The sun is shining, birds chirping and the beer gardens open once again. Spring has officially hit Prague and with it opens a many doors to activities that might be less attractive to do in minus degrees. To make sure the beers had in the gardens don’t stick around and make bikini season a mess, why not give Czechs’ favourite activity a try?
Hiking in the Czech Republic is still heavily underrated. Especially nature reserves and hiking paths in close proximity to Prague don’t get enough love. Karlické údolí – only a 30 minutes train ride from Prague away – will definitely get the spring lethargy out of your system and make you want to explore more of the many trekking trails in Czech Republic.
This easy to intermediate hike is the optimal way to start off the trekking season! Start off your hike in Dobřichovice, a valley situated next to Berounka river and easily accessible via train from either the main train station or Smíchovské nádraží. 30 minutes and a scenic train ride later, you will find yourself in a small but very bustling village.
In order to find your way to the village center, make sure you turn left when coming down from the train tracks. Look out for the information panel with hiking paths. Follow the pink sign “Cesta císařovny Elišky”. This special hiking trail will take you on a loop through Dobřichovice’s center and Karlík’s nature. Stick to the trail in order to not miss out on any attractions on the way.
Getting to Know Dobřichovice
In order to access Dobřichovice center, you will cross a footbridge and get to stroll along the river embankment of Berounka river. This is a formidable walkway – especially when the sun is shining. By following the river, you will be led into the village center quite naturally.
Dobřichovice fell victim to the massive flood in 2002. More than 200 houses were flooded and severely damaged. Besides houses, the flood also destroyed one of the footbridges, which has been rebuilt ever since.
Today, Dobřichovice is a thriving, small village with its very own castle, river access and a beautiful park.
The Star of the Village: Dobřichovice Castle
Welcome to the former Summer Residence of the grand masters of Knights of the Cross with the Red Star! This originally in Renaissance style erected building was reconstructed in the 18th century in Baroque style. Lost in the Hussite Wars, the fortress was burned down during the Thirty Years War by the Swedish army. In 1676, the chateau was rebuilt and got its own chapel: Sv. Judy Tadeáše.
For most of its existence, the castle belonged to the Order of the Knights of the Cross with Red Star (the easier name being simply the Red Cross). The Red Cross is the only knightly order founded in Czech lands and also the only men’s order that has been instated by a woman: St. Agnes of Bohemia.
Since 1980, Dobřichovice’s Castle has found a new purpose: It is now the Memorial of National Literature.
To get “back on track” simply walk through the courtyard and look out for the pink sign to access Dobřichovice park, which you cross.
An Art Gallery by the Main Street
After passing the park, follow the main street straight ahead of you. A main street on a hike? Unfortunately, this is a necessary step to get where you want to be. The good news? Dobřichovice and Karlík had a great idea to make the approximately 10 minutes long walk along the main street a very special one. Instead of having to stare at passing cars, you get to marvel at local stonecarvers’ work and a view of Dobřichovice valley. Easy to forget the engine noises when studying the art of locals.
Before you know, you enter the small town “Karlík”, passing a yellow church to your left. Findings in the vicinity of Karlík’s cemetry suggest that there must have been settlements in Karlík dating back to the Stone Age. That said, Karlík is rather small and unless you want to stop for a drink at “Hospůdka Garáž”, it serves mostly as gateway to your next stop.
This is also, where you will need to decide whether you will want to make your hike go for a little longer or whether your legs are already tired and you would rather get to the Nature Reserve more directly. If, however, you can stand hiking up a hill, you should definitely turn right after the Hospůdka and follow the green hiking trail leading up to Krásná stráň (beautiful slope).
Heads up: This part is a steady 20 minutes march uphill. You will, however, be rewarded with no less than what the name suggests: An absolutely magnificent view over Dobřichovice, Karlík and Černošice. This is also the perfect little place for lunch. Surrounded by trees, stands a little bench and table on the peak and draws you to sit down and just marvel at your surroundings for a while.
Completing the Loop
If you find yourself on the peak of Krásná stráň, set out to follow the yellow hiking trail straight ahead until it eventually connects with the green hiking trail that loops back towards the Nature Reserve Karlické údolí. This detour will take you about 30 minutes through mostly forest.
Spring is probably the most interesting time to visit Karlické údolí’s Nature Reserve. The trees are sprouting, butterflies mingling and wildlife is up and ready for the new season.
Besides a vast amount of oak hornbeam and lime trees, Karlické údolí is home to rare species such as Lilylead Ladybells, broad-leaved helleborine, martagon lilies and daphne mezereums. Even european wild ginger, cranberry trees and field maple are around! The protected nature area also hosts Fechtner as well as Purple mushrooms and crane shrub, which is usually only found in mediterranean climate.
If you are either patient or lucky, you might get to see the local fauna during your visit, too. Next to bugs and beetle, the Nature Reserve is home to honey buzzards, tree frogs, eagle owls, green lizards and even a herd of non-native mouflons!
Former Castle Hill
Leaving the Nature Reserve, all you have to do to get to the former castle hill is follow the hiking trail going downhill. If you want to take a sneak peak at the former walls of the castle, prepare for a rather steep but very short trek. The view from up there is quite fascinating, by the way!
When you have had enough, your legs are starting to feel achey and the sun is suggesting that it will set rather sooner than later, meander back to Karlík via the red hiking trail, which might just be a butterflies’ favourite spot to be. Hundreds of them cross your path on your way back to the church where you started from.
Optional Hiking Path: Dobřichovice – Karlík – Karlické údolí
Fancy a shorter walk? No problem. Simply leave out the view from Krásná stráň and get to the Nature reserve more directly. Instead of turning right after the Hospůdka, simply follow the green trail pointing straight ahead. From here, you keep to the green trail that passes some farmhouses and eventually morphs with a street (watch out for cars). Simply walk 5 more minutes along the path and turn right, where you will see a small wooden cottage on the foot of the Castle’s hill.
What to bring
- Water, water, water: Never forget to hydrate when hiking
- Packed Lunch: There is just something special to having a picnic in the midst of nature
- Hiking boots with a good profile: Some parts of the hike are steep, slippery and gravelly
Karlické údolí and its surroundings make for a perfect Spring hike. With rare flora and fauna, magical views and even an art spot on the way to the reserve, this hiking path has everything you might want on a sunny day out. Due to its proximity to Prague, it is super easy to get there and back.
Have you been on your first Spring hike yet? Did you visit Karlické údolí before and want to share hidden gems and secrets about the area? Do you have a favourite hike in close proximity to Prague? We want to hear all about it in the comments! Happy Spring Hiking!