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In Slovenský Raj, rocky plateaus, hills and primeval forests are interlaced with thrashing streams and waterfalls. This is some of the most thrilling hiking terrain in Slovakia, and not for the timid: treks usually involve scaling metal ladders or balancing on footbridges over cascades. Aside from the exhilaration of being lashed with crystal water, the rewards are breathtakingly green views. Trails are challenging but well-marked, and multilingual staff at the information centres offer excellent advice.
Within Slovenský Raj's dramatic karst bedrock are more than 500 caves, while the meadows are a habitat for rare orchid species. More than 90% of the park is forested, and European honey buzzards, golden eagles and 2000 butterfly species fly through.
The park has 300km of walking trails. One of the loveliest (and most popular) routes from Podlesok is the two- to four-hour ascent up the dramatic, ladder and technical-assist Suchá Belá Gorge, then east to Kláštorisko Chata, where you'll find a reconstructed 13th-century Carthusian monastery, on yellow then red trails. From there, take the blue trail down to the Hornád River, then follow the river gorge upstream to return to Podlesok. Start at 8am or 9am on popular trails: in high summer, it's common to queue for the ladders later in the day.
From Čingov a green trail leads up Hornád River Gorge an hour to Tomašovský výhľad, a 146m-high rocky outcropping and overlook that is a good short-hike destination. Or continue to the green, one-way, technically aided Kláštorisko Gorge trail (five hours). You can also reach the Kláštorisko Gorge ascent from Podlesok (two hours). There is accommodation available at Kláštorisko Chata.
One of the shortest, dramatic, technical-assist hikes starts at Biele Vody (15 minutes northeast of Dedinky via the red trail) and follows the green trail up Zejmarská Gorge. The physically fit can clamber up in 50 minutes. To get back, you can follow the green trail down to Dedinky, or there's a chairlift that works sporadically.