Stairway to Heaven
At 1,019m, St Lawrence (Sveti Lovrenc in local lingo), just squeezes onto the list as a mountain, but don't be fooled, it still commands the Lipizzaner Lodge car park's north eastern skyline vista.
We named this little monster "Stairway to Heaven" as the hike to the summit is like going up a never ending green staircase with fantastic views the entire way, with a heavenly Green 360 degree panorama from the top!
Mt Nanos (1,313m), dominates the western vista from our back garden and is Slovenia's last mountain before the Mediterranean coast AND the start of Slovenia's 4th Alpine region, the Dinaric Alps which stretch almost 700km down the Balkons!
These Dinaric mountains, including St Lawrence, are generally smaller in size, but present a huge choice of lots & lots of peaks you can usually get up and down inside half a day, if you want to.
And we found another great way to get up this mountain by chance one day, so we will also tell you how to FIND it and DO it at the end of this mini article!
St Lawrence is a fantastic mountain for visiting hikers for so many reasons..
- It will be a physical challenge, sure, with a bit of scrambling, (especially if you do our secret Green route below), but it is NOT a scary mountain with sharp drops, so great for those with a touch of vertigo!
- It is easy to find in nearby Studeno, with a designated car park just a 12 min drive from the Lodge..
- There are signs and red painted circles to follow directly from the car park and several ways to go up.
- As you plod up the main staircase hill there are great views at all times in this adventure.. most of the way you can also see up to where you are heading.
- Your first target is the St Lawrence church at a plateau near the top and this is the end of the staircase, with fantastic views back down the mountain to the village of Studeno.
- From the church there is a completely different mini hike up through a thick Karst rocky forest to the summit with Slovenian flag at the top and the final reward.. absolutely fantastic 360 degree views.
If you know what you are looking at then you can really appreciate what special views this particular mountain hike can give you!
In the east you can see across the forests to the Lodge, nestled under Slovenia's last mountain, the huge Green rock barrier that is Nanos, 1,313m.. behind here is the Mediterranean Vipava valley and the Slovenian & Italian Adriatic coast.
To the south you can see across the entire Green Karst region and Postojna valley with the highest non Alpine Mt Sneznik 1,796m in the distance.. it has the shape of a volcano at the top, is often snow covered and behind it is Croatia
To the east towards Ljubljana and you can see the huge Planina meadow that fills with water to create the huge Planina disappearing lake in the autumn, so if you are here after October, there is a great chance to see the lake! Additionally, you can see Witches mountain, Mt Slivnica (1,114m), which overlooks the biggest Slovenian Disappearing lake and the largest in Europe at Cerknica!
And the big fat juicy cherry on top of this vista bonanza is north.. just walk a little away from the summit marker stone towards the tree line and you get a stunning panorama directly to the huge Julian Alps with the highest peak being the three headed Mt Triglav (2,864m), Slovenia's highest mountain.
So it would be an understatement to say.. bring some binoculars!!
We didn't name St Lawrence "stairway to heaven" for nothing and the hike is almost 100% unforgiving.. it really does feel like you are climbing stairs going up AND coming down.
This is wonderful news if you would like a bit of a fitness test or just a challenge and of course, you needn't race up here.. take your time and enjoy the views.. maybe see a hunting buzzard being attacked by crows in your eyeline horizon, sometimes even in the air pocket below!
The hike itself can be done in a little over 30 mins up, but we would say an hour to 90 mins is more sensible timing, as you will be snapping all the amazing angled views, so many different coloured butterflies floating around and green nature, which gets better and literately more brethe taking the higher you go!
The pretty church is your first target and is also part of a local legend, being one of the "Three Brothers Churches".. Legend goes there were 3 brothers who constantly argued, so their dad got fed up with them and ordered them each to build a church in separate locations on Nanos so they could sit outside alone and not have to look at each other!
The other two churches were built on either side of Nanos and the third was stuck up here on top of St Lawrence.. You can hike to all 3 during your time here too if you want and see them for yourself!
General Tips for climbing St Lawrence..
It could not be easier to find the little village of Studeno and then, halfway through, there is a sign to Sv Lovrenc, so turn here and go up the stony track to the car park.
Follow the wooden signs and little red painted circles (they look a bit like RAF symbols), from the track that leads out from the signpost and middle of the car park.. going this way, you can see the peak above you most of the way up.
Ultimately you are aiming for the church first and then the summit with the Slovenian flag at the very top.
The main walk goes directly from the car park through fields then up a stone track to the main well worn grassy slopes where you can follow the tracks to go directly up the mountain.
The slope is quite steep, so it is unlikely you can just go directly up in a straight line, rather walk in gradual angles.
The views as you go up are really fantastic as the main trunk of the mountain is at such an angle that you can see all the way across to Nanos on the left (west) and Ljubljana direction (east) for the Planina hills and mountains!
When you get to the church, we strongly recommend you also hike up the last 5-10 mins through the forest to the summit for those amazing views!
Then you just go back the way you came, but probably with a few more zig zags coming down to protect your knees and to not fall over!
The whole up and down could take one and a half or even three to four hours, depending how many photos, your speed and how long you take admiring the views, but we cannot recommend this mountain enough for the pyhsical challenge too and AMAZING final panorama..
The alternative Secret path up St Lawrence!
Quite by chance we found an even better way to "do" this mountain and this will save your knees by mostly avoiding going up the steep grassy staircase bit..
Essentailly, you approach the peak from the far left and go up the left hand side of the peak, so actually you get to the summit first, then come DOWN to the church and down the grassy path back to the car park!
So we completely missed and forgot the main route up as we got out of the car, looked up and thought, that isn't so high!
Instead of leaving the car park in the middle bit to get to the first wooden sign, we ended up marching to the top of the car park and following a stone track, thinking we would cut across and find the main path soon..
But it was our luck that we didn't and we skirted around to the left side of the peak ascending through a very pretty pine forest.
Please note, there are NO little red signs to start with on this route, so just keep following the stone track, admiring the Alpine looking flowers at the side of the road and keeping your eye on the main peak that should be on your right!
Once you have walked far enough, the red circles start to appear again, so you have obviously reached another route which now takes you more steeply up along a stony forest path and now you need to really take note of the red markers, sometimes painted on the trees.
The tree line thins out a bit and you suddenly pop out into the open. You are actually on the staircase now, but round to the left side and it is here where you will need a little bit of steel as the scrambling begins a little.
The white Karst limestone rocks and stones litter the path and provide excellent grip to propel yourself up the route and your extra reward for going this way will be the powerful views you get of the huge 12km long, 6km wide Nanos plateau which gets better and better the higher you go.
Once you have gone up a few very steep grassy levels you reach the forest again with some bulky trees to hug and amazing rock features to climb a bit!
Whilst this isn't Triglav, we certainly had a feeling of pride getting up here and the biggest bonus is still you get to see Slovenia's highest mountain from the top!
The Slovenian flag pole should come into view soon and you might have heard it before now, rattling away in the wind a bit, but this is where you haed and in two shakes of a dragon's tale.. you reach the summit!
Once at the top, enjoy the views, see if you can spot Mt Triglav from the back through the trees and then follow the rock path down through the forest to the church and then finally down the mountain, doing zig zags to protect your knees!
WOW, what a Green adventure up & down a mountain you have probably never heard of!
Extra Hiking Goodies and Ideas..
Sveti Lawrenc is the highest peak along this mini regional chain of hills that go from near Predjama castle to the pretty town of Planina.
Planina is well worth a visit, with a huge secret cave full of baby dragons. The river of 7 names spills out of the massive mouth of the cave and this fills the huge meadows in the winter to create one of Slovenia's biggest disappearing lakes!
If that wasnt enough, this is also the place with a huge foresttower that we felt could only be named "Rapunzel's tower" AND there is another deserted castle just over river bridge too with a fab cycle path leading off into the Karst!
It is possible to park at Planina hill and walk the chain off hill top summits to reach St Lawrence rom this direction..
You could also jump on an E Bike and cycle out here too for the day, there is a road up to the St Lawrence church even and then you could take the old Roman road to Planina on the bike for those adventures there!
In fact the possibliities just in this tiny, but HUGE little green pocket of Slovenia are sensational and you just try to find them in a guide book, eh?!