The twin peaks of Grmada and Smarna Gora are both swathed with oak and beech forest and sit in northern Slovenia; their humps are clearly visible from its enticing capital city of Ljubljana, which spreads out into a giant basin below the mountain. Smarna Gora is the eastern of the two peaks and reaches up to 669 meters (2,194 feet); woven with 15 hiking trails, it is one of the most popular weekend destinations for the folks of Ljubljana. They flock out to the forest to enjoy walking, jogging, mountain biking, and climbing through narrow craggy limestone gorges and canyons; while in winter Smarna Gora becomes a snowy paradise for Nordic skiing and tobogganing. It is also a haven for wildlife, with foxes, martens, squirrels, buzzards and hawks commonly spotted; sightings of deer and brown hare have been recorded but are rare.
Depending on fitness, it takes between 45 and 60 minutes to climb Šmarna Gora, which is topped by the 18th-century Baroque church of the Virgin Mary – although a pilgrimage church has existed in this site since medieval times – from which there are spectacular views over the city to the Julian Alps. A popular restaurant shares the same spectacular panoramas, sells typically Slovenian treats such as puffy donuts called miske (mice) or stuffed dumplings, and gets rammed every summer weekend. Close by is an ancient bell, reputed to bring good luck to anyone who rings it.
Šmarna Gora is nine km (5.5 miles) north of Ljubljana and best accessed by bus No. 8 to the village of Tacen at the foot of the walking trails.