Vysočina #5. A Walk around Mohelno Steppe

Mohelenská Hadcová step (Mohelno Serpentine Steppe) is a special place. Its nature trail takes you all the way from the top of the hill to the bottom of the valley along river Jihlava, through unspoilt nature, stunning river sceneries, and bird’s-eye hilltop views.


Mohelenská Hadcová step (Mohelno Serpentine Steppe) is a very special place. I’d quite confidently say it’s less popular than many destinations around Vysočina, and to me it’s like nothing I’ve seen so far in the region. I’ve been to Vysočina fifty times (the Mohelno steppe was my fifty-first and counting), so I can say I’ve seen quite a few places around the region.

The steppe is a proper nature reserve, and it’s located just south of Mohelno, a fairly small town in the Třebíč district, in south-eastern Vysočina. The starting point of the nature trail (naučná stezka), clearly marked by dedicated signs and posters, is adjacent to a parking area. Sadly, it’s not that easily reachable by public transport. Something else will probably catch your eye as you get there, though. Right in front of you you’ll find a mound from the Iron age, which looks more like a ‘small hill’ than a former settlement, and, sitting right on top of it, a Baroque chapel, which adds to an already super photogenic spot.

Mohelno steppe. Baroque chapel

Baroque chapel

Mohelno steppe

The stretch of trail downhill and the rocky steps

Just a few steps off the ring-shaped route there’s a ‘special’ viewing spot over the valley you don’t want to miss. In fact, it’s hard to miss it anyway, as it’s conveniently marked by arrows with the ‘vyhlidka’ (view) sign pointing towards it. You can head there before and/or after the walk, stand on a wooden terrace jutting out from the hilltop, and enjoy a magnificent bird’s-eye view over the valley. Extra note: from up there you can also glimpse the river below, and tell yourself that, once you get down to the trail, you will find yourself walking by that very spot! (Yes, elevation gain/loss is quite significant, more on that below.)

But there’s a but. Most of the photos included in this post portray the scenic beauty of the reserve, and nothing tainting the view. In fact, the village next to Mohelno, Dukovany, is home to NPP Dukovany, one of the two nuclear power plants operating in the Czech Republic. I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t include at least one shot where the plant outline appears in the landscape. Its cooling towers are visible from pretty much everywhere in the area, and they’re certainly visible from Mohelno. The wooden-balcony vyhlidka itself can’t escape them.

Mohelno. NPP Dukovany

View of the NPP Dukovany from the wooden terrace

But back to the trail now. You’re free to walk the roughly circular route of the trail in either direction. I walked it anti-clockwise, so I had the chapel on my left when I joined the trail. It soon went downhill in quite a steep fashion, the ground mostly consisting of large rocks roughly shaped into steps. That’s how you suddenly find yourself walking by the water. The clear, transparent waters of river Jihlava flow on your right, while on the left the steep hillslope looks like a massive sea of green.

There are patches of forest where the sun barely reaches, so thick the vegetation is. The ground was still soaked from the recent rains when I was there. I thought I’d come from a trail of dry earth and dry rocks: how could the scenery have changed so quickly? And yet it did. On a sunny morning, when the sun is already high, the sunlight is unable to produce soft shades: it draws sharp lines that cast neat reflections on the water. After you’ve walked in the sun for a kilometre or so, it takes a moment for the eye to adjust to the shade again.

Mohelno steppe. Jihlava river

Jihlava riverside

Mohelno steppe. Jihlava riverside

The thick forest by the river

Where the trail leaves the waterside you will find the Mohelno Mill (Mohelský mlýn), a field station and research facility focused on ecology and biodiversity, which also hosts themed events and educational activities for schools. This spot also marks the beginning of the ascent back to Mohelno. As you keep walking uphill, the scenery changes again: the forest thins out and the lush green is quickly replaced by open fields and dry land, only sparse trees dotting the landscape.

The portion of steppe trail by the riverside made me think of Vintgar Gorge, one of Slovenia’s most extraordinary natural sites, while the dense colours and dry soil of the first and last part reminded me of Podyjí National Park (Národní park Podyjí) in South Moravia.

The overall length of the trail is about 3 km, which makes it quite a short walk in itself, but two things might easily make it longer. One is the elevation of the trail, which is quite significant (about 113 mt). The other are the countless inevitable stops you will make along the way. I was stopping at every other step to take photos, gaze transfixed at the water (so transparent!) or simply stare ahead, and all around me, to take in the majestic beauty of my surroundings. I felt like an intruder, like I had no business being there, interfering with an ecosystem that couldn’t get more perfect and well balanced than it already is.

Mohelno steppe

View from the trail (can you see the wooden terrace?)

The variety of flora and fauna in the reserve is mindblowing, and it contributes to its uniqueness. My Czech is not so proficient as to allow me to identify all the species of animals, plants, flowers listed on the posters aptly located by the trail, but I can tell you that few times I’ve seen as many, particularly if we consider the relatively small area covered by the steppe. And there were butterflies everywhere, few times I’ve seen so many of those as well.

While walking the final stretch of the trail, already back on high ground from the riverside, I stopped by a bench. A (Czech) father was taking a photo of his two kids sitting on it. We briefly chatted about the beauty of the place (they were from a town nearby), and then he told me: ‘You should come back in autumn, from here you can see all the colours of the trees’.


Along the ascent

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