Hikes in Rila Mountains

Region in Bulgaria

Hiking in the Rila Mountains grants explorers a palette of supernatural views as they meander further from reality into a land where tales of adventure come to life. The Rila Mountains soar high above Bulgaria’s southwestern region. Still, when you approach the layers of peaks, you’ll find lakes nestled in an arena of jagged peaks and various staggering landscapes.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll want to add the Rila Mountains to your hiking bucking list, but keep in mind that a vacation here isn’t your typical beach-lazing holiday. It’s an adventurous excursion that will have you walking carved-out trails and getting spoiled by views and lush scenery rather than luxurious amenities.

But while several explorers decide to stay in the simple huts standing in the thick of the wild, you can always stay in Borovets, the cozy ski resort. This way, you’ll experience a mixture of pampered relaxation and outdoor adventure.

You may also be tempted to visit Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, which sits just 70.0 km away from the Rila Mountains, but trust us, you won’t want to leave the glacial lakes and dramatic views cloaking this lovely region in southwest Bulgaria.

The 5 Greatest Hikes in the Rila Mountains

Avid hikers will love the blend of temperate to challenging trails sketched into the Rila Mountains. While most of the hikes attract experienced hikers, families will be happy to know that there are some entertaining trails for older children, too, such as Yonchevo Lake, which snakes to the ever-so mystical Scary Lake. Or you can take the long, but easy-to-navigate Small Bears Peak hike with your family. No matter where you’ll go, you’ll encounter a panoply of eerie vistas.

However, if you only have time to do one, it’s definitely recommended to do The Eye, which unveils the famed Seven Rila Lakes.

Let’s take a look at the five most significant hikes in the Rila Mountains:

Yonchevo Lake: Blanketed with an eerie, dramatic ambiance, this hike twists to the famed Scary Lake, where the jagged peaks cradling this shimmering body of water reflect. This 11 km loop has been one of the most popular hikes in Bulgaria for quite some time.

Small Bears Peak: The grassy terrain carrying hikers across this remarkable 21.0 km route winds to a refreshing perspective of Bulgaria. En route, you’ll come across a rainbow of colours and an onset of charming, memorable views. Walk through meadows, forests, and along a creek!

Mount Musala: This hike has been a long-time favourite in Bulgaria! Soaring at 2,926 m above sea level, Mt. Musala—the highest summit in the Balkan peninsula—demands attention. Located in the Rila range, this 12.0 km trail reveals magnificent views of glimmering lakes and memorable mountainscapes. This out-and-back trail never fails to disappoint.

The Eye: If you’re only planning on doing one hike in the Rila Mountains, it’s recommended to do this one. This hike takes you to Bulgaria’s ever-so-famous lake, The Eye, and unveils the Seven Rila Lakes. To top it off, you’ll discover a rip-roaring waterfall and also climb atop an extraordinary summit.

Mt. Malyovitsa: Admire the 1,000 ft tall north face of the soaring Mt. Malyovitsa on this 13.0 km hike. But it’s not only the supernatural shapes of this summit that enchant the number of hikers and adventurers to this route, but the shimmering Deer Lake adds another layer of fantastic to your hiking experience!

When is the Best Time to Hike in the Rila Mountains

Do you love hiking through all of the seasons? The Rila Mountains are for you! But you should know how to traverse snowy landscapes. When the winter winds take over the autumn hues, it can be quite dangerous to walk some of these routes. Therefore, it’s best to know some avalanche safety. Do bring an avalanche transceiver, snowshoes, avalanche shovel, and probe when you hike during the winter. And check the hiking conditions before you go!

Other Outdoor Activities near the Rila Mountains

Not only can you hike when snow cloaks the land, but you can embark on snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding adventures. You can hit the slopes at Borovets, the ski resort, or snake through the fairyland of backcountry powder.

If you want to try other mountain ranges, opt to hike, ski, snowshoe, or cycle around Pirin National Park, which also sits in southwestern Bulgaria. Or you can go for some mountain biking excursions around the Rhodope mountains.

Other Outdoor Activities in the Rila Mountains

If you want less rugged, daring adventures, you can opt to tour the Rila monastery, where you can also taste an array of local wines!

How to plan a trip to the Rila Mountains

Planning an adventure to the Rila Mountains? We can help you out! To ensure that your visit to the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria is problem-free, we’ve pieced together a guide. In it, you’ll discover a collection of information that will help you prepare for your trip to Bulgaria.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Rila Mountains

Is hiking in the Rila Mountains safe?

Yes! But, it’s vital to know avalanche safety protocols before you hike in the winter.

Do I need a guide to hike in the Rila Mountains?

No! You can go on your own hikes. Yet, if you want a guide, you can always look into this guided hiking tour!

Where should I stay in the Rila Mountains?

You can stay at Borovets. However, if you want a more mountainous setting, you can always look into the number of mountain huts dotting the Rila Mountains.

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Best Hikes in Rila Mountains

Open details for Malyovitsa Mountain

Malyovitsa Mountain

Hard
13.0 km
959 m
5-7h

Mount Malyovitsa, with its 2,729 m above the sea level, might not be the highest summit in the Rila range. However, with its imposing 1,000 ft tall north face, the mountain is considered the one symbol of mountaineering and alpinism in Bulgaria. For more than a century now, the fantastic shape of Malyovitsa has provoked people's desire to get closer to the wilderness–this climb will always be one of the best hikes in Bulgaria.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.9
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Mount Musala

Mount Musala

Moderate
12.0 km
508 m
3.5-5h

With its 2,926 m or exactly 9,600 ft above the sea level, Mount Musala is the highest summit of the entire Balkan peninsula. It sits in the eastern part of the Rila range, above the famous Borovets Ski resort. Many people incorrectly think that the Ottomans came up with its name, but its title derives from Arabic travelers. Translated from their language, the name means “highest altar before God." This one-day route will allow you to ascent the summit through the northern, more raw and imposing side.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
10.0
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Yonchevo Lake

Yonchevo Lake

Hard
11.0 km
802 m
4-6h

In the eastern part of Malyovitsa range—the most exciting part of the Rila Mountains—lies Yonchevo Lake (also called Scary Lake) and the shelter with the same name. The lake, cradled by towering boulders, exudes an eerie, mystical, enchanting feeling. While the lake itself doesn’t look scary, but it’s the rocky, jagged peaks casting their reflections into the crystal clear waters encircling this lake that do. This 11.0 km circuit hike is one of Bulgaria’s most classic, loved routes, and for good reason.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
10.0
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Okoto Lake

Okoto Lake

Very Hard
16.0 km
1,218 m
6-8.5h

It is absolutely impossible to have the best hikes in the Rila Mountain Range, without one of them being the ever-so mystical, Okoto Lake - one of the magical Seven Rila Lakes. This world-famous place is the heart and soul of Rila. And when you combine it with a visit to a waterfall shimmering with enchantment and a climb to a remarkable summit, the result is an exciting round trip of one of the most classic hikes spanning Bulgaria.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
10.0
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Advanced (Diamond)
Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
Open details for Small Bears Peak

Small Bears Peak

Very Hard
21.0 km
813 m
6-8.5h

This classic trek gives the hiker a different perspective of the highest mountains spanning Bulgaria, offering mild, grassy, and easy-to-navigate terrain. The Small Bears Peak hike may be gentle, but it uncovers the diverse nature colouring the landscape. Even the oldest Nature Reservation in the Balkan peninsula thrives here!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
10.0
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.

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