The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Rysy Mountain

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Standing at 2499 metres, Rysy Mountain is the tallest mountain in Poland. Located in the High Tatras, Rysy actually straddles the border between Poland and Slovakia and can be hiked in either direction.

We were visiting Poland for a week when we hiked Rysy. We were staying in the beautiful mountain town Zakopane, two hours from Krakow. If you’re short on time, this hike can also be done in a day from Krakow, as long as you leave very early!

Rysy Mountain is one of the most beautiful hikes in the High Tatras, rewarding you with breathtaking mountain views, shimmering alpine lakes and a great challenge! 

It’s also the tallest peak in the Tatras you’re able to climb without a guide and therefore makes it very popular.

In this ultimate guide to hiking Rysy Mountain, we’re going to split it up into sections that naturally break up the hike as well. 

The first section is the hike to the stunning Morskie Oko lake. Then the hike up to Czarny Staw and finally Rysy peak. We’ll end the guide with everything else you need to know.

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MORSKIE OKO

You’ll start the hike at the car park for Morskie Oko. You can either drive yourself or take the shuttle from Zakopane (more on how to get there at the end).
 

The trail to Morskie Oko isn’t the most exciting; a flat paved road full of people and horses and carts carrying people that don’t want to walk. We’d recommend getting a good pace on here. If you do, you can get to Morskie Oko in about an hour and a half. 

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Leave early! We left Zakopane at 7am and there were still quite a few people on the trail. We picked up our pace, passed the crowds walking in heels and flip flops (yes, really!) and managed to beat most people to the lake.

Morskie Oko is absolutely beautiful! Its crystal clear waters lie peacefully at the bottom of dramatic mountain peaks. It’s the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains and is located at 1395 metres above sea level.

Shimmering Morskie Oko with a dramatic mountain backdrop is one of the best things to do in Krakow, Poland
The tranquil Morskie Oko

There’s also a mountain hostel with a large outdoor seating area on the shores of the lake, perfect for a beer on your way back!

Our Top Tip: please please please don’t use the horses and carts! Quite a few are known to die on this route as they’re worked too hard!

Czarny Staw

Take the path to the left around Morskie Oko. This is where the hike becomes really lovely. Rather than a wide paved road full of people, there’s a pavement with large stones that follows the lake’s shore for a little while. 

You’ll then veer off to the left and here the path gets quite steep. It’s fairly easy to hike, just a little tiring. 
Steep path surrounded by mountain peaks and greenery between Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw up Rysy Mountain, Zakopane, Poland
Path to Czarny Staw

Czarny Staw is about 45 minutes on from Morskie Oko and this is where the views become something really special. Turn around and admire the incredible viewpoint over Morskie Oko, the High Tatra peaks and the whole valley.

View over Morskie Oko and the surrounding valley and Tatra peaks, Zakopane, Poland
Can you spot the hut at Morskie Oko?!

Czarny Staw literally means “Black Pond” and lies at an altitude of 1583 metres. Again, this lake is surrounded by dramatic soaring peaks.

Czarny Staw with its dramatic mountain peaks as a backdrop, Zakopane, Poland, Krakow
Another beautiful lake!

Our Top Tip: this is a great spot for your first proper break. Most people stop at Morskie Oko for the day so this lake is never as busy. Also, if you left early, you should be one of the only people here.

Rysy Mountain Peak

Now the fun begins…
 
It’ll take around three hours to get to the peak now. The first hour and a half isn’t too strenuous. The path is more natural, however, so careful of your footing but the large rocks are quite stable to climb up.
 

After about an hour and a half, you’ll reach a huge rock offering you an incredible view of Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw. This is the best place for a break before the final stretch. You’re going to need some energy!

Helen at the incredible viewpoint over the dark blue lakes of Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw up Rysy Mountain, Zakopane, Poland
What a view!
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The path is now very steep to the top, which will take about an hour and a half. The large stones have been replaced with loose stone rubble which is quite slippery. 

There are chains now and again which are helpful as some parts are completely exposed with large drops below.

The very steep path up to Rysy Mountain peak with chains, looking over Czarny Staw lake below, Zakopane, Poland
Not too enjoyable if you're not a fan of heights!

When you’re at a safe place, turn around to look at the view. Just wow…

View over the beautiful turquoise waters of Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw, Zakopane, Poland
Try not to let the view distract you from the climb!

Rysy Mountain actually has three peaks. They’re very close together and from the first one you need to cross a narrow rock bridge to get to the others. 

We stayed at the first peak as it was incredibly windy and didn’t feel safe going over this exposed bridge with no chains. There was also a queue of people waiting on the bridge in either direction with sheer drops either side of them – no thank you.

Surrounding you are majestic sharp peaks with the turquoise waters of Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw below.

The view at Rysy Mountain summit over the surrounding jagged peaks with Czarny Staw and Morskie Oko lakes below, Zakopane, Poland
Just...wow!

We sat for a short while appreciating the magnificence of where we were then made our way back down. Remember to stop at the Morskie Oko hut for a well-deserved beer!

To Know Before You Go

How long is the hike?

The hike is a 25.1 kilometre out and back trip and took us a total of 9 hours.
 

How do I get there?

The trailhead is at Palenica Białczańska, around half an hour from Zakopane. If you have a rental car you can park here for 20 zl. Alternatively, there are regular shuttle buses from Zakopane for 10 zl, this is how we got there. 

You cannot book seats and especially during the summer months it can get very busy so leave early! We took the bus at 7:15 am and it filled up very quickly. The car park was also half full when we arrived.
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You can also hike Rysy Mountain in a day from Krakow. If you decide to do this, we’d 100% recommend hiring a car rather than taking the bus to Zakopane and then a shuttle as you won’t start the hike until late and it’ll be very busy. Hire a car and leave Krakow no later than 6am to get to the trailhead at 8am.

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What should I wear?

Good hiking shoes are an absolute must!! We saw quite a few people hiking in trainers and it was so dangerous! Once you reach the loose stone rubble, it’s very slippery.
 
Those hiking in trainers were sliding all over the place and sending loose bits of rock falling down the mountain putting those behind them in danger of being hit. There were a few times we had to wait for those people to get quite far ahead of us so we weren’t hit.

Take layers! The weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable and change at any moment. The peak of Rysy Mountain is also very exposed with high winds. 

Do I need hiking experience?

For this hike, yes, you need hiking experience and good physical condition. Up until Czarny Staw, if you’re an inexperienced hiker you should be fine but the path from here is quite dangerous.
 
This path, unfortunately, has on average 11 accidents a year which is the highest among the Tatra Mountains.
 

The peak can get exceptionally busy as you can also hike Rysy from Slovakia. Quite a few people hike up the Slovakian side, as it’s supposed to be easier, and down the Polish side. This results in lots of people going in different directions as you’re nearing the summit.

Unfortunately, we found some people had no care in the world for anyone but themselves and just come barging down, waiting for no one, sending loose rocks flying. You really need your wits about you here!

We hope this guide to hiking Rysy Mountain has been helpful for you. It was an incredible hike and the views were definitely worth the difficulty! 

Feel free to check out our page dedicated to hiking guides and trips for more inspiration or contact us if you have any questions 🙂

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