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Retezat Hikes: Winter over Bucura Saddle

Daydreaming about Retezat... we missed this little piece of Heaven and it has been a while since we last passed its borders but the time has come and here we are exploring the wild beauty of freshly installed spring glimmers.

We are heading towards a new (for us) area of the Retezat National Park as we decided to enter from the Northern part, from Cârnic Village, discovering other wonderful places to be.

Where is this?

There are multiple access roads to the Retezat National Park, but I will present the one I consider the best if you are coming from the West part of Romania (mainly from Timişoara): Timisoara - Lugoj - Caransebes - Otelul Rosu - Hateg - Ohaba de sub Piatra - Carnic.

The road is generally good, highway from Timisoara to Lugoj, European roads until Ohaba de sub Piatra. Only the last part of the road, after Nucsoara village until you reach Carnic is unpaved and requires a car with a decent ground clearance but nothing fancy as the road is in good shape and perfectly accessible for small cars.

Entrance fee?

Usually for Retezat National Park there is an entrance fee of 10 lei per person (~2.5 euros) and 7 lei per car (~1.5 euros). You only need to pay this once, when entering and there are no daily fees - on this side of the park you can pay the tax at the chalets or mountain huts.

Let's start

Hike from Cârnic to Genţiana Chalet

To reach Gentiana Chalet, the first check point of our route, we started in Carnic village and you can rest assured you are on the right path as you will see the Blue Stripe markings along the road.  You can leave the car somewhere HERE in this area in a small parking place.

From here you start  an easy walk on a wide forest road following the retezat-peak-hike-ba.gif. Not far from the starting point, on the left as you go, you can pay a short 10 minutes visit to Lolaia Waterfall. We saved this for our return as there was a big group of kids on an organized trip and we wanted to avoid this but also to keep the joy for the following day, just before getting back home. 

The hike is really easy and does not require special physical condition. The route to Gentiana is basically the same with the one to Pietrele Chalet until a certain point where the road is following a curve: to the right you follow the Blue Stripe markings to reach Pietrele and in front (to the left) you switch to retezat-peak-hike-ta.gif to go directly towards Gentiana. Upstream the markings will meet again near  Gentiana Chalet.

We took this trip in April, when the amazing greenness of Spring was just conquering the forest and we found it covered in moisturized mosses, little water streams and hanks of not-yet-melted snow....and God we love this smell of coniferous forest so dear to the Romanian land!

After a two hours walk we started to see the first Crocuses of the year gently making their way in the world between dry grass and not-yet-melted snow. There were hundreds of them in every corner and there was also this little funny, fat and hard-working 'guy' who was also enjoying the view...and flower goodies!

So from crocus to crocus we just realized we reached our first destination on today's map: Gentiana Chalet! The host kindly welcomed us and we spent some time telling stories and getting to know each other. After a while we realized it's getting late and we still have things to do so we packed our stuff and off we went to meet the heights!

Hiking Stats: Cârnic -  Genţiana Chalet

  • Time: 2 h including breaks 
  • Distance: 5 km
  • Altitude gain: +/- 500 m
  • Markingsretezat-peak-hike-ta.gif + retezat-peak-hike-ba.gif 
  • Difficulty: Easy

GPS Track MapMyHike

Hike from Genţiana Chalet - Curmătura Bucurei (Bucura Saddle)

So if until now we experienced Spring, it seems we just met Winter again. The snow was still big here and there even if the sun was shining and the weather was warm. People were still practicing touring ski even if it was April so you can imagine we are talking about some serious amounts of snow.

During summer the path is really well marked with retezat-peak-hike-ba.gif until Bucura Saddle (Curmatura Bucurei) via Pietrele lakes. During winter, the markings I can say could be better, but you can find your way as you are in a valley and the target is to keep a straight line until you reach the saddle.

From Bucura Saddle you have multiple choices:

  • To the right: climb Bucura I and Bucura II Peaks and continue towards Retezat and Lolaia Peaks ;
  • To the left: climb towards Custura Bucurei, Peleaga Peak and Papusa Peak;
  • On the other side of the saddle descend to Bucura Lake and Bucura Refuge and from there to Poiana Pelegii  (I know it's all about "bucura" right? Bucura comes from "bucurie" and that means "Joy" in Romanian);
  • Also you can descend from Bucura saddle through Valea Stanisoarei (Stanisoarei Valley) to Pietrele Chalet.

View from the saddle towards the right: Bucura Peaks

But back to our story, we passed by Pietrele Lake which didn't revealed much as it was still covered in ice and snow and from here we started a steep climb towards the saddle. 

During the winter/spring it's a must to have crampons and snow axes (or at least trekking poles) to climb heights above 1700 -1800m. We only had a pair of trekking poles and we did just fine nevertheless we had to really mind our steps on the last portion before the saddle as it is very steep and covered with frozen snow (especially on our way down).

But when you reach the saddle, the view is amazing and just for a while you can really stop thinking about the descend. :) From here you need maybe 30 min to reach Custura Bucurei or Bucura peak.

We started this trek a bit too late to also reach the peak so we declared ourselves satisfied with the amazing view  over the completely frozen Bucura lake - behind us. 

Don't mind the focus...we didn't! :P - Bucura Lake in the background

From here, following the same route we started the descend towards Gentiana Chalet. Perfect day I must say... and now it's time for a well deserved beer at the cabin. :) 

Hiking Stats: Genţiana Chalet - Curmătura Bucurei

  • Time: 4,5 h including breaks
  • Distance: 6,7 km
  • Altitude gain: +/- 500 m
  • Markingsretezat-peak-hike-ba.gif 
  • Difficulty: Medium

GPS Track MapMyHike

Hike from Genţiana Chalet - Pietrele Chalet  and back to Cârnic

The next morning, we headed towards our car but detouring through Pietrele Touristic Complex, where we stopped for a coffee and some sunbathing. To reach Pietrele you must follow the retezat-peak-hike-ba.gif markings from Gentiana Chalet for approximately 40 minutes and from Pietrele to Carnic another hour, maybe a hour and  a half.  

Our last short break, Lolaia Waterfall and then....home sweet home!

Hiking Stats: Genţiana Chalet - Pietrele Chalet - Cârnic

  • Time: 3 h including breaks 
  • Distance: 6,5 km
  • Altitude gain: +100 m / - 500 m
  • Markings retezat-peak-hike-ba.gif 
  • Difficulty: Easy

Where do we sleep?

If you have to choose between Pietrele and Gentiana I would recommend Gentiana, small intimate and with such a nice view! Another advantage is the fact that the location of the chalet allows you to faster access peaks and tracks.

We also choose Gentiana based on our friends recommendations and I have to say we felt awesome to stay here. As many of the mountain chalets the conditions are not excellent, don't expect too much privacy or comfort but it really does the job. The Chalet has around 30-40 beds, a little dining room, outdoor toilette and fresh spring water. There is no food/restaurant here but you can have a beer or a nice tea.

What do I eat?

You can eat only what you bring with you at Gentiana Chalet but if you are looking for a Chalet where you can eat and drink better try Pietrele. There is a limited menu (not really a lot you can choose from) but it's the best you can get around. There are no other  shops or restaurants in this part of the Retezat mountains.

Good to know!

  • You will find a drinkable water source at both Pietrele and Gentiana Chalets so no need to carry a lot with you. 
  • As well, dogs are not accepted in the chalets (only left outside) so this is something you need to take in consideration if you travel with "your best friend". 
  • There is no shower possibility / hot water at neither of the chalets. 
  • Contact for reservations (network is bad so try text message if you don't manage to catch them on the line):

Hope you found the information helpful and accurate, but remember, if you have any questions drop them in a comment below!

Retezat Hikes: Winter over Bucura Saddle Reviewed by Karina Isar on 11:20 Rating: 5


  1. Hi Karina and Alex,
    We are a family from Israel (parents and 2 children- 4.5 years old and 2 years old). we will visit Romania on August 2016 and we are planning to travel at the Retezat national park for 3 days.
    Except of your wonderful blog,i didn't find alot of information about the Retezat and especially about traveling there with little children.
    Our plan is to sleep at Rau De Mori 3 nights. one day we will drive to poiana pelgii (is it possible to drive there with a private car?). from there we will travel to lake bucura- maybe we will not arrive the lake, but i think the way will be beautiful. second day we will drive again to poiana pelgii and travel to lake peleguta.
    What do you think about these trails? are they beautiful? are they difficult for children? do you have any other ideas of hiking trails even at other part of the park?
    At first, we thought to hike from cabana pietrele but it does not fit children to sleep there.
    I hope you will have answers for me.
    Thank you very much,

    1. Hi there Magi,

      Glad you find the blog informative :). First of all I think it is much better to sleep somewhere closer to Gura Apelor Lake. You can find many options but here are some I researched:

      Iris Pension -
      Pin Alpin - or
      Pensiunea Retezat - or

      You can travel to Poiana Pelegii with your personal car, usually the dirt road that goes up there is decent and you don't require a 4x4 as long as your car has a decent ground clearance. The trail to Bucura lake is fairly easy and I think you should manage it with children (it is 3 KM long - one way - MAP link: ). The trails in Retezat are nice even if you don't go on the high peaks. For Peleguta Lake I can't say anything as I have not been there and I don't know how the path looks like (MAP link: My suggestion for the second day is to go to Saua Plaiul Mic (MAP link:, it is an easy hike through the forest for 1.5 KM. Here you will reach some small lakes and if you are up to it you can continue in the direction of Custura Peak. You don't have to reach it or go all the way. Check this article up:

      I think hiking from Pietrele Chalet is harder on kids so stick to Poiana Pelegii.

      BTW. If you are in the area (somewhat) you can check out the highest road in Romania - Transalpina - MAP link:

      It is really nice as it takes you to more than 2000 meters altitude and you have nice views.

      Check out our other articles on Retezat:

      All the best,
      Alex and Karina

  2. Hi Karina and Alex!

    Can you please tell me what kind of camera is that you have?

    Thank you.


    1. Hello Kate,

      Here we used our Nikon D3100 with 3.5 18-105 Nikkor lens and the 'fish eye' ones are with GoPro 3+ Silver.


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