How to Hike to Lake Krn (Krnsko Jezero) in Slovenia

The view at the edge of the water of a reflective lake with mountains circling the lake.

The hike up to Krnsko Jezero (aka Lake Krn) was probably my favorite (and longest) of all the day hikes we did during our 2 weeks in Slovenia. The Lake Krn trail is full of beautiful views and interesting stops on the way that ends at a gorgeous alpine lake surrounded by stunning mountains. While it is an investment in time and energy, we found it to be well worth the effort.

If you’re hiking to the top of Krn Mountain, one of the routes will take you right past Krn Lake, and many people see Krnsko Jezero doing just that. But, you can also just hike to the lake, call it good, and head back.

Either way, the hike is a really fantastic experience and I’m sharing all the details of the hike in this post.

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Trailhead and Parking

A cement and gravel road leading through a grass field winding up to the sheer mountains with the sun just starting to hit the top of the mountain peaks.

The trailhead starts right by Dom dr. Klementa Juga v Lepeni, the primary mountain hut in the Lepena Valley. There’s a parking lot in front of the hut for the trailhead. We stayed overnight at this hut to have the “hut experience” and also for convenience – we wanted to start the trail at sunrise.

I would recommend stopping at this hut after your hike and getting some richet soup. This traditional Slovenian dish is made with barley and sausage, is savory and flavorful and tasted incredible after spending hours on the trail.

You’ll also see a gondola (cable car) in the valley, just out of frame on the left side of the picture. This gondola goes up to the top of the mountain and is used for transporting supplies up to the huts in the mountains, but you’ll pass by the gondola line a few times during the hike.  It’s a cool part of the hut culture in Slovenia and a helpful landmark on the hike.

Lake Krn Trail Stats

  • Distance: 8 miles (12.8 km)
  • Elevation: 3100 feet (944 m)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous, for distance, the elevation gain, and the descending trail conditions (the rocky path was hard on our feet as we came down
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • How Long it Took: 6.5 hours, but we spent 1 hour at the lake and then another 1 hour spent between detours at a cheese farm, another hut for some food, and a short spur down to a second lake

The Trail Up to Krnsko Jezero

The first half of the trail is through a thickly wooded forest that has mostly deciduous trees. The second half of the trail is filled with evergreen pine trees, which makes it feel distinctly more mountainous. 

A gravel path winding through the forest with tree roots coming throught the path with trees and ferns on the path
The trail towards the beginning of the hike

The trail is moderately steep, but for the most part the switchbacks made it a very manageable incline for us (as people who like to hike but were in only okay shape at the time).

A dirt path with white rocks alongside hundreds of skinny tall trees.

The path is wide and cleared back from any brush, but is full of small and medium-sized rocks, which makes it uneven and somewhat harder on your feet and hips. This wasn’t a problem going up, but on the way back down, our feet really felt every one of those rocks in the path.

Every so often there will be a break in the trees (usually when you are near a section that has been cleared for the gondola cable), and you’ll get incredible, sweeping views over the valley below.

The view from the path with the forest skyline and mountain hedges coming together is winding.

Fun fact about this trail: The trail was built as a mule path by the Italian army during WW1 to bring supplies to the entrenched soldiers at the top of the mountain. 

The High Point of the Pass

After about 2.7 miles (4.3 km) of hiking, you’ll reach the end of the mountain switchbacks, and the trail levels out considerably.

2 parallel rock path leading through large pine trees to the edge of a mountain.

Instead of hiking up the side of the mountain, you’ll start walking through a pass and deeper into the mountains, heading to the small valleys and plateaus deeper in the peaks. This section of the hike is much easier, and is incredibly scenic, with the tall, straight evergreens all around you.

A woman in a pink tank top walks down the rock path curving around pine trees on the Lake Krn trail.

At the highest point of the pass, there is a pole marking the total snowfall for every winter back to the late 1980’s – make sure you keep an eye out for this fun marker.

A pole on the path with wood markers attached to the side showing the snowfalls on the trail.

On the Plateau

A dirt path through a grassy field with lots of pine trees at the base of a white rock mountain.

You’ll finally reach the end of the pass and the valley/plateau opens up around you. This valley is gorgeous, with evergreens dotting the landscape and mountain peaks all around you. It’s about 3/4 of a mile (1.2 km) from when you enter the valley to the lake and the end of the trail. This was my absolute favorite section of the hike, though. It is SO gorgeous up here!

The Mountain Hut

There are also two huts to be aware of in this mountain valley. Planinski dom pri Krnskih Jezerih is the main hut – it is quite large and provides lodging for multi-day trekkers and meals for any hungry hikers.

A small wood hut tucked between the pine trees at the base of a large mountain hit with sun rays lighting up the top.

We stopped here after we visited the lake and before heading back down the mountain for some pancakes (like crepes) and apple strudel, and both were fantastic. 

2 yellow crepes coated with powder sugar with on a white plate on a dark bown wood table.
A homemade apple strudel with multiple layers and powdered sugar on a white plate on a brown wood table.

The Cheese Farmhouse

Multiple cows outside the cheese factory along the path where many hikers are stopping to look at the at the base of a mountain.

There is also a little farmhouse directly off your route to Lake Krn (it’s about 10 minutes before you reach the lake.) This farm has a whole herd of free-ranging farm animals (chickens, cows, pigs, donkeys, sheep) – you might be walking around animals right in the path!

The farm uses the milk from the cows to make fresh cheese by hand every day. All of the cheese they produce is sold to hikers going past the hut – nothing is shipped out in any way.

A table with 4 rocks pressing down on the wheels on chese so and it floats down into a bucket.
Boards with heavy rocks on top of them are placed on a wheel of cheese, pressing the whey out (which runs off the table and into the bucket)
A large dark orange wheel of cheese with a triangle missing on a wood plaque.
A shelf with multiple wheels of cheese with white dust in a rock room.

You can stop in, see the process, sample some cheese, and buy a wheel if you so desire (18 euro). The cheese was very good – semi-hard, mild flavor, somewhat similar to mozzarella. 

This valley is a bit of a converging point for several other trails to surrounding mountains – so expect to see many signs and paths for the many landmarks around you.

Reaching Lake Krn!

Lake Krnsko with the clear lake reflecting the mountains circling the lake.

Finally, you’ll reach the Krnsko Jezero Lake, a gorgeous body of water surrounded by hills and mountain peaks, including Mount Krn. The water has a bit of a green-blue color, but the water is not quite as clear as other lakes and rivers in Slovenia.

A green lake reflecting the green pine trees on the base of the white rock mountain and white rocks surrounding the edge of the lake.

If you happen to catch the lake when the wind is super low and the water is really calm, the mountains create a beautiful reflection on the water. In summer, there are numerous wildflowers around it, adding another layer of beauty. There’s a little path around the lake, and it’s definitely worth walking to both sides and admiring the views from each direction.

A man and woman kiss on the edge of a blue and green lake with pine trees and large mountains on the other side of the lake.

The lake itself is about ⅓ of a mile long and a 1/10 mile wide, and it’s pretty deep – about 18 meters deep. You aren’t allowed to swim in this lake, but you should definitely watch all of the tiny fish and tadpoles that congregate close to the water’s edge. The owner of the hut we stayed in described them as like “little piranhas” – large pods of tiny fish that would almost swarm an area.

If you’re doing the hike to the top of Krn Mountain, you’ll pass by the lake and continue up the mountain. Otherwise, if you’re like us and just want to do an “easier” hike, you can head back down after enjoying the incredible views.

The Second Lake

A small pond with leaves on the surface of the water with a lush forest of evergreen pine trees at the slope of the mountain and a solid cube rock at the edge of the pond.

Just behind the Planinski dom pri Krnskih jezerih hut in the valley is a short side trail down to a second, smaller lake, named Dupeljsko Jezero. It’s about a 10-minute hike one way from the hut, and you can admire the small lake surrounded by pines. While it wasn’t as dramatic or pretty as Krnsko Jezero, the surrounding mountains still made this a really beautiful view. Keep an eye out for cows!

Coming Back Down from Lake Krn

Since the Krnsko Jezero hike is an out-and-back trail, you simply retrace your steps to go back down the mountain. We appreciated that the trail wasn’t so steep or filled with boulders that we had to slowly pick our way down the mountain.

Rather, we actually made good time coming down and were able to hike back down faster than we hiked up (which seems obvious, but sometimes the trail is steep enough or rocky enough that you actually don’t end up going that much faster down).

A Few Quick Tips:

  • Hiking poles are extremely helpful for this trail
  • Bring plenty of water + snacks, plus cash if you want cheese or a light meal from the huts
  • This is definitely a spot to wear your best hiking shoes
  • Starting first thing in the morning is a good idea – you avoid the worst of the heat and more people this way. We saw almost no one on our way up, but by late morning it became obvious that this is a well-used path.

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