Premuzic Trail goes through the Northern Velebit National Park to Baske Ostarije in central Velebit. The popular mega-hiking trail Via Dinarica follows the Premuzic trail on the section that runs through Velebit mountain.
Velebit is a mountain range in Croatia, situated between Licko and Gacko field and the Adriatic Sea. A natural border that separates Continental and Mediterranean Croatia. With its longitude of 145 km Velebit is the longest mountain in the country, and by height, it is in the fourth place. It is a part of the Dinaric Alps, a big mountain chain in south Europe.
Protected Areas on Velebit
The mountain Velebit with its variation of interesting karst forms, different plant, fungus and animal species, as well with its magnificent landscapes seduces and conquers all visitors. When you come once, you will definitely be back!
Views from Velebit numerous peaks are breathtaking! First, on one side you can see the Adriatic sea and Kvarner islands, and then behind you a dense woods and large valleys of Lika inland.
Due to its amazing beauty and diversity, the whole mountain is a highly protected area. Since 1978, Velebit is within the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere program included in the network of World biosphere reserves, and three years later, it became a Nature Park. Besides being a Nature Park, in the territory of Velebit mountain, there are two national parks- on the north Northern Velebit and on the south Paklenica.
Furthermore, in the area of the Northern Velebit National park, there are included previously protected areas- the Hajducki and Rozanski Kukovi Strict reserve, Visibaba Botanical reserve, and Zavizan-Balinovac-Velika Kosa Botanical reserve, in which is situated the famous Velebit botanical garden, declared as a monument of park architecture.
Life on Velebit
Despite the difficult weather conditions, due to colliding continental and Mediterranean climate, people have since old times inhabited the area of Velebit mountain.
A man has left a specific mark on the landscape of this mountain and enriched the species and habitat diversity by building a shepherd’s huts, drystone walls, traditional paths and clearing forest land for pasture and growing crops. Many of today’s grasslands were created by man and maintained by pasture, mowing and removing of trees and shrubs.
Due to tough climate, the mountaintops had no permanent settlements, yet just seasonal moving of people from Velebit littoral slopes. They used to live in their summer shepherd’s huts during the warmer months while grazing their livestock- sheep, goats, cows, and horses. The huts were simple housings built of roughly chiseled stone and roofs covered by wooden shingle. In the Northern Velebit National park, you can see remains of this summer huts on the grassland of Veliki Lubenovac.
Arrival to Northern Velebit National Park
It was sunny Monday morning. The sun was just starting to shine when a group of hikers jumped on the bus to take us from Zagreb towards the Northern Velebit National park.
After about 10 km of driving we arrived in Krasno village (800 m.a.s.l.), headquarters of the Directorate of the Park and the main starting point for visitors. We bought our entrance tickets and continued towards Babic Sica (1300 m.a.s.l.)– the main entrance in the Park for all those who want to visit the area of Zavizan and the Velebit Botanical Garden.
From Babic Sica, there is 7 km of the dirt road through the dense forest that leads to the parking lot on Zavizan valley, beneath the Vucjak peak and mountain hut of Zavižan. All peaks – Veliki (Great) Zavizan (1676 m), Balinovac (1601 m), Zavizanska Kosa (1622 m), Vucjak (1644 m), Zalovacko bilo (1630 m) and Veliki Pivcevac (1676 m)- that are surrounding the valley belong to the Zavizan group of peaks. From here we started our 16 km long hike to Alan peak.
Northern Velebit National park is the youngest national park in Croatia. In 1999, 109 km2 of northern Velebit area was declared as a national park. The highest peak is Veliki Zavizan at an elevation of 1676 m. Through the Park passes 16 km of famous Premuzic trail- construction masterpiece built of drystone and laid in such a way so that it leads all visitors through the craggiest and the most inaccessible parts of Velebit without heavy ascents and descents.
The Construction of Premuzic trail
“Whoever in the future comes to walk on this beautiful and comfortable trail will hardly be able to imagine all the hard work and effort the first pioneers had to endure while walking through this difficult terrain with no trail whatsoever…”
Dr. Ivan Krajac, “Croatian mountaineer”
This trail is evidence how strong can be love for the mountains. So strong that it made easy access to this impassable and inaccessible karst terrain for all mountain lovers, but at the same time keeping its beauty and wilderness.
The initiator of the construction of the trail was Ivan Krajcar, trade and industry minister in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, passionate mountaineer and reformer of Croatian mountaineering, who managed to secure the funds required for implementing plans of making Velebit accessible for tourists by building this longitudinal pathway.
The trail was named after its designer and builder, forestry engineer Ante Premuzic, also a passionate mountaineer and Velebit lover. Construction of 57 km long trail lasted for only four years, from 1930 to 1933. It goes along mountain ridge from Zavizan in Northern Velebit to Baske Ostarije in Central Velebit. In the construction of the trail, Ante Premuzic hired local people from villages of the littoral slopes of Velebit, who were masters of stone processing. At that time, there was poverty and for families with lots of children, this job was salvation.
Section From Zavizan to Alan Hut
On our way to Alan peak, we hiked all 16 km of Premuzic trail that goes through the Northern Velebit National park.
There are no difficult climbs, so we enjoyed in the view of the interesting karst forms, grassy valleys and in our walk through the dense forests. We passed through the rocky area of Rozanski Kukovi, that is part of a strict nature reserve, and climbed on its highest peak-peak of Gromovaca at an elevation of 1675 m.
It took us approximately 2h of hiking to pass the section from Zavizan to a trail branch, to our right, that ascends to the peak of Gromovaca. Few of us decided to climb for another 15 minutes and enjoy in breathtaking view over the Adriatic Sea, islands and rocky area of Rozanski and Hajducki Kukovi. Just a few meters from the peak on the rock we found a mark for a stamp, a nice memory of successful ascent to Gromovaca peak in our hiking passes.
Along the section of Premuzic trail from Zavizan to Alan, there are placed 26 educational panels, about this area’s geology, speleology, plants, animals and cultural heritage. I enjoyed reading these panels and I have learned many new things about Velebit mountain.
In the area of Rozanski and Hajducki Kukovi, there are still places where no man has gone before. Just peace and wilderness.
Continuing our hike through the trail we reached into the hearth of Rozanski Kukovi. Just 20 minutes after the branch for Gromovaca peak, beneath the cliff of Pasaricev Kuk, is situated a mountain shelter called Rossi’s shelter (1580 m.a.s.l.). It was built in 1929 and named after Ljudevit Rossi, explorer of Velebit flora.
The shelter is used only in case of emergency or inclement weather. In front of the shelter, there are benches and table. Here we had our lunch break and enjoyed in the view of Adriatic Sea. On an educational panel, I have read that the shelter is placed on the 5.1 km of Premuzic trail.
Forests and Meadows
We passed along the several paths that are branching off from the Premuzic Trail and climbing up to some of the most spectacular peaks of North Velebit (Crikvena Peak, Seravski Peak, Alancic Peak, etc.).
Soon, we reached the exit from an area of Rozanski Kukovi and empire of Velebit karst. After descending by approximately fifty meters along stone stairs we entered into the dense forest. Through the next part of a trail, all the way to the mountain hut Alan, landscapes of forest and meadows were changing.
After total six and half hours of hiking we came to the mountain hut Alan and end of Premuzic trail that goes through Northern Velebit National Park. This is a beautiful small wooden cottage, placed along the edge of the dense forest.
From Rossi’s shelter, it took us approximately 3 h of hiking to get here. When we arrived we lay on wooden sunbeds and enjoyed well-deserved drinks. Down the road, on the same side as the mountain lodge, there is a small stone house with a souvenir shop. Here you can buy from maps of Northern Velebit National Park to the t-shirts, notebooks, bottles and many others souvenirs to remind you of your hike through this national park.
This was a stunningly beautiful, educational and inspiring hike. After all, I feel great respect for Ivan Krajac, Ante Premuzic, and for all those people who through their hard work built this longitudinal pathway, so we can all now easily walk through this impassable and inaccessible picturesque scenery of Velebit mountain.