Hiking high in Małopolska’s Majestic Mountains.
Now that the skiing season is (nearly) over, why don’t you treat yourself to an equally vigorous workout which, at this time of year, offers even more magnificent views that are still reminiscent of winter, even if already dominated by the lush spring vegetation sprouting all around you?
Zakopane has been hailed the winter capital of Poland for over a century, and as such it offers plentiful attractions to both weathered hikers and those who only take short walks for pleasure. Longer or shorter, more or less demanding, you will find all options available for you here.
A great start for your active hike in the Tatra Mountains is the cable car to Mt Kasprowy Wierch. It saves you the effort of the climb and lets you start the day with beautiful aerial views as the car soars hundreds of feet above the ground while taking you directly to the picturesque ridge on the Polish–Slovak border.
If, however, you prefer to watch the rocky peaks from a “safe distance”, we have a very attractive option for you too. Just take the funicular railway (kolejka) to Mt Gubałówka (3680 ft asl). Standing tall over the other side of Zakopane, it commands perfect views of the whole range of the Tatras and offers “a road like in the city” as the locals refer to the walk along the one-mile-long Droga Zubka running along the ridge.
The Tatras may be the highest mountains in Poland and walking in them offers breath-taking views of magnificent scenery, however the far smaller Pieniny Mountains are also among Małopolska’s greatest attractions.
The Pieniny are a cluster a far smaller mountains with sheer white limestone cliffs picturesquely overlooking the river Dunajec (for information about taking a traditional raft down the Dunajec Gorge, see here) which meanders at their foot among lush conifer forests. They may be pocket-sized mountains, yet they offer views that can hardly be found in many far grander mountain ranges.
As the Tatras and Pieniny are unique on a national scale, they are under strict protection. The rules of the two national parks strictly forbid picking plants, stressing the animals (also with noise), and removing rocks and plants.
You can test your fitness in the tallest parts of the mountains, but please be warned that in May there will certainly be snow and ice lingering in the higher mountains, whether Mt Babia Góra or the High Tatras, and that fog doesn’t only descend on them in the mornings. Should the conditions be unfavourable, for your own safety don’t hesitate to turn back and come down by a safe route.
Appropriate dress is also necessary. Although the weather is quite likely to be wonderful, it is quite unpredictable. Make sure that your hike is safe. Proper gear must include hiking boots with good ankle support and warm clothing preferably with a windproof jacket. In open areas above the tree-line and in all the glades displaying magnificent panoramas, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen will also come in handy.
When on top of Kasprowy Wierch peak, you may follow the red waymarked tourist trail eastwards towards Świnica for a really demanding hike, or opt to follow it westward which, even though easier, still takes you to the top of several precipices and leads you towards Mt Kopa Kondracka and then down or further along the Czerwone Wierchy ridge. There are a number of waymarked trails going down from Mt Kasprowy Wierch, with perhaps the most picturesque and a quite easy one being the yellow one to Murowaniec tourist shelter, and then the blue and later yellow ones to the Kuźnice part of Zakopane. Obviously, you can also stay around the top station for a while and take the cable car back, marvelling all the time at the magnificent views.