When foreigners travel to Poland, they usually visit places like Krakow, Warsaw, or Gdansk. Not only are those cities stunning, easy to travel through, and cheap, but also highly tourist-friendly.
I’m here to guide you through a town that most people skip on their visit to Poland – Zakopane, the entryway into the Tatra Mountains. Towns like Zakopane are extremely popular, yet much less known to tourists outside of Poland.
Where is Zakopane and why is it so great? The town of Zakopane is at the very bottom of Poland near the border with Slovakia. It’s known for being a stunning winter town destination. It’s also the center of the unique Goral (Polish Highlander) culture.
The Goral architecture, music, and attire make this city an extraordinary place. And while that culture is highly charming, the best part of that region is the fantastic Tatra Mountains.
A trip to Zakopane deserves at least a week to experience multiple trails, but if you’re short on time, a couple of days is sufficient for the highlights. I’m here to give you a simple two-day itinerary for your solo female hiking in Zakopane excursion.
This past summer, I spent two days solo hiking in Zakopane on two very different trails, one of moderate difficulty with small crowds and the other is just the opposite. While Poland is a pretty safe country, the idea of being alone in the mountains made my family somewhat worried about my short excursion.
Zakopane is the main town on the Polish side of the Tatra Mountains. It will be your base for the two beautiful hikes. To get to town, you will need to take a bus from Krakow. It’s cheap and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. A popular company called Flixbus has a couple of departure times per day.
Pre-book online and show your mobile tickets to the driver. I would highly recommend taking the early bus so you can start the day as soon as possible. Once you get to Zakopane, you will arrive at the central bus station. Located a 10-minute walk from the main part of town. To get to the hiking trails, you’ll need to take microbuses from town.
For accommodations, there are so many options in town that your choice will depend on your budget. I stayed in the town next to Zakopane in one of the more known hostels. I liked it as a base for my hikes, but they would have been just as easy to access if I stayed anywhere else.
As solo female hiking in Zakopane, I did get some looks as almost all females hiked with other people. However, it felt very safe and my only concern was not hurting myself on the trail.
Useful Things To Know
- Make sure to withdraw some cash because you’ll need it for the buses and checkpoint entry tickets.
- To my surprise, a lot of people didn’t speak English compared to towns like Krakow.
- If you take a taxis, ask for the meter to be on or for an estimate of your destination.
- The mountain trail mountain huts serve cold beer and good food.
- Hiking in Zakopane is a pretty popular activity: start your day early!
- The highest peak on the Polish side is Rysy standing at almost 2,500 meters.
- Travel in late spring or early fall for easy hiking conditions and slightly fewer crowds.
Zakopane has a ton of trails. Some are intense. Others are super easy but come at the cost of being overcrowded. With this guide, I planned two routes for you, one on the moderate/hard side the other on the easier side, but with more crowds. I did both hikes in June, which is considered high season.
I’m including a Google Map route for you, so you have an idea about the direction of the trails. Although pretty close, I did notice that it’s not 100% accurate, so make sure to either download a hiking app, grab a paper map at your hotel or follow my route based on the trail colors.
Hike 1: Moderate Route Through The Mountains
As any responsible traveler wouldn’t do, I had zero plans for which route I was going to take on my arrival. When I went to drop off my bags at the hostel, I decided to trust the receptionist’s advice, who ended up giving me the best route for the day. It wasn’t filled with people as it went in the “opposite” of the regular direction of the trail.
As someone with a very average physical ability, the route felt more like a marathon than a sprint. It was hard at times, but the exhaustion came in the end. As a solo female hiker, I’m sure my adrenaline added to my energy levels as I tried to stay alert the entire time.
I took this hike as soon as I arrived in Zakopane but I didn’t start until 10:30 am, which is pretty late. I ended up finishing the hike around 5:30 pm, which with breaks, took about 7 hours. The trail gave me everything I needed: forests, streams, ponds, stunning mountain views, and some physical exhaustion to feel proud of myself for accomplishing this task.
Start: Black Trail In Brzeziny To Muranowiec Hut
As previously mentioned, the way you get to each trail entry point is by taking a microbus. For your starting point, take a bus in the direction of Morskie Oko but get off at the Brzeziny stop. This entry point is not very popular and compared to the others. You won’t find crowds at the entrance.
Your hike will start on the Black Trail in the direction of Psia Trawka towards Muranowiec Hut, which will be your first rest. If you’re walking at an average speed, this will take you between 2 to 2.5 hours. The route had a slow and steady incline which you shouldn’t underestimate.
Trust me, though, you will notice on your way down why you took this option instead. The scenery is beautiful but not the highlight of this hike. It primarily consists of a spruce forest with some mountain sneak peeks throughout the trail.
As a female solo hiker, I would say this was the sketchiest part of the trail because I was mostly alone. Only a couple of times, I had someone pass by and would be on my toes, making sure no one was following me. If you’re super apprehensive, I would pack a knife or pepper spray for some confidence.
Quick Rest At The Muranowiec Hut
After a 2.5 hour steady incline, you’ll need a break. The nice thing about Polish mountain huts is that they’re filled with good food and cold beers. This place gets crowded as multiple trails merge here. A lot of hikers also spend the night here too. Spend 30 minutes refueling and giving your feet a well-needed break.
Small Detour To Czarny Staw GąSienicowy
The next stop from the hut will be the stunning Gasienicowy Pond. There is no loop trail from the hut, so you’ll have to take the 30-minute blue trail in both directions. It is worth the detour, especially if you’re not going to see Morskie Oko, one of the most popular trails offering similar views. I spent about 30 minutes just sitting, admiring Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy and its peaceful surroundings.
Although you have to come back on the same route, walking in the opposite direction gives you incredible views too! This part wasn’t as busy as I expected but had a decent amount of people on the trail. It is very rocky, so good shoes are a must here.
Blue Trail Through Dolina Gąsienicowa
This was by far my favorite part of the trail and I hope you will love it as much as I did. Once you leave the hut, you will walk through the valley with the iconic mountain huts. This part of the route is why hiking in Zakopane should be on your Poland bucket list!
There will be a slight incline up the mountain, taking 30 minutes or so. Once you get up top, the views in both directions are just unforgettable. The whole chunk will take anywhere between 2 to 2.5 hours to get down.
Here I hope you notice why we started the trail on the other side. You will see many people going in the opposite direction. It is steep and, I imagine, very painful. This was the most crowded part of the trail, so hiking solo here felt very safe.
Alternate Route Out Through Dolina Olczyska
Most hikers, after the blue trail above, will walk down to catch the bus. Since my hostel was close to the Jaszcurowka entrance, I slightly detoured through Dolina Olyczyska. If you follow my route, I recommend adding this on for an easy trail with some additional views.
However, I wouldn’t go out of my way to hike that portion outside this whole trail. This part took me a little under 2 hours and it was a straightforward route.
Throughout this part, I was utterly alone, I didn’t encounter one person. As a solo hiker, it felt a little sketchy and I would be lying if I wasn’t turning my head every couple of minutes.
The End – You Made It
The whole trial should take about 7-8 hours. It’s certainly not an easy hike but doable for someone with a moderate physical level. To compare, a much worse hike that I thought I was much better prepared for was the infamous Rainbow Mountain climb in Peru.
I felt accomplished and thrilled that I got to experience it all alone. There is nothing better for the soul than a day full of climbing mountains by yourself.
The trail’s end puts you on a local road, but I found a cute family restaurant right next to it. I ordered myself a plate of pierogis along with a cold beer and sat there soaking in the feeling of crushing the first day of hiking in Zakopane!
Hike 2: Easy Route Through the Valley
After my ambitious hike on the first day, I was on the search for something much more manageable. The thought of doing another 7 hours of demanding hiking was something I couldn’t handle. So I went to the expert (the super awesome receptionist in my hostel) and asked her to plan a day 2 for me.
She recommended the opposite of the mountains, a stunning valley on the other side of Zakopane. I jumped on the microbus in the Kiry direction and headed to Dolina Koscieliska.
Dolina Koscieliska to Hala Ornak
Once you get on the green trail, the views hit you in the face. From the very start, you can admire the stunning mountains surrounding the valley. Compared to the day one hike, the valley hike is much much easier but at the same time much more crowded.
The route to Hala Ornak, a mountain hut and a lovely viewing point, takes a little over an hour. The valley route here is simply stunning. You’re surrounded by mountains on both sides and a stream running next to you. If not for the crowds, along with many school field trips, this place would be perfect. As a solo female hiker, this is a very safe part due to the volume of people.
Hala Ornak to Smreczynski Staw
After a small break at Hala Ornak, where you can eat and drink, I recommend taking a quick detour to Smreczynski Staw, another hidden pond in the mountains. I will be honest, it is not nearly as impressive as Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy from the moderate hike, but it’s worth putting extra steps on this easier day.
The round trip is about 50 minutes and some parts of it are pretty steep. The first part of it goes up a steep rocky hill, then the trail changes into a forest walk, then another hill up and finally you arrive at the pond.
Back to Kiry
It might seem like heading back to Kiry happened very fast, but this will take you up to two hours from Smreczynski Staw. I tried to find alternate short routes that I could take instead, but the only way to cross is over a mountain since this is a valley. Along the trail, you will notice many caves that you can add to your route. The whole roundtrip took me about 4 hours in total, so it was a pretty light day.
If you’re like me and feel the need to reward yourself after completing even the smallest task, grab some pierogis and an Aperol Spritz at the severely overpriced restaurant at the entrance.
If you wish to hike something longer, you can find similar valley views with more detour options in Dolina Chocholowska, known for its purple crocus flowers in the spring.
In-Town Attractions After Hiking In Zakopane
After hiking the Tatras, all you might want to do is just lay down and relax. As the known pushy friend, though, here are some other activities that you should consider after your hikes.
Want to get the same rewards that a 5-hour hike would give you? Well, then take the funicular up to Gubalowka Hill. You can purchase the tickets at the top of Krupowki Street. The short ride to the top gives you the most incredible views of the Tatra Mountains.
There are many restaurants up top in which you can grab a nice cup of tea and enjoy the view for hours. It is possible to walk up this hill and see people doing just that as you’re sitting in your cable car. I think that’s just bananas as views are limited and it’s a steep incline. Trust me when I tell you that there are many other hikes you should do instead.
Another cable car in town is the Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car. If you want to take that one, tickets are much more expensive. You have to check if the cable car is running due to weather and lastly it’s notoriously known for huge lines. If you do get to the top, the views won’t disappoint!
Aside from hiking in Zakopane, the next reason why everyone wants to visit this city is for this street. It’s full of shops, restaurants and bars with an unmatchable atmosphere. It’s an attraction within itself and I went back twice to have lunch and to have another Spritz as I people watched for an hour.
Krupowki Street in the winter becomes a winter wonderland. Many Poles only travel to Zakopane to see it during that time.
Want to relax your muscles after a long hike? Try out a Terma or a Thermal Bath. They’re not too far from town and are a nice activity to do even if you’re traveling solo! You can take a bus or a 20-30 minute drive to Bukowina Tatrzanska or Bialka Tatrzanska.
Final Thoughts On Solo Hiking In Zakopane
Hiking alone, especially as a female, can be intimidating. Thanks to numerous movies, real-life stories, and news, it’s hard not to fear walking alone in a remote forest.
I’m happy to come back and say that solo female hiking in Zakopane is something you shouldn’t be afraid of. Most trails have a moderate amount of people on them, so you’re never truly alone. The moderate one was a bit more secluded throughout my two hikes, and there were moments where I was a little sketched out (for no apparent reason, though).
If you’re considering a soul cleanse in Tatras, or you can’t get your friends to align their time to travel with you, don’t think twice and book your trip! I went blind into my hike route, but now you don’t have to!
I hope one day you get to enjoy this mountain range as much I did.
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