Once the leaves start to turn, there are only a few weeks left to enjoy the autumn colors in the countryside around Prague. And this fall has been particularly mild so far, affording ideal opportunities to head out for the day with a flask of tea and a backpack of sandwiches and explore the myriad hiking trails that connect so much of the Czech Republic. Here’s a roundup of several walks that give some of the best views of the changing landscape, so make sure you have a good pair of trek shoes and a Czech Tourist Club map for the area (available at most bookstores, with a good selection at Palác knih Luxor on Wenceslas Square). Check the Idos.cz websitefor train and bus timetables.
The Sázava Pacific
The Posázavská stezka trail is one of the most beloved trails near Prague, winding along the Sázava River with gorgeous views of the leafy river valley, which at this time of year is especially picturesque. The trail was opened in 1920 by the Czech Tourist Club, and while it runs an entire length of 68 kilometers, the route between its start at Petrov u Prahy and the village of Kamenný Přívoz, at about 12 kilometers, is a manageable and relatively easy trek for an afternoon. The path is mostly along a forested trail with several dips and climbs, and the canopy offers shelter from any seasonal showers that may cloud the day.
Trains run to Petrov u Prahy from Prague’s Hlavní nádraží almost hourly, and the 50-minute journey, which follows the Sázava Pacific train line, is worth the trip for the views along the river and the many pretty little villages along the way. After disembarking at the tiny station of Petrov, marked by little other than a small shelter, the red-marked trail (painted on signposts and trees) crosses the bridge and follows the grassy riverbank for a bit before curving up into the trees.
In Pikovice, the village served by the Petrov station, there are several pubs for pre-walk fueling, and the tiny village of Třebsín, about halfway along the trail with a slight 1-kilometer detour, has a pub, Restaurace U Novotných, with lunch specials, freshly poured pints and a wood stove; the inside can get oppressively smoky, though, so if the weather allows it’s preferable to take your pint to the picnic tables out front. Once in Kamenný Přívoz, there are several pubs, and the outdoor seats at Hostinec Na Staré Poště, right by the bridge, are especially nice, and inside is a wood-burning stove, as well.
To head back to Prague, you can either walk the additional 1.5 km up a slight incline to the train station, where trains run hourly, approximately, and return to Hlavní nádraží. Alternatively, there are also buses that leave from a stop just beyond the bridge, and which go to Budějovická.
Map: Czech Tourist Club No. 40, Benešovsko a dolní Posázaví
Kralupy to Okoř
The industrial town of Kralupy nad Vltavou, 40 minutes by train from Masarykovo nádraží, isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when heading out of the city for a day. But it’s a good starting point for a lovely walk through field and forest to the medieval ruins of Okoř, in Prague-West. The 12-kilometer route is well-varied, with scenes of idyllic country cottages, churches and views of the rolling landscape.
From Kralupy’s train station, find the marker for the red trail, which begins at the railway underpass about 200 meters from the station. The first kilometer or so wends through the edge of Kralupy, past several high-rise complexes and through a park, before the trail goes along the road in the sleepy village of Minice. After this point, the trail is softer on the feet, following a small stream and a quiet railway line for its duration. After about 5 kilometers, the path passes through the village of Otvovice (home to pop diva Lucie Bila), where the Restaurace Na Staré has several tables out back in nice weather.
Continuing on, at Zákolany the trail veers off the road and up a switchback past the Romanesque Rotunda of Sts. Peter and Paul in Budeč, where this is also an overlook of the surrounding countryside. The trail then heads into the woods for another several kilometers before passing through the charming cottage community called Colorado, on the outskirts of the village of Okoř. In Okoř, the castle ruins are definitely worth a visit, although the interiors are not always open. Okoř is also home to the wonderful Hotel Okor restaurant, attached to a small family-run hotel. Hotel Okoř has a stylish interior that brings to mind a French countryside inn, with tasteful antiques and comfortable seats. The restaurant does a very good steak in green-pepper sauce with pomme frite, as well as other options.
Note though that the last bus (which takes about 40 minutes to Dejvická) from Okoř back to Prague leaves at 6:48 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, so plan to set off accordingly early that morning or be prepared to take a taxi. If you’re truly relaxing and having a good time, the hotel has double rooms for 1,800 CZK a night.
Map: Czech Tourist Club No. 9, Podřipsko
The sprawling 271-square-kilometer nature reserve of Kokořínsko, located close to Mělník, central Bohemia, has enough trails and interesting rock formations to merit a week’s visit, but it is also doable for a daytrip if one has a car or is prepared for an early start (in the summer, the area is more easily accessible by train and bus). The area closest to Kokořín Castle (which dates to 1320) is the most accessible by bus from Mělník, and there are several options for hilly walks between the village of Kokořín and the nearby village of Mšeno, for example, which is also served by the bus route.
The protected area is dense with trees, and there are many sandstone rock towns throughout, as well as several other castles, ruins and points of interest. A loop of approximately 12.5 kilometers is the shortest, with many possible extensions along the way. For a day’s visit, there’s a bus that goes to Kokořín, for example, at 8 a.m. on the dot from Nádraží Holešovice, with a change in Mělník, and gets in at 9:45. From the same Kokořín stop, there’s a direct bus back to Nádraží Holešovice that departs at 5:45 p.m. and gets in at 6:50 p.m.
If you’d prefer to stay the night, Penzion Malba, located on the main road close to Kokořín Castle, has clean, modern rooms with balconies overlooking the trees for 490 CZK per person per night. Nearby, the restaurant and pub U Grobiána, which gets crowded with cyclists along the route, serves up traditional Czech fare and pints of crisp Svijany in simple, pretty rooms or out on the shady terrace.
Map: Czech Tourist Club No. 16, Mělnicko a Kokořínsko
How do you plan to catch a last glimpse of autumn colors?