Tatra and Pieniny Mountains

Mały Giewont
Hiking trips in the magnificent scenery of the Tatras, Poland’s highest mountains, are one of the greatest attractions in Małopolska. The Pieniny mountains are of equal beauty. Many curiosities and attractions also hide in the submontane regions of Podhale and Spisz. Polish Tatra Mountains, protected as part of the Tatra National Park, require a good physical condition. However, apart from long, difficult expeditions for the highest peaks, you can opt for shorter and much easier hikes, leading through the most beautiful valleys in the Tatras. Pieniny, quite miniature compared to the Tatras, but also protected as a national park, guarantee an equal amount of attractions. The famous gorge of Dunajec, a river that cuts through the mountains, can be crossed on rafts or simply admired during hiking or cycling trips.


The High Tatras  

1. To the Tatra lakes

Palenica Białczańska – Morskie Oko – Szpiglasowa Przełęcz – Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich – Dolina Roztoki – Palenica Białczańska
21 km 8 hours hiking

A hiking trip to the highest and most beautiful mountain lakes is one of the local favourites. The first part of the expedition (to the Morskie Oko lake), is not too exhausting. The trail follows an asphalt road (closed to traffic) from the car park on the Palenica Białczańska glade, and although quite unvaried, it guarantees wonderful views. Morskie Oko is surrounded by the highest peaks in Poland, while the stylish mountain refuge serves wholesome fare and guarantees good rest. From Morskie Oko, the route follows a yellow trail to the Szpiglasowa Pass (2114 m asl), from which you will descend to the Valley of Five Polish Lakes. Apart from the lakes, its attraction is also Poland’s largest, 70-metre high Siklawa waterfall. In order to get there, you need to switch to the blue trail at the edge of the valley, and then continue on the green. Walking on, following the green signs down the Roztoka valley, you will pass another waterfall – Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza (Mickiewicz Waterfall).

2. Above Hala Gąsienicowa

Kuźnice – Kasprowy Wierch – Świnica – Hala Gąsienicowa – Kuźnice
11 km 5,5 hours hiking

Thanks to the cableway from Kuźnice to Kasprowy Wierch, you can easily get to the main ridge of the Tatras. Once there, take the red trail towards Świnica (2301 m npm) – an impressive peak towering over Hala Gąsienicowa. The climb is steep, but it requires no special mountaineering skills. It is best to return from the peak to Świnica Pass and descend on the black trail to the small, yet picturesque Gąsienicowe Lakes. After resting in the Murowaniec refuge, you can return to Kuźnice by following the blue or yellow trail.

The Western Tatras  

3. To the Giewont cross

Kuźnice – Giewont – Mały Giewont – Dolina Strążyska – Zakopane
12 km 6 hours hiking 

The majestic silhouette of the Giewont mountain with a cross on its top towers over Zakopane and attracts hordes of tourists. The trip to its top begins in Kuźnice, with a blue trail passing through the Kalatówki glade to the miniature refuge on Hala Kondratowa. A steep climb starts here, and you will conquer the last stretch holding on to the chains. It is recommended to return using the red trail. The picturesque route with beautiful views of Czerwone Wierchy (Red Peaks) continues just below Mały Giewont (Small Giewont) to the impressive Strążyska valley and further on to Zakopane.


4. The treasures of Kościeliska Valley

Kiry – Dolina Kościeliska – Kiry
11,5 km (including extra options 17 km) 3,5 hours (including extra options 6–7 godz.) hiking

Kościeliska valley, considered to be the most beautiful valley of the Western Tatras, is graced with impressive rock gates and the magnificent ranges of Czerwone Wierchy and Kominiarski Wierch that tower over it. Local calcareous rocks feature numerous caves, some of which are open to visitors. A trip through the valley is actually a long walk in beautiful scenery. You can add some variety by taking a side trail to the Mroźna cave or the Kraków ravine. A short path near the refuge on Ornak will take you to the Smerczyński pond located in the middle of spruce forests, while other side trails lead to the Mylna and Raptawicka caves (which you can enter, if you have a torch).

5. Forest Valleys 

Zakopane – Dolina Białego – Sarnia Skała – Dolina Strążyska – Zakopane
8 km 3 hours hiking 

If your physical condition or shortage of time don’t allow you to take trips down the largest valleys and up the tallest peaks of the Tatras, it is worth going to the smaller and no less interesting forest valleys situated just above the centre of Zakopane. A small path known as Ścieżka pod Reglami (path under the forest valleys) will take you from the famous Wielka Krokiew ski jump to the Białego Valley. It is a very narrow canyon carved in dolomite rocks, in which there is a trail path built from wooden logs. From the upper part of the valley, take the black trail known as Ścieżka nad Reglami (path over forest valleys) to the top of the Sarnia Skała mountain, where you can admire a breathtaking view of the Giewont mountain. Follow the same trail to descend to the Strążyska Valley, where, after following the yellow signs, you will reach the picturesque Siklawica waterfall. To return, take the red trail down the valley towards Zakopane.
6. Along the Gubałówka ridges

Witów – Butorów – Gubałówka – Zakopane
12 km 4 hours hiking/cycling 
Opposite the Tatras, closing the basin in which Zakopane is located from the north, rises the small Pasmo Gubałowskie (Gubałówka range). Some beautiful views of the Tatras stretch from its ridge. Begin the trip in Witów by following the black trail along the Czarny Dunajec (Black Dunajec). Then climb the gentle slope of Gubałówka. It is here that you can admire the most breathtaking views. You can return to Zakopane either by funicular rail or by descending down one of the numerous trails. The quickest hiking route is on the black trail, while the longer option is by walking along the ridge to Poronin or Harenda.   

Niedzica, Czorsztyn 


1. Two castles

Czorsztyn– Sromowce Wyżne – Niedzica
13 km 5 hours hiking

The trip will let you visit two castles situated among the picturesque landscape of the Czorsztyn Lake. The route leads along marked trails, partially through the area of the Pieniny National Park. Begin your trip at the ruins of the Wronin castle in Czorsztyn. Follow the green trail taking you through the village, and then turn right in the upper part of Czorsztyn, following the signs of the blue trail. Go past the information point of the Pieniny National Park and continue along the open ridge of Majerz. At the Osice pass you will reach the road leading from Krośnica to Sromowce Wyżne, but the route continues to follow the trail signs all the way to the Trzy Kropce pass. Once there, go down the steep slope (red trail) below the rocks of Rabsztyn to Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty and the Dunajec river raft harbour. The trail then leads along the road to Sromowce Wyżne, and gets to the other bank of Dunajec across the low dam on the Sromowce Lake. Along the southern bank lies the road from Niedzica to the border with Slovakia, which will take you to the dam on the Czorsztyn lake. The structure’s embankment is a whopping 56 m high, making Poland’s largest earth dam. The trail cuts across the bends of the road and takes you to the Dunajec castle. The impressively situated edifice dates back to the Middle Ages: the upper castle on the top of the hill is Gothic, while the larger castle situated below represents the Renaissance style. About 200 m from the castle there is a pier, where during the summer you can get a boat trip back to Czorsztyn.


2. Around the Pieniny park 

Niedzica – Frydman – Dębno Podhalańskie – Maniowy – Mizerna – Kluszkowce – Czorsztyn – Krościenko – Szczawnica – Czerwony Klasztor – Sromowce Niżne – Sromowce Wyżne – Niedzica
65 km 8 hours cycling

The trip runs along comfortable asphalt roads and will take you to the most interesting spots in Pieniny, predominantly outside marked trails. Begin at the Dunajec castle in Niedzica by taking the picturesque road running along the southern shore of the Czorsztyn Lake. You will soon reach Frydman, where you can visit the Gothic church and the fortified manor house in Renaissance style. The next stopover on the route is Dębno Podhalańskie, a town made famous by the magnificent 15th century UNESCO-listed wooden church. In Dębno Podhalańskie, take road no. 969 towards Krościenko. However, get off the main road in order to pass through the villages of Maniowy, Mizerna and Kluszkowce at the foot of the Lubań range. From the latter village, climb up to the ruins of the Wronin castle in Czorsztyn. Then take the main road down to Krościenko, cross Dunajec and continue along the river almost all the way to Szczawnica. Get off the main road eventually and enter the comfortable road leading along the river on the Slovakian side. This will let you admire the unforgettable landscapes of the Pieniny gorge. When you reach the town of Czerwony Klasztor, return to the Polish side using the footbridge and enter Sromowce Niżne. Continue through Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty and Sromowce Wyżne, eventually reaching the ending point of the route – Niedzica and the castle.
Krościenko nad Dunajcem, Szczawnica  

3. The Sokola Perć mountain path 

Krościenko – Sokolica – Zamkowa Góra – Trzy Korony – Krościenko
12 km 5,5 hours hiking

The best way to get a bird’s eye view of the Dunajec River Gorge is by climbing to the famous Sokolica cliff (747 m asl): there is a green trail that will take you there from Krościenko. The deck on the summit, suspended on a more than 300 m rock, guarantees unforgettable views. Continue the trip on the blue trail known as Sokola Perć (Falcon Path). It runs across the Czertezik and Ociemny Wierch mountains to the Zamkowa Góra mountain with the relics of a medieval castle. From here it is not too far to the highest peak of the Central Pieniny – Trzy Korony (Three Crowns, 982 m asl). More fabulous views of the Dunajec river and the small rafts stretch from the observation deck on Okrąglica. To go down to Krościenko, first take the blue trail to the Szopka pass, then continue on the yellow trail.


4. Wysoka mountain and Homole gorge 

Szczawnica – Wysoka – Wąwóz Homole – Jaworki
13 km 4 hours cycling

Lesser Pieniny are famous for their extensive ridge meadows and picturesque rocks, particularly impressive in the miniature Homole gorge. It is in Lesser Pieniny where you can also find the highest mountain in the range, i.e. Wysoka (1050 m asl). The slopes of the Lesser Pieniny can be reached from Szczawnica using the chairlift to Palenica. From there, follow the yellow trail up the main ridge, where you will find blue signs. Follow them through the extensive ridge meadows and you will reach Wysoka. Be very cautious during your descent: the path is extremely steep. You will see a green trail branching off the blue one at some point. It will take you to the Homole gorge, and then to Jaworki, where the trip ends.


Recommended attractions:
Morskie Oko, the largest lake in the Tatras, surrounded by the highest mountain peaks in Poland, guarantees unforgettable views and rest in the oldest PTTK refuge. 
Kościeliska Valley, considered to be the most beautiful valley in the Western Tatras, graced with impressive rock gates. 
Zakopane, the winter capital of Poland and a town of an extraordinary atmosphere and beautiful wooden architecture; a great starting point for trip in the Tatras. 
Chochołów, a village called “the living past”, with a unique complex of Podhale style wooden buildings. 
Dębno Podhalańskie, where you can find one of Poland’s most beautiful UNESCO-listed wooden churches. 
Dunajec river gorge, where rafting trips are one of the region’s best attractions.
Castles in Czorsztyn and Niedzica, which look very picturesque towering over the the Czorsztyn Lake Homole Gorge, a natural reserve with extremely impressive rock formations.


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