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Tatra provide some of the best walking experience in Poland, hands down! Trails’ level of difficulty vary from very easy to hard, technical climbs, hence everyone finds the right hike for themselves. Whether you’re looking for a full day challenging hike with security chains or lower hill with amazing views all around or a a nice, relaxing walk in the valley, Tatra mountains provide it all.
We put together a list of 6 easy hikes from Zakopane, most of them are low level and perfect for beginners or as a break between more strenuous ventures in Polish Tatra mountains. We believe that some of the them are perfect for your first visit to Zakopane and make a fantastic introduction to Tatra National Park.
Enjoy our favourite easy hikes in Polish Tatra mountains!
6 EASY HIKES FROM ZAKOPANE
1. Dolina Koscieliska
Dolina Koscieliska (Koscieliska Valley) is located in Western Tatra range and it’s one of our favourite valleys!
The trail starts in Kiry which is easily reached by public transport: mini-buses leave from Dolne Krupowki/Bottom of Krupowki or train station in Zakopane (ride cost 5 PLN per person in 2018).
You can follow the valley for as far you wish, but we recommend walking its full length, to the mountain hut at Hala Ornak.
The valley is approximately 6 km long and hiking to the hut takes around 1.5 hours. Dolina Koscieliska is a very easy walk on a wide and well made track which is followed by a mountain stream. Total ascent along the valley is approximately 200 m. The main trail is suitable for buggies, no one is too small to enjoy a fine day in the mountains!
To turn a visit to Dolina Koscieliska into a whole day adventure in the national park, you can choose one (or all) of the optional detours from the main trail:
- Hala Stoly – around 30 minutes into the valley, you will see a signpost to the right (marked BLUE) to beautiful alp with a couple of traditional huts. The trail is marked and it’s a steady 45 minutes climb. Views of Giewont and other Western Tatra peaks are magnificent. Hala Stoly is a great place to enjoy peaceful atmosphere (while munching snacks!), before retracing your steps down to the valley.
- Wawoz Krakow (Krakow gorge) – this is one of the most beautiful gorges in Western Tatra! Trail to Wawoz Krakow is signposted and marked YELLOW.
- Smocza Jama cave. Once you’re wandering along Wawoz Krakow (and by chance have a torch in your rucksack), you can visit a Smocza Jama cave, which translates to a ‘dragon’s hole’. Entrance to the cave is located along YELLOW trail, approximately 100 metres into the gorge (you’ll have to climb a short, vertical ladder). This part of trail is one way only (hence it make more sense to visit the cave on your return way from Hala Ornak hut). Keep in mind that having your own torch is essential to explore the cave, as there are no lights installed. If you do not like the idea of climbing the ladder though, you will have to retrace your steps to return to main trail.
- Jaskinia Mrozna cave. There is another cave open to visitors, along Dolina Koscieliska. Jaskinia Mrozna (‘Frosty Cave’) is signposted from main trail, to the left. Keep in mind that the BLACK trail to Jaskinia Mrozna is one-way only (recommended to visit on your way into the valley). Good news is, the cave is lighted and there’s no need to have your own torch.
- Smerczynski Staw (Smerczynski Pond) About 2 minutes before reaching the mountain hut at Hala Ornak (at the very end of Kocieliska Valley), you will see a BLACK trail signposted to Smerczynski Staw. It’s a 30 minutes walk with total ascent of 114 metres. Once at Smreczynski Staw, you’ll enjoy beautiful view of Bystra – the highest peak of Slovak Western Tatra range.
Food and drinks are available in the mountain hut at Hala Ornak, just bear in mind that the queue to the bar gets insane in peak seasons. However, I cannot encourage you enough to try Szarlotka (Tatran applie pie) once you’re there. We have been saying this over and over, but personally we think it’s the best szarlotka you can have, ever! Try the ‘deluxe’ version with cream and fruit & let us know, if you agree it’s the best apple pie in the world!
If you’ve already munched your szarlotka, retrace your steps to the bus stop on the main road in Kiry, where you started in the morning.
2. Hala Gasienicowa and Czarny Staw Gasienicowy
Hike to Hala Gasienicowa and Czarny Staw Gasienicowy is the most challenging of the 6 easy walks from Zakopane, but definitely worth the effort, as it takes you to the beating heart of Tatra mountains. This walk is a very good introduction to hiking in High Tatra mountains. You can also extend it to Przelecz Zawrat and Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich.
If you only want to hike to Hala Gasienicowa and Czarny Staw Gasienicowy, allow approximately 5-6 hours. You won’t regret it, along the trail you’ll enjoy views over beautiful meadows, to the high rugged peaks and to an emerald lake.
Trail to Hala Gasiennicowa starts in Kuznice, and it’s best reached by public transport.
Get off the minibus in Kuznice, face the lift to Kasprowy Wierch and walk to the left, towards highland style buildings. Kuznice is a starting point of many hikes, but you should look out for either BLUE trail or YELLOW trail – both signposted to Hala Gasienicowa and schronisko Murowaniec / Murowaniec mountain hut (1508 masl). We recommend taking one trail for the ascent and then the other one on descent, to make the hike more interesting. Both trails take roughly the same time.
YELLOW trail starts directly opposite the highland style buildings, and follows Jaworzynka Valley. It’s pretty much flat at the beginning, but then, when reaching end of Jaworzynka, it turns into into a steep climb to Przelecz Miedzy Kopami – a saddle where a BLUE and YELLOW trails marge.
BLUE trail starts a bit further from mini-bus station (pass the highland style buildings). Walk towards spruce forest and look out for a signpost to Dolina Gasienicowa & Murowaniec mountain hut. The trail first runs thru the forest, and is a steep path, made of cobblestones. It soon opens up and follows a gentle ridge of Boczan, before merging with yellow trail.
Both trails then continue to Dolina Gasienicowa and Murowaniec mountain hut.
The most exciting section of the hike is between Przelecz pod Kopami and Murowaniec hut. Stunning views of rugged high mountains with majestic Koscielec and small wooden climbers’ huts are simply breath taking!
Murowaniec is a quite a large hut with a bar and kitchen serving homemade food (daily, all day) and beverages. We especially recommend trying their home made crepes (available with various fillings), they’re simply legendary and make for a fantastic breakfast!
From Murowaniec continue along BLUE trail for half an hour to Czarny Staw Gasienicowy. The views around will take your breath away again and you won’t rush to leave this amazing place!
If you feel like extending the hike, why not climb to Przelecz Karb, at the foot of mighty Koscielec? Although climb to the Karb along BLACK trail (starts at Czarny Staw Gasienicowy) is rather steep, it’s worth the effort, as Karb is a very good viewpoint to other little ponds dotting nearby Dolina Zielona Gasienicowa. Once on Karb, you can retrace your steps back to Murowaniec hut; alternatively why not continue ahead along BLUE trail (and then change to black trail again to return to Murowaniec) and explore ponds at Dolina Zielona Gasienicowa?
3. Sciezka Pod Reglami and Sarnia Skala
Sciezka Pod Reglami is a great low level walk with beautiful views of Giewont, beginning at Dolina Strazyska (Strazyska Valley).
To reach Dolina Strazyska take a mini-bus from Dolne Krupowki (Lower Krupowki), it will take you straight to the trail head. Once at the forest edge, take RED trail which follows a well defined path along the valley.
At the very end of Dolina Strazyska you’ll find a small mountain hut, a perfect spot to have a coffee break. You can also get some snacks and other hot/cold beverages.
Walking along the valley you’ll be accompanied by Strazyski Potok (Strazyski stream); you’ll have to cross it a couple of times, but don’t worry, there are lovely little footbridges provided. While hiking in the valley, you can appreciate beautiful cascades on the stream.
After about 40 minutes walk, you’ll reach the hut.
Many hikers finish their visit to Dolina Strazyska at the mountain hut or by visiting nearby small waterfall – Siklawica (BLACK trail and YELLOW trail) before retracing their steps to the bus stop. However, we recommend to continue the hike along Sciezka Pod Reglami, to Sarnia Skala.
Once you’re back on BLACK trail near mountain hut, make sure to walk towards Kuznice (or Czerwona Przelecz & Dolina Bialego). The path ascends steeply (total ascent 244 metres) through the forest for another 40 minutes, before reaching Czerwona Przelecz (saddle). This is where you’ll have to leave the main path and turn left, to Sarnia Skala. You’ll be walking above tree line, hence views improve and you’ll admire northern face of Giewont (now it is easy to see why it is called a Sleeping Knight!). Look in the opposite direction and you’ll find yourselves exactly over Zakopane!
Retrace your steps to return to main Sciezka nad Reglami, and continue along BLACK trail, towards Bialy Potok (20 minutes). At Bialy Potok you can take a shortcut path to descend directly to Zakopane, along YELLOW trail.
Bialy Potok valley is one of the most beautiful valleys and it’s situated very close to edges of Zakopane. What’s so special about Dolina Bialego Potoku? It’s surrounded by high rocks and followed by Bialy Potok stream, the riverbed is down below path level, making it a bit different than other valleys in Tatra. Once at the forest edge, take a path marked black (towards ski complex) and you’ll be back in Zakopane in no time.
If, however, you’re up for a longer walk, continue further along BLACK trail, to Polana Kalatowki and further, change to BLUE trail to Kuznice. Sciezka nad Reglami is a perfect half day hike and will only require to get the bus in the morning (if you don’t mind walking back to Zakopane town centre)
The Sciezka nad Reglami (BLACK trail) can be started and finished at many different points, but to be honest some sections are a bit tiring (tree roots sticking out) so we think hiking the described part is optimal.
Allow 4-5 hours for Sciezka Nad Reglami.
4. Wielki Kopieniec
Wielki Kopieniec is undoubtedly an amazing viewpoint and a relatively easy hike. The whole route can be completed within 3 hours.
The best place to start the walk is the village of Jaszczurowka, where you can also visit a beautiful highland style wooden church (dating back to 1904).
To get to top of Wielki Kopieniec, take GREEN trail through Olczyska valley. First section of the hike goes through spruce forest and is followed by a stream, so typical for Tatra!
In about 30 minutes you will reach Olczanska meadow where the green and yellow trails cross. Continue along GREEN trail until the top of Wielki Kopieniec; passing through Kopieniec meadow with characteristic, small wooden mountain huts. Watch out at the meadow, ensure to take a path going to the summit, not the other one!
Wielki Kopieniec offers panoramic views of High Tatra range, and on a clear day you can even see as far as Czerwone Wierchy and Giewont!
You can return the same way or continue along GREEN trail to Toprowa Cyrhla, where you can catch a mini bus back to Zakopane.
5. Rusinowa Polana (1210 masl) and Gesia Szyja (1465 masl)
Another beautiful walk with breath taking views of High Tatra range! Rusinowa Polana is locals’ favourite picnic meadow and one you should definitely visit! Sheep grazing around the meadow just add more charm to the place. To make a picnic memorable, why not buy fresh oscypek cheese (traditional Tatran smoked sheep cheese). This cannot get any better!
How to get to Rusinowa Polana?
From Wierch Poroniec, along wide and well-marked GREEN trail, with many viewpoints along the way. Walking time approximately 1 hour with 130 metres of total ascent. The trail starts at the car park at Wierch Poroniec (parking charge 25 PLN per day). You can easily reach Wierch Poroniec by bus from Zakopane (direction to Morskie Oko, bus fare 9 PLN).
From Zadnia (via Wiktorowki) along BLUE trail. This route is longer, total ascent (330 metres) is greater than from Wierch Poroniec and it runs thru the forest with no panoramic views BUT it encounters an important landmark. Along the way, it passes chapel of Virgin Mary of Jaworzyna in Wiktorowki, as well as a small cemetery dedicated to those who died in the mountains. This typical highland chapel was built in 1936 and is a place of worship for many Catholics. If hiking from Zadnia, allow 1.5 hours to Rusinowa Polana.
Also, make sure to have some spare time for a picnic on Rusinowa Polana – I promise it’s going to be one of your best picnics, ever!
From Rusinowa Polana take GREEN trail towards Gesia Szyja. Although the ascent is rather steep, you gain 250 metres quickly, within about 45 minutes walk. If, in a minute of weakness you start asking yourself why are you even walking to Gesia Szyja, wait till you reach the top – the views are phenomenal! And then, instantly, you’ll forget all the pain!
Return from Gesia Szyja
You can simply return to Rusinowa Polana or alternatively extend the hike to Murowaniec and Hala Gasienicowa (time 2.5 hours, distance 6.5 km, total ascent 320 metres, trail marked GREEN). This is a very nice and quiet path, chosen by only few, so you can enjoy it even during high season. Return from Murowaniec to Kuznice (see easy hike number 2, above, for detailed information).
6. Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich
If you want to see some of the most magnificent Tatran ponds surrounded by high ridges, we definitely recommend visiting ‘The Valley of 5 Ponds’ rather than hiking to Morkie Oko!
Hike to Dolina Pieciu Stawow begins in Palenica Bialczanska, and first you’ll need to follow paved road towards Morskie Oko. After 40 minutes you’ll come to a waterfall, Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza. This is where you’ll leave the paved road and turn right, into a mountain trail. Follow GREEN trail signposted to Dolina Dolina Pieciu Stawow. It’s quite steep, with only short flatter sections – height gained is 600 metres over distance of 5 km. Therefore, allow about 2 hours 15 minutes to the mountain hut at Dolina Pieciu Stawow. Most of the way, trail follows Roztoka river thru the forest, however as the path climbs above tree level, you’ll finally enjoy fantastic views to surrounding mountains. Not long later you will pass Siklawa waterfall – one of the highest waterfalls in Polish Tatra.
When you reach a wooden bridge, you can take it easy and enjoy 360º views. At this point you are already in the Valley of 5 Ponds! Take BLUE trail to continue further (as far as you wish, the valley is quite long).
Mountain hut at Dolina Pieciu Stawow is small but very charming, it serves home made food or hot/cold drinks. Why not try local traditional dishes like Kwasnica?
On your return from hut to Palenica Bialczanska, take BLACK trail which starts directly behind the hut. This it a good trail, less steep and easier than green trail you used on ascent. The two trails will finally merge and take you back to Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza waterfall and further to Palenica Bialczanska.
LOOKING FOR OTHER AMAZING HIKES IN TATRA MOUNTAINS? CHECK OUT THESE TRAILS!
If you’re looking for other hiking ideas in Polish Tatra mountains, from Zakopane, check out these amazing walks! All include detailed route descriptions and hiking maps:
CZERWONE WIERCHY – iconic ridge walk in Western Tatra over the ‘Red Peaks’, includes visiting Dolina Koscieliska (Koscieliska valley) for the best Tatran szarlotka (apple pie)
GIEWONT AND KASPROWY WIERCH – amazing day hike to two most iconic peaks in Western Tatra
ORNAK AND STAROROBOCIANSKI WIERCH – a long day out in the Western Tatra range, but so worth the effort! Includes exploration of two beautiful valleys – Koscieliska and Chocholowska, as well as a straightforward ridge walk in some of the most amazing scenery.