Many travellers consider the High Tatra Mountains as a great region for experienced hikers and climbers.
But is hiking in High Tatras suitable for beginners or families with children? And what about travellers who are tired after hiking more demanding High Tatras trails the day before?
I often look for easy short hikes when planning mountain trips - I want to interchange them with long tiresome hikes (I'm not a big fan of spending a whole day in a hotel resting).
Well then, let's have a look at beautiful and easy hikes in High Tatras.
High Tatras hiking
TATRA NATIONAL PARK POLAND
There are some differences between Tatra National Park in Poland and Slovakia. To learn more about those different rules, read this guide.
If you would like to get to know more about mountains in Poland, have a look at the below posts:
1. Morskie Oko
Trailhead: Palenica Białczańska, Zakopane
Distance: 10.3 km
Time: 3:20 h
Elevation: 567 m
Mountain hut: Morskie Oko hut
One of the most popular hikes from Zakopane.
Morskie Oko lake, also known as Eye of the Sea, is well-known for its beauty. A post-glacial lake located at 1395 metres and surrounded by magnificent High Tatra peaks - it's one of the most beautiful Zakopane hikes.
Eye of the Sea is also the biggest lake in Tatra Mountains - it covers almost 35 hectares! Its depth reaches 51 metres.
Morskie Oko trail is nice and easy - it's an asphalt road which ascends subtly. If you want to make the hike a bit shorter and more interesting you may hike a forest shortcut - there are several of them on the way. They're steep and stony but a great diversion from the asphalt road.
On the way, you'll pass Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza (1100 m) - a very loud waterfall. Great place for taking pictures.
The route is perfect for families with kids(baby pram - no problem!) and travellers in wheelchairs. There are benches along the way, portable toilets and even a cafe close to the lake.
I wholeheartedly recommend hiking around the lake. It takes about one hour and is a very pleasant and rewarding walk. It's worth mentioning that it's not an asphalt road anymore - it's a proper mountain dirt trail so it's good to have hiking boots.
Morskie Oko - practical info
Now the logistics of getting to the trailhead. There's a big parking in Palenica Białczańska. If you're planning to travel Poland by car you need to reserve a parking space in advance. You can do this here - unfortunately, the site is in Polish only.
If you can't buy the Morskie Oko parking ticket online, you may purchase it at the Tourist Information Office in Zakopane on 44 Chałubińskiego Street (check it on Google Maps here).
If you travel using public transportation, then you can get to Palenica Białczańska by small buses which shuttle from the bus station in Zakopane on 23 Kościuszki Street (check it on Google Maps here). On the bus station look for a vehicle with „Łysa Polana” / „Morskie Oko” / „Palenica Białczańska” table at the front. Tickets are available for purchase only by driver, cash only.
It's strictly forbidden to bathe in Morskie Oko lake.
Food served in Morskie Oko hut is delicious but in the summertime expect long queues.
In winter Morskie Oko hike is a different story. The trail may be full of snow or covered with ice. It's also an avalanche area - check the weather before you hit the trail.
Here's a winter hiking guide to help you prepare for your Morskie Oko hike.
2. Valley of The Five Lakes
Trailhead: Palenica Białczańska, Zakopane
Distance: 8.1 km
Time: 3:05 h
Elevation: 742 m
Mountain hut: Valley of the Five Lakes hut
If you're looking for spectacular hikes in Zakopane and you're up for a bit of ascend, choose this place.
Valley of The Five Lakes hike will take you a whole day but it's technically easy and, oh boy, so worth the effort! Many hikers consider the Valley of The Five Lakes the most beautiful valley in Tatra Mountains.
You'll have a chance to admire picturesque mountain lakes surrounded by the majestic peaks of High Tatras. There's the longest and deepest Tatra lake - Wielki Staw Polski (length: 998 m, max. depth: 79.3 m).
Actually, the whole Valley of The Five Lakes trail is amazingly beautiful and it's a great option to admire the mountain landscapes and take some fantastic pictures.
Valley of The Five Lakes trailhead is Palenica Białczańska - the same as Morskie Oko. You may also hike there from different places but the route from Palenica Białczańska is the easiest and fastest.
The first part of the route is an asphalt road - the red trail. After about 40 minutes you get to the trailfork named Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza - a very loud waterfall. There you enter the forest - take on a green trail leading through Roztoki Valley. At the beginning, the trail is steep but after less than 20 minutes it ascends mildly and the landscapes pay back the effort.
After about 1.5 hours you arrive at the Nowa Roztoka clearing. There's a shepherd's shelter - a popular spot to take a break. From this spot, you have 1.5 hours of hike remaining to the Wielki Staw Polski lake in the Valley of The Five Lakes.
When you get to the Dolina Roztoki trail fork (1435 m) you have 2 routes to choose from:
- green trail - leads near the impressive Siklawa waterfall (it's almost 70 metres high!). Take about 1 hour to the Valley of The Five Lakes mountain hut.
- black trail - shorter and a bit steep, leads straight to the mountain hut - 40 minutes of hike.
In the summer you may choose whichever option suits you better. Note that the trail in the Siklawa waterfall vicinity gets a bit tricky so caution is needed - there are big rounded stones, very slippery when wet.
In winter green trail is not available - it's an avalanche danger zone.
I took the above photo of Valley of The Five Lakes trail at the end of September. It's a good example of how unpredictable the weather in High Tatras is.
After you arrive at Valley of The Five Lakes consider hiking a bit further on the blue trail. For hikers with lots of energy, I recommend walking to Zawrat Pass. The trail is pleasant to hike and unveils breathtaking views of High Tatras.
If you wish to hike Valley of The Five Lakes, start early in the morning. Depending on your physical condition, weather conditions and situation on the trail, it may be a few hours' walk or a whole day hike.
3. Gasienicowa Valley (Hala Gąsienicowa)
Trailhead: Kuźnice, Zakopane
Distance: 5 km
Time: 2:20 h
Elevation: 593 m
Mountain hut: Murowaniec hut
Gąsienicowa Valley lies at the foot of Kościelec mountain (2155 m) which is also called the "Polish Matterhorn". This High Tatra Mountain is so spectacular that some hikers call it the "Mountain of Fear".
But no worries, the route I describe is in the valley - hiking in the Tatra Mountains can be nice and easy 🙂
At Kuźnice trailhead you have 2 options to choose from:
- yellow trail leading through Jaworzynka Valley.
- blue trail (including Boczań hill).
These two routes are the same regarding time and length. Both are beautiful and easy to hike. Both come together after about 1.5 hours to the trail fork named Między Kopami Pass - Przełęcz między Kopami (Karczmisko) at 1499 m.
In my opinion, choose whichever you like and return a different one. The blue Boczań trail is slightly more popular.
From Między Kopami Pass you continue hiking on a blue trail. Landscapes get more scenic with every step. After about 20 minutes you get to Betlejemka Pass (1509 m) - you arrive at the beginning of Gąsienicowa Valley. Keep hiking on the blue trail for a few minutes and then choose the black trail.
Near Hala Gąsienicowa there is the Murowaniec mountain hut. It's easy to get there, trails are well-marked and there are lots of signposts.
Maybe it's the mountain air or maybe the chefs in Tatra Mountains huts are so awesome but the food served in Murowaniec is delicious! I love their pierogis with blueberries! 💜
Consider hiking up the black/yellow trail to the lower station of Gąsienicowa Chairlift. Hiking there from Murowaniec hut takes about half an hour.
Gąsienicowa Chairlift will take you up to Kasprowy Wierch - a famous mountain in Western Tatras. From there you may get back to Kuźnice using Kasprowy Cable Car.
Hala Gąsienicowa - practical info
The trailhead of this hike - Kuźnice - is a popular place in Zakopane. There is a lower station of the Kasprowy Wierch cable car - one of the major attractions in Zakopane. There are also trailheads for popular Zakopane hikes. Last but not least, in Kuźnice you can visit the famous Great Krokiew - Wielka Krokiew ski jump. You probably know what I'm going to write here...
Yes, that's right - Kuźnice is crowded. There are many private parkings but they fill up quickly, so be sure you arrive early in the morning if you travel by car.
If you arrive at noon and won't be able to find any parking space you may try near the John Paul II roundabout. Actually, it's a nice option - you can take a walk on the picturesque Aleja Przewodników Tatrzańskich promenade up to Kuźnice.
TATRA NATIONAL PARK SLOVAKIA
4. Popradské pleso
Trailhead: Štrbské Pleso
Distance: 5.7 km
Time: 1:40 h
Elevation: 326 m
Mountain hut: Popradské Pleso Hotel
Hiking with kids in Tatra Mountains? This is the perfect option! Popradské pleso is an easily accessible beautiful lake in High Tatras.
It covers almost 7 hectares and is 17 metres deep. Located at 1494 metres it's one of very few Tatra lakes with fish. Surrounded by High Tatras peak, it's a perfect spot for all mountain aficionados and photographers.
There are two routes leading to Popradské pleso
- blue trail (asphalt road) - a great option for cyclists and families hiking with pram, and for rainy weather.
- red trail (stony path) - scenic route, easy to hike, I love it! ❤️
I highly recommend taking a walk around the lake. It's a nice 1.3 km long path circling the lake. This pleasant hike will take you about half an hour.
Near Popradské pleso there's a symbolic cemetery. You can get there by hiking on the yellow trail - it takes just about several minutes to get there from the lake.
Popradské pleso cemetery commemorates famous Polish and Slovak mountaineers who died in the Tatra Mountains. There's a small shrine and lots of characteristically painted crosses made by sculptors from Detva village.
The cemetery is open from June 15th to November 1st - hiking in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia during wintertime is restricted.
On Popradské pleso shore there are two places where you can eat and sleep:
- Tatra Mountains Hotel Popradské pleso - there are 155 beds in different types of rooms. The hotel features a sauna, a Finnish wooden tub, an exchange office and parking for the guests. The restaurant is available for guests and outside visitors - they serve delicious homemade food.
- Majláthova chata - also called Majláthka. A beautiful Tatra mountain hut which offers cheap and comfortable rooms (but not so many - there are only 16 beds in total). There's also a restaurant serving traditional Slovak food.
5. Bielovodská dolina (Valley of the White Water)
Trailhead: Lysá Poľana
Distance: 9.2 km
Time: 2:40 h
Elevation: 415 m
Mountain hut: none but there is a cafe at Lysá Poľana trailhead
White Water Valley is a fantastic option for a relaxing hike in High Tatras. It's perfect for hiking with kids! It's also an alternative to other crowded valleys in Tatra Mountains - Kościeliska and Chochołowska. In White Water Valley you'll find peace, quiet and amazing panoramas.
We start our hike at Lysá Poľana parking. The trail leads along the Bielavoda river. This part of the route is open for bicycles - the path is wide and practically flat. The trail is usually almost empty.
It's hard to believe that nearby on the other side of the river, there is a red trail - an asphalt road full of hikers heading to Morskie Oko lake.
In the beginning, White Water Valley isn't spectacular but the further you hike, the views get more attractive.
After 3 kilometres you arrive at Bielovodská poľana (1018 m). It's a vast clearing with a forester's lodge - an awesome place to take a break and contemplate the beauty of High Tatras. Here's the end of the bike trail - you may go further only on foot.
The murmur of Bielovoda river adds charm to the route. The hike is pleasant and relaxing, every now and then you'll see fascinating rock formations or small mountain pastures hidden among forest high on the slopes.
The endpoint of this hike is Polana Pod Vysokou (1303 m). It's another picturesque mountain clearing with a small bridge on the Žabí potok stream. The whole hike takes about 3 hours (depending on how much time you spend taking photos 🙂).
Returning the same way isn't boring. On the contrary - the views look different and your camera won't have time to rest.
Bielovodská dolina - practical info
In winter you may hike only to the Bielovodská poľana (there's a barrier on the trail to mark the closure).
In Tatra Mountains Slovakia, trails above mountain huts are closed from November 1st until June 15th. This closure covers also some of the valleys.
You need to purchase a ticket to Morskie Oko car parking lots (Palenica Białczańska and Lysá Poľana) in advance. You can do this here - unfortunately, the site is in Polish only.
If you can't buy the Morskie Oko parking ticket online, you may purchase it at the Tourist Information Office in Zakopane on 44 Chałubińskiego Street (check it on Google Maps here).
❗️Traffic jams on the road 960❗️
The main 960 road leads to two popular trailheads - Palenica Białczańska (Morskie Oko trail) and Lysá Poľana. Therefore, there are very often traffic jams. No matter if you travel by car or a bus from Zakopane bus station - they all get stuck.
To avoid wasting a lot of time you may take on 66 road and turn to Cesta Slobody road in the direction of Tatranská Javorina. Alternatively, try going there on weekdays, ideally in September, and start your day early.
6. Zelené pleso Kežmarské (Green Lake)
Trailhead: Kežmarská Biela voda, bus station - Cesta Slobody Road
Distance: 7.7 km
Time: 3:10 h
Elevation: 650 m
Mountain hut: Chata pri Zelenom plese
This route has it all. Breathtaking views, Tatra lake, mountain hut, bridges, stream, and benches along the trail - it's one of my favourite hikes in Tatra Mountains. And it's great if you're hiking with kids (preschoolers and older; this route isn't suitable for hiking with pram).
Zelené pleso Kežmarské lake covers 1.77 ha. It's 188 metres deep and 136 metres wide. The name of the lake comes from its color - Green Kežmarské lake. I like this unique sea-green color! 💙💚
At the trailhead, there is a parking lot. Make sure to arrive early - as usual in Tatras, it fills up with cars quickly.
At the beginning, you are greeted by an amazing view of Lomnický štít and Kežmarský štít. The first couple of kilometres of the yellow trail is a wide and easy-to-hike path in the forest. The sound of Kežmarská Biela voda stream adds charm to the hike.
After 1.7 km (about 40 minutes) you get to the first trail fork - Nad Matliarmi (1086 m). Slowly, the High Tatra Mountains unveil their beauty.
Another 40 minutes of hike and you arrive at Šalviový pramen trail fork (1200 m). The path ascends mildly and gets more mountain-like - there are rocks on the trail.
Soon, you get to another trail fork - Nizna Folvarska Polana (1257 m). From there, it's about 1.5 hours of hike to the Chata pri Zelenom plese mountain hut.
Continue hiking on the yellow trail and in a short while the trail gets even more interesting - the majestic High Tatras start to show their astounding beauty.
The trail gets a bit narrow but it's still easy to hike. It's actually the best part of the route.
The mountain hut is visible from afar. Just one more bridge to cross and you're welcome to get some rest. They serve finger-licking dumplings with sheep cheese (bryndzové halušky) - it's a Slovak Tatras traditional food. Hiking in High Tatras is not only a rewarding experience - it can also be delicious!
Tatra Mountains resorts
If you'd like to stay close to High Tatas hiking trails, you have 3 reasonable options to stay: Zakopane in Poland, Štrbské Pleso or Tatranská Lomnica in Slovakia.
I've researched hotels and apartments on booking.com, checked the ratings, reviews, and locations and read about the amenities each hotel offers. I've finally chosen the highest-rated places in each of these Tatra Mountains resorts.
My personal favourite. It's the most beautiful of all Tatra Mountains resorts. Located at 1489 metres by a stunning postglacial lake, it's surrounded by impressive High Tatra peaks.
Here are the best hotels in Štrbské Pleso:
Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras - a 5-star hotel famous for its comfort and luxury. Many travelers consider it one of the best hotels in Tatra Mountains. Guests value the beautiful wellness centre, tasty and abundant breakfasts and spacious rooms.
APLEND Lake Resort - the perfect option if you'd like to stay in an apartment. There is a wide variety of apartments to choose from. Located just on the lake shore, this hotel is praised for spacious apartments, comfortable beds, friendly staff and underground parking.
Vila Emma - cozy guest house located within walking distance from the lake. Guests compliment the cleanliness, tasty breakfast and amazing view from the widows.
Well-known Tatra resort, especially famous for the cable car taking travellers to Lomnický štít (2,634 m) - the second highest mountain in Tatras (the highest is Gerlachovský štít - 2.655 m).
Here are the best-rated places to stay in this Slovak resort:
Grand Hotel Praha - luxury hotel. Many travelers consider it one of the most beautiful High Tatra hotels. It features a swimming pool and wellness centre. There's a bar with live piano music. Guests are delighted with the food, comfortable rooms and tasteful decor.
Apartmany Belianky - the perfect option if you're looking for a well-equipped and quiet apartment. Located close to the resort's centre. Guests praise comfort, cleanliness and wellness centre.
Vila DEDO - great budget option close to Tatranská Lomnica's center. Nice guesthouse with beautiful views from the windows. Guests are content with the peaceful location, cleanliness, kitchenette in the rooms and parking.
It's one of the most famous places to visit in Poland. Zakopane hikes and a convenient location close to Krakow and Katowice airports attract travellers from around the world. It's great not only for hiking - it's a ski resort in winter.
It does get crowded in high season. The best time to visit Zakopane is June, September or October. To learn more about this Polish resort, take a look at this complete Zakopane travel guide.
Here are the best Zakopane hotels:
Aries Hotel & SPA Zakopane - beautiful 5-star hotel in Zakopane center. Located a 5-minute walk from Krupówki Street. The hotel features an indoor pool and wellness center. Guests praise the location, tasty breakfast and lovely interior.
Willa Leluja - if you're looking for an apartment with a kitchen, you may be interested in this option. It's located within walking distance (1 km) from Krupówki Street. Guests are delighted with amazing mountain views from balconies, and the cleanliness and spaciousness of the apartments.
Hostel 1902 - budget accommodation in Zakopane. Located on Krupówki Street, this hotel is ideal for those who wish to stay close to the main tourist attractions. Guests appreciate the professional and friendly staff, comfortable beds and cleanliness.
Tatra Mountains - practical information
Entry to Tatra National Park in Poland is paid. You can either pay with cash or a card in stands at the trailheads or buy your tickets in advance here - unfortunately, the page is in Polish language only (sigh).
Entry to Tatra National Park in Slovakia is free of charge.
In winter, hiking trails in the Polish Tatras are open and you're responsible for your own decisions.
In Slovak Tatras trails are closed from November 1st until June 15th.
To learn more about the differences between Polish and Slovak Tatra Mountains read this guide.
Here are a handful of links about the Tatra Mountains and hiking in general with lots of reliable info.
- stay safe during winter hikes - trails in Polish Tatras are open in wintertime, but often rather dangerous to hike. Winter gear, experience and skills are indispensable
- choose well your backpack - a crucial element of hiking gear. If it is badly chosen, it can make our hikes miserable
- take all necessary hiking gear - we need quite a lot of stuff to hike safely, especially if we go on a whole day hike
- avoid these common mistakes in the mountains - there are some basic mistakes which can be easily avoided
- rules in National Parks - Tatra Mountains are protected as a National Park, and there are strict rules which apply to all visitors
Weather in High Tatras
Tatra Mountains are also called the "Polish Alps". They are considered high mountains with an alpine climate.
That means there are, according to altitude, different layers of vegetation and different weather conditions. It may be a warm and pleasant day in the valley but mountain peaks will be covered in snow, and it will be windy and cold.
Also, the weather in High Tatras is one of the most capricious and changeable things I've ever seen. It sometimes changes in the blink of an eye.
To learn more about the specific weather in High Tatras, have a look at this guide (photos and videos included).
Other fantastic hikes in High Tatras
If you'd like to explore other hiking trails in High Tatras, check out the below posts:
Tatras Slovakia - good to know
→ Tatra National Park (called TANAP in Slovakia) is a protected area. TANAP has its headquarters in Tatranská Lomnica mountain resort.
→ TANAP is divided into:
- High Tatras - there is the highest mountain in Slovakia - Gerlachovský štít (2655 metres)
- Western Tatras - the highest peak is Bystrá (2248 metres)
- Bielskie Tatras - the highest mountain is Havran (2152 metres)
→ Tatra National Park trails in Poland are dense and it is easier to plan a hiking trip. In Slovakia, there are fewer trails. They are also longer, so planning our hike is not so flexible and we cannot change our mind in the middle of the trip. We need to prepare well for our hiking trip.
→ It is not allowed to hike outside officially marked trails. If we want to hike unofficial paths, we need to have a qualified mountain guide with us. Also, we need to inform TANAP authorities about our plans and give a number of hikers and mountain guide's name.
→ All peaks above 2500 metres can be climbed only with a qualified TANAP mountain guide.
→ Tatra National Park trails in Slovakia are closed from November 1st until June 15th.
→ In wintertime, we can only hike to mountain huts in Slovakia (if there is no avalanche risk).
→ Entry to Tatra National Park Slovakia is free of charge, but rescue missions are paid.
→ Tatra mountain rescue in Slovakia is called HZS - Horska Zachranna Sluzba. Emergency number: 18 300.
→ Trail colors do not indicate difficulty, it is just identification.
→ Get a good Tatra Mountains map. Don't rely only on your electronic devices.
Water parks in Slovakia
There's one more thing besides the Tatra mountains that Slovakia is famous for - waterparks! When you're in Slovakia, you need to visit at least one of those amazing aquaparks.
It's fun not only for families with kids - every hiker with tired muscles will appreciate a relaxing massage in warm bubbly water. We usually visit at least one waterpark when we're in Slovak Tatras - it's also a great option for rainy weather.
In Tatralandia waterpark there are many slides, indoor and outdoor pools with hot mineral water, jacuzzis, restaurants, etc. The most interesting area is the Tropical Paradise - there's even a special pool for snorkelling!
If you would like to stay close to Tatralandia waterpark, you can check available hotels here:
Hiking in High Tatras with kids
When I'm writing these words our daughter Alice is 4 years old and our son Adam is a 8-month-old baby. We don't venture into the mountains as often as we did in the past but we do our best to inspire admiration and respect for nature in our young ones.
Hiking in High Tatra Mountains with kids is a magical experience that combines the great outdoors with family-friendly adventure. These majestic mountains offer a range of accessible trails suitable for young explorers. With well-marked paths, manageable distances, and stunning scenery, these hikes provide the perfect opportunity for your family to bond and create lasting memories together.
So, grab your backpacks, lace up your hiking boots, and embark on an unforgettable journey filled with fresh mountain air and the joy of exploring these beautiful European mountains.
Many happy hikes in Tatra Mountains!