Location: Romania, Europe
Length: 57 km
Time to arrive: 1h 10 min
Wide: 2 way, pretty narrow
Surface quality (out of 5): 3.5
Highest point: 983
Operating times: all year
Romanian national road no DN12C
Route: From Gheorgheni to Bicaz
Description of the road Gheorgheni to Bicaz
The cities of Gheorgheni (Harghita county) and Bicaz (Neamt county) are linked by the Transcarpathian DN12C road that goes across Cheile Bicazului-Hasmas protected area. The road takes you through great landscapes for 60 km, but the best part of it is the 10 km long narrow Bicaz Gorge, where the road seems to disappear between steep walls of stone. The gorges are 7 km long, guarding over DN 12C national road connecting Transylvania to Moldavia. In some places, the rocky walls are 300 m high and in other areas, the distance between the rocky walls is maximum 6 meters.
First part of the road starting from the town of Gheorgheni is not so good, the asphalt has some potholes and it’s a little bumpy. Then the road starts to climb and the asphalt becomes very good. The next kilometers are superb: lots of curves, a few hairpins and some points from where you can admire the valley.
Then the road passes through a forest and it starts descend towards the Lacul Rosu village. The Red Lake (Lacu Rosu) is a natural storage dam lake and is situated at the foot of Hasmasu Mare Mountains, somewhere near the town Gheorgheni. It is the largest natural mountain lake in Romania, its name coming from the reddish alluvia (iron oxides and iron hydroxides) deposited in the lake by the Red Creek. The lake seems dark and threatening, but it is the only natural lake from Romania which formed after a big landslide. You can still see today the trees coming out of the water.
The road from Gheorgheni to Bicaz, think agility not power
The most impressive scenery is provided however by the Bicaz Gorges, due to narrow and high limestone walls, less vegetation, overhanging rocks, erosion marmites, rocky towers, needles and lapis. The first section is the most demanding but offers stunning scenery, with cliff faces rising either side of the road and twists and turns a-plenty due to the gorge dictating the route. Take care cornering, as placement of your car is vital: think agility not power.
The asphalt on the stretch of road between Lacul Rosu and Bicaz Gorge it’s not so good but acceptable and offers a great view. The Bicaz River has cut its gorges into a thick layer of Jurassic limestone. The road inside this canyon looks like serpentine windings. The limy walls of the crags hide amazing caves (The Black Cave and The Waterfall Cave) and also circular precipices (Licas, the precipice with three entrances).
Along this way, one may find bazaars where one can buy products made by the Romanian and Hungarian craftsmen from this area. The road through Bicaz Gorge is quite unique and extremely spectacular: it begins with a few very tight hair pins, descending to the river bank, you cross a tunnel and then you enter the gorge.
A challenge for the driver
The asphalt is good but it’s not worth it to go fast. Enjoy the ride, because the view is impressive: two huge walls of rock on each side of the road, almost 100m tall and in some point hanging above the road. This is a beautiful drive to take, whilst challenging the driver behind the wheel.
There are virtually no straights on this route, and it demands the attention of any driver due to the narrow width. The narrow road and steep mountains make from this a paradise of climbers and motorcyclists. The last kilometers up to Bicaz are ok, lots of wide bends and a few villages.
The road along the 8 kilometers of ravines, often in serpentine with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. The narrowest place is the “Stone Gate”, with only one car passing through. Sometimes, because of the flood, it is possible for the circulation to be restricted on a single way.
The way the route is set out means that as you get in to the driving rhythm, the roads tests you more and more, a test that brings its rewards in the form of one of the most stunning panoramas. All in all this is a stunning pass, with an amazing combination of sweepers, tight switchbacks, dramatic views and a drag straight at the end.
If you’re lucky enough to have a sunny day off work, there’s nothing better than to just take a drive. The entire road crossing the Gorges puts to tests the drivers who are rewarded for their effort with the amazing beauty of the landscape.