Northen part off the Apuseni Mountains – SF 14
Duration - 3 or 4 days
Sights - Unguru Mare Cave, Zece Hotare Plateau, Leșu Lake, Drăgan Lake, Rachiţele Waterfall, Cetăţile Rădesei Reservation, Padiş Plateau, Galbenei Gorges, Scărişoara Glaciar, Casa de Piatră, Village Coiba Mică, Cave Coiba, Mare, Cave Fântânele, Lake Someşul, Rece, Gorges Cold Mountain, Tureni Gorges, Turda Salt Mine, Cheile Turzii Gorges, Colţii Trascăului, Piatra Secuiului, Rimetea Village, Colţeşti Citadel, Vălişoarei Gorges, Mănăstirii Gorges
Start/Finish: Aleșd, jud. Bihor/Teiuș, jud. Alba
The soft enduro route no. 14 (SF 14) goes all the way from the town of Aleșd, in the north of the Apuseni Mountains (some 40 kilometers from Oradea), reaches a point 30 kilometers from Cluj-Napoca and ends in Teiuș.
From Aleșd, the route springs towards the village of Vadu Crișului through Astileu, thus by-passing the national road DN 1. The first highlight on this route is represented by the Crișul Repede Gorges, which can only be crossed on foot.
Another spectacular area, which can be accessed on motorcycle, is available for those willing to make a 10,3 kilometer detour, leaving the shore of Crișul Repede. To get there, we must take the secundary road DJ 1081, through the village of Șuncuiuș, and then start on an unpaved road that begins immediately before crossing the railway. Finally, the route takes us back to the left side of the river, where you will see the impressive portal of the Unguru Mare Cave, sight which is available for the public, but has no stable visitation hours.
The route returns to Vadu Crișului, a spot that becomes the beginning of a new route, the one towards the karst plateau called Zece Hotare, which is a breathtakingly beautiful area, perfect both for walking as well as caving. After this village, the route goes through the woods, reaching a plateau with a very specific type of surface karst. The landscape here surprises the visitors with isolated villages on the sides of the hills and with white limestone pavament that come in contrast with the deep green of the pastures.
Towards the southern end of the plateau you can find the descent road, which is an unpaved, winding road. The track takes us to a tarmac road, being flanked on both sides by rocky formations, with the next 60 kilometers leading us first to Beiuș, then to the tourist resort Stâna de Vale. This resort, also called ”Romania’s rain pole”, registers the biggest amounts of precipitation in the entire country. Therefore, we recommend that you bring appropriate gear.
Next, the route moves to an unpaved road and changes direction towards north, more specifically towards the Lake Leșu. About 6 kilometers away from the lake’s ”tail”, on the left side of the road, beneath the level of the road that crosses the Iadului Valley, we can see the Iadolina Waterfall. Also, the Saritoarea Ieduţului Waterfall can be found close to here, on an affluent of the valley, at about 9 kilometers from the tail of the lake that we previously mentioned. The tall, dense forest acts like a curtain that preserves the mystery surrounding the lake, the only point of visibility being the dam.
The next sight that this route really highlights is the Dragan lake, also known as Floroiu Lake, which you can reach using the tarmac road. The arch-shaped dam of this lake is the highest one in the Apuseni Mountains, reaching 120 metres. After the dam, the route continues towards the Valea Drăganului village, crossing the Tranișu village on an unpaved road, moving on to Săcuieu Valley, the next destination being the Răchiţele village. From the center of this village you can take the road along the Valea Stanciului Gorges up to the Răchiţele Waterfall (also known as the Vălul Miresei Waterfall – The Veil of the Bride Waterfall).
The route continues on the Someșul Cald valley and slithers through deciduous forests, going all the way up to Doda Pilii. From here, our route follows closely the more and more beautiful valley of the Someșul Cald river. If you go west, from the holiday village Ic Ponor, an unpaved road will take you to the entry point of the Someșul Cald Gorges. Going through the gorges, which have mostly been flooded, you can reach the cave Cetăţile Rădesei. Here you will find the spring of the Someșul Cald river. You can go through the gorges on foot, following a route of approximately 4 hours.
This area represents the eastern „side” of the Padiș Plateau and from here your next stop will be the Padiș Cabin, on the karst plateau. All the details regarding the touristic highlights of this area are presented on page 66. The descent from the plateau follows the secondary road DJ 763, towards Beiuș, and after 18.1 kilometers from the cabin, the road continues on the unpaved path that crosses the Galbenei Gorges. These gorges have been dug by the river Galbena and its spectacular walls can be seen through the trees. The route follows the gorges up to the springs of the river and cross the watershed towards Arieșului Valley. After 13 kilometers through he villages of Poieniţa and Cobleș, the route meets the national road DN 75.
Secondary route towards the Biharia Peak – from the intersection with the national road DN 75, you can climb all the way up to the peak of Mountain Biharia. To get there, you must follow the national road for a distance of 1.5 kilometers, going west, the rest of the route continuing on an unpaved road until reaching its destination.
Coming back to the route, it continues on DN 75 for 8 kilometers, reaching the village Gârda de Sus, the first village from the touristic region Arieșeni-Vârtop, which is located at the base of the Biharia Mountain. A lot of tracks start here, tracks that lead to the caves Gheţarul de la Scărișoara, Poarta lui Ionele, Coiba Mare, Vârtop and from there to the beautiful village called Casa de Piatră.
Secondary route towards Gârda Seacă Valley and the village Casa de Piatră – from the center of the village Gârda de Sus, following the unpaved road on the Gârda Seacă Valley, the route takes you to the impressive village called Casa de Piatră and to the Coiba Mică and Coiba Mare Caves. Both caves are located close to the main road.
A very important touristic highlight is represented by the Gheţarul de la Scărișoara Cave, which is home to the biggest subterranean glacier that can be found in Romania. Its age has been estimated at around 4000 years. In order to reach this location, there are 2 routes: you can take the recently upgraded road (tarmac), through the village Mununa, or you can go through the Ordîncușei Gorges, thus ticking off the list the Poarta lui Ionele Cave as well.
From the Gheţar village, the route heads north, initially on tarmac road and after that, on an unpaved road (which is currently being upgraded to a tarmac road) towards the small village of Călineasa. Before reaching the small village you will see an unpaved road that descends along the valley of the Beliș stream. Along this descending path you will gradually see the forests getting thicker and thicker and, up until the next village, called Poiana Horea, the altitude will progressively decrease. From this point on, up to Fântânele Lake, there is a tarmac road.
The route then takes you towards Mărișel on an unpaved road, with a few exceptions where there is a tarmac road of very poor quality. You will be approaching Cluj-Napoca, which at this point is only 30 kilometers away, but the route continues in the south-east direction. Upon entering the village of Mărișel, the route heads south and descends towards the springs of the Răcătău stream. The route follows the water course for about 7 kilometers, crossing a ridge towards east and reaching the Someșul Rece Valley. On one side of the route you will notice the evergreen forests, beautiful clearings, and the clear water of the river and on the other side you will admire the rocky walls of the Someșul Rece Gorges.
After 20 more kilometers you will encounter tarmac again, and again after 15 kilometers the route starts going up, following the unpaved sinuosities of the secondary road DJ 107N towards the Muntele Rece Monastery, Plopi village. After this, the descent towards the Ierii Valley will be made on a slithering, unpaved road.
The last part of the route surprises the tourist with an incredible natural diversity and turistic sights, this being a part of the route that deserves your undivided attention.
Turzii Gorges represent the next touristic highlight of the route. From the village of Săcel you must travel a few kilometers on an unpaved road, and then head towards Petreștii de Jos, on DJ 107L. From this village you can enter the Turzii Gorges downstream.
You can exit the main route if you want to travel on a dirt road, secondary road DJ 103G, across the highway towards Tureni, one of the access points in the Tureni Gorges. These are considered natural reservation/park and they include lime walls of over 100 metres and caves that have been dug by Racilor stream; these sights can be found between the villages of Tureni and Copăceni.
On the other hand, the same route (DJ103G) can be covered in parallel with the highway until it reaches the village of Săvădisla. Here, the route continues towards the south-west, towards Turzii Gorges, but you have to get off this road for about 4 kilometers until reaching the salt mine from Turda on the north-eastern direction. This salt mine represents the biggest salt mining museum from Transylvania, being situated in the small town of Turda. The most important aspect related to this touristic sight is that it was created in the 17th century and the galleries are entirely hand-made: the miners dug them using only their tools and no explosives.
Heading further south and across the village of Cheia, the route meets the national road DN 75 and it follows this road up to the Buru village. Rimetea village, holding the title of ”protected architectural and urban area”, is located in the Trascaului Valley, being flanked by the Piatra Secuiului Mountain (1128 metres, the northern-most strong-hold of the lime chain) to the east and also by the vertical walls of the mountains. You can reach this place following the secondary road DJ 107M, which moves across the Trascăului Valley, connecting Aiud (in the south) and Buru (in the north). While you’re in the Rimetea area, you can also take a look at the ruins of the Trascău fortress, also known as the Fortress from Colţești.
For those passionate about these activities, here you have the opportunity to do some climbing, gliding and hiking in the lime mountain Colţii Trascăului – Piatra Secuiului. The botanical and geological reservation Vălișoarei Gorges is of an equal importance, being situated on the territory of the village called Livezile (to the east of the Trascău Mountains), gorges that can be crossed following the secondary road DJ 107M.
To continue, close to Aiud you can make another detour on the secondary road DJ 107I, towards Valea Mănăstirii and Mănăstirii gorges, which were dug in the lime ridge between Pleșii and Prisăcii Peaks (approximately 1200 meters). The ridges have a jagged look, with sharp, pointy peaks, fang and needle-like shapes, owing to the long and intense processes of erosion and karstification.
Secondary route towards the Râmeţ Gorges (high difficulty section)- starting from the upper part of the Râmet village, where you can also find the Mănăstirii Gorges, you can descend on a slope made of 18 earth curves, process which may get more difficult after the rain. This road leads to the Râmet Monastery and eventually to the natural reservation Râmeţului Gorges (Cheia village), route which can only be taken during summer because it involves crossing the river.
Finally, after a few days of visiting and seeing the most beautiful landscapes from the Apuseni Mountains, the route takes you to the town of Teius, which is the end of this route. You can get here starting from Râmetea village, on a ridge road towards the rock quarry and the village of Geomal. From this point on, the route goes along a major paved road through the woods, towards Geomal, the village that represents the final point of this journey.