Waterfalls are abundant in the Blue Ridge Mountains of my home, but our paths force hikers on long detours through the forests to circumnavigate them, keeping everyone a safe distance from the potentially treacherous cliffs. This safety precaution is likely wise, yet, it is completely disregarded here in Slovenský raj. Rickety metal ladders and rotting wooden bridges take visitors along the most direct path—straight up the falls!

The trail’s infrastructure, which is truly in better repair than I make it sound, conveys hundreds of hikers every fair-weathered day. My host family and I visited just a couple weeks ago, right after the year’s first heatwave had begun to melt the snow-capped mountains. The river which cascades through Slovenský raj was absolutely gorged on this runoff and I found it impossible to navigate the trail without soaking my shoes.

While scaling the numerous steel ladders and catwalks, I marveled at the sheer presence the waterfalls exuded. Easily comprehensible was the fact that the rush of water beneath my feet had carved the very gorge around me across the span of thousands of years. The frothing flow jetted over impossibly smooth stones and down twisting ravines, at the end of which it would suddenly free-fall, descending dozens of feet to the pools below.

The High Tatras seem to be sleeping giants; majestic, but remote and cold. In contrast, Slovenský raj is a wild animal. Alive in every corner, it lets its waters roar so everyone knows its might.