If you imagine Poland you might conjure up images of beautiful and impressive cities of culture such as Krakow. You might think of post-Communist history in Warsaw. You might rest for a while with thoughts of Auschwitz, or expect late night clubbing scenes. What you might not expect is some of the very best trekking in Europe, here on Poland’s doorstep. Poland is a country of contrasts: history alongside modernism, partying alongside religion, art alongside adventure. Exploring this mesmerising country with a backpack slung on your back and walking boots on your feet gives you a different experience: A wider experience. An enrichment you wouldn’t have known was possible in Poland.
With a network of around 15,000 of waymarked trails there is no shortage of trekking in Poland. Whilst no backpacker’s trip to Poland would be complete without a decent trek in the famous Tatra Mountains, if you have time you shouldn’t miss out on many of the other breath-taking areas of the country.
Best Places for Hiking and Trekking in Poland
Poland has a wealth of National Parks, each offering something very distinct and impressive to the hiker.
Slowinski National Park
The seaside National Park of Slowinski is an incredible geographical experience. The winds and geography here along the Baltic Sea create the moving dunes that have now been recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The combination of dunes, lakes and forests make for interesting and varied treks. Some of the dunes rise in excess of 30 metres, and the ‘peak’ of the National Park is Rowokol at 115m. The lakes of the area, such as Łebsko and Gardno, combined with the pine forests and peat bogs make Slowinski National Park a haven for birds.
Tatra Mountain National Park
Classic hut-to-hut trekking in panoramic alpine scenes is what you can expect in the Tatra Mountain National Park, nestled along the Slovakian border. These Carpathian highlands are dotted with traditional inns and huts. Famed for its highest peak Rysy at 2499m, this is a popular National Park. If you’re lucky you will experience some of Poland’s, and Europe’s, most impressive wildlife here. The Tatras are home to brown bear, wolf, chamois and the remarkable golden eagle. In the Tatras you come to expect the breathtaking.
Zakopane is the town most associated with exploring this stunning area of Poland. From here you can organise all manner of activities, as well as guided treks, such as watersports, horse-riding and cycling.
The park has around 275km of way-marked trails, many starting or emanating from the Hrebienok Plateau. Although they are colour-coded, don’t be fooled in to thinking these represent difficulty ratings – they don’t! They are simply coloured to make following the routes easier. In this part of the Carpathians it is also important to remember that you must only walk on the trails.
With over 90 lakes, including the infamous Morskie Oko – Poland’s deepest lake – and high peaks, the views here really do make trekking astounding. If you need to rest weary legs don’t forget to take in the cable railway, Kasprowy Wierch, a highlight of the area.
Bieszczady National Park
In the South East of Poland, bordering both the Ukraine and Slovakia, is the lesser known Bieszczady National Park. Whilst still encompassing the Carpathian mountain range, you won’t find the sharp high peaks of the Tatras here. Instead, beautiful relaxing rolling hills comprising of pastures and forests are dotted with around 300 km of paths. We highly recommend the hike up to Tarnica and then head across to the Carynska summit with views of Solina Lake. Also worthwhile is the trek up to Polónina Wetlińska where you can take in panoramic views, and maybe even stay overnight in the Chatka Puchatka hut.
Góry Stołowe National Park
This incredible National Park will leave its mark on your memory for the impressive rock formations. In the South West of Poland, in the Sudety Mountain Range, are these spectacular ‘Table Mountains’. Down on the border with Germany and the Czech Republic here you will find a mesmerising mix of castles, caves and wildlife. Rocky platforms and sandstone cliff drops make for challenging trekking and awe-inspiring photography at places such as Bledne Scaly and Szczeliniec Wielki. There are plenty of forested areas too which make coming across the rock formations all the more amazing.
Woliński National Park
Not often thought of as a trekkers haven, if you get the chance then don’t overlook a trip to this maritime park on the north coast of Poland on the Baltic Sea. Here you will be rewarded with beautiful cliff top views and bracing sea air. Walks along the Oder River, and taking in some of the glacial lakes such as Warnowskie, interspersed with dense forest make for memorable walks. The birds and insects of this area are also worth a visit alone.
Karkonosze National Park
The Karkonosze Mountains, known most for the Karpacz skiing resort and spa town, also offer spectacular alpine walks in Sudety. Mount Sniezka at 1603m is worth the ascent, but you also shouldn’t miss out on the striking and remarkable rock formations such as Slonecznik, Konskie Lby, Pielgrzymy, the Sniezne Valley and the Valleys of the Maly and Duzy Staw. If you’re in the area then Mount Chojnik will make its way in to your heart and soul too.
Things to Know – Trekking in Poland
When it comes to trekking in Poland you do well to equip yourself with an excellent map, a decent phrase book, and a good understanding of Polish pronunciation. Unlike the more urbanised areas of Poland, English isn’t often spoken here, so at the very least being able to pronounce where you’re trying to head to is important!
Rescue and search organisations vary from park to park, with the larger parks such as the Tatras having far more developed services. All search and rescue services are voluntary. However, you should stick to the trails, and understand the basics of hiking safety before heading out.
Weather in the Polish National Parks can range enormously. Temperatures during the summer months in the mountains can range from hot in the day to positively cold at night. Pack layers and plenty of water.
In Polish National Parks, camping is usually prohibited outside of designated sites which are usually away from the trails. However, usually areas are well served with huts and shelters which are perfect for sheltering from some harsh weather, or even spending the night. Check your route before you go. It should also note that dogs may not be allowed on trails.
Trekking in Poland – Where to Start
There is a huge range of treks in Poland. You can either book an organised trek as a stand-alone holiday, join a group out of a regional centre such as Zakopane or Karpacz, or plan your own trip. For information of every Polish trekking trail you can imagine, with ranking for ease and difficulty, as well as maps to download and routes to follow, see here (link: https://www.wikiloc.com/trails/hiking/poland). We’re sure you’ll discover there’s more to Poland to be discovered, and make memories to last a lifetime.