When I visited my family in April, we decided to drive to Zakopane – a famous mountain destination in Poland, to enjoy hiking in the Tatra mountains.
As we only had one day and my after-corona shape was not the greatest, we decided to head to Chochołowska Valley – a scenic location, especially in April, thanks to thousands of Crocuses surrounding the area.
The walk should take around 5 hours both ways, but as usual, thanks to my bad planning, I had a max of 3 hours to walk back and forth 😀 We managed to speed walk all the way and reached the end of the valley, though my legs weren’t super happy the next day 🙂
The Chochołowska Valley
The Chochołowska Valley (Dolina Chochołowska) is the largest and longest valley in the Polish Tatras. It is located the furthest west within the Tatra National Park. The 10 km long trail leading through the valley will take you to the largest shelter in Polish Tatras and a gateway to many breathtaking trails in Western Tatras.
The valley became extremely popular due to violet Crocuses spreading throughout the meadows in the early spring. In recent years, the popularity of the area skyrocketed. Unfortunately, that means that the empty trail from my childhood is now extremely crowded, with everyone trying to marvel at the beauty of the flowers and the surrounding mountains. It is still possible to be alone on the trail; you just need to head out early.
The Chochołowska Valley used to be the largest shepherd’s center in the Tatra Mountains. Nowadays, Highlanders run cultural sheep grazing there, and in numerous huts, you can try shepherd’s products (oscypki – sheep cheese).
The Chochołowska Valley is one of the few valleys in the Tatras where you can cycle or walk with a dog. The route is trendy among families with kids as it is relatively flat with a slight incline, and after around 6km (2,5 hours), you can reach a shelter. You will enter the valley via an asphalt road that stretches for 3.5 km; the rest of the way, you will walk on the stone pathway.
It is possible to walk the route with a baby cart though there is an area with an incline which might pose some problems for some. It is not long, but you would have to push it uphill.
Remmeber to take cash as sheler doen’t accept cards.
After reaching the shelter, you can decide if you want to go back or continue further. A couple of years ago (in 2015), we did a more extended tour, and after reaching shelter in Chochołowska Valley, we passed through Grześ (1653 above sea level), Rakoń (1879 asl) to Wołowiec (2064 asl), then we backtracked a little and went down the mountain back to shelter and followed the valley back to the car. On the map below, you can see the route, which in total was around 24 km long.
It was a nice whole day hike, not highly demanding, that led through stunning but some of the less crowded areas of the Tatra mountains.
How to get there
Buses depart from the train station in Zakopane. You should go to the appropriate stand and wait for one of the buses to arrive. Very often, drivers encourage travel and advertise their services. Departure times differ on the season; however, the region is well connected, so people who do not have a car should have no problems getting to the beginning of the route chosen as the destination.
From what I have read online, the ticket should cost around 5 PLN (2022).
It takes around 15 minutes from the city center to reach the valley entrance by car. It might take 30 minutes if you leave late, depending on the season.
There are plenty of parking spaces in the area, so when you see the signs to Chochołowska Valley, drive down that road. No need to stop at the first parking as the first 2 km of the paved road before the ticket office is filled with parking spots.
The prices range from 10-15 PLN for a day of parking.
To enter Tatra National Park, you need to pay a fee (prices from 2022):
- normal ticket PLN 8.00
- concessionary ticket PLN 4.00
- 7-day regular ticket PLN 40.00
- discounted 7-day ticket PLN 20.00
- normal group ticket (group up to 10 people) PLN 72.00
- reduced group ticket (group up to 10 people) PLN 36.00
Check out the official website for the newest prices.
Remember to bring cash!! They did not have a card reader when I visited.
The Chochołowska Valley is one of the few valleys where you can bike. It is possible to rent a bike at the entrance.
A couple of years ago, you could also rent them 2/3 of the way from the entrance, and we did so when we returned from the mountains in 2015. We were too tired to walk, so it was the perfect way to bike down to the car. As far as I read, it is currently not possible, though.