Hiking through Râmet Gorge: a very watery adventure

One of the hikes that I’ve most enjoyed so far led through Râmet Gorge, or Cheile Râmetului in Romanian. It is perhaps the most spectacular hike in the Trascău Mountains: walking this trail means actually having to wade through the river that streams through the gorge, for a distance of about two kilometres. The water streams pretty fast and can reach as high as your chest in some places – although in those cases you can always rely on cables and footholds in the wall of the gorge. This hike is absolutely delightful on a hot day and the scenery is stunning. If this sounds like fun, read on and find out more.

The Trascău Mountains are located east of the Apuseni Natural Park, and therefore are close to Cluj. I started this hike from the village of Salciua de Jos in the Arieş Valley. You can take a bus from Cluj or Turda to get there, and ask the driver to stop at the suspension bridge (podul suspendat). He’ll know.

So let’s get started. Cross the suspension bridge over the Arieş river. When you reach the road after 450m, head northeast onto the blue cross route towards Huda lui Papara and the monastery, along the Valea Morilor. After 3km you will see the first houses of Sub Piatră (‘under the rock’); after 3.3km, turn right towards Huda lui Papara cave. After 300m, cross another suspension bridge. Huda lui Papara cave is just off the trail; to reach it, turn left just after you’ve crossed the stream. It is possible to enter the cave, but not without wetting your feet – leave your luggage behind if you want to explore it, and only do so when you feel confident hiking through water; and bring a headlight.

To continue towards Râmet Gorge, walk up to the info panel at the end of the suspension bridge, then turn left immediately onto a grassy trail that leads south along a fence, and head up into the forest. Climb up the hill until you get to a forest road. From here, you will have beautiful views of the Trascău and Muntele Mare Mountains behind you. Turn left (southeast) onto the forest road to Râmet Gorge (4–5hrs; 1hr 30mins–2hrs to Brădeşti). You will soon see an info panel; here, you have the option to make a short detour to Vănătările Ponorului; essentially a big pit (80 metres deep) into which three streams disappear with much roaring. You can also admire the Dâlbina waterfall here. To reach it, turn right onto the blue stripe route, and return to the forest road to continue towards Râmet Gorge through very lush scenery.

After 11.5km, you will reach the hamlet of Brădeşti. Only eight families live in the village today. Turn right past the shop, towards Cheia. Almost immediately, turn right again (west-southwest). When you see a traditional hut with a straw roof with a waymark painted on the wall, walk around it and head down a narrow trail and subsequently an earthen staircase. Initially it takes you northeast, then southwest, as you descend down a grassy trail which soon delves into the forest, where the trail runs next to a lively little stream. After 14.5km, the trail forks; keep going straight ahead. You will pass a spring soon; the path is lined with mint. When you see a signpost (15mins to Râmet Gorge, 3hrs 15mins to Cabana Râmet), cross the stream; when you see a marked wooden hut, continue south (bear left), which means you need to cross the stream again. After about 1km from this point, cross a dry streambed over a wooden beam (assisted by a cable) and continue south. You’ll pass a camping spot – if you prefer you can split this trail in two and stay here overnight. However, it is perfectly doable to tackle this trail in one day. Just a little further down, as you meet a stream (the Geoagiu), turn left (east) at a signpost towards Cabana Râmet (2hrs).

Cross the stream when you see a blue triangle on a pole; then turn right onto a narrow trail along the stream; it is marked blue cross and blue triangle, but marks are sparse. After 16.5km, the blue triangle trail departs to the left (east); continue straight ahead (south) on the blue cross trail. After 100m, the fun begins: to follow the trail, you will have to descend into the stream. There are some sections with cables and footholds; however, only use these when absolutely necessary – wading is probably the safer option. There is an amazing rock arch halfway through the gorge; you can attempt to wade through but the water is very deep here, so you might want to bypass it by using the path to the right. After about 18km, you can climb back onto dry land; the trail continues to the right of the stream. Continue down the gravel road until you see Cabana Râmet on the left. Cabana Râmet does not serve dinner unless there is a big group in which case you may be able to obtain a portion; but there is a bar just 300m down the road that serves mici and fries, among other things. Cabana Râmet does have a little shop, as does the bar.

Although this trail isn’t difficult, I’ll admit it is a bit long. If you just want to hike through the gorge and have a car, you can drive up to either Cheia in the west or Valea Mănăstirii at the eastern end of the gorge (where you’ll also find Cabana Râmet). The disadvantage of this, of course, is that you’ll have to get back to your car, so you’ll either have to traverse the gorge twice, or go over the challenging cliffs of Brâna Caprei (blue triangle trail) the second time round. Whatever you decide, have fun and keep your wits together – it’s a tricky trail! However, I’ve seen entire families do it – and even a couple carrying a baby.

Some practicalities: bring shoewear that you don’t mind getting wet, like Teva sandals. If you want to keep your stuff dry, either don’t fall into the water or bring a waterproof bag for your belongings and splash around as much as you want. And while you’re in Râmet, don’t forget to visit the beautiful and ancient monastery just down the road. Enjoy!

Distance: 21.5km | Time: 7hrs 30mins | Total ascent: 865m | Total descent: 800m | Altitude range: 438-982m | Cabana Râmet: +40 729 034 370

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