Rysy is a 2,500 meter high peak in the Tatra Mountains that lie on the border between Poland and Slovakia. I found this mountain range on google maps and was immediately intrigued. I originally looked into climbing the highest peak in the mountain range, called Gerlachovský štít, but learned that you can’t hike it without a guide. So Sam and I opted for Rysy which is the highest peak in Poland and also the highest peak in the mountain range that can be hiked without a guide. Because of this, it’s a very popular trail.
Getting to Rysy
We made the 4 1/2 hour drive to Tatra National Park from Vienna on a Friday night. We car camped at a pullout near the trailhead that I found via the “Park4Night” app we got about 5 hours of sleep before waking up just before 5 am and heading to the trailhead. The “trailhead” is roadside parking that does cost money but we arrived long before the parking attendants, so we ended up just getting a slip of paper in our windshield that explained how to pay for the parking after-the-fact (through bank transfer).
We prepared our bags and started hiking right about 5:30 am. We were some of the first people on the trail, which ended up being the best decision because of how busy it would get. We walked north and crossed a train track, then hopped on the paved trail towards the lake called “Popradské pleso“. We were on this paved trail (pictured below) for about 45 minutes before making it to the lake, where the Rysy trail appeared on the the left. Here we saw these logs (pictured below) that people could opt to carry up the hut if they wanted some extra training. We were blown away!
This is where the true hiking began. The trail headed up at a steady rate and after about 30-40 minutes, we reached the next turn off (pictured below left). Once we turned onto this trail, the steepness increased and we were quickly above tree line taking in the beautiful morning views.
After a good climb, we made it to this small high alpine lake. The lighting was beautiful, the morning was chilly, and it definitely felt like fall was in the air! There were a couple of groups just in front of us on the trail at this point and a couple people behind us but that was it. Just after this lake, the trail has some ladders and chains in place to help people get over some steep parts of the trail. These obstacles are not difficult, or even necessary in my opinion, but it should be noted that they’re there and can cause some bottle necking when the trail is busy (as we would see on our way down). This is another reason to leave early.
After some switchbacks, we reached the Chata pod Rysmi hut. We continued up the trail behind the hut where we saw this funny “no high heels” sign on the way up to the ridge. From the ridge, you get your first look at the Poland side of the mountains. We took in the views before beginning the final summit push.
We reached the summit just after 9:00 am, putting us at 3 1/2 hours one way to the summit of Rysy. The 360 degree views were amazing and it was cool to think that we had hiked from one country into another. It’s important to note that you can also hike Rysy from the Poland side via the lakes pictured below. This is the route we were originally going to take, but I changed my mind a few days beforehand because it was a shorter drive for us to go the Slovakia way. Plus, the Slovakia approach is shorter and less technical. We were happy with our choice.
Even though we arrived quite early, there were still a good amount of people on the summit and not a lot of room, so we only spent about 30-40 minutes on top before starting back down the trail the way we came. This is when we really started to get a taste for how popular this trail is. People were coming up in SWARMS. I cannot emphasize enough how leaving early made all the difference for us. Despite the crowds, the trail down was beautiful in the late morning light. We got back to our car around 1:30 pm, making the whole day about 8 hours car to car. Other beta I read before doing the hike said 7-10 hours for this route, which I would agree with.
We spent the night at the Gravity Chalet (found it on Airbnb) in the town of Liptovsky Mikuláš and grabbed burgers at Restart Burger, both of which I recommend! On Sunday, we drove through the beautiful town of Kremnica on our way home, which is definitely worth a stop! We visited the castle and climbed up the steep 127 steps in a tower to overlook the area. All in all, a great weekend trip from Vienna!
Rysy is a must-do hike if you ever have the chance to visit the Tatra Mountains! As aways, please practice Leave No Trace and leave this beautiful place better than you found it!