In the expansion of this text, you will find details of what is already in place, with highlighted sections where work is still in progress and suggestions for how to organise here either a condensed tour or even a several-days mountain exploration. I'd suggest biking along the GPX track, as a couple of sections aren’t marked yet. The text and track will be updated as works on some sections are still in progress. I classify the proposed ride as a trip somewhere between easy andmedium, mainly due to 2 solid ascents and a problematic section on the PL/SK border in Muszyna. ⅓rd of this 60-kilometre tour runs on dedicated bicycling infrastructure, while the rest in on calm roads carrying general traffic.
Work on VeloNatura in the Poprad Valley is about to be completed.
As two large pedestrian/cycle bridges linking the Polish-Slovak border area have recently been put into service and most of the missing sections have already been built, it is finally possible to have a reasonably consistent bicycle trip from Krynica-Zdrój all the way to Stary Sącz. We’re actually waiting for the finalisation of the works in the Piwniczna and Rytro municipalities, which are scheduled for autumn 2020 (the proposed track avoids the largest current construction sites).
So, what will be waiting for us in the Poprad valley besides brilliant views of the Beskids? Asphalt roads, mostly new or in very good condition, leading slightly downhill over the river, several new footbridges, numerous springs with free mineral water and a huge number of tourist attractions located on the Polish-Slovak border. Add to this a network of new or revitalised trails for touring and mountain biking and it makes for quite a nice destination for a minimum of a weekend on two wheels.
However, let’s start with a proposal for the simplest one-day trip.
I’d encourage anyone following the Velo Dunajec trail to extend their trip by going through the Stary Sącz market square towards the railway station. Here, you take a train, with your bicycles, in the direction of Krynica-Zdrój and for about 1.5 hours you enjoy a ride along one of the most scenic railway lines in Poland. While admiring the views from the train windows, look out for the empty asphalt lines meandering along the Slovak and Polish borders, as this will be your way back. Riding the train this way has another advantage – you can avoid cycling uphill and the only direction awaiting you will be downhill, along the river, although, as you can see from the graph with the elevation (and as you’ll feel in your legs) you’ll still have to do some climbing here and there.
The route is, of course, suitable for cycling from Stary Sącz towards Krynica, and it’s currently the easiest of all possible journeys between these two towns.
A hint for those who aren’t riding along the VeloDunajec, but would like to do it as a one-day trip from Kraków without spending half a day on the train. If you want to shorten this time, go by car from Krakow to Stary Sącz (approx. 2 hours), leave your car in the vicinity of the railway station (along the route of St Kinga, there is a large, free car park) and take the bikes to the train heading to Krynica.
I hope you’ll make use of my suggestions to get to Krynica-Zdrój, so, after leaving the train, you head to the end of the platform, which takes you directly onto the VeloKrynica / AquaVelo route, still under construction in 2019. However, before you turn left and start your excursion along Kryniczanka Creek, check out the famous promenade with its mineral water pump rooms and cafés. This is a kind of minimum plan, and at the end of this text, I’ll say a few words about what else can be seen here within the scope of your bike trip.
The bicycle route between Krynica and Muszyna is practically a model connection between these two health resorts. There are a few lapses along the route (poor traffic organisation or the enclosure installed before crossing the voivodeship road), but they can’t obscure one thing: a really smooth ride slightly downhill with virtually no cars (if you’re heading in that direction). This section is even suitable for riding with young children. A few years ago, all we had to do here was drive along the crowded voivodeship road DW971, and now this unpleasant memory returns in only two places where we have to cross it (in Szczawnicze – Zawodzie and on the bridge in Muszyna). I won’t list here all the attractions you can visit on this section or in its close vicinity, but the minimum plan is to stop in Muszyna at the regional cyclists’ rest area (MOR) where, in addition to a repair station with the possibility of wireless phone recharging, you can enjoy the ‘Anna’ medicinal water intake and fill up your bidons for free. Here’s another hint: make sure you use just bidons or bottles, as pouring these highly mineralised waters into, for example, a camelback, can make it impossible to clean it afterwards. This is not the only spring you’ll encounter on the trail, after all, the Poprad Valley is famous for its mineral waters. Refuelling can still be done in Milko (a slight detour from the route to the next regional MOR) or right off the route in Sulina or Legnava. The waters have their typical flavour, so I advise you to taste them first. I like them very much, but I know from experience that, for example, kids may simply not appreciate them.
In Muszyna, by a rather setsquare link, we enter Zapopradzie with its gardens stretching along Aleja Zdrojowa. You can either immerse yourself in this area for a couple of hours or just take a leisurely ride with a short rest in the new section with recreational ponds and bird aviaries. It has become my personal goal to teach the local talking parrot to say ‘Velo’ instead of ‘Hello’. Immediately after the gardens, a slight ascent awaits you, as this part of the EV11 has been laid out on a concrete slope road through the woods that overgrow the slopes of the river’s valley. It’ll take you to the Polish-Slovak border where (attention!) I’ll have to persuade you to respect the signs put up here and get off the bike (in both directions). This short (20-30 metres) temporary section will be improved soon (levelling will be done), but for now temporary wooden steps and handrails await. I know, it’s not perfect, but the final form of this section will only be achieved at the end of this year or in spring 2021, once the necessary approvals have been obtained, including for the relocation of the boundary post. After cautiously walking this section to the edge of the forest, we will ride on a new road with an improved gravel surface (approx. 0.5 km). For the moment it’s quite hard here, but we’ll see how this slope road changes over time. For road cyclists worried about their tyres and blocks on this steep descent, I recommend simply taking a bypass between Muszyna and Milko along the voivodeship road. Cyclists with children or beginners, I have to warn you honestly: you’ll probably face a 1.5 km walk here due to the elevation and the surface.
However, I’d recommend everyone else to go this way, because after leaving the forest, you’ll enter newly laid asphalt on a completely new section made as far as to the buildings of Legnava. There used to be only dirt roads and ploughed fields to ride on, but now it has become truly nice and in line with the standard of the EuroVelo international route.
This way will lead us to one of the new foot and cycle bridges built this year. Using the Legnava-Milik footbridge, we cross the river and the national borders and ride to discover the new cycle tracks made over the last year on the Polish side all the way to Andrzejówka, where we take another footbridge to return to Slovakia in Malé Lipinek.
A short note here: don’t forget the basic rules for cyclists in Slovakia (including the compulsory helmet outside built-up areas), as we will cycle another 15 km or so through this country. The EV11/VeloNatura route uses quiet public roads on this section, with really minimal traffic, because it’s such a remote place for Slovaks that only locals and cyclists ride here. Some of the picturesque sections leading right along the banks of the river got extra asphalt this year (Zavodie – Medzibrodie), and some of them, unfortunately, already reached the category of the minimally acceptable (Mały Lipnik – around the footbridge in Žegiestov, about 2.5 km), so road cyclists on super narrow tyres are advised to be careful here.
If you don’t like the water from these roadside mineral water springs, I recommend rehydrating with kofola in a nice pub in Malé Lipník or in Mniszek nad Popradem, right on the SK/PL border. This is where we return to the Polish side and follow the old border road to the centre of Piwniczna. In Piwniczna itself, the so-called Nakło recreation centre is being built, with cycle paths, pumptracks, a cycling centre and another pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Poprad River (to be opened this autumn). Until then, you cross to the other side of the Poprad River using the footbridge located next to the railway station. From here, we’ll enjoy quiet roads all the way to Rytro (some of which may be under construction as they are being widened a little). I will be offering you a ride through Rytro itself until at least November this year, unfortunately along the national road, but there are wide shoulders and pavements if you need. By this time, work should have been completed on the final section through the woods surrounding the Rytro lower town. Part of this section is already covered with asphalt, but a new section to Życzanów, in the forests, is still under construction (it’ll have an improved, gravel surface). In Życzanów itself, the previously awfully stony road running right along the banks of the river has recently been given a concrete surface, so that even road cyclists can now ride along it. And they certainly will, as this new concrete section leads to a possible turn onto one of the area’s more challenging ascents up to the Wola Krogulecka, on the top of which you’ll find a viewing terrace offering great panorama. I can recommend it to all of you who want to get really exhausted, and everyone else can take the longer and less demanding climb from Barcice. From Barcice to the footbridge in Stary Sącz (or to the car park where you left your car) you will ride on the well-marked EuroVelo11, a mix of new cycle and public roads with little traffic, with the possibility of stopping at rest stops in Barcice or Cyganowice.
What else besides this riverside route?
The suggestion above is the easiest option to ride the entire Poprad Valley. However, I’d definitely recommend coming for a lengthy cycling reconnaissance, as the construction of this riverside main route (which will be part of the future certified EuroVelo11 international route) has also given impetus to the creation of a whole range of additional trails in Beskid Sądecki. Just remember that we’re in the mountains and every side-step from the line of the river will cost you a decent ascent, rewarded later with beautiful views from the peaks and passes of the Beskid Sądecki.
If you’re a gravel rider or have a trekking bicycle with slightly wider tyres, I can honestly recommend you the Trail of Mineral Waters, which has probably the largest number of mineral water springs per kilometre in Poland, as well as numerous monuments of wooden architecture. It joins the excursion proposed above in Podjastrzębik, Muszyna, Milik and Żegiestów. In the latter locality, I recommend visiting the health resort, which is being renovated, and jumping over to the Slovakian side via a cycle bridge that was built here a few years ago.
If you prefer wider tyres and challenging trips, I’d recommend you the renewed network of mountain biking trails in Krynica-Zdrój and the first of several announced flow/singletrack trails in the Słotwiny-Arena resort, put into service a not long ago, where, in addition to a ski lift taking bikes up, you’ll also find a magnificent viewing tower to visit between the descents. For those who like to ride downhill fast, I also recommend the new cycle park on the sledge slope in Muszyna, and if someone gets bored with this constant downhill ride, check out the MTB classics in this area, i.e., a trip to Bacówka nad Wierchomlą and the Kotylniczy Wierch loop which can also be extended with a ride through Runek to Krynica or through Hala Łabowska towards Piwniczna, which can be reached via Aquavelo trail.
And regarding AquaVelo, the easiest sections of this trail were used on the tour described here, so you'll come across its distinctive green signage during the tour. Other parts of this trail in Poland are definitely more demanding in terms of fitness and equipment. For example, the road from Piwniczna to Obidza is #10 in the ranking of Polish ascents, and the descent to Jaworki itself is still very much off-road. The same applies to its sections around Piwniczna and Rytro, which are dedicated to mountain bikers. In addition, there is also a section of this route on the Slovak side, together with a whole range of other cycle routes and a temporary route (for the time being signposted only on ordinary roads) of the EuroVelo11 route to Prešov. As you can see: there’s plenty to choose from.
Feel encouraged? I can tell you that the Poprad Valley looks the prettiest in autumn colours. I'd also like to invite you to the FB profile of VeloMałopolska, where the latest reports from the Małopolska routes are published, so you can find out which of the sections mentioned in this text as ‘under construction’ are changing their status to ‘finished’.
A map showing the progress of works on this and other cycling routes in Małopolska can be found at bit.ly/map-vm
In additional layers, you’ll also find the recommended cycle routes and tours, together with the location of rest areas and car parks.
developed by Jarek Tarański