As a country, Romania has a lot to offer not just in terms of its scenery but also in its vast array of geographical areas and formations. With that in mind, this country can be perfect for rock climbing enthusiasts as a large chunk of the Carpathian Mountains is to be found here.
More and more Romanians are getting interested in rock climbing. It is a perfect sport for those who work sedentary jobs. The climate and even the surroundings that you get to see are all breathtaking. No route is the same but the variety seen in the Carpathian Mountains includes a series of routes that range in difficulty, in how remote they are and also in the length that it takes to complete them.
When researching this subject, I’ve come across various accounts of some anchors being rusty and placed decades ago. So when embarking on sport climbing routes in Romania, bear in mind that you should always asses how strong the anchors look like and plan for bringing your own trad gear with you.
With that in mind, there are some routes that have gotten more popular over the years and in this post we’ll dive into the 9 most popular climbing locations in Romania.
1. Piatra Craiului Mountains
Geologist Emmanuel de Martinez called Piatra Craiuliu “a big morfological accident”.
The area certain makes for an unique landscape.
These mountains are home to beautifully exposed rock formations that lead to caves and gorges that can pose a big challenge even to experienced rock climbers as they have some very steep vertical walls that grow narrow in some route sections.
While you can find over 200 routes of every difficulty available, both in slope and on-wall problem difficulty, most of them are not often frequented by climbers. This means that some of the bolts are either rusted or overgrown, which is why bringing your own trad gear is a great idea if you want to explore all routes in this area.
Most of these routes are found in the various valleys of Piatra Craiului, including Valea Crapaturii, Padina Popii, Padina lui Calinet, Valea Podurilor, Turnurile Dianei, Braul Cioranga, and Zona Marelui Grohotis.
If you plan to access these rock-climbing routes, know that the nearest town from which you can have access is Zarnesti. If you are heading to the western routes, go towards Plaiul Foii or Gura Raului for the eastern paths. You can also access some of the routes by heading from Zarnesti to Podu Dambovitei.
To climb in Piatra Crailiu, you need to buy a ticket to access the national park.
It’s vital that you bring water with you, as you will find no water sources once you’re up the mountain. It is reported that there are some options to get water at the base of the mountain, though, either at one of the shacks or at a spring. Personally, I’d make sure to bring plenty before I’d drive to the area.
If you’re looking for multi pitch routes, there’s plenty of them on the northern side of Piatra Crauiliu. The Southern part of the area has the easier routes and this is where the sport climbing routes are set up.
Rock Types: limestone
Type of protection: Bolts, pegs, trad gear
Great to bring: bring trad gear with you as you can’t solely rely on the bolts during the multi pitches
Routes: about 200
Highest point: 2238 meters, called “La Om”
Closest city: Zarnesti
Entry fee: yes
2. Bucegi Mountains
Not too far to the east of the Piatra Crailiu mountain range, lie the Bucegi mountains.
This Romanian hotspot for rock climbing boasts over 100 routes ranging from beginner to expert level, and it’s the most eastern climbing location in the southern Carpathians.
Some of the main climbing areas in the Bucegi Mountains are Jepii Mici, Caraiman, Costila, Morarul, Bucsoiul, St. Anne’s Rock, the Ant Mountain, and Turnul Secuiului.
It’s a versatile area where you can enjoy most climbing disciplines: it’s elevated enough for a good ice climb during the winter, while you can top rope or trad climb in the summer. Want to go multi pitching on a big wall? The Bucegi mountains have got you covered for that as well.
Some of the more popular rock climbing routes are the two valleys called Valea Spumoasa and Valea Alba. For those who are up for a real oddity, there is The Jack (or the Sphinx), a boulder on a mountain top, that looks like a man’s face set in stone and it has been surrounded by local legends and lore. Don’t climb the boulder itself (out of respect for the local lore), but the mountain on top of which it stands is a nice rock climbing challenge! The easiest path for beginners is the Horoba Cave path.
If you’re wondering about the closest cities for all of these routes, these vary based on your choice.
The closest cities are Sinaia, Busteni, Predeal, Bran, Rasnov, and Pietrosita. However, the most popular location for most rock climbing enthusiasts is Busteni.
The car ride from these cities to the access points for the specific paths should take no more than one or two hours.
Rock types: conglomerates
Type of protection: Bolts, pegs
Highest point: 2505 meters (Omu Peak)
Nearby city: Busteni, about 1-2 hours drive
3. Hasmas Mountains
If one were to name just one of the countless Romanian climbing locations THE Valhalla for experience rock climbers, Hasmas mountains would probably be it.
With difficult routes such as on the Bicaz gorges, the Hasmas mountains offer the most hard core climbing routes on this list.
The Hasmas Mountains also offer beautiful sights no matter the type of path that you choose for your rock climbing experience.
There are four massive mountain formations called:
- Hasmasul Mare (with 28 routes to choose from),
- Cheile Bicazului
- Cheile Bicajelului (it has 12 rock climbing paths)
- Cheile Sugaului – Munticelu (this one has 45 climbing routes)
You can access these mountains easily as they are close to Lacul Rosu, a popular tourist location in Romania. If you are not close to Lacul Rosu, you can go via car ride from Bacau or Targu Mures, reach Lacul Rosu and then proceed.
The Hasmas mountains are popular amongst Romanians as it is more remote than the others. While Cheile Bicazului is the most popular (it is discussed in a separate section) the other three are more secluded, with beautiful sights.
Salvamont is the organization in charge with mountain rescue in this area. They can also give you technical information on how safe the paths are based on their upkeep and accessibility.
Rock types: limestone, sandstone
Type of protection: bolts, pegs
Routes: the highest number of difficult climbs in Romania
Closest city: Lacul Rosu
4. Parang Mountains
The Parang Mountains are by far one of the most popular mountaineering locations in Romania. If you are up for a challenge, some of the routes can get you to one of the highest peaks in Romania that are found in these mountains called Parangul Mare.
The peak can be reached by hiking and scrambling. But there’s a bit of actual rock climbing to be done in the Parang Mountains as well, as there are certainly some steep cliffs found on these mountains. In the winter, skiing is a great way to get down!
The mountain has two massifs called Cheile Galbenului, with 135 different rock climbing routes, and Cheile Oltetului, that only has 15 rock climbing routes. There are 10 routes fit for beginner rock climbers but most of them, over 40, are of medium difficulty and almost 30 are only for experienced rock climbers.
In Cheile Oltetului the distance between some rock walls is 3-4 m in the lower part and up to 10-20 m in the upper parts. If you are up for a challenge, the rock climbing paths in Cheile Galbenului can get you up to Pestera Muierii (Romanian for “Woman’s Cave”) a cave popular for its speleothems If you want to reach these rock climbing routes, the closest towns that can give you access are Petrosani and Targu-Jiu.
Rock types: limestone
Type of protection: bolts, pegs, Trad
Highest point: 2519 meters
Nearby city: Petrosani
5. Cheile Rasnovului ("Rasnoavelor Gorge")
Cheile Rasnovului is a preferred rock climbing area for most Romanian rock climbers since it is very easy to access the routes here. This location is great for those who care about easy retreats after climbing. The degree of difficulty for these routes is between 2A and 6A. When it comes to the inclination level this can be anywhere between 70 and 120 degrees.
One rock climbing route that comes highly recommended is Pietrele lui Solomon (“Solomon’s Stones”), where you can find many calcareous walls with plenty of cracks that are suited for climbing.
Other routes that are very popular with Romanian rock climbers are Bolovanul Prostului, Faleza Metalexpert, and Zona lui Titus. They are of moderate difficulty but, as the areas are pretty popular, the routes are well maintained. Moreover, you can find extra routes that sprout off from your main rock climbing path at certain junctions, offering you options in how you want to tackle the mountain and reach the top.
The easiest way to get here is by following the DN 73A road Predeal – Rasnov. There are 20 kilometers from Predeal to Rasnov and 8 kilometers from Rasnov to Cheile Rasnoavei. Please be aware that the roads here are more narrow since they are actually cut into the rock.
Rock types: limestone walls
Type of protection: bolts, pegs
6. Cheile Turzii ("Turda Gorge")
Cheile Turzii is one of the most popular and most interesting natural reservations that include rock climbing routes in Romania. Here you can find over 350 different climbing routes of varying difficulties. If you want a challenge to know that the rock climbing route that leads to Pestera Ungureasca (“Ungureasca Cave”) is the most difficult route in the entire country.
The best weather for going on these routes is anywhere between April and November. While you are researching your favorite project, know that those marked with “AID” are currently not suitable for climbers. Some of the old tracks are equipped almost exclusively with pegs. It is advised that you stay away from some of the oldest, non-corrosion resistant routes since they are in an advanced state of chemical degradation and can prove to be unreliable.
If you love to rock climb up to a cave, in Cheile Turzii there are around 60 different caves that are relatively small (only 8 of them are over 20 meters long) and most of the routes can get you up to them.
If you want to know how to get to Cheile Turzii, the closest town is Turda. From Turda there is only an 8-kilometer road that will get you to your destination. If Turda is still too vague for a location, the largest and closest city is Cluj, from which you can easily travel to Turda.
Rock types: Jurassic limestone
Type of protection: bolts, pegs, chord
Most difficult route in Romania: Pestera Ungureasca 8c+)
Closest city: Cluj
Special feat: great for cave climbing
7. Cheile Bicazului ("Bicaz Gorge")
The beauty of Cheile Bicazului stems in just how versatile they are for rock climbing enthusiasts. Home to over 200 climbing routes, this beautiful region is part of the Hasmas mountains but it deserves a whole section devoted to it. 136 of these routes are intended for sport climbing and 13 of them for trad climbing. You can find most of the routes in Fagetul Ciucului, Suhardul Mic and Peretele Bardosului.
The trek to the climbing areas will only take you around 10-30 minutes. There are a lot of accommodations for rock climbers both in Bicaz, the nearest town and around the gorge. A popular rock climbing path for those who want a challenge and have a lot of experience to back them up is Lacrima de Piatra, a difficult 6A path. This path is famous as it is one of the biggest in the country and as one with great sightseeing locations as you trek along. You’ll need about 15 quickdraws for the longest pitch.
Part of the Harghita and Neamt counties, you can get to them from Piatra Neamt by going towards Bicaz and from there all you have to do is follow the DN12C road which will take you to the Bicaz gorge.
Rock types: limestone
Type of protection: pegs, bolts
Nearest city: Bicaz
8. Baile Herculane
For those of you who want to see what the southwest of Romania has to offer in terms of rock climbing, Baile Herculane has a lot to offer. The maximum height here is 150m and most of the routes are a single pitch. In total, there are 375 different routes, out of which 297 are for sport climbing, 77 are trad. Oh, and there’s also one Via Ferrata route!
The majority of the routes are for experienced and expert rock climbers but that does not mean that there is no option for intermediate or beginner climbers, although fewer in number. Some of the more popular areas with paths are Roman, Magnolia, Colibri and Crucea Alba (“White Cross”) but do keep in mind that they are not strictly maintained so some pegs may have rusted and the routes might be overgrown.
The easiest way to reach Baile Herculane is via DN 6 (E 70). The closest city is Orsova just 80km away and if you are traveling by plane the closest airport is in Caransebes, which is also 80 km from Baile Herculane.
Rock types: limestone
Type of protection: fully bolted and some pegs
9. Ceahlau Massif
Some call it the Romanian Olympus.
And while I have not found any record of Zeus, Hephaestus or any other god to have been sighted here, climbers are in fact most regularly spotted in the Ceahlau Massif.
It’s a beautiful area with lots of rocky towers, like the famous Panaghia, that shoot upwards from the main ridge which stretches from the North to the South. The highest point is Ocolaşul Mare, at 1907 meters; a giant plateau that has cliffs on every side except for the North.
The beauty of these mountains stems not only from its numerous cliffs, conifer overgrowth or the various waterfalls that can be found in the area. It of course also comes from the rock climbing possibilities!
Because of how brittle the rocks are, not every face that you’ll come across will be suitable for climbing, however. You should be looking for relatively solid limestone and avoid the compounds.
The area is rather accessible to newer rock climbers as most of the routes are rather easy, ranging from as low as 2a to the intermediate level of 5a. You can expect to find some steep slopes with spectacularly exposed rocks.
That being said, it has been reported that a lot of the anchors in this area are in bad shape. The beautiful pillar of Panaghia is categorised as such, and so you should be really critical when assessing whether the routes are currently suitable for climbing if you decide to visit the area. Comment below if you’ve an update of the state of the anchors at Panaghia!
The mountain is divided into 5 different areas: Panaghia, Turnul lui Budu, Ocolasul Mare, Claia lui Miron, and Ocolasul Mic. In total, you can find 12 different routes here. Another great feature of these routes is that the Ceahlau Massif has plenty of caves and cave-like formations that can be explored as they are not very deep.
The nearest and largest town is Piatra Neamt. The car ride to the rock climbing sites will only take about one or two hours depending on traffic and the maintenance of the roads. Once you reach the Ceahlau National Park you can embark on the routes.
Because of the limited amount of routes and the reported poor shape they’re in, the Ceahlau Massif did not make the top of our list. The area is beautiful however, and should be worth a visit by anyone that is not interested exclusively in the sickest of rock climbing routes, but also in the general beauty of the landscape.
Rock types: limestone clay, often very brittle
Type of protection: Bolts and pegs
Height: 1907 meters
State of the anchors: below average
Romania is a great country for rock climbing enthusiasts!
Home to a substantial part of the Carpathian Mountains, challenging rock climbing routes are as plentiful as breathtaking sightings. While Romania could be one of the best rock climbing destinations in Europe, it isn’t as high up the list as it could be, because a lot of the sport climbing routes are in bad shape.
With a couple of fresh bolts, Romania could be one of the most visited rock climbing countries in a couple of years! Let’s hope it happens.