The Galbena Gorge: an exhilarating hike in the Apuseni

I’ve written about the Apuseni before, but I promised to write more – and there is lots more. I haven’t been able to explore everything but there is one route that stays with me: the fabulous hike through the Galbena Gorge. The Apuseni generally makes for gentle walking, but this circular route is a good deal more challenging than most. So if you want to combine some easy hiking through the hills of the Apuseni with some clambering, this one is for you.

The Galbena Gorge is part of the karstic landscape that composes the heart of the Apuseni mountains; better known as the Padiș region. The Galbena river that flows through the gorge emerges at the Evantai waterfall; its waters have flown underground for about four kilometres and come all the way from the Cetăţile Ponorului, another interesting karstic formation.

The route to the Galbena Gorge is best accessed from Cabana Cetăţile Ponorului. It is fairly easy to get there; start in Statiunea Vârtop and walk north on the red stripe trail from Pensiunea Marieta on the DN75 road (about 7km). To get to Vârtop, take a bus from Câmpeni (see All the buses that head for Arieșeni also stop in Vârtop.

Once you have arrived at Cabana Cetăţile Ponorului, you might want to leave your luggage there and camp overnight, or stay in the cabana. You could also take in the Cetăţile Ponorului circuit (blue circle trail, about 5km) on the same day. The Galbena circuit (yellow circle trail) is best tackled on a separate day though.


From Cabana Cetăţile Ponorului, follow the gravel road north for about 500m, then turn left onto the combined blue/yellow circle trail. Keep left towards the Galbena Gorge. Head up a steep rocky gully for about 100m and continue on a beautiful path that takes you deeper into the forest. About 1.8km from the start, turn right to Pietrele Galbenei. After Aven Borțig, a scarily deep pit cave, turn right onto the yellow dartboard trail to Pietrele Galbenei – it will take you to a beautiful viewpoint. If you want to avoid the detour though, you can opt to go straight ahead instead.

From Pietrele Galbenei (1243m), continue down the yellow dartboard trail and turn left to Ghetarul de la Focul Viu (the cave of the living fire, which, despite its name, is an ice cave). You can’t enter the cave but you can see the ice block through the grate. From the cave, turn left (southwest) to Poiana Florilor and Cheile Galbenei. There are two trails here; the signpost is slightly misleading. Descend down the left one marked yellow circle and red stripe. The trail leads through forest and several meadows; about 6km from the start turn right (southwest) to reach Poiana Florilor. Follow a cart track for about 15mins to reach a road which marks the start of the Galbena Gorge. Cross the bridge and turn left to enter the gorge.

For starters, you are treated to a tricky section: shuffle over a chain and hold on tight to the cable above. Next, head up to the right, assisted by a cable. Another cable leads you down through a natural tunnel. Be careful – it is very steep and slippery, so a firm grip is needed. Continue for 300m to reach the gorgeous Evantai waterfall. There is a cable attached to the rocks here, but there is no foothold – the safest option is to take your shoes off and wade through the icy water and climb up the rocks, through a smaller waterfall.

After the waterfall, the trail bends to the left (northeast) and goes up; there is a waymark right above the waterfall. The path hugs the flank of the massive rock the waterfall flows from; you will soon pass two giant caves the water flows through. When you reach the second cave, follow the arrow to the right, then immediately up to the left, following another arrow, up the sheer rock wall – there is a chain. Pass a series of glorious smaller waterfalls, and eventually reach the blue eye of Izbucul Galbenei, one end of a siphon cave at the head of the gorge.

Walk around the pool so that you end up on the other side of the stream; head southwest for a bit, parallel to the stream. The trail soon swings to the northwest, up into the forest. When you see four signposts on trees, turn right towards Padiş (northeast). The trail winds up through the forest to an altitude of 1230m, and brings you back to the point where you turned right to Aven Borţig. Continue east, down the way you came. Follow the yellow circle back to the road and turn right to arrive back at Cabana Cetăţile Ponorului after 500m.

Sounds like fun, right? A word of warning: do not attempt this walk on a wet day; the section through the gorge is humid and slippery enough as it is. Also, you will have to rely on your grip; so if you don’t trust the strength of your hands then perhaps this one isn’t for you. But you probably are strong enough – the most important thing is that you actually believe that you are; that you rely on yourself and don’t doubt your abilities.

Distance: 11km | Time: 6hrs | Total ascent/descent: 1050m | Highest point: 1243m

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Please note the data (distance, altitude gained/lost) are different from mine; outdooractive does its own calculating. I can edit these details, but can’t feel bothered right now. 😉

8 thoughts on “The Galbena Gorge: an exhilarating hike in the Apuseni

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