Great Soca Gorge: An Emerald Jewel
There’s no doubt that one of Triglav National Park’s stellar attractions is the beautiful Soca river, meandering through the region and nourishing the rich alpine landscape. Along this winding emerald treasure, you can find the jewel in its crown - the Great Soca Gorge. A source of national pride in Slovenia, this naturally crafted stretch of river meticulously cuts its way through the valley, measuring 750 metres long and up to 15 metres deep respectively. It is an outstanding area of beauty that draws tourists and locals in their thousands every year; something I understood immediately when I arrived.
Visiting the Great Soca Gorge
It’s not immediately apparent where to find the gorge considering it’s such a popular attraction in the area; we found that there was no specific postcode or location to type into the Satnav in order to find the right place. However, we found a helpful website in the form of Slotrips who provided the best directions to reach this beautiful stretch of river. We misinterpreted “behind the village named Soca” as if travelling from the other direction, but I think that they meant "before". They still got us there, which was the main thing, so thanks guys!
How to get there:
Travelling on the Bovec-Trenta (Vršič Pass) in the direction of the town of Soca, you’ll notice a sign and side-road for Kamp Soca on the right-hand side. Stay on the main road and continue past this until you see two more signs on the right for Lepena and Velika Korita. Take the sharp right turn and follow the loop to cross over the Soca river, before turning right at the fork to arrive at the car park. Based so close to Kamp Soca, it also appears to be a good place to park when embarking on other outdoor activities such as mountain biking or hiking the nearby mountain trails.
If you're feeling particularly adventurous, an alternative way of visiting the Great Soca Gorge would be via the Soca River Trail. At 25km long, this is one adventure that I'd love to do and was something we did actually look at. However, we only looked at it on the actual day we had time to do it; it's something that would require some planning in order to complete. The Soca trail begins at the source, winding its way past various points of interest before finishing in Bovec. In the summer, there is a public bus service running between the town and Kranjska Gora.
The Great Soca Gorge
It was at the end of August when I visited the Great Soca Gorge, so the river level wasn’t as high as it would be during the winter. Not that the locals and tourists cared. With the sweltering weather, many took the opportunity to frolic in the ice-cold mountain water. You’re restricted from swimming within the actual gorge itself, but further downstream towards the car park it opens out into a wider expanse of river; an area popular with many.
After what had already been an action-packed morning white-water rafting, we had one eye on the clock as we were planning to travel over the famous Vršič Pass later on in the afternoon. However, it didn’t impact our desire to take in one of the most heavily anticipated parts of our trip to Slovenia. Having parked up, we made the short walk down to the water and paddled through the shallows over to the left hand side of the river. Drying off our feet and putting our walking boots back on, we then headed back upstream in the direction of the bridge. There’s a tourist path along the right side of the river but we found that quite busy, so we found an unmarked trail on the opposite bank which, although at times exposed, offered some great views throughout. On occasion, we had to deviate from the trail back uphill to avoid thick vegetation or other natural obstacles, but in the main it kept us very close to the gorge.
Be careful though! There are no safety barriers, or warning signs present - everything is completely at the mercy of nature. At that time of year, the river bank was dry so keeping my footing was relatively comfortable, though I can imagine at other times of year there is the potential for the path to be quite challenging.
The gorge itself is simply stunning; under the summer sunshine it was awash with colour. Emerald-green water flows through the ravine, shimmering as contrasting white-grey walls of rock guard it closely. Dark green woodland provides a border either side, whilst mountain peaks loom in the background as you gaze upstream. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t tempted to jump in (it honestly looked so refreshing), but thankfully I’m scared of heights and have more sense! Once you reach the bridge, the gorge starts to close off as it narrows, making it difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to continue along the bank following its path. However, we were able to find another vantage point on the opposite side (on the same bank) that not many people were seemingly aware of. A great spot, it offered a fantastic view of the water winding its way through the canyon like a race car, before disappearing under the bridge and around the corner.
You can also hike further up the gorge for more fantastic views, though you’d need to follow the lane left from the bridge as it loops back uphill. Upon where it joins the main road, you’ll see a tourist information board on the right. Behind this, a path descends downhill into a clearing that offers more excellent viewpoints.
Although only a relatively short walk, such is the beauty of the Great Soca Gorge, you’ll constantly be stopping to admire the river and take pictures. We took approximately an hour to follow the trail as far as we could go along the gorge, regularly stopping to snap away the majestic scenery surrounding us.
Although the magical Vintgar Gorge holds the special place as my personal favourite, it has a close rival in this natural phenomenon that resonates beauty. Combined with driving over the Vršič Pass, it played an integral part in what was an amazing day trip around this area of the national park. If you’re planning a trip to this region of North-West Slovenia, I'd suggest adding this visit to your itinerary. After the city buzz of Ljubljana and the heavy tourist vibe of Predjama Castle and Lake Bled, it was nice to escape into the clean, fresh air and stunning mountain scenery. I’d be interested to see how the gorge differs during the colder seasons; I imagine it’d be spectacular under wintery conditions. It’s a time of year within which I will endeavour to return in future. In the meantime, I can vouch that it’s very good in the summer too!
Ps. Click here to read about some of the best hikes we did during our week in Slovenia last summer.