Strict nature reserve Bijele i Samarske stijene
Via Dinarica HR-W-06
Kapela is a spacious mountain area at the southern end of the region of Gorski kotar, linking that area with Velebit and Lička Plješivica. This massif, 100 kilometers long, is characterized by high plateaus covered in forest and interspersed with meadows, almost impassable rocky terrain sections and pronounced peaks. Approximately in the middle of Kapela, the ancient Josephina Road linking the cities of Karlovac, Ogulin and Senj crosses over the mountain pass Vrh Kapele (884 m.a.s.l.), dividing the mountain into two parts similar in size: Velika Kapela and Mala Kapela. Only the area of Velika Kapela is interesting from a mountaineering point of view, since it includes all the highest peaks and several protected areas, the most important and most attractive among them being the protected area of Bijele stijene and Samarske stijene.
The area of Samarske stijene includes two independent groups of rocks, their whiteness standing out in the forest cover that surrounds them. It consists of approximately twenty solitary and white stone peaks separately pointing to the sky above the forest. The site of Bijele stijene is also a genuine gallery of karst forms: everywhere around, there are numerous, vertical, white, approximately fifty meters high pointed rocks in the terrain, with deep impassable sinkholes and swallow holes hidden in between. This ridge and its rocky peaks are well known to hikers despite being difficult to pass. However, below the ridge, in particular in the wild labyrinth of forest and karst at the southwestern side, there are still parts that are completely unexplored. The spreading of the orographic axis of Bijele stijene, 4 kilometers long, corresponds to the spreading of the Dinarides, but the area of Bijele stijene is divided by tectonic cracks and separated into individual groups due to karst processes. The area of Bijele stijene and Samarske stijene is protected as a strict nature reserve.
South of Mrkopalj and Tuk, there is a large uninhabited forest area. Hikers therefore need to bear in mind the fact that there are no supply options for the next 40 to 50 kilometers of the route (all the way to the villages in the hinterland of the city of Senj). From Tuk, hiking trail markings across Matić poljana follow a wide gravel road called Begova staza for two to three hours. After that, soon after the forest ranger station at Plana, a climb begins (to the right of the road) towards the peak of Samarske stijene. There is also an easier access to Samarske stijene. This access route begins slightly farther away along Begova staza, at the locality called »the 13th kilometer« with a small widening where one can park a car. In the area of Samarske stijene, the simplest passage is along the forest path from the peak of Samarske stijene towards Ratkovo sklonište (an original wooden mountain shelter located in a semi-cave below a vertical rock).
The areas of Samarske stijene and Bijele stijene are linked by an attractive yet demanding hiking trail called Vihoraški put, taking 3 to 4 hours of hiking. Vihoraški put is a marked path leading through pristine wilderness and very difficult terrain, so it is extraordinarily challenging and hard. The route is partly secured, and a tour of this trail is recommended only for experienced mountaineers. Vihoraški put begins as a trail branch that departs from the hiking trail leading from the »13th kilometer« towards Ratkovo sklonište in the area of Samarske stijene.
Hikers who do not wish to take the trail Vihoraški put should return to the trail Begova staza and continue along it for 4 kilometers to the starting point of a climb to Bijele stijene. It takes approximately 50 minutes of hiking to climb from Begova staza to the mountain hut Dragutin Hirc at Bijele stijene. The area of Bijele stijene provides opportunities for various loop tours of the rocks themselves; however, it is worth bearing in mind that some routes are demanding (e.g. routes leading to the highest peak of Bijele stijene).
- (Begovo Razdolje)
- Samarske stijene
- Mountain shelter Ratkovo sklonište
- Bijele stijene
- Mountain hut Dragutin Hirc