Hiking from Morskie Oko lake to Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich (Valley of 5 Ponds) via Szpiglasowa Przelecz and Szpiglasowy Wierch is an awesome idea and one of our highest recommendations, although it’s not an easy hike! We encourage everyone fit enough to endure a 21 km trail over varied terrain to have a closer look at this route.
The greatest challenge of this classic Tatra walk is crossing over a high mountain ridge at Szpiglasowa Przelecz (over 2000 masl). It is fairly easy on eastern side, however western side is steeper and very rocky, one will have to scramble down in a rough gully. Fortunately, management of Tatrzanski Park Narodowy (the Tatra National Park) provided security chains, these are fitted at the steepest sections for hikers’ safety, and very useful!
Knowing own limitations is one’s greatest strength (and a lifesaver!), whomever doesn’t feel ready for such a challenge will find visiting Morskie Oko or Dolina Pieciu Stawow on separate occasions just as rewarding.
Hiking from Morskie Oko lake to Szpiglasowa Przelecz and Dolina 5 Stawow Polskich fact sheet
- Height: Szpiglasowa Przelecz 2100 masl, Szpiglasowy Wierch 2172 masl
- Total time: 9 hours (including 1,5 – 2 hrs walk to Morskie Oko lake)
- Total distance: 21 km (including 9 km walk to Morskie Oko lake)
- Parking: Palenica Bialczanska (click here for directions)
- Level of difficulty: 4/5 -long hillwalk, involves scrambling (security chains provided)
- Morskie Oko weather: weather forecast for Morskie Oko
- Which map: Tatrzanski Park Narodowy (click to buy)
How to get to Morskie Oko
The best way of getting to Morskie Oko from Zakopane is taking a mini-bus to Palenica Bialczanska. Mini-buses operate according to schedule and run regularly. In summer, during high season, we recommend catching mini-buses at Zakopane train station or on early stops, as they fill up quickly. Cost of such journey is 10 PLN per person, duration approx 40 minutes. For comparison, taxi costs 100 – 120 PLN – total cost (prices valid in autumn 2018).
Alternatively, one can drive to a massive car park at Palenica Bialczanska, however we don’t recommend driving there in summer – local roads are narrow and extremely busy. Car park at Palenica Bialczanska fits hundreds of cars, but fills up very early in high season. The next nearest car park is in Lysa Polana, 1 km away. Daily parking charge on both car parks is 25 PLN (autumn 2018)
Trail to Morskie Oko
Trail to Morskie Oko begins at the large car park in Palenica Bialczanska. Facilities provided are: toilets, rubbish bins as well as fast food van and a small pub. At Tatrzanski Park Narodowy information hut one can buy a map or postcard, but most importantly, has to pay 5 PLN per person admission fee to national park (autumn 2018). A cheeky piece of advice – early birds can sometimes avoid paying the admission fee as the hut opens at ‘between 7 and 9 am’. As much as this may sound absurd to some, it’s not uncommon to hit Tatra trails before 7am 🙂
The only downside to such an amazing hike is necessity of walking 9 km along paved road (traffic free) from Palenica Bialczanska all the way to Morskie Oko mountain hut. It’s a necessary evil rather than a pleasure. Although it follows Dolina Bialego Potoku valley, the view is mostly obscured by alpine forest, and the only interesting point along the way is a waterfall – Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza.
The road is marked RED trail and only TOPR (Tatra Mountain Rescue) and mountain hut supplies delivery vehicles are allowed to use it. Otherwise it’s extremely busy with tourists and walkers, therefore we recommend visiting Morskie Oko in May, June, October or November; definitely skip summer months.
The quickest we ever made it to Morskie Oko was 1 hr 15 mins, but anything short of two hours is a decent timing.
Hiking from Morskie Oko to Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich via Szpiglasowa Przelecz
We hiked to Morkie Oko on previous day (and challenged ourselves to climb Mieguszowiecka Przelecz Pod Chlopkiem) so to save ourselves a total of 18 km walk to and from car park, we spent the night at nearby mountain hut. It was very easy to book a room at Morskie Oko hut even at short notice (mind you, it was November; in summer would be a different story altogether).
Staying overnight at Morskie Oko mountain hut was a great idea and even greater experience! Not only we slept like logs in comfortable warmth and privacy of a double room, but also, as it happened, our room faced lake Morskie Oko. Is there a better ‘room with a view’ in whole Poland? Nope, we didn’t think so!
We have never had a chance to admire Morskie Oko at sunset, night and sunrise, all during the same trip! So, how is Morskie Oko at sunset and evening, in late autumn? Quiet – the ‘day trip crowds’ were already gone. Still – windless weather turned water face into a glistening mirror, reflecting high peaks lightened by warm, setting sun. Sacred – touching that deepest parts of our souls.
Later, when darkness swallowed all views, mountains disappeared and all we had in front of us were millions of stars in the sky, doubled by reflection in still waters below. A mystic experience indeed.
We woke up early in the morning, eager to hit the trail before ‘morning rush hours’, and excited on the thought of hiking to Szpiglasowa Przelecz! But first, a hearty breakfast! Having stepped down to the hut’s canteen we realised that it was really quiet, too quiet!
Bad news, none of us checked kitchen opening times and we were very disappointed to find that breakfast will be served from 9 am (7 am in the summer)… It was 7 am, on the dot. Only a minute ago we were so happy and enthusiastic, suddenly we felt deflated and grumpy.
“Oh” Bea said “what a disaster! What about my scrambled eggs and bacon?!?!” Do you know that feeling, when you look forward to something and then you realise it won’t happen?! Oh my, our morning nearly spoiled, we couldn’t let that happen!
Let’s be honest, we both started the day grumpy as hell. Instead of having a good hearty breakfast, we ended up eating squashed sandwiches prepared 2 days earlier. These sandwiches were meant to be an emergency lunch supplies… don’t get me wrong, they would taste great munched on the trail etc, but we were sitting in a bar with kitchen full of fresh ingredients just on the other side of the door! I could actually imagine fresh eggs waiting for me and almost smelled fried bacon… OK enough!
Grumpy, still half hungry we hit the trail to Szpiglasowa Przelecz. It is marked YELLOW, begins at the northern end of Morskie Oko, near mountain hut, and is signposted to take approx 2,5 hrs. It’s a good, steady climb the whole way, over a well made trail. The morning was crisp and we noticed frost on some rocks, our steps were a bit slippery.
Carefully we continued the climb, amazed by mighty silent peaks around us slowly waking up to a new day. View of Morskie Oko mountain hut disappearing in the distance reminded us of mystic experiences of previous night. Our spirits lifted with every step we took! In no time we gained enough height to see both Czarny Staw pod Rysami (lovely black lake at the foot of Rysy) and Morkie Oko – absolutely amazing view. We could also look over to Mieguszowiecka Przelecz Pod Chlopkiem (which we climbed a day before) as well as Rysy and Mnich – sharp cone shaped rock conquered only by rock climbers, but liked by everyone.
Approximately 1.5 hours into the hike, the path forked and we passed RED trail to Wrota Chalubinskiego. We ignored the fork and continued along YELLOW trail to Szpiglasowa Przelecz. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, right? Definitely! Just two more zig-zags and we reached the Przelecz!
Szpiglasowa Przelecz is a fantastic viewpoint! Squeezed between summit of Miedziane and Szpiglasowy Wierch, is a well known landmark and hiking destination itself. To the east, one can enjoy view to Rysy, Mieguszowieckie group of summits, Czarny Staw pod Rysami and Morskie Oko area, but the most prominent summit in view is Cubryna. To the west, views open over Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich, to the most challenging ridge in Tatra, Orla Perc. Its inaccessible rocky summits and dangerous cols provided a dream adventure experience to many mountain enthusiasts, including us. Best known summits of Orla Perc are Swinica, Kozi Wierch and Granaty.
To extend the hike we also climbed to Szpiglasowy Wierch, a rugged summit over Szpiglasowa Przelecz. There are numerous paths to the top, all just as good, so we picked one at random. Ten minutes later we conquered Szpiglasowy Wierch, at 2172 masl.
Extra effort to climb this additional mountain top paid off! From the spot we looked over to Slovak side of the border (not that far away) with wide, green valley Temnosmrecinska Dolina. Most importantly, we finished all food supplies, only a couple of nuts and raisins left. No reason to worry, in Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich, where we’re just heading, is another mountain hut serving hot food. You guessed, we already knew exactly what to have for early dinner, and couldn’t wait!
Descent from Szpiglasowa Przelecz to Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich is the trickiest part of the hike, and it’s not to be taken lightly. We mentioned that on western side of the Przelecz, the trail goes over steep rock face, in a rough gully. It is, however fitted with chains for extra security, we found the chains very helpful. Check out photo below; tricky section is relatively short, and one won’t even warm up too much before finding themselves zig-zaging down on a well made path again. Descent is not particularly difficult, it requires extra care and good head for heights.
At first zig-zags are eroded and covered in fine loose rock, but it only got better and easier as the trail progressed down. Soon it turned into a well made path, again, and gradient eased considerably. We could finally focus on magnificent views instead looking down at path and watch our steps!
A curious encounter in Tatra mountain: while carefully climbing down slippery rocks, we heard some strange noises. ‘Definitely an animal’ we agreed, and looked towards nearest summit, where the noise came from. Nothing. Then, suddenly, right next to us, a large Tatra chamois (wild mountain goat) appeared. They’re very shy creatures and one can hike in Tatra all their life without spotting one. And there we were, jaw-dropped, casually stared at by an elusive chamois!
What a lucky occurrence! Believe me, all grumpiness of the morning was forgotten in an instant! The chamois was curious of us, and didn’t run away despite us moving slowly down the trail and coming closer. On the contrary, it was posing for photos! Darn, I only took a wide-angle lens with me.. but, oh boy, had I got a telephoto lens, we would end up with some awesome chamois portraits!
Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich is one of top 3 valleys in Tatra, it’s simply fantastic. The ponds, serene ambience and surrounding high ridges make it one of best hiking destinations in Tatra. Also, hidden in the valley is a beautiful mountain hut, our dinner destination!
Hiking at the bottom of the valley, we joined BLUE trail and headed to the hut. As you can imagine, the well deserved dinner was just awesome. As every mountain hut in Tatry, Schronisko Gorskie w Dolinie Pieciu Stawow serves fresh, home made food, very reasonably priced. We especially recommend pork chops with cooked cabbage and boiled potatoes, this mountain dinner classic never disappoints. Neither does another Tatra classic, apple pie (Polish: szarlotka) – optionally served with cream or custard, this is a delight! We always have szarlotka while in Tatra, never miss a chance to enjoy one! It almost became a tradition to have szarlotka in as many mountain huts as possible, on every visit to Tatra (the best apple pie in Tatra mountains is served in Schronisko na Hali Ornak, at the very end of Dolina Koscieliska. Their szarlotka is actually this good that sometimes we purposefully go to Dolina Koscieliska and hike for almost 2 hours only to enjoy a piece of szarkotka at the end!)
Return from Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich to Palenica Bialczanska via Dolina Roztoki
On return we followed BLACK trail from the hut, before it merged with GREEN trail further down. It’s better quality and easier to follow than the other leg, GREEN trail. However for first time visitors, we recommend taking GREEN trail from the hut, as it passes Siklawa, the tallest waterfall in Tatra mountains.
Hiking along Dolina Roztoki may seem a never-ending slog (that’s how we remembered it from the past), but on a hot day it brings relief from burning sun of high valleys. Most of the way, the trail winds thru ever-green alpine forest, following Roztoka stream until another waterfall – Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza. At the waterfall we turned left, onto RED trail (paved road from Morskie Oko) and followed it all the way down to Palenica Bialczanska parking.
Wild camping in Tatra and mountain huts information
Sadly, wild camping is forbidden in Tatra National Park; in fact, it’s banned in Poland by law. Hikers who wish to stay overnight in Tatra, should use mountain huts. There are many huts available, located in every corner of the national park. Booking a room is essential in summertime, advisable in all other seasons. By law, any hut is obliged to take hikers in for the night if they turn up after 10 pm, even when hut is fully booked. In this case extra guests will be accommodated on the floor in corridors or canteen, but charged a full room rate.
Hiking from Morskie Oko to Szpiglasowa Przelecz and Dolina Pieciu Stawow Polskich map
What we loved about hiking from Morskie Oko to Szpiglasowa Przelecz and Dolina 5 Stawow Polskich
This hike is a bit of a challenge, we especially loved a ‘chain section’ at Szpiglasowa Przelecz and view to the ponds and Orla Perc. The trail runs thru most iconic locations in Tatra, the scenery is simply breath-taking! Also, we couldn’t forget the apple pie at the huts, a fantastic reward for every cake lover!
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
ZAWRAT – hike from Zakopane to Zawrat mountain pass and Dolina Pieciu Stawow. It’s a challenging trail and makes for a great introduction to scrambling in Tatra (security chains)
*Level of difficulty explained: 1– easy walk, mostly flat 2-easy hillwalk, good path 3-moderate, possible some steep sections 4-long hillwalk, possibly some scrambling involved, possibly pathless 5-difficult, possibly pathless, long, requires technical skills