We have returned to the Slovenian mountains after four years to explore more from our list and to find ourselves as a family amidst beautiful nature, friendly people, and good food. Although we did not plan to visit the Vintgar gorge with kids, this spur-of-the-moment decision was the best option for an amazing Sunday afternoon. In retrospect, these are the things we would have loved to know about exploring the Vintgar Gorge with kids (information valid as of October 2022).
We recently spent a weekend in Kranjska Gora, our absolute favorite location in the Slovenian Alps, which we discovered as an excellent base to explore the region back in 2018. Although gorgeous year-round, for us, subjectively, Slovenia is the absolute autumn destination.
As we were driving back to Vienna one sunny Sunday afternoon in early October, we decided to make a slight detour to Lake Bled, another one of the region’s famous attractions. A photo dump to pick your interest was, I am afraid, unavoidable 🙂 For more photos and videos, follow us on Instagram.
As the road winded through picturesque Slovenian villages on the backdrop of majestic mountains adorned in autumn colors, road signs started pointing towards the Vintgar Gorge located about 4 km from Bled.
It was too good an opportunity to miss as this majestic gorge carved by the Radovna River is one of the region’s most noteworthy attractions and one of the five reasons we wanted to return to the area. The first time we visited, our daughter was a 10-months old baby – way too little for such an adventure.
We weren’t as prepared for a hike, but we did have appropriate equipment with us. In retrospect, it would have maybe helped to have planned in advance to hike the Vintgar gorge with kids. Still, the entire 2-2.5 hours adventure was a total success which we all enjoyed tremendously and we highly recommend it for families with children.
Hiking the Vintgar Gorge with kids – location, directions, access
As mentioned, the gorge is located about 4 km from Bled and is about 1.6-kilometers long. Wooden bridges allow access along the gorge in a glorious natural landscape of vertical walls on both sides of the Radovna river that carves its way through waterfalls, pools, and rapids. The walking trail ends at the majestic Šum Waterfall, after passing under the railway bridge of the Bohinj railway.
The tourism office website of the Gorje village offers accurate information on parking opportunities, maps, and information on how to reach the Vintgar Gorge from different locations. Tickets can be purchased online and it is recommended to do so, as access is only permitted at set time intervals (buy tickets here and you can also download them directly to your phone – adults prices are 10 euros, students and seniors 7 euros, children 6-14 and pets 3 euros, children under 6 – 1 euro).
Access to the gorge is only by foot and unidirectional, meaning one needs to start from the parking P1 in Podhom and walk the 1.6-kilometers long trail (mostly flat, on wooden bridges and carved stairs), exit the gorge at the Šum Waterfall, and hike back to the starting point (the walk back is of medium difficulty with some elevated parts and some climbing).
For those planning to see the Vintgar Gorge with kids without the 2-2.5 hours hike, parking at P6 in Blejska Dobrava and walking 10 minutes to admire the Šum Waterfall without entering the gorge might be the better option.
Alternatively, the hike can be extended all the way to Bled from the Šum Waterfall which many people actually do.
Hiking the Vintgar Gorge with kids – general practical aspects
The hike itself is of intermediate difficulty – mostly flat on wooden bridges and carved stairs along the gorge for 1.6 kilometers (about 45 min to 1 hour), followed by a more challenging hike back to the parking. The second part of hiking the Vintgar gorge with kids took us about 1.5 hours to complete, as at points we did have to hike uphill and carry our 5-year-old. The hike back is on one of the mountain tops that flanks the gorge, so you can actually hear the river flowing below. The hike is through a forested landscape and beautiful nature, but getting to the top of the mountain is a bit of a challenge, as mentioned.
Therefore, if attempting to hike the Vintgar gorge with kids, plan for about 2.5 – 3 hours for the round trip.
As we were leaving our car, we packed a backpack with water, snacks, and essentials (tissues, disinfectant, plasters, sunscreen charged phones, and wallets), but we did not take anything else along. Extra waterproof clothes would have been useful, as the waterfalls and rapids do tend to splash a lot of drops in the air and water is also dropping down from the mountainsides. Wearing layers was a good idea, as especially in autumn the temperature can vary greatly between down in the gorge and up on the mountain, on the way back.
At the entrance and exit to the gorge, there are stations selling refreshments and offering access to toilets. We also encountered a cute little restaurant in the village of Blejska Dobrava on the way back, some 15-20 minutes before the ascent to the mountaintop started. That would be the last point to purchase snacks and drinks before the 1-hour hike through the woods.
A warning for families with kids – the wooden bridges and carved-out stepping platforms on the first part of the hike are pretty slippery – make sure to have appropriate shoes (hiking shoes) and hold on to your kids!
The experience as a whole was a total thrill for our 5-year-old, although at times I was worried that it might feel only wet, slippery, and loud. The amount of water is massive and thus it does get very loud, especially as the water roars through the narrowest portions of the gorge. We would advise preparing your kids in advance (which we didn’t, thus the relief at her finding the experience exhilarating rather than scary) and to consider twice before attempting to hike the Vintgar gorge with kids afraid of water or loud noises.
Hiking the Vintgar Gorge with kids – our experience
All in all, although it came as a bit of a surprise, spur-of-the-moment decision, our experience hiking the Vintgar gorge was the highlight of our Slovenian adventure.
There were moments when our daughter needed to be carried for 5-10 minutes and we did stop to rest a couple of times. I do wish we would have taken more snacks along and combined the experience with an actual picnic. We also took our time exploring the beautiful nature and explaining things to Ilinca, who as I said, was excited to make the most out of her first long hike.
Thus, it was luckily also the right time to undertake this adventure – having attempted to hike the Vintgar gorge with kids even half a year earlier might have resulted in a different type of outcome :).
Hiking the Vintgar Gorge with kids – a final word
As our daughter grows, we are experiencing the great outdoors more extensively, as her resilience grows and she enjoys adventures such as this hike more and more. However, to get to the amazing day that was the hike we took in the Vintgar gorge with kids, we did take holidays and road trips together, ever since she was about 7 months old. Just thinking back to our Austrian summer holiday or our Andalusia road trip, when things definitely did not go smoothly, brings back a lot of memories and a sense of pride a how far we have come traveling as a family.
Renting a car to drive around Slovenia is definitely a worthwhile investment. Regardless if you are staying in Bled or somewhere else in the area, there are plenty of amazing attractions just a stone’s throw away and driving will allow you the flexibility and efficiency you need to make the most out of your time there.
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