The Easiest Path in the Tatry

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dangaroo on March 10, 2013

One of the must-do walks in Zakopane regardless of age and walking ability is the walk up to Morskie Oko, a lake surrounded by mountain peaks. Mini buses from the town itself marked for Morskie Oko head up to the gates of the Tatry National Park. Having a car, we decided to drive up there. After passing the ski slope '"Nosal" on the right, the road tended to have only been half cleared of snow. Sporting winter tyres, this wasn't much of an issue. There had been heavy snowfall over the previous weeks and once the main road veered left to Bukowian, the remaining leg to the disused Slovak border crossing Lysa Polana was pure snow. A small road to the right heads up through the trees and men in yellow uniforms hover around the gates, waiting to marshal you into the car park and collect a fee for the paid parking. 10zl for cars, 5zl for motorbikes and 20zl for camper vans.

They pack the cars quite tightly and I found the huge walls of snow separating rows quite a magnificent structure. Next up is the ticket office where a small entry fee is payable to enter the National Park - 4zl for adults, 2zl for concessions. If you intend on walking further and staying the night, then a 7 day ticket is available for 18zl.

The path resembled a bridle way in the UK and walkers would shift to the sides to enable sweaty horses, puffing out air in the cold weather to pass through with their cargo - sleighs carrying 6 to 8 people or travelling back empty. The path shows views into the valleys below, which were, well, very white. So white that by the end of the jaunt, I was suffering from a mild headache and regretting not having taken sunglasses. A popular location to have some snaps taken was on a bend where walkers could pose with a waterfall behind them, the opposite side had views down to the valleys below. This was slightly less than 1/3 of the way up.

The next stretch featured several sweeping bends that could be avoided by the courageous for there were steeper paths that cut out the bends. Despite having railings to the left (if ascending), the paths looked like a death trap due to their icy nature and we gave them a miss. Though not as choc-a-bloc as it may be in the summer, it was relatively busy and several running teams were practicing on the route. After an hour and a half, we'd made it to what looked like the summit but was in fact a restaurant, shop and toilet stop. They served expensive hot dogs, snacks and drinks, by Polish standards it was pretty extortionate but I can imagine the location is dear to run.

The final section seemed to go on longer than first thought, our pace was slowed by cross-country skiiers that were coming hurtling towards us, most of them kids on some kind of winter camp. A group of people were gathered near the refuge and a somewhat tame barrier acted as support for people to lean on while they had photos taken of them with the peaks behind. The drop below was softened by metres of snow and the lake itself was being walked on, as it was frozen.

The trip back down was slightly faster but the risk of slipping was much higher. Including enjoying the view at the top, the trip took about 5 hours. It could be windy in places and the top section has quite a high avalanche risk, in fact a couple of people were killed nearby just a couple of days later.
Morskie Oko
Tatra National Park
Tatra Mountains, Poland

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