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A hike along the border from Spiš to Krynica

What could be better for fatigue and stress than an exploratory hike through fields and forests, wildlife, and the unique views of Spiš from the ravine of the Białka River to Krynica? The route runs mostly across the areas included in the “Natura 2000” programme through flowery meadows, beautiful forests, the Dunajec Valley, the Pieniny Mountains and the Jaworzyna strip, ending in Krynica. There you can relax and enjoy the richness of nature, as well as places shrouded in mysterious legends.
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The route of the trail

Nowy Targ or Białka the ravine of the Białka River the bridge over the Białka River Trybsz Pawlików Wierch the Nad Łapszanką Pass – the chapel “grzybny las (the mushroom forest)” Kacwin Niedzica Sromowce Wyżnie Trzy Korony Szczawnica Krościenko Schronisko Orlica (the “Orlica” Mountain Lodge) Szafranówka (742 m) Wysoki Wierch (901 m) Durbaszka (935 m) Wysokie Skałki (1050 m) the Homole Ravine Jaworki The Sucha Valley Piwniczna Łomnica Zdrój Hala Łabowska, Runek (1082 m)Jaworzyna Krynicka (1114 m)→ Krynica

 

The division of the route into stages

 

Stage I. The Climates of Spiš

The ravine of the Białka River - the Nad Łapszanką Pass – Kacwin

By the ravine of the Białka River you can admire the cluster of thermophilic vegetation, feeding storks and birds of prey hunting in fields and forests, as well as a broad panorama of the Tatra, Gorce and Pieniny Mountains.

Useful websites www:

Thermophilic rock turf: http://www.pieniny.com/pl/i122/murawy-naskalne

Accommodation in Kacwin: http://www.kacwin.com/turystyka.php\

 

 Stage II The Pieniny Paradise

The trail runs near the top of Trzy Korony, where you can admire one of the most famous views of the ravine of the Dunajec River – you must be there!

Kacwin – Niedzica – Trzy Korony – Krościenko - Szczawnica

 Useful websites www:

 The Pieniny legends: http://www.pieniny.com/pl/i177/legendy-pieninskie

 The trails: http://www.szczawnica.na-pulpit.pl/index-trasy-turystyczne.html

Stage III ”Piękne Pogranicze (The Beautiful Borderline)”

The trail runs partly along the Polish-Slovak border, with beautiful views of the Tatra and Pieniny Mountains and the Magura Spiska.

Szczawnica – the “Orlica” Mountain Lodge – Szafranówka – Wysokie Skałki (High Rocks) – Wąwóz Homole (Homole Ravine) – Jaworki – The Sucha Valley

Useful websites www:

The Pieniny vegetation: http://www.szczawnica.na-pulpit.pl/index-pieniny-roslinnosc.html

http://www.szczawnica.na-pulpit.pl/index-pieniny-vegetation.html

 

You can spend the night:

Accommodation in The Sucha Valley: http://meteor.turystyka.pl/noclegi,sucha-dolina,0.html

http://meteor.turystyka.pl/noclegi,sucha-dolina,0.html

Accommodation in Jaworki: http://www.fajnewczasy.pl/noclegi/jaworki

Accommodation in Szczawnica: http://www.pieniny.com/pl/i122/murawy-naskalne

 

Stage IV The Carpathian Forest

The trail runs along the ridge of the mountain clearing of primeval Carpathian forests

The Sucha Valley – Piwniczna Zdrój – Łomnica Zdrój – Hala Łabowska - Jaworzyna Krynicka

shelters - Krynica

Useful websites www:

 http://www.ekrynica.com/atrakcje/jaworzyna

Key

Pasmo Jaworzyny - the Jaworzyna strip

Przełom Białki – the ravine of the Białka River

Słowacja - Slovakia

Sucha Dolina - the Sucha Valley

Tatry – the Tatra Mountains

Trzy Korony – Three Crowns

Wysokie Skałki – High Rocks

 

The trail begins with the unique Obłazowa and Kramnica rocks (between which flow the splashy waters of the Białka River, where you can take a bath) and then slightly upstream (along the paved road to the bridge over the Białka River) you can see the most flowery meadows of the Pieniny Spiskie.

 

You can easily find the thermophilic yellow rock rose and clustered bellflower (which is the favourite of nature reserve “Przełom Białki (the Ravine of the Białka River), storks and birds of prey circling over the hills.

The whole area is included in "Natura 2000" area formed after Poland had joined the European Union, comprising the Białka Valley - from the border of the Tatra National Park up to the mouth of the river to the Czorsztyński Reservoir. The “Natura 2000” area is marked all over the European Union to protect the biodiversity of ecosystems (habitats) that meet certain criteria, the most important being the presence of habitats of rare, endangered species that are typical for the area, along with the animals and plants that meet the criteria(1). Its purpose is the protection of endangered species. The system was established independently of other existing forms of nature protection. The “Natura 2000” system also includes national parks, landscape parks and nature reserves. In the territory of Małopolska there are many areas belonging to the “Natura 2000” network, and the hiking trail runs precisely through such areas. The establishment of such an area along the route of the trail from Spiš to Krynica is the evidence of the high natural value and attractiveness of the trail. This makes a tourist traversing the trail and observing the natural environment feel as if they were in a true sanctuary of living nature. In addition to the Białka Valley the areas classified as “Natura 2000” include those situated on the trail of the Pieniny Mountains, the Poprad Valley and the Jaworzyna Krynicka strip.

The Białka River, due to its purity, is home to trout, barb and protected bullhead, whose presence in the river indicates its quality. The bullhead is a bottom fish and is very sensitive to adverse environmental conditions, so it is a species that is an indicator that shows the properties of the environment in which it lives (high purity of water and its very good oxygenation). Along the picturesque, unregulated river there grows unspoilt, natural grey willow scrub in the distance over which loom the high peaks of the Tatra Mountains. The ravine of the Białka River is changing almost all the time, which is typical of a dynamic natural river, changing the main bed, the location of rapids, bends and islands. The ravine, with its picturesque hills, is home to xerothermic turf, among which you can easily see typical butterfly – scarce swallowtail, and abundant flowers in all the colours can be admired here all summer. Over their heads you can see white storks circling, and sometimes even black storks hunting on the banks. In the autumn you can watch “parliaments” of these birds in the surrounding meadows and deer wandering along the ecological corridor extending that way, which is still preserved between the Tatras and Gorce. The picturesque landscape of the Jura hills rising among green fields, grazing animals on the vast meadows, where bustling storks and twittering birds are companions on the way to the bridge over the Białka River. After crossing the bridge, the trail leads first through Trybsz away from the Białka, and then it heads right, to the south (the existing bicycle lane) gently rising amidst the picturesque fields and forests with the beautiful panorama on the south – the Tatra Mountains and on the north - the Gorce and Pieniny, and leading to the chapel at the Nad Łapszanką Pass), where you can relax.

From there you can travel down towards the mushroom forest and continue to Kacwin (along the existing bicycle lane) along the border through beautiful forests with views of the Magura Spiska and the Pieniny Mountains with the characteristic whitened peaks of Trzy Korony visible in the distance. The surrounding forests are rich in undergrowth. Kacwin is an old town of Spiš with a rich history and interesting architecture (the church and chapels). The way from Kacwin leads you to Niedzica (the castle, museum) and after passing the red trail along the Dunajec - to Krościenko (on the way – an ascent to Trzy Korony).

 

 

 

The Pieniny National Park, which is one of the smallest Polish National parks, extends along the Polish - Slovak border and includes the most interesting and richest part of the Pieniński Pas Skałkowy (the Pieniny Klippen Belt). There is a remarkable accumulation of fauna and flora, living in the eternal harmony developed by nature, connected by dependencies and forming a unique area in terms of nature, and therefore deserving special protection.

 

The highest peak is Trzy Korony (982 metres) easily discernible in the distance with its limestone slopes falling steeply towards the Dunajec, which begins its picturesque gorge there. The Pieniny meadows are extremely abundant, because they comprise about 150 species of vascular plants, and throughout the Park you can see more than 1000 species of these plants. There are two endemic species in the Pieniny: Taraxacum pieninicum and Erysium pieninicum. Also, the animal world is very rich. For a small area, which the area Park includes, comprises about 1.500 species of butterflies, a similar number of beetles (some of which came from southern Europe and found convenient habitats). The fauna of vertebrates is also abundant in species. There are 17 species of fish, 10 species of amphibians and about 180 species of birds, the rarest of which are listed in the text. Similarly, the representation of mammals is very large, because it includes over 60 species. Also, the world of fungi and lichen is extremely rich. There are over 600 species of fungi and about 400 lichens (6).

 

Near Trzy Korony there is an ancient forest of a natural character creating a unique atmosphere of ancient wilderness. With a little bit of luck you will see the wallcreeper in the sky - a very rare bird found only in a few sites in Poland. The Pieniny Mountains are also the area for many rare species of bats, which apart from the caves, also like the attics of old houses and lofts of churches (1) (Szczawnica, Krościenko, Jaworki, Krynica). On the screes you can encounter many unique and alpine and thermophilic plants, such as Carduus lobulatus Borbás (very rare in Poland), and many unusual flora representatives in forest clearings and wastelands, such as Conioselinum vaginatum, with raised umbel inflorescences (except the Pieniny Mountains only seen in the Tatras) (2). Also, very rare species grow near Trzy Korony on scree stony soils - Carduus lobulatus Borbás which is endemic to the Western Carpathians(2). In addition, the Pieniny Mountains are also a mainstay of rare representatives of insect fauna, such as the Mountain Apollo and Clouded Apollo, which sit on thistle flowers on sunny days.

 

From Krościenko the trail leads to Schronisko Orlica (the “Orlica” Mountain Lodge) and further along the border up Durbaszka to Wysokie Skałki (beautiful panorama of the Tatras). All the time the hike is accompanied with extensive views of the Polish-Slovak border. Across the Stone Circles shrouded in legends about recorded human fate you reach Dubantowska Valley, and further to the fascinating Homole Ravine reserve, whose bottom is filled with the crystal-clear Kamionka stream, home to rare birds: grey wagtail and white-throated dipper. Unusual environments and mystery stimulate imagination. These areas are associated with the story of the treasure seekers, and many other legends concerning the ravine.

 

In the area of the ravine the fire salamander can also be found. The road runs along the stream, moving from one side to the other several times, which allows you to enjoy the ravine in all its beauty. The route then leads to Jaworki, overlooked by the church – a small Greek Catholic Orthodox church, which is the shelter for protected species of bats found in large numbers throughout the Pieniny Mountains. In this area live extremely endangered species of the Mountain Apollo, - the real ornament and flagship butterfly of the Pieniny Mountains, where it lives and reproduces. It is, unfortunately, perhaps the last major site of this butterfly in Poland (until recently it was also seen in the Tatras). Its presence is associated with the occurrence of Sedum fabaria and Hylotelephium telephium (Orpine).

 

 

Many parts of the trail are worth seeing in winter as well(3). The wet meadows in the vicinity of Jaworki are home to endangered species of Primula farinosa (the bird's-eye primrose)(2). The surrounding meadows are characterised by the presence of protected orchids, among which you can find a very rare member of the Orchidaceae family - Ophrys insectifera (the Fly Orchid), found in alkaline soils, warm ones with different humidity, and which is in danger of extinction(2). The plant, reproducing solely by means of seeds, in order to ensure effective pollination, secretes attractants to lure true flies. The shape of the flower resembles an insect as well. The area is also home to the Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montandoni) being a Carpathian endemic species whose area of habitat is constantly shrinking. You continue your hike along the red trail of fields, meadows and forests of the Sucha Valley and down to Piwniczna from there.

 

From Piwniczna Zdrój you head for Łomnica Zdrój along a short trail, and further to Hala Łabowska, where starts the wild Carpathian forest of mixed forest of fir and beech (with a closed forest complex). The forest, extending especially on the northern slopes of the range, can be admired on the left side along the trail leading to Krynica(5) (the area of the “Natura 2000”).

 

For avid explorers, it is possible to reach Hala Łabowska along forestless hogback over Łomnicą Zdrój up to Parchowatka and continue through the forest to a shelter (without any signs). This road leads first across fields and meadows in the scenic Beskid landscapes. Owing to the terrain gently sloping southwards you can observe the abundant flora and fauna of insects bustling among extensively-cultivated or abandoned fields and pastures frequently separated by boundary strips.

Then, after walking through a small spruce forest and a few overgrown clearings, tourists will find themselves on the hogback of the Jaworzyna strip, where they can join the trail.

 

From the top you can observe wild animals (especially outside the summer season), layered arrangement of vegetation and beech and fir forests of primary structure (several nature reserves) which are remnants of the ancient wilderness. The Carpathian Forest is a typical habitat for many wild forest species, such as bear, wolf, lynx, wildcat, and among birds, raven, black stork and eagle-owl. The wild boar and the red deer, whose Carpathian form is particularly impressive, are permanent residents of the Carpathian Forest. It feeds in the morning and evening, so during the day many of its traces can be found on the route. It often gathers around the hollows filled with peat turf, where it wallows in the mud. During the day deer move into inaccessible refuges that are frequent especially on the northern slopes.

 

The trail leads along the hogback to the east (along almost a level area) and only individual peaks stand out slightly from the main ridge of the range, making the hike easier and enabling observation from above to the north and south. During the hike the tourist can explore numerous forests with extensive views of clearings, which in the past were pastured, and which are currently under forest succession. The most beautiful forests near the trail, composed of fir and beech ancient forest, can be found in the area of the Runek peak, where there is a reserve which is the mainstay of rare wildlife. With Jaworzyna Krynicka (the nature trail) tourists end their walks enjoying the views of the Tatras, when they descend near the “Diabelski Kamień (the Devil's Stone)” via the village of Krzyżowa to Krynica-Zdrój, to recharge their batteries by drinking the water from the springs of Krynica.

 

Walking through the trail ensures pleasant leisure activity. It will be an unforgettable experience for each tourist and will provide views which can no longer be seen elsewhere. Wild animals, natural flower gardens, unusual rock formations encountered along the way, the rich history and culture of the Polish and Slovak border, will make you come back there over again. The trail enables you to divide the trip into stages with the possibility of convenient accommodation and access roads in many places. Alternatively, in some places you can use the facilities like a cable car or chairlift, but it will be at the expense of interesting places along the route. Many parts of the trail are also worth seeing in winter conditions(3). Let us surprise you and discover little-known places, gain extraordinary experiences and amaze you with the preserved beauty and tranquillity despite the proximity of large urban centres and frequented trails.

 

 

References:

  1. Obszary Natura 2000 w Małopolsce (The Natura 2000 Areas in Małopolska), edited by J. Perzanowska, M. Grzegorczyk, ed. Natura 2000, Kraków
  2. Polska Czerwona Księga Roślin (The Polish Red Book of Plants), ed. PAN (the Polish Academy of Sciences), Kraków 1993
  3. Atlas szlaków zimowych małopolskich Karpat (The Atlas of the winter trails of the Carpathian Mountains of Małopolska), text: W. Biedrzycki, P. Chlebicki, J. Kapłon, maps: J. Korpak, T. Ślusarczyk, photographs: W. Biedrzycki et al. Ed. Centralny Ośrodek Turystyki Górskiej PTTK (The Mountain Tourism Centre of the Polish Tourist Association PTTK), 2007
  4. Polska Czerwona Księga Zwierząt (The Polish Red Book of Animals), ed. PWRiL, 1992
  5. Beskid Sądecki (Pasmo Radziejowej) [The Beskid Sądecki (the Radziejowa Range)], the Pieniny Mountains, a tourist map, scale 1:50000, ed., graphic design G. Wamberski, tourist and cartographic design by the Publishing House, Andrzej Matuszczyk, second edition, ed. Wydawnictwo Kartograficzne Compass (Cartographic Publishing House Compass) 2002
  6. Ochrona przyrody (Nature Preservation), E. Symonides, ed. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (Publishing House of the University of Warsaw) 2008

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