Piatra Craiului National Park in Romania

Piatra Craiului National Park, located in Romania, is a protected area of great importance, designated as a national park according to IUCN category II. Covering approximately 14,773 hectares, it was established as a national park in the year 2000. This park is located in Brașov and Argeș counties, with Zărnești as the nearest town.


Geographical location of Piatra Craiului in Romania

The location of Piatra Craiului National Park and the ROSCI0194 Piatra Craiului and ROSPA0165 Piatra Craiului sites encompass the Southern Carpathians, specifically the entire Piatra Craiului Range and the adjacent intramontane corridors of Rucăr-Bran and Rucăr-Zărnești.

Piatra Craiului National Park in Romania

This territory extends over Brașov and Argeș counties, including areas of the localities of Zărnești, Moeciu with the villages of Măgura and Peștera, Bran, Rucăr, Dragoslavele, and Dâmbovicioara.

Piatra Craiului is located at the point with 450 28′ north latitude and 250 16′ east longitude. Its total area is 14,766 hectares, distributed 53% in Brașov County and 47% in Argeș County.

The area designated as Natura 2000, known as ROSCI0194 Piatra Craiului, covers 15,867.04 hectares, of which 12,834.9 hectares overlap with the National Park area. This area completely overlaps with the boundaries of ROSPA0165 Piatra Craiului.

The main access points to the protected area are the town of Zărnești to the north, through the Bârsei Valley and the Prăpăstiilor Valley, and the village of Podul Dâmboviței from the commune of Dâmbovicioara to the south, in the Dâmboviței and Dâmbovicioarei valleys.

How to get to Piatra Craiului National Park

Piatra Craiului National Park covers the northeastern tip of Argeș County, within the municipalities of Dâmbovicioara, Dragoslavele, and Rucăr, as well as the southern part of Brașov County, including the municipalities of Fundata, Moieciu, and Bran, along with the town of Zărnești. It is located near the national road DN73A, which connects Predeal and Șercaia.

This national park is situated in the Piatra Craiului massif, a mountain range belonging to the northwestern Southern Carpathians, covering a total area of 14,773 hectares.

To get to Piatra Craiului National Park, there are two main routes available:

  1. From Brașov: You can take the national road DN73A towards Râșnov and then continue to Zărnești. This route offers access from the city of Brașov to the National Park.
  2. From Pitești: You can take the national road DN73D towards Câmpulung and then continue to Zărnești. This route provides access from the city of Pitești to the National Park.

Both routes provide convenient access to different points of the park and allow visitors to explore its natural beauties and enjoy its outdoor activities.

A little over 130 km away, you will find Cozia National Park, another of the country’s most beloved protected areas.

History of Piatra Craiului

The natural area of the Piatra Craiului Massif was initially established on March 28, 1938, preserving an initial area of 440 ha, as decided by the Council of Ministers and published in the Council of Ministers Journal number 645 of 1938, with the aim of preserving rare species such as Dianthus callizonus, Hesperis nivea, Minuartia transilvanica, Leontopodium alpinum, and also conserving the beauty of the unique landscape in the country.

La Zaplaz in Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania

In 1971, the protected area was expanded to 3,570 hectares by declaring several natural reserves in Brașov and Argeș counties, and a project to establish a national park was initiated. During the third scientific session "Nature Conservation on Scientific Bases," held in Brașov from October 14 to 17, 1975, it was recommended to continue research on the creation of Piatra Craiului National Park and to promote closer collaboration between the involved bodies in Brașov and Argeș counties.

In 1990, Piatra Craiului was designated as a national park by Order 7 of the then Ministry of Agriculture, along with 12 other parks in Romania. The total area of Piatra Craiului National Park covers 14,766 hectares, with 7,807.5 hectares located in Brașov County and 6,958.5 in Argeș County. This designation was reaffirmed by Law Number 5 of March 6, 2000, which approved the National Territorial Development Plan, including Section III on protected areas.

In 2003, through Government Decision number 230 of March 4, adjustments were made to the boundaries and area of the national park as part of the delimitation of biosphere reserves, national parks of Romania, and natural parks, and their administrations were established.

The Administration of Piatra Craiului National Park received the European Diploma for Protected Areas from the Council of Europe in 2005. This recognition was renewed for another 10 years in 2011.

Description of the Protected Area

Piatra Craiului National Park is an impressive area characterized by steep peaks, such as Vârful Țimbalul Mare at 2,177 meters high and Vârful dintre Țimbale at 2,170 meters, both of metamorphic rock. It also features towering Jurassic limestone cliffs, grottos, alpine lagoons, and gorges such as the Zărnești Gorge, Vlădușca Gorge, and Dâmbovicioara Gorge. Additionally, the park is home to caves, marshes, rivers, and karst areas formed by the erosion of rocks.

Among its varied vegetation, there are mountain meadows, hayfields, pastures, and forests. The park overlaps with the Piatra Craiului community site of importance and includes several natural reserves, such as Cheile Zărneștilor (also known as Prăpăstiile Zărneștilor), the Bat Cave in Rucăr-Bran, the Dâmbovicioara Cave, Avenul din Grind, the karst area of Dâmbovicioara-Brusturet, the Dobreștilor Cave, Cave No. 15, the Stanciului Cave, and the Uluce Cave.

Recommended Excursions and Activities

Powered by GetYourGuide

Cultural Visits in Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania

Wooden Church in Dragoslavele

Wooden Church in Dragoslavele

The "Assumption of the Virgin Mary" Church of Joseni in Dragoslavele, built in 1661, is a historical monument notable for its traditional wooden architecture. Located in Dragoslavele, this church represents an important part of the region’s cultural heritage.

Historic Churches in Dragoslavele and Rucăr

Historic Churches in Dragoslavele and Rucăr

The "Ascension of the Lord" Church in Suseni in Dragoslavele, the "Holy Martyrs Gheorghe and Dumitru" Church in Suseni in Rucăr, and the "St. Gheorghe" Church in the hermitage of Dragoslavele are historical monuments dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. These churches reflect the rich religious and cultural heritage of the area.

Tohanu Nou Church

Tohanu Nou Church

The "Entrance to the Church of the Mother of God" Church of Tohanu Nou, built in 1779, is another important historical monument in the region. Its architecture and religious significance make it a place of interest for visitors.

Church Complex in Zărnești

Church Complex in Zărnești

The "Sf. Nicolae" church complex in Zărnești, which includes the "Sf. Nicolae" Church and a chapel, is an architectural ensemble spanning from the 16th to the 19th century. These structures are historical monuments that represent the local religious history.

Church in Fundata

Church in Fundata

The "Assumption of the Virgin Mary" Church in Fundata, built in 1843, is a historical monument that exemplifies the religious architecture of the era. Its presence in Fundata adds historical and cultural value to the region.

Church in Moieciu de Jos

The "Saint Nicholas" Church in Moieciu de Jos, built in 1761, is another outstanding example of local religious architecture. This church is a historical monument that has witnessed the life and faith of generations in the area.

Church in Bran

The "Dormition of the Mother of God" Church in Bran, built between 1828 and 1836, is an important Orthodox place of worship and a historical monument. Its architectural beauty and religious significance make it a prominent destination for visitors.

Bran Village Museum

The Bran Village Museum houses an impressive collection of traditional Șara Bârsei architecture and exhibits the ancient occupations of the locals. This museum offers a fascinating insight into the rural and cultural life of the region. You can view the exhibitions on their website.

Colții Chiliilor Hermitage (Schitul Colții Chiliilor)

This is an Orthodox hermitage located at the foot of the northern ridge of Piatra Craiului. The development of the hermitage is believed, according to some authors, to be linked to a Turkish invasion in 1421, when the local population took refuge in the mountains and created a place of prayer in a small cave. Currently, at Colții Chiliilor Hermitage, there is a wooden church, a cell body, an administrative building, and other specific locations. Above the hermitage, there is a cave where several icons and an altar dedicated to Saint Parascheva can be found.

Bran Castle (Castelul Bran)

This is a well-known objective both nationally and internationally, located in the commune of Bran, 300 meters from the northeastern boundary of Piatra Craiului National Park.

The castle was built between 1377 and 1382, occupying a strategic position at the time. Initially, Bran Castle was a military fortress, but in 1920 it became the royal residence. Most tourists visit it for the legend of "Dracula," which can create a negative image of some wildlife species such as wolves and bats and may lead to the belief that there are dangerous supernatural elements in the area’s nature. Regardless of the reason for your visit, you can experience the history, culture, tradition, and, last but not least, the natural values of the national park thanks to the region in which it is located.

The Ciocanu Trenches (Tranșeele de la Ciocanu)

Ciocanu is a village in the commune of Dâmbovicioara, located near the former border between Romania and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is a locality bordering Piatra Craiului National Park and is situated to the east of it, on the mountainous plateau between the Piatra Craiului Massif and the Bucegi Mountains.

The Ciocanu Trenches (Tranșeele de la Ciocanu)

It is located 3 km from Dâmbovicioara, at an altitude of over one thousand meters. In the past, it belonged to the commune of Rucăr, and most of the inhabitants of this locality were Moșneni, members of the Rucăr Moșneni community. In the town of Ciocanu, trenches, walls, and machine gun nests from the First World War are still preserved intact. Precisely in this area, the first battles of the Romanian army for the liberation of Transylvania took place. The trenches were restored in the summer of 2018 by soldiers of the 2nd Mountain Hunters Brigade "Sarmisegetusa" Brașov.

Roman Settlement of Podu Dâmboviței and Ruins of Oratea Fortress

The Roman Settlement of Podu Dâmboviței, dating from the 2nd-3rd centuries BC, and the Ruins of Oratea Fortress, built in the 14th century, are historical remnants that reveal the rich history and heritage of the region. These archaeological sites offer a fascinating glimpse into the area’s past.

Visiting Villages and Localities within the Park

Mountain Villages

The mountain villages, with their houses scattered among the hills where locals still preserve ancestral traditions in complete harmony with nature, add an unmissable charm for visitors to Piatra Craiului National Park.

Village of Magura

Magura is a popular destination among tourists seeking the tranquility and serenity of mountain villages. Since 1820, it has developed its own identity and has remained a constant settlement. Recreational activities include exploring the tourist and cycling routes in the area, experiencing the local lifestyle, and visiting places of interest near the village.

Village of Peștera

The village of Peștera, located at an altitude of 1,000 meters, offers picturesque landscapes and various opportunities to relax in nature. The oldest traces of habitation in the village were found in the Bat Cave, where traces of human occupation dating back to the Paleolithic were discovered. However, this does not guarantee continuous habitation until more recent times.

A legend suggests that the Bat Cave served as a hideout for outlaws. It was said that from here, they could escape under Piatra Craiului through underground passages if pursued by the police. Although some speculate about this possibility, speleologists’ investigations seem to challenge this hypothesis by indicating that the cave is not connected to the avenues in the eastern area of the massif.

Another legend connects the village with the outlaw Stanciu Bratu, who operated in the Bran area before the mid-19th century. It is said that he had a sister named Stanca, who led the band of bandits with bravery and cunning. Some scholars suggest that the toponyms of the region, such as Cerdacul Stanciului and Peștera Stanciului, could refer to this outlaw, who took refuge in this area.

Village of Șirnea

The village of Șirnea borders Piatra Craiului National Park and is famous for being Romania’s first tourist village. As part of a tourism promotion project, the village’s biology teacher, Nicolae Fruntes, established a museum in the village school. Today, an event called "Șirnea Olympic Days" is still organized, with a history of over 33 years. On this occasion, various sports activities are held on June 22 and 23 in a student camp.

Outdoor Activities in Contact with Nature

Zărnești Gorges (Prăpăstiile Zărneștilor)

The Zărnești Gorges are an impressive formation that originated hundreds of millions of years ago as an initial torrent. Its formation was accelerated by limestone layers. With a total length of 3.9 km, the largest sector is the Valley of Simas, with a length of 1.7 km. This section is notable for its narrowness, vertical walls, and limestone layers, unique characteristics according to some geologists. Additionally, lucky visitors may spot chamois, rock butterflies, and native flowers.

El desarrollo de los Acantilados de Zărnești ocurrió en cuatro fases:

  1. Río Epigeo: Inicialmente, un río fluía sobre rocas sedimentarias y, al erosionar la piedra caliza, emergió a la superficie.
  2. Cuenca kárstica: Con el tiempo, el curso de agua se hundió gradualmente, formando una cueva.
  3. Colapso kárstico: El techo de la cueva colapsó, creando un tramo de gargantas estrechas con paredes verticales.
  4. Captura actual: El curso de agua se desvió subterráneamente por segunda vez.

Actualmente, el Precipicio de Zărnești es un valle seco, pero evidencia procesos geológicos del período Jurásico. La ruta desde Prăpăstiile Zărneștiului es fácilmente accesible para niños y personas con discapacidad.

Piatra Craiului Ridge

Piatra Craiului Ridge

There are numerous routes leading to the Piatra Craiului Ridge, each requiring significant physical effort, whether ascending from the eastern or western slopes. However, once you reach the ridge, the spectacular and mighty view will take your breath away while revitalizing you, replacing fatigue with a sense of fulfillment.

The Piatra Craiului Ridge stands out in the Romanian Carpathians as a unique and special mountain formation. Its uniqueness lies in being the highest and longest limestone ridge in Romania, stretching 25 km and reaching its highest point at Piscul Baciului, 2238 m above sea level. The peak’s name derives from the traditional sheep farming in the area. The minimum altitude, 735 m, is found at the confluence between Dâmbovicioara and Dâmbovița.


Grohotisuri in Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania

The "grohotisuri" are a distinctive feature of Piatra Craiului, naturally integrating into the landscape both in their surface and variability and spatial arrangement. They are found at altitudes ranging from 1300 to 2200 meters, with a higher concentration around 1750 meters above sea level, in areas such as Marele Grohotis, La Zaplaz, Piatra Craiului Mică, Hornul Găinii, Padinile Frumoase, at the base of the shoulders of Piatra Craiului, Vârful Ascuțit, Vârful Padina Popii, among other places.

In the Piatra Craiului massif, mobile boulders predominate, moving along the valleys of both slopes and shaping what could be called "rivers of stone."

Cerdacul Stanciului

Cerdacul Stanciului is located at the base of the western slope of Pietra Mare, at an altitude of 1720 meters. It stands out as the largest karst arch in Piatra Craiului. With a circular-oval shape, it has a vertical diameter of 9 meters and a horizontal diameter of 12 meters. This formation is recognized as the most famous and impressive in the area, resulting from the collapse of the roof of an ancient cave. In the center of Cerdacul, a block of limestone represents a part of the cave roof that previously existed.


Zaplazul is a succession of four arches that are remnants of an ancient cave. It is located on the western side of the ridge, along the La Lanturi route. The upper arch is the largest, with a diameter of approximately 4 meters, while the lower arch is the smallest, with a diameter of around 0.7 meters.

Dâmbovicioara Gorges

The Dâmbovicioara Gorges, with a length of 2.4 km, were formed as a result of the combined action of the surface watercourse and the action of the underground stream. Located opposite Prăpăstiile Zărneștiului, in the northeast of the National Park, the Dâmbovicioara Gorges experienced a faster evolution due to faults that allowed the circulation of groundwater. Along the valley, limestone sectors alternate with conglomerates. Additionally, an attractive cave is located in these gorges, which is highly visited by tourists. This cave was formed in Jurassic limestone and has a gallery 555 meters long, making it the longest cave in the area. Although relatively short compared to other caves in Romania, the Dâmbovicioara Cave has a gallery with widths ranging from 3 to 4 meters and heights of 4 to 5 meters, with few small branches. About 150 meters from the entrance, the gallery narrows considerably. The existence of this cave has been known since the 18th century when locals used it as a hiding place during invasions.

Floral and Faunal Richness

The park is home to 1189 species of vascular plants, representing more than 1/3 of the total species in Romania, as well as significant areas of beech forests and mixed beech and softwood forests. Among these plants, the most well-known are: the Dianthus callizonus, endemic to the local area and the floral symbol of the massif, the cornflower, the yellow poppy, the man’s blood, the lady’s slipper, the bulbs, the yellow ginseng, etc. At the same time, it hosts a rich population of large carnivores: bears, wolves, and raccoons, 21 species of bats, 112 species of birds, and more than 220 specimens of chamois.

Biodiversity in the Habitats of Piatra Craiului National Park

Piatra Craiului National Park is distinguished by its terrain of vertical limestone walls, branas, and suspended ledges, with a ridge reaching an average height of 2000 meters. This terrain, along with the forests that cover much of the park, creates a wide diversity of habitats. The steep slopes allow for clear observation of the altitudinal bands formed by the stratification of vegetation. From the base to the ridge, the massif is surrounded by meadows, forests, rocky slopes, and alpine pastures.

The Piatra Craiului massif is a place of great biological diversity, with a wide variety of flora and fauna manifested in a variety of terrestrial habitats.

Among these habitats are alpine and boreal scrublands, scrublands with subarctic species of Salix, scrublands with Pinus mugo and Rhododendron myrtifolium, as well as calciphilous rupicolous communities and basiphilous grasslands of Alysso-Sedion albi. There are also edge communities with tall hygrophilous herbs, from the plains to mountainous and alpine areas.

The massif also includes alpine and subalpine calciphilous grasslands, mountain meadows, alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior, Dacian beech forests (Symphyto-Fagion), relict forests of Pinus sylvestris on calcareous substrate, and various types of beech forests such as Luzulo-Fagetum and Cephalanthero-Fagion. Additionally, there are acidophilous spruce forests in the mountainous region, as well as subarctic Salix scrublands.

The rocky slopes host chasmophytic vegetation on siliceous rocks, while the riverbanks of mountain rivers are adorned with herbaceous vegetation. Along the mountain rivers, areas with woody vegetation dominated by Myricaria germanica are also found. Additionally, there are limestone and schistose screes from montane to alpine soil, which are home to a diversity of specific flora and fauna in Piatra Craiului.

Mountain Streams and Herbaceous Vegetation

This habitat is found in small enclaves along the Bârsa, Dâmbovița, and Dâmbovicioara rivers and their tributaries, with a total area not exceeding 1 hectare.

Woody Vegetation Along Mountain Watercourses

Present in enclaves on the edge of alder and black alder corridors in the Bârsei and Dâmbovița valleys, with a total extension of approximately 3 hectares.

Alpine and Boreal Shrubs

This habitat is divided into several subtypes, such as acidophilous rhododendron shrubs, silver mountain backdrops, and dwarf juniper mountain shrubs, occupying a total of around 215 hectares.

Alpine and Subalpine Calciphilous Grasslands

With an approximate extension of 300 hectares, this high conservation value habitat hosts various plant associations, including the locally endemic Crai’s carnation (Dianthus callizonus).

Edge Communities with Tall Hygrophilous Grasses

Fragmented in several valleys, these communities occupy a total of no more than 1-2 hectares.

Mountain Hayfields

Well represented in various areas of the park, occupying around 1,750 hectares and forming mostly continuous surfaces.

Limestone Screes

Present between altitudes of 1,285 and 2,196 meters, with a total area of approximately 80 hectares.

Calciphilous Rocky Slopes with Chasmophytic Vegetation

Occupying about 340 hectares, present in gorges and slopes of the massif between altitudes of 750 and 2,200 meters.

Caves Closed to Public Access

The park houses more than 800 natural caves, some of them large, such as the Dâmbovicioara Cave, mainly distributed in gorges and at the base of the ridge.

Luzulo-Fagetum Beech Forests

Extensive and polymorphic, these communities cover several thousand hectares at altitudes between 900 and 1,200 meters.

Central European Cephalanthero-Fagion Beech Forests

Although specific phytocoenoses are not described, they approximate this type of habitat and could occupy several hundred hectares.

Alluvial Forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior

Located along watercourses, these forests occupy about 30 hectares in the park.

Carpathian Pinus sylvestris Forests

Fragmented but present on both slopes of the park, covering approximately 100 hectares.

Dacian Beech Forests

Occupying large extensions between altitudes of 500 and 1200 meters, with a total area of more than 3,300 hectares.

Mountain Acidophilous Spruce Forests

With an area of around 3,600 hectares, these forests are found on both slopes of the park between altitudes of 1,350 and 1,800 meters.

Fauna of Piatra Craiului

The fauna of Piatra Craiului National Park is varied and includes a wide range of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles, some of which are protected by law and listed on the IUCN Red List.

Biodiversity in Piatra Craiului National Park

This conservation area, declared a national park, is an exceptional place in the Romanian Carpathians, home to a variety of animal species, some of them endemic to the region. The park’s fauna offers invaluable opportunities for research, with a remarkable richness, especially in invertebrates, with 35 endemic species and 91 new species discovered. Among them are the Nesticus Constantinescui and the Rhagidia carpatica, endemic to Piatra Craiului. The park also hosts over 216 species of butterflies, including some rare or endemic ones such as the Psodos coracinus dioszeghy and the Apamea zeta sandorokovacsi.

Among the mammals present in the park are 40 species such as the Carpathian bear (Ursus arctos), deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), wolf (Canis lupus), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), marten (Martes martes), fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild boar (Sus scrofa), squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), and various species of bats like the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) and the long-fingered bat (Miniopterus schreibersii), among others.

As for birds, species such as the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), raven (Corvus corax), hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and many more can be found. The avifauna of the park is rich, with 112 species identified so far, making it an ideal place for bird watching. Besides those mentioned, one can also spot mountain eagles, owls, falcons, wagtails, blackbirds, and a variety of woodpeckers, among others.

The aquatic fauna is represented by a variety of invertebrates and 10 species of fish adapted to mountain rivers, such as the bullhead (Cottus gobio) and the brown trout (Salmo trutta fario). As for amphibians and reptiles, species like the salamander, crested newt, and mountain frog can be found.

Reptiles, amphibians, and fish can be seen in some places, including the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), green lizard (Lacerta viridis), dice snake (Natrix tessellata), smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), common frog (Rana temporaria), fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), among others. There are also three species of fish: the blue barbel (Barbus meridionalis), river goby (Eudontomyzon mariae), and goby (Cottus gobio).

Flora in Piatra Craiului

The flora of Piatra Craiului National Park presents a remarkable variety of plant species distributed at different levels, influenced by geological structure, soil characteristics, climate, geomorphology, and altitude.

Flora in Piatra Craiului

The diversity of plant species in Piatra Craiului National Park is due to the varied conditions it offers for vegetation development. The altitude exceeding 2200 meters means that almost all mountain and alpine species characteristic of the Carpathian chain find optimal conditions for growth here. The presence of forests, limestone rocks, meadows, and marshes favors notable botanical diversity, making it a paradise for mushrooms, mosses, lichens, and flowering plants.

A total of 1199 species and subspecies of plants have been identified in the park’s territory, representing approximately 30% of the superior plant species recorded in Romania. Of these, 181 species are included in the "Red List of superior plants of Romania" as endemic, rare, or vulnerable species. This underscores the importance of the protected area of Piatra Craiului for the conservation of flora species, especially those endemic to the Carpathians.

Notable species include the carnation of Piatra Craiului, a unique floral symbol of the mountain and an endemic species of the place, the yew, the angelica, the red bloodroot, the yellow poppy, the linaria, the queen’s flower, the mountain peony, the wild gladiolus, the yellow gentian, the white ivy, among others.

Among the trees and shrubs present in the park, there are several conifer species such as the spruce (Picea Abies), pine, larch (Larix decidua), Swiss pine (Pinus cembra), and yew (Taxus baccata), as well as deciduous species like the oak (Quercus petraea), common oak (Quercus robur), beech (Fagus sylvatica), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), alder (Alnus glutinosa), white willow (Salix alba), and goat willow (Salix caprea).

As for herbs and flowers, various species are found in the pastures, some of them protected by law or endemic to the area. Notable among these species is the carnation of Piatra Craiului (Dianthus callizonus), an endemic species that grows only on the rocks and caves of Piatra Craiului. Additionally, there are the red vanilla orchid (Nigritella rubra), the queen’s flower (Leontopodium alpinum Cass.), the mountain peony, the yellow poppy (Papaver alpinum), the white ivy (Daphne blagayana), the lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), the alpine linaria (Linaria alpina), the carrot (Pleurospermum austriacum), among others. Various orchids can also be seen, such as Cephalanthera longifolia, Gymnadenia conopsea, and Gymnadenia odoratissima, as well as species of clover, gentian, buttercups, devil’s claw, plantain, and dahlias.

There is a large number of mountain orchid species, with approximately 41 of the 58 species existing in Romania. Many of these are found in mountain meadows, high-value conservation habitats that present exceptional floristic diversity with around 500 plant species. These meadows are also important sources of medicinal, aromatic, and folklore-recognized plants for their magical properties.

Geology of the Protected Area and Region

The geological formation of the Piatra Craiului massif is one of the most intriguing and diverse narratives within the Romanian Carpathians. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, this massif emerged from the seabed, presenting a variety of sedimentary rocks such as limestones, sandstones, shales, conglomerates, and radiolarites, deposited on an ancient metamorphic base.

About 175 million years ago, extensional tectonic movements gave rise to the Tethys Ocean, where sediments from the surrounding mountains accumulated. These sediments, which included calcareous sandstones and fossiliferous marls, formed the base of the massif. Then, approximately 10 million years ago, submarine volcanic eruptions contributed phosphatic elements that precipitated, creating an exceptionally rare rock called phosphorite, rich in marine fossils.

During the Late Jurassic, the basin subsided further, forming a vast carbonate platform. Fragments of coral reefs from the surrounding mountains sedimented at the basin’s bottom, forming breccia banks that contributed to the platform’s creation. Later, during the Cretaceous, compressive tectonic movements caused the uplift of the continental margin and the closure of the Tethys Ocean. Intense erosion generated conglomerates deposited in the basin compartments, while huge limestone blocks fell to the seabed, forming characteristic conglomerates.

Finally, about 5 million years ago, additional tectonic movements uplifted the entire region by approximately 200 meters, shaping the current relief marked by deep gorges and steep ridges. This process continues, contributing to the formation and evolution of the Piatra Craiului massif’s landscape.

Communities in Piatra Craiului National Park

The local communities surrounding and caring for Piatra Craiului National Park significantly contribute to its charm through their rich history, cultural values, and rooted traditions. In the northern part of the Piatra Craiului massif lies the town of Zărnești. To the east, we find the communes of Bran, Moeciu, and Fundata. In the southern part, the communes of Dâmbovicioara and Rucăr stand out. These communities not only complement the natural beauty of the park but also preserve and enrich its cultural and traditional heritage. These communities include:


Zărnești is the main gateway to Piatra Craiului National Park. With a history dating back to the 14th century, this town has a population of approximately 21,681 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. Its strategic location makes it an important tourist destination, directly connected to the park and hosting events such as the "Piatra Craiului Marathon."

Magura and Peștera

These two villages, part of the Moeciu municipality, are immersed in Piatra Craiului National Park. Although most national parks lack human settlements, Magura and Peștera are exceptions due to their rich cultural heritage and traditional landscapes. With a low population density and a pastoral environment, these villages offer a unique experience.


Șirnea, located in the Fundata commune, is an access point to Piatra Craiului National Park from the southeast. With a population of approximately 852 inhabitants, Șirnea offers panoramic views of the Piatra Craiului massif and serves as a base for exploring nearby tourist attractions such as the Dâmbovicioara Gorge.


The commune of Rucăr, in Argeș County, has a population of approximately 5,752 inhabitants. Surrounded by incredible mountains, this area is home to individual forest owners with vast expanses of forests and pastures within Piatra Craiului National Park.


Another important access point to the park is the commune of Dâmbovicioara, known for its natural attractions and historical sites. With a population of approximately 943 inhabitants, this area offers places of interest such as the Dâmbovicioara Cave and the Oratia Fortress, along with tourist routes exploring the southern part of Piatra Craiului National Park.

Cultural Traditions

According to the principles established in the Convention on Biological Diversity of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003, tradition is defined as a deeply rooted set of concepts, customs, and beliefs transmitted from generation to generation within social or national groups, shaping their distinctive identity.

The Zărnești region appears to belong to the ethnographic area of Țara Bârsei, close and similar to that of Bran. Homes in this area used to include a larger plot than necessary, with a house, a shed for agricultural tools, another for animals, and space for hay and straw. The traditional attire of Zărnești port, for both men and women, is simple but representative, with distinctive elements such as tight pants and black hats with the visor to one side.

Shepherding in the Piatra Craiului region is an ancestral activity, possibly initiated centuries ago by local inhabitants. Sheep farming, documented since the 16th century in Zărnești, was a significant source of income. Logging is also mentioned in ancient documents, indicating its historical importance. In Bran, agriculture and animal husbandry were predominant occupations due to the area’s natural conditions.

Homes in the localities of Peștera and Magura varied in size and design, with construction materials primarily of wood and shingle roofs. The main occupations of the inhabitants included animal husbandry, dairy production, logging, and more recently, agrotourism.

Traditional architecture in Rucăr was characterized by log houses with shingle roofs and rooms plastered with white clay. In the late 19th century, two-story houses with domestic textile activities developed inside. The local textile industry thrived, with products such as traditional costumes and rugs sold in weekly markets.

The port of Rucăr, admired for its authenticity and beauty, attracted painters like Nicolae Grigorescu and Nicolae Iorga, who captured the essence of local life in their works. The characteristic attire and skilled craftsmanship of the inhabitants of Rucăr were praised for their uniqueness and artisanal skill.

Bicycle Routes to Explore the National Park

Piatra Craiului National Park in Romania offers 11 bicycle routes that traverse the interior of the park, providing a unique way to visit and explore. These routes are exciting and full of challenges, with varying degrees of difficulty suited for different levels of mountain bike users. From easy trails to challenging medium-difficulty routes, these options offer a variety of experiences for cyclists of all levels. Cross ancient bridges and picturesque mountain villages as you explore this fascinating region on two wheels.

Zarnesti – Cabana Plaiul Foii – blue on the indicator arrows

An easy trail, 12 km long, with magnificent views over the rugged northwest of Piatra Craiului, crossed by numerous torrential valleys, called "padines," characteristic of this limestone massif. The trail is partially paved (currently 5 km), but there is an ongoing project for the total paving of this route.

In front of the Zarnesti tourist information office, located right in the center of the town, there is a sign with the direction to Plaiul Foii that will take you out of the town towards the Barsei Mari valley. After about 2 km, you will see the Piatra Craiului National Park Administration building on the right, which houses the Visitor Center where you can obtain information about tourist attractions and regulations of the protected area.

Next, you pass through Valea Crapaturii and the intersection with the road to Coltii Chiliilor, located on the left in your direction of travel. At km 6.5, you will find on the right a first tributary of the Barsa – Barsa Fierului, and after another 4 km, you will reach Gura Barsei, where the Barsa lui Bucur stream, another tributary of the Barsa, flows. From here, the forest road takes you left, following the course of the water. Soon you will reach the end point of the route, the Plaiul Foii cabin, located right next to the place where, joining Barsa Grosetului with Barsa Tamasului, Barsa Mare is formed. Near the cabin, there is a Salvamont observation and first aid point.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Coltii Chiliilor – black on the indicator arrows

A difficult route, recommended for experienced cyclists as it features singletrack sections on narrow trails with roots and cobblestones. The initial section is shared with route no. 1, but after only 1 km, it diverges to the left onto a tourist route marked with a blue stripe that leads to the Coltii Chiliilor hermitage. This intersection is signposted with a sign.

The cart road crosses agricultural land and then follows a brief climb up the terraces at the foot of the northern slope of Piatra Mici ("Bajo Barc"). Next, the road approximately follows the flat curve, crossing meadows mowed in summer by locals, before turning into a narrow path with roots and cobblestones that will test cyclists’ technical skills.

After crossing the Rift Valley, the road intersects the forest road that climbs directly from the Barsei Valley (a road we will follow on the return) and presents no technical difficulties until the end. Descending on the forest road can cause problems in wet weather. At Coltii Chiliilor, there is a spring, necessary for replenishing the water supply.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Bran Castle – blue on the indicator arrows

An easy route that connects the towns of Zarnesti and Bran. From the Zarnesti tourist information center, located right in the city center, follow the signs towards Brasov for a few hundred meters and then turn right at a sign towards Bran. Cross the Caraiman housing block and continue straight on Soseaua Branului.

After leaving the last houses, the asphalt gives way to a paved road that will start to climb towards Tohanita. As you pedal and gain altitude, you can admire Saua Magurii, Piatra Mica, and the village of Zarnesti. Soon you will reach the first houses of Tohanita, and the ascent ends as you return to the paved road.

Now head towards Bucegi, with Magura Branului to your right, at the foot of which was the old border cordon with Austria and the Bran customs. From Predelut, a quick descent will soon take you to the park in front of Bran Castle, the summer residence of Queen Mary. There is also a water fountain in the park, but you can easily refill at the numerous shops in the area.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Prapastii – La Table – Saua Joaca – Pestera – Magura – Zarnesti – Medium Difficulty Route – Red on the Indicator Arrows

This is a medium-difficulty route but with spectacular landscapes. It follows the same path as route no. 9 (up to the Curmatura cabin) until the exit from the wharf. After a stretch of switchbacks, we leave the road leading to the Curmatura guesthouse, taking a left turn to the Vladusca clearing and Table.

A short descent and we continue our ascent to the end of the exploitation road. From here, a marked path through the forest crosses the Vladusca clearing to the La Table peak, a point of intersection for several tourist routes, near which there is a spring.

We turn left and head towards the Joaca pass, climbing along a tractor road. The descent to the village of Pestera is very rocky and requires caution to avoid accidents.

Just before Casa Folea, the tourist route descends to the village of Magura, at the foot of Toanches mountain. From here, the road follows the Magura curves and descends to the Botorog spring, completing our circuit.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Prapastii – La Table – Dambovicioara – Ciocanu – Sirnea – Cave – Magura – Zarnesti – Black on the Indicator Arrows

This is a difficult route due to the elevation gain. The route is shared with route no. 4 up to the La Table peak, from where it continues to Grind and then descends to Brusturet along a stony road that crosses the Seaca Valley at Pietrelor. Near the La Table point, there is a spring, necessary for rehydration and replenishing water supplies.

From the Brusturet cabin, we descend on a forest road towards Dambovicioara, first passing through the spectacular Brusturet gorges. Soon we reach the Dambovicioara Cave, one of the main attractions in the area, visited since the 18th century.

After visiting the cave, we continue the descent to an intersection where a demanding asphalt climb begins towards the village of Ciocanu. At the entrance to the Brasov county, the asphalt ends and the descent towards the village of Sirnea begins.

From the village center, we turn left and soon cross route no. 6, which follows the same course from this point to Zarnesti.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Prapastii – La Table – Curmatura Groapelor – Sirnea – Pestera – Magura – Zarnesti – Red on the Indicator Arrows

A medium-difficulty but very varied route. It shares the same path as route no. 4 up to the Joaca pass, where it bifurcates to the right and crosses a clearing before descending on a tractor road to the asphalt road that climbs to Curmatura Groapelor, passing the old border between Romania and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and offering a spectacular view of the mountain villages and Bucegi.

The descent to the village of Sirnea via the Fruntes road is very rocky and requires caution to avoid potential accidents. At the end of the road, we turn left, having to open a gate that limits livestock access.

After another descending section, a short but very steep climb takes us to the asphalt road that climbs from Moeciu to the village of Pestera. On the way up, on the right side, there is a spring that can be used to replenish the water supply.

From the end of the asphalt road, the route descends to the village of Magura, then to the Botorog spring, and finally to Zarnesti, thus completing a complex route.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Magura – Cave – Moieciu de Jos – Magura – Zarnesti – Red on the Indicator Arrows

A medium-difficulty route. It follows the same path as route no. 8 to Valia cu Calea, from where it continues straight through the village of Magura, passing over the Prapastiilor Zarnestiului.

After a brief descent, another sustained climb is made to the village of Pestera, where we find the asphalt road. During the climb, we can admire the traditional architecture of the mountain village, as well as the fields full of colorful flowers, mowed in summer by the locals, and in the background, the Bran side of Bucegi and the eastern slope of Piatra Craiului.

From the Cave, a quick descent begins on asphalt towards Moieciu, which must be approached with caution due to the tight curves and the potential for high speeds. Additionally, especially at the weekend, car traffic increases significantly in this sector. Also in this area is the Bat Cave, which gave its name to the village. Upon reaching the end of the descent, we soon cross route no. 4, which we will follow until the end.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Magura – Valea cu Calea – Magura – Zarnesti – Medium Difficulty Route – Black on the Indicator Arrows

A medium-difficulty route where the short distance is compensated by the elevation gain. Until the Magurii Bridge, the route is identical to that described in no. 4. From here, we turn left and climb the Magurii Bends to the village. After about 3 km, the climb ends, and we leave the forest.

A brief descent follows, during which we can admire the traditional architecture of the mountain village and the steep Branean Bucegi. We turn left and cross the village to Vaia cu Calea, where a sign indicates the start of a spectacular descent towards Moeciu de Jos on the left. The route will test the cyclists’ technique due to the steep gradient and the deep ruts carved by rain. There are several water crossings, full of mud puddles.

At the end of the valley, we turn left and follow the asphalt road to the intersection with Valea Pescarului, where there is an information panel. From here, a forest road climbs to the village of Magura, passing some relays and offering spectacular views of the Bran lands. At the end of the climb, we close our circuit before descending back to Zarnesti.

Download route in gpx

Zarnesti – Prapastii – Cabana Curmatura – Zarnesti – Difficult Route – Black on the Indicator Arrows

A difficult route due to the elevation gain. From the Zarnesti Tourist Information Center, we follow the signs to Magura and Prapastii, which will take us to the Gura Raului cabin, where the asphalt road ends and a forest road begins in the Raului Valley. After a brief climb, we cross an old stone quarry and soon find a place set up for camping and picnicking. Immediately after the curve, on the right, is the Botorog spring, where water can be obtained.

At Podul Magurii, we leave the road that climbs to the village on the left and continue straight to the wharf, passing the water intakes and the guardhouse. We soon reach the entrance to Prapastii, where a barrier limits vehicle access to this spectacular gorge sector. The cobblestone road begins to climb along the limestone walls that house numerous black goats.

After a section with switchbacks, at the exit from the wharf, we leave the Vladusca road on the left and continue with a brief climb before turning right towards the Curmatura guesthouse. Two steep sections, called Panta Mare and Panta Mica by the locals, challenge cyclists with climbing skills. Near the cabin, there are two springs that serve for rehydration and water replenishment.

A long descent back to Zarnesti rewards the effort made up to this point.

Download route in gpx

Dambovicioara – Podu Dambovitei – Satic – Cabana Garofita Pietrei Craiului – Easy Route – Blue on the Indicator Arrows

An easy route, recommended for all categories of cyclists. From the intersection with the road leading to the village of Ciocanu, we follow the asphalt road that skirts the Dambovicioara Valley, crossing a spectacular gorge sector, and reach the Dambovitei Bridge on the national road, where we turn right, cross the bridge that gave the village its name, and enter the Dambovitei Gorges, where the asphalt ends.

At the exit from the wharf, we find the first houses of Satic, then pass a dam and continue along the Dambovita to the intersection with Valea Dragoslovenilor, where we cross to the right over a bridge. The installed barrier limits vehicle access, and the climb to the Pietrei Craiului Garofita cabin becomes steeper, and we can observe signs of wildlife presence.

Upon reaching the cabin, we can admire the steep limestone walls, extremely photogenic in the sunset light. A hike to the Great Grohotis and the Cerdacul Stanciului can complete this route, offering the opportunity to spot black woodpeckers and the rich flora of Piatra Craiului.

Download route in gpx

Dambovicioara – Podu Dambovitei – Valea Cheii – Fundatica – Fundata – Sirnea – Ciocanu – Dambovicioara – Medium Difficulty Route – Red on the Indicator Arrows

A medium-difficulty route. From the starting point, the route is shared with route no. 10, from where it bifurcates at the Dambovitei Bridge, following the European road for a few hundred meters before leaving the asphalt road and turning right, entering again into the territory of Piatra Craiului National Park.

After crossing a gorge sector, we cross Valea Cheii on a forest road and begin climbing towards Fundata. The signs indicate our direction at the intersections, and after a sustained climb, we reach Fundata where the asphalt road resumes. At the intersection with the European road, we turn left towards Rucar, but after a few hundred meters, we turn right towards Sirnea on a tractor road.

We soon reach the newly paved road that takes us to the village center. A final stretch of paved road climbs to the village of Ciocanu, where we again meet the asphalt road. A quick descent takes us back to the starting point in Dambovicioara, thus completing our circuit.

Download route in gpx

We also recommend visiting Cozia National Park.