At Slepeč forest near Benátky nad Jizerou

Jizera River Ramble 2017

I remember the exact moment when I first thought about this route. I just came back from the week-long Elbe tour in Germany and I was a bit fed up with my bike, Author Ronin. I was drinking beer in the lounge bar next to the river Elbe with my friends that went to meet me on the road and I looking at the nearby point where these two rivers, Jizera and Elbe, meet. At that moment I knew my next journey would be more off-road and in the ultralight style. When I got home I checked the length of the Jizera river on Wikipedia. 160 kilometers? That looked like an ideal distance for a weekend tour.

I set off at the end of August 2017 on my full-suspension bike, Rock Machine Blizzard. Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and some other stuff fitted into handlebar roll by Everbike, a Czech bikepacking bag company. Clothes and the rest of the things were stuffed in the saddle bag. Unfortunately, I also had to wear a backpack with a bottle of water and a camera.

Packing and fitting the bikepacking bags on the bike for the first time was a bit harder and took me more time than I anticipated. Despite starting with a two-hour delay, the bad mood was blown away after a few strokes and I was looking forward to a splendid trip.

At the confluence of the Jizera and Elbe rivers

At the confluence of the Jizera and Elbe rivers

The Jizera river flows into the Elbe at a small town called Lázně Toušeň. I took some photos at the fork and started out up the river. It was Friday around midday and I had a bold plan to reach the places where Jizera springs by Sunday.

Lázně Toušeň – Benátky nad Jizerou – Mladá Boleslav – Mnichovo Hradiště
(87 km)

I know the official cycle route very well from Prague up to Bakov because I rode it countless times in the past years. Therefore, my intention was to go off the beaten tracks.

After crossing the river at Nový Vestec, I turned to the right and followed blue touristic signs. When I got to Otradovice, blue signs continued on the tarmac road but I took a single track along the river up to Sojovice. The river reminds me of the Sázava river in this part. It is wilder compared to how calmly it flows in the part between Mladá Boleslav and Benátky.

From Sojovice I followed the red signs and past Kochánky I turned into Slepeč, a nice nature reserve I hadn’t been into since primary school. The place beneath the sandstone wall was overgrown. I still clearly remember school trips to this place, having fire and roasting špekáčeks there.

I passed the barrier and continued into the forest. I rode through it and after a short ascent, I got between the fields. There is a beautiful view of the castle in Benátky nad Jizerou. I stopped at Dražice, the village that I come from and at which I spent my childhood, to have a cup of green tea and have a rest for a while.

At Slepeč near Benátky nad Jizerou

At Slepeč forest near Benátky nad Jizerou

I got to Mladá Boleslav around 4 PM. I had a late lunch at The Black Sheep, a restaurant run by my friends Jirka and Lenka. The burger was delicious and I washed it down with a couple of beers. As a farewell drink, I had a shot of whiskey with Jirka.

From Mladá Boleslav I headed to Josefův Důl. There is a nice trail following the red signs from there that leads just above the river and has a pleasant flow. I was enjoying the ride but just before the end of it I took a wrong turn and my front wheel was heading down the slope. The front fork was trying to do its best but I flew over the handlebars anyway.

Getting to Bakov, there was starting a part of the route I hadn’t ridden before. I crossed the square and followed a track next to a stream that led me to a tiny village. The route led directly through the porches of some cottages. I apologized to residents that were already enjoying the beginning of the weekend with a bottle of beer and a nice view of Jizera.

Stealth camping

Stealth camping for the first night

I stopped at the gas station in Mnichovo Hradiště just before 8 PM. It was getting dark and I was thinking about the right place to sleep that night. I explored the maps on my phone and picked a spot close to the river.

When I got there I found a cabin and fire pit there. Anyway, I pushed the bike up the slope as I prefer more distant and hidden places to sleep when I stealth camp. While pitching up tent, I heard music from a farm in Ptýrov where a horse race was that weekend. I finished the food and drinks I bought at the gas station and got into the sleeping bag. After a while, it started raining lightly.

Klášter – Loukovec – Svijany – Turnov – Železný Brod (52 km)

The first thing I heard next morning was a presenter’s voice from the farm. I woke up, brewed a cup of coffee and prepared a Chinese noodle soup to warm me up. I packed my stuff up and took off to explore my surroundings. To be honest, I didn’t pick this place by a coincidence.

Jizera Rock Log Cabins

Jizera Rock Log Cabins

There is a nature reserve called Skalní sruby Jizery (Jizera Rock Log Cabins). It is a place with a presence of rare flora and also small animals, such as rare bugs, butterflies, frogs, lizards and more. But mainly, there is a stunning rock shelter created by the Jizera erosion. You can see the steep rock from the main road leading to Mimoň. I rode that road often in my childhood as my great-grandma lived in a village not far from this place. Although I admired the rock, I had never visited the place until now.

At Jizera Rock Log Cabins

There is a brewery in the nearby village, called Klášter nad Jizerou, but it was closed on Saturday morning, unfortunately. From Klášter, I followed blue signs and reached Mohelnice from where I continued on green signs up to Loukov. Sadly, I lost the path afterward. There was no route in sight so I had to break through the dense bushes in the edge of the meadow and then push my bike through the forest. I was swearing a lot to vent my anger and frustration when I just noticed a clear and easy path from the meadow I was lost at a while ago.

The brewery restaurant at Svijany was crowded as every touristic place during the summer. I waited for a meal for a long time and when I finally took off it was after 2:30 PM. At that time, I realized it was impossible to get up to the Jizera Mountains during that weekend. Anyway, I kept pedaling.

Around Turnov

Around Turnov

At Turnov, I followed the red signs, passed by the castle at Hrubý Rohozec and got to a well-known restaurant called Ábelův mlýn (The Abell’s mill house) at Dolánky. I have to admit I ate way too much there but I couldn’t help myself as the food was delicious! (Edit 04/2019: There is a new owner at the restaurant. I heard the quality had been lowered and the prices got higher but try for yourself.)

After that, I went slowly through the Jizera valley. There was the last hill of the day in front of me because I needed to get to Železný Brod. I was rewarded with a fabulous downhill ride after a very steep climb. The descent was long and ended with a rocky path just by the river.

Public camping spot Paraplíčko (The Little Parasol)

Public camping spot called Paraplíčko (The Little Parasol)

I bought a dinner and two cans of beer at a local shop. I decided to camp in public camping spot called Paraplíčko (The Little Parasol) that night. It was a place next to the river where you could camp for free. I was surprised that there were quite a lot of people but it was calm and just a few people were quietly sitting around their small campfires after dark.

Semily – Kozákov – Klokočské skály – Turnov (36 km)

On Sunday morning I headed to Rieger trail which is an educative trail through the nature of Jizera valley from a village called Spálov to Semily. This part of my trip was absolutely gorgeous and the nature there is amazing. The trail led high above the river and you could barely see the river down in the valley through the leaves. But when I reached one of the lookout spots, I was astonished by the breathtaking view.

Rieger trail through the Jizera valley

Rieger trail through the Jizera valley

When I got to Semily, it was the moment to say goodbye to the Jizera river for that time. My plan was to return back to Turnov over Kozákov, the highest hill in Český ráj with an observation tower, and take a train back home from there. Unfortunately, I went in the wrong direction when leaving Semily. I had to push my bike uphill through the fields as I missed a turn and wasn’t able to find the green signs I wanted to follow.

When I finally reached Kozákov I stopped at a food booth and stayed there for lunch. From there, I followed the crest trail leading to Koberovy and then headed to Klokočské skály. After that, it was just a few kilometers to Turnov where I waited for my train at the station bar drinking Krakonoš beer.

Even though I would have to leave conquering the Jizera Mountains until next time, it was a flawless weekend spent on the bike and in nature.

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Jizera River Ramble 2017
When August 2017
Distance 175 km
Ascent 3024 m
Days 3 days