #selfiestick is nice to bring.
- As we mentioned above, hiking poles are nice to have before the knees start to get too sore.
Also this is a great list of hiking gear if you’re looking for more inspiration!
You may also like…
- 5 Beautiful Hikes to Do in the Pirin Mountains
- The Best Way to Get From Sofia to Bansko
- How to Hike From Bansko to Vihren Hut
- Hiking the Beautiful Sinanitsa Hut and Peak – Pirin National Park
- Exploring Alpine Lakes in the Pirin National Park
We hope you enjoy hiking up to Vihren Peak in the Pirin National Park! 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. We love it!
We hope you enjoy all the other hikes in and around Bansko as well. Maybe next time we’ll check out a cool alpine lake or two.
Dom & Jo
Red White Adventures