Although Rysy is the highest peak in Poland (2500 m/8200 ft.), it's relatively easy to climb it to the top. The hike is quite tiring and steep; nevertheless, it's nowhere near as difficult as some other trails in the Tatras - like, for example, the trail to Zawrat via Dolina Gasienicowa which is my favorite in the whole Tatars.
As an interesting fact, I can mention that the Rysy peak is also a border crossing point - you can easily go down to the other side which is in Slovakia. The Slovakian side of Rysy is easier but less spectacular. As both countries lie within the Schengen zone, of course, there are no guards or barricades; you won’t even notice you’re in a different country.
The trail to Rysy from Morskie Oko
The quickest way to climb Rysy is via the boring, paved road leading to the most popular lake - Morskie Oko. The lake is beautiful but the area feels more like a shopping mall rather than real mountains. For real mountains, you must climb higher and leave behind ladies wearing high heels and gentlemen with flip-flops on.
Once you reach Morskie Oko (take a look at my post about how to get there from Zakopane), you need to follow the red trail to Czarny Staw - another lake, situated way higher than Morskie Oko and therefore less crowded. This part of the trail takes around 45 minutes (you can find the detailed map of all the trails here). From Czarny Staw, you can admire the amazing viewpoint over the entire valley, the Morskie Oko mountain hostel and lower parts of the Tatras.
Czarny Staw means literally "Black Pond" but the name is somehow misleading. The water in the lake is crystal clear and has an amazing, turquoise hue. It's way better than Morskie Oko, in my opinion.
Now, to get to the peak of Rysy, you'll have to walk around the picturesque valley with the Czarny Staw in its centre - it's a great place to rest or have a picnic as the trail soon will get even steeper.
From Czarny Staw to Rysy
It takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes to climb Poland’s highest peak from Czarny Staw. At first, it’s very easy but then it gets extremely steep and stays this way up until you reach the top. Nevertheless, the views are way worth it – you can admire both lakes at the same time from a bird’s eye perspective and in the middle of the trail, you can find a huge rock that serves as the best viewing platform.
Don’t be surprised if you meet some local animals – sheep, wild goats or deer. There are also many bears in the Tatras but there haven’t been any cases of them encountering tourists. They keep out of sight.
The trail to Rysy, although pretty strenuous, is relatively easy. Even though you’ll see some chains for extra support, in the end they are helpful but not that necessary. It would be possible to climb all the way to the top without even using them except in a few places.
Unlike like on the trail to Zawrat, there are not many points where you’d be walking on an exposed rocky ledge. I’d say it’s pretty safe although, surprisingly there are known cases of people falling to their deaths while climbing Rysy. The most important thing is, don’t go high in the mountains if the weather isn’t great - wear proper footwear and if you're reasonably fit, you'll be fine.
The trail summary
All the way from the car park at Palenica (the base and starting point for the hikes to Morskie Oko, Dolina Pieciu Stawow and Rysy) to the very top of Rysy, it takes around 6 hours 30 minutes. It is extremely tiring but doable, if the weather is nice, to reach Rysy during a one day trip from Zakopane.
Here is the detailed information about every part of the trail:
- from Zakopane to Palenica – take a bus (have a look at my post about Morskie Oko for more info)
- from Palenica car park to Morskie Oko – 2 hours
- from Morskie Oko to Czarny Staw (do not confuse with Czarny Staw Gasienicowy!) – 45 minutes
- From Czarny Staw to Rysy – 3 hours 30 minutes
If you have some more time in the Tatra Mountains, you can do as follows:
- hike to Dolina Gasienicowa, stay at the Murowaniec Hostel
- climb via Zawrat to Dolina Pieciu Stawow, stay at the Dolina Pieciu Stawow Hostel
- hike to Morskie Oko from Dolina Pieciu Stawow, stay at the Morskie Oko hostel
- climb Rysy from Morskie Oko
For more information regarding the other trails, click on the links above or take a look at the articles in the “Related Section” below:
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