The Latoritei Mountain Ridge is one of the longest and most spectacular high ridge mountain-biking trail in Romania. It is crossed by a paved and dirt road of 42 km, from the Ștefanu Saddle up to the Măceşului Valley. The road is known under the name of Strategica or the Strategic Road. It goes on about 17 km in the alpine tundra, at altitudes of 1800 m -2000 m. After that it descends on the ridge scattered with dwellings up to 540 m altitude, on the road DN7A, in the Măceşului Valley. This road is an invitation to a real adventure for the enthusiasts of mountain bike.
Obârşia Lotrului Chalet (1350 m) – The Ştefanu Saddle (1915 m) – The Pietrile Saddle- The Plaiul Poienii Ranger House- The Măceşului Valley (540 m) – Voineasa – Curmătura Viduţei (1571 m) – Obârşia Lotrului
- total distance (aprox.): 105 km
- elevation gain (aprox.): 2120 m
- highest altitude: 1990 m
- minimum altitude 540 m
- without tourist marking
- the trail can be done in 2 days as well. There are accomodation possibilities on the Măceşului Valley and in Voineasa.
- for this circuit trail, you can let your car in the parking at the Obârşia Lotrului Chalet.
The most affordable access towards the Latoritei Ridge is from Transalpina (DN 67C). Transalpina (DN 67C) is the highest road in Romania, reaching an altitude of 2145 m in the Urdele Pass.
In comparison, the maximum altitude is Transfagarasan is 2.042 metres. Transalpina makes the connection between the towns of Novaci in the Gorj county and Sebes in the Alba county, on a distance of 141 km. Transalpina crosses the Parang Mountains from Obarsia Lotrului to Ranca.
Initially used by the shepherds in Marginimea Sibiului to cross the mountains with their flocks of sheep in Țara Românească, the road was redone between 1934-1939 by king Charles II and rehabilitated during the Second World War. Following the asphalting after the 2010, Transalpina was officially opened to traffic in 2015. The road is closed during winter.
Strategica or the Strategic Road which crosses the Latoritei Ridge was built by the Germans during the First World War.
It emerges from the Transalpina in the Ștefanu Saddle, at 1915 metres. There is a wooden construction and a few info panels. From Obarsia Lotrului (1350 m) up to the Ștefanu Saddle (1915 m) you have to climb 12 km from Transalpina. Obarsia Lotrului is not only a place for camping with cabins, camping and cottages, but also a junction of auto and tourist roads. Here the Latoritei Mountains meet with the Şureanu and the Lotru Mountains. It is here as well that the Transalpina road intersects the mountain road Brezoi – Voineasa – Petrosani (DN7A – 106km, in poor condition on the section Petrosani-Obarsia Lotrului).
The Strategic Road is not marked, but at least it is easy to follow, in the alpine tundra. For the descent from the Fratoșteanu Peak up to the Măceşului Valley, even if the road follows the ridge, we recommend you to have a GPS track. The Strategic Road goes initially on the contour line, just under the rounded tops of the Latoritei Mountains. The road provide broad perspectives to the right, over the Latoritei Valley and the Căpățânii Mountains.
At about 3 km from the saddle, a road descends to a farm and beyond to the hidden lakes in the Latoritei Valley. Until the lakes there is a descent of about 300 m elevation gain for 4km. Unfortunately, the access for bikes is only for the first 2.5 km.
Further, the road (unmarked) becomes a path, barely visible and crosses the Latoritei Valley and a small forested ridge to reach one of the most isolated and wild areas in the Carpathians. It reaches a first lake, Violeta, situated among fir trees, in a swampy area.
At just a kilometer away you can find Lake Latoritei considered the glacial lake situated at the lowest altitude in the country: 1530 m. The climb to Lake Latoritei from the Cottage Petrimanu is marked with a yellow cross.
Returning back to our route of mountain-biking, after about 4.5 km away from the Ștefanu Saddle, the road passes under the chairlift of the ski slopes of Transalpina Ski Resort. After about 5 km away from the Ștefanu Saddle a grassy road goes down to the right, on the Latoritei Valley at the Cottage Petrimanu. Along 4 km, this road that turns further down to a path loses about a 500 m elevation gain, being hard to go on the bicycle saddle all the time. Another obstacle is the crossing of Latoritei, because there is no footbridge. This path, however, is the only way to go from the Latoritei Ridge to the Latoritei Valley, on the road.
Once on the valley you will see the forest road that passes by the lakes Galbenu (1300 m) and Petrimanu (1130 m). The waters of these lakes go through the underground galleries under the Latoritei Mountains, into Lake Vidra on the Lotru River, the largest reservoir in the area. Below the lakes, the Latorita crosses a deep and wild gorge, bordered by impressive precipices, with an elevation gain of over 500 m, to the Ciungetu.
The Strategic Road continues under one of the highest peaks in the Latoritei Mountains, the Puru Peak (2049 m). You reach a saddle with views over Lake Vidra and the most spectacular part of the Latoritei Mountains.
Next, there comes the limestone region of the Latorița, Mount Boarneșu. On the next 5 km, between the Pietrile Saddle (1760 m) and the Fratoșteanu Peak, the road goes on among the limestone spurs, seeming suspended between heaven and earth.
Down the road you can observe a huge portal, a result of the collapse of the ceiling of a cave.
Once arrived under the Fratoșteanu Peak you must make a detour to see a wide panorama over the surrounding mountains and over the lake Vidra.
In case of bad weather, under the Fratoșteanu Peak, to the north, there is a forest road that leads down to Curmătura Viduței (1571 m) and to the asphalted road between Voineasa and Obarsia Lotrului.
Further, a 25km descent follows, from 2053 m to 530 m to the Macesului Valley. First it crosses a forested area, then, it arrives in the glade that houses the ranger’s house of Plaiul Poienii. Here there is a spring, one of the few springs located in the Latoriței Ridge. Also, it is here that the road forks: the Strategic Road continues ahead on the ridge, and to the right a path descends to the Rudăreasa Valley, to Cingetu and further on up to the Macesului Valley (20 km). On the ridge, the road enters into the woods again on the next 7 km, and then it continues among the summer dwellings and meadows, with large views to the Lotru Valley. A slight ascent of about 100 m elevation gain precedes the final descent. This descent of about 5km and almost 600 m elevation gain is more difficult, because the dirt road is washed away by the waters, with deep gullies.
If you left the car at the Obarsia Lotrului Cottage, where there is a big parking lot, you would have to cycle from the Macesului Valley, on asphalt, on DN7A, almost 50 km and a 1000 m elevation gain. If you decide to stay overnight in the area you have countless possibilities of accommodation. Nearby, at about 7 km away there is the Voineasa Resort. Along 25 km, there is the possibility to avoid the asphalt which leads to Obarsia Lotrului by following the Lotru Valley. This unpaved variant of 27 km passes by the artificial lake Balindru and the dam of Lake Vidra.
At the dam, the road follows the shore of the lake on the deserted resort of Vidra and comes out to the paved road, DN7A, 16 km from Obarsia Lotrului.
Being a road that reaches altitudes of over 2000m you need mountain equipment :
– first, you need a good mountain bike
– second, you need to be prepared for cold weather even if you do the trip in summer. Make sure you have a foil survival jacket and pants resistant to rain and wind. Up on the ridge, the weather can change quickly. Temperatures can drop to freezing, the fog can appear suddenly, the wind can pose serious problems and a lightning thunderstorm can pause you. So check the weather before departure.
– third, you have to carry water and energy drinks.