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Crocus Loop

Crocus Loop

Hokuskrokus, czyli poszukiwania krokusów na Szlak Rowerowy Wokół Tatr
Spring, the snow-capped peaks of the Tatra Mountains in the glare of the first strong sun and blossoming fields of crocuses. If you can imagine this picture only with the Chochołów Valley in front of you, overtaken by hordes of weekend tourists, I suggest an alternative: cycling and exploring new branches on the 70-km route linking the cycling Trail Around the Tatras (SWT) and VeloDunajec (VD).

Which way to choose? If you like uphill rides, I recommend cycling from Nowy Targ along the VeloDunajec to Poronin, from where you’ll head for the famous uphill sections to Mounts Ząb and Gubałówka, and from there enjoy the descend almost all the way through Dudkówka, Ratułów, Ciche to Chochołów, where you take the main SWT route via a bike link and then head straight on, still slightly downhill, back to your starting point. If you don't like uphill ascents or you’re going with kids, I would then recommend using the rail support: first the classic train from Nowy Targ to Zakopane, and then the funicular to Gubałówka. You and your bicycles can easily get into both, but bear in mind that the latter can get really crowded at weekends. On the weekends the promenades on the mountains get crowded as well, as these are interconnected vessels, so I recommend making use of the early morning hours.

But I understand you’ve chosen to cycle and you’re curious about how to get to those crocus fields, so now, a little more detail about the route. The VeloDunajec itself from Nowy Targ is a ride on relatively quiet roads parallel to the perpetually congested ‘Zakopianka’ road. Unfortunately, we’ll have to cross it a couple of times, counting a little on the mercy of drivers, because unfortunately it was not possible to mark out cycle crossings through it when VeloDunajec was being created. Therefore, it’s a big plus that we can use the pedestrian/bicycle tunnel under the new Poronin junction; although the descent to reach it is a bit twisty, it’s wide enough even for a bike with a cargo trailer. The tunnel will lead us to the road going towards the Mount Ząb, and near its exit, behind the bridge over the Biały Dunajec River, the construction of a new Cyclists’ Rest Area in Poronin is also planned. As soon as it’s ready: I’d recommend having a rest here, because while the ascent up Mount Ząb,  isn’t extreme, it can definitely be exhausting.

After the climb, we reach the Harenda-Gubałówka junction, where we’ll also see signs of the Trail Around the Tatras, as it’s through these two places that one of the new branches of the SWT (marked at the end of 2018) leads. In the summer season, the lift to Harenda can also be used as an alternative to those 1,000-metre ascents. The lower station of the chairlift is located right next to VeloDunajec, and the ski station itself has been hosting the Małopolska Cycling Season Finish for a few years now (there are also downhill slopes, so the lift is suitable for transporting bicycles).

A recently resurfaced asphalt road winds its way up to Gubałówka itself, the renovation of which was done under the banner of ‘building a bicycle path’, but unfortunately this doesn’t mean you won’t encounter any cars here. There are some prohibitory signs, but they aren’t respected by anyone, and the last car park is just before the very top of Gubałówka. So, if you don’t want to be annoyed / you’ve already seen Giewont and a lot of stalls / it’s a warm weekend / you hate squeezing through crowds of pedestrians (expletive deleted as appropriate), skip the ascent to Gubałówka and head for Nowe Bystre and Piszczorówka straight from Ząb. This is also how you’ll get to these new asphalt sections, closed to general traffic (for residents and cyclists only) via Dudkówka.

All right, and what about those crocuses, after all? This is where they start. It was in these pastures lying along this branch of the Trail Around the Tatras that I encountered the first fields of these flowers. Such ‘crocus fields’ accompanied me practically all the way to Czarny Dunajec. Believe me, after the fourth such field and as many photo sessions, you begin to ignore them, as there are just too many of them here :-). And unlike, for example, the Chochołów Valley, which is crowded these days, no one will chase us away from them or enter the frame of the photo being taken. Here you can enjoy peace and quiet and a much more majestic backdrop of mountains than in the valley. After numerous crocus pitstops (they even grow by the rest stop shelter next to the trail), I chose the road option to descend to Cichy via Mulice and Ratułów (you can also take the asphalt road via Zoki). The trail also has a downhill option for MTB/gravel, so the choice is up to you and depends on the equipment you have.
Szlak Wokół Tatr łącznik z Chochołowa

Lunch and sightseeing are recommended in Chochołów, and from there you can enjoy an asphalt link to the main route of the Trail Around the Tatras. On this link, the concentration of crocuses per square metre was probably even higher or I was already suffering from nystagmus...

I don’t think I have much to describe regarding the main line of the Route Around the Tatras, as I think most of you already know it. We reach Nowy Targ along a perfect asphalt road built in the rail bed of the abandoned rail line, all the time going slightly downhill.

Feel encouraged? You’ve missed the crocus bloom period? I recommend this trip anyway, as the almost 40-kilometre descent from Gubałówka to Nowy Targ with views of the Tatras will certainly make up for their absence. But do go for it sometime in the spring :-)

Here you’ll find more information about VeloDunajec and the Trail Around the Tatras, and below is a map of the recommended tour (with downloadable GPX).

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