Julie Poland, Slovakia 15 Comments

Rysy is a mountain in the High Tatras that straddles the border between Poland and Slovakia. It is the tallest mountain in Poland and the highest mountain in the High Tatras that you can hike to without a guide.

There are two approaches to the summit of Rysy. From Zakopane, Poland, you hike past Morskie Oko lake to the peak, which is a challenging route. From Slovakia, you hike from Štrbské Pleso, which is an easier route to the summit. If you hike to the Rysy from the Slovak side, you can summit the highest mountain in Poland without ever really hiking in Poland.

About Our Experience

We hiked to the peak of Rysy from Štrbské Pleso in Slovakia.

The weather worked against us, at least a little bit, since clouds blanketed the mountain peak all day, despite sunny skies throughout the rest of the Tatras. In fact, the peak of Rysy was hidden behind the clouds three of the four days we spent in the Slovak Tatras.

Despite the clouds, this was a great hike. High mountain views, a rock scrambling section aided with the use of chains and ladders, and a chance to see several alpine lakes all make this hike worthwhile.

How to Hike to Rysy

Rysy Hiking Stats

Distance: 20 km (12.5 miles) round trip
Elevation Gain: 1345 meters (4415 feet)
Highest Elevation: 2503 meters (the main summit), although the northwest summit at 2499 meters is the highest peak in Poland
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 7 to 10 hours
When to go: End of May to September. All other times of year snow on the trails can make hiking dangerous or impossible (this should only be attempted with a guide).

Rysy Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Getting to the Trailhead

Štrbské Pleso to Popradské Pleso

Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles) one-way
Elevation Gain: 280 meters (920 feet)
Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

The trail officially starts at Popradské Pleso, an alpine lake with a hotel and several small restaurants. The only way to get to Popradské Pleso is on your own two feet, unless you are staying at the hotel.

If you have a car, the closest parking is in Štrbské Pleso. To get here, there is an access road along the Poprad River. If you get here early in the day, you can park you car right on the side of this road. When we did this, there was a man collecting a small parking fee for each vehicle. Here are the GPS coordinates of the parking area: 49.125661, 20.074609.

There are toilets here as well as a small snack stand.

Continue north along the road, cross over the train tracks, and follow the asphalt road uphill until you get to Popradské Pleso. It’s an easy, uphill walk the entire way to the lake.

Road to Popradske Pleso

Once you get to Popradské Pleso, you have made a serious dent in the hike to Rysy.

On the Trail to Rysy

Once you get to Popradské Pleso, you will see the trail to Rysy on the left hand side of the asphalt road. While you are here, you have the option to use the bathrooms at the lake or even go for a stroll around the lake if you like. It takes about one hour to walk the circumference of the lake, so you may want to save this for after the hike (if you still have energy to spare).

Popradske Pleso

Popradske Pleso Restaurant

Rysy Hiking Map

Map of the trail to Rysy

Popradské Pleso to the Summit of Rysy

Distance: 6 km (3.7 miles) one-way
Elevation Gain: 1065 meters (3,495 feet)
Time: 3 to 5 hours

Now, you are on a dirt trail heading through a forest. Finally, it feels like you are hiking.

The first part of the trail is lovely. You are hiking slowly and steadily uphill through an alpine forest.

In the Woods

Tatras Trail

Rysy Trail Sign

From Štrbské Pleso, you will take the blue trail until you get to Mengusovská Valley. Then take the red trail to Rysy. The trails are very easy to follow and well marked with signs like this one.

As you gain elevation, the trees disappear and are replaced by shrubs and wildflowers. The views really open up as you hike into Mengusovská Valley.

Then, you get to the switchbacks. Now, you are really gaining some serious elevation. This part is tiring but the views just keep getting better and better. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike, simply because it is so beautiful here. Plus, we still had the sun shining on our faces.

Wooden Bridge

Kara in the Tatras

Mengusovska Valley

Julie Rivenbark

Kara Hiking Tatras



At the top of the switchbacks the trail almost levels out as you walk through a huge field of boulders. To your left are the lakes Malé Zabie pleso and Vel’ké Zabie pleso and in front of you is Rysy.

Boulder Field

Along the Lake

It was at this point when we really started feeling chilly. We did this hike in mid-July and temperatures on top of Rysy were on the cold side. Even in the summer months, it’s a good idea to pack light gloves, a light jacket, and a hat.

Once you hike past the lakes, the trail turns to the right and begins to climb again. It is here that you get to use the chains and ladders.

Expect traffic jams on the cables. Midday these chains and ladders get two-way traffic, once people start hiking back down the mountain. It’s not unusual to have to wait in line, at least for a little bit, for your turn to climb the cables. If you get here early in the day, you can at least climb up the cables before the two-way traffic begins.

Trail and the Lakes

Rysy Chains

Rysy Ladders

As you can see in these photos, crowds weren’t too bad when we climbed up the ladders and cables. Later in the day this section was much more crowded and there was a line of people waiting to start their climb up the cables.

Slovakia Travel Guide

Chata pod Rysmi and Beyond

After navigating the chains, it is just a little more hiking to get to Chata pod Rysmi, a lodge and restaurant that sits smack in a field of boulders along the hiking trail. If you need to take a break, use the bathroom, or warm up, this is the perfect place to do it.

More Climbing

Rysy Hike

Prayer flags right before you get to Chata pod Rysmi.


Rysy Prayer Flags

Chata pod Rysmi Sign

Tim Rivenbark

There are several goofy things set up around Chata pod Rysmi, like this “bus stop” and bicycle.

From Chata pod Rysmi, it takes about an hour to reach the summit of Rysy. This is the most challenging part of the hike. It’s a rocky, steep climb to the summit with short sections of rock scrambling. Our visibility was very low and we could only see several feet in front of us. We just climbed from trail marker to trail marker.

Bad View from the Saddle

Looking back down the trail to Chata pod Rysmi.


Final Rysy Climb

The summit of Rysy is a small, rocky peak. It felt quite crowded here, and even though there was no view today, there were a number of people lounging on the rocks, catching their breath before starting back downhill.

And here we are, on the highest peak in Poland!

Rysy in the Clouds

I’m still bummed we missed out on the amazing views, but this was our final day in the Tatras so hiking without the view was better than skipping the hike altogether.

Hopefully you will have clear skies and much better views on the day you do this. From seeing other people’s photos online, the views across the Tatras are incredible!

The Return Hike

Retrace your steps back down the mountain. It’s a lot easier and a lot faster going down.

Chata pod Rysmi is a good place to take a break before hiking back to Štrbské Pleso. It’s warm inside and they serve food and drinks.

Helpful Tips for the Best Experience

Bring warm clothing! Even in mid-summer the temperatures on top of Rysy can be downright cold. At a minimum, I would recommend bringing a light pair of gloves and a jacket. We saw many people wearing long pants and heavy jackets on the upper part of the hike.

Check the weather before you go. It’s OK to do this on a cloudy day as long as you don’t mind missing out on the views from the top of Rysy. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, save this hike for a different day. Thunderstorms can be wicked in the Tatras and a mountain peak is last place you want to be during one of these storms.

I was amazed at the number of people on the trails in the Tatras, since the travel sources I read called this an off-the-beaten-path hiking destination. I don’t know where they got their information but on the day we did this, it was a steady line of hikers climbing to the summit. Be prepared for a lot of traffic on the trails and on the chains. If you get here early (8 am or earlier) you can avoid the crowds for at least the first part of the hike.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at Villa Meribel in Tatranská Lomnica. This place is awesome! We had a two bedroom, two bath apartment with a small kitchen and living area. From Villa Meribel, it was a 25 minute drive to Štrbské Pleso. Tatranská Lomnica is a great home base for hiking the Tatras. There are several restaurants and a grocery store in town. There is also a toboggan, a great place to take kids if you are traveling as a family.

Are you planning a hiking trip in the High Tatras? If you have any questions, ask us in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Slovakia

SLOVAKIA: Discover the best things to do in Bratislava, how to visit the High Tatras in Slovakia, how to visit Slovak Paradise, and how to hike to Vel’ká Svišt’ovka, a beautiful alpine lake in the High Tatras.

TATRAS: If you like hiking, consider spending a few days in the High Tatras. Learn how to hike to Koscielec from Zakopane and whether you should visit the Tatras from Poland or Slovakia. 

POLAND: Learn about the best things to do in Krakow, how to spend 2 days in Warsaw, and the best things to do in Gdansk. Put this all together with our 10 Day Poland Itinerary.

MORE GREAT HIKES IN EUROPE: From thrilling trails in the Alps to easy walks along the coast, read our article 20 Best Hikes in Europe for some beautiful hiking trails to put on your travel wish list.

Planning a trip to Slovakia? Read all of our articles in our Slovakia Travel Guide.


Rysy High Tatras Slovakia Hiking


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Comments 15

  1. Avatar for Ieva

    Great article, thank You!
    My question is, are people hiking to Rysy with kids? Ours are 8 and 12, last summer we had an amazing hike to Giewont, so looking for something extra this summer 🙂

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We did not see any kids on the trail, not at least any younger than Tyler and Kara. When we did this, Tyler was 15 and Kara was 13. They had no problems and I would have taken them on this trail when they were younger than that. Your 8 year old may have a tough time towards the end but it is still doable, especially since they have hiking experience. Even if you just get up to the hut it’s a great hike. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Mike

    Hi earth trekkers

    Your article made me want to visit tatry! We are coming to tatry mountains Slovakia side next week, will we be allowed to do the hike to Rysy ?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      From what I know this hiking trail opens at the end of May. There is a chance it could open earlier if there isn’t any snow on the trails, but you may not know that until you get there. If you have a hotel booked, you could also reach out to them and they might know more. Have fun in the Tatras! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Chris Bate
    Chris Bate


    Great article… My wife and I are planning on doing Rysy this summer (2023). We do have a couple of questions:

    1. What is the earliest time of the day that you can access the trail? I understand the National Park rules are “no hiking during dark hours”, but is there a rule on what specific time of day you can park and start to walk?

    2. Can you share a link for where to buy the mapping required for the area please

    3. Is there a decent app (in English) other than the “Hiking Map Poland” app which allows offline navigation.

    Thanks for your help

    Chris & Ali

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I think if you got to the trailhead at or just before sunrise you would be fine. I don’t know where online you can see maps of the area. However, if you look on Google Maps, you can see the trail. The entire trail is very well marked and easy to follow, so you don’t need a map. The other trails, like Skalnate Pleso to Veľká Svišťovka, also show up on Google. And I don’t know of any English apps for the hiking trails in Poland, either. We use Garmin Fenix watches and download trail maps onto that before we travel, so that’s another thing to look into. It’s very handy, especially if you lose you way (which is unlikely on this hike). Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Grace

    Thank you for the details of the hike.
    May I ask from the summit in the Slovakia side to the summit to the Poland side, can we get there? Do you know how far is the hike? Is it possible to do it?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The summit of Rysy sits on the border of Poland and Slovakia, so even if you hike up from Slovakia, once on the top of Rysy, you will be standing in Poland. You don’t have to do any extra hiking from what is listed in this post. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Via
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You’re welcome! I know that there is a public bus that runs between the towns in the Slovakian Tatras. We actually used the bus on a different hike since it was a point to point hike. A Google search about the bus could give you some more info. Here is the link to the website for Chata pod Rysmi for more info about staying here. We didn’t do it but I think it would be a neat experience to stay in a mountain lodge like this. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for April

    Hi Earth Trekkers,

    I have been in Slovakia for a week now, I spent a couple of days in Kosice and then up to the High Tartra’s for a few days. I took the hike to Rysy today! I just wanted to say how amazing all of your articles are. I struggled to find detailed information about Slovakia, especially in English, you have some of the most detailed and easy to follow postings out there.

    I am travelling solo and it has really helped to give me the confidence to find my way around Slovakia and make the most of my time here so a big thanks for that! I am travelling some more of Eastern Europe over the next month so I will be sure to see some of your postings on different locations.
    Thanks once again, April.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello April. I’m glad we were able to help you out. I hope you had clearer weather at the summit than we did! 🙂 Have fun exploring Eastern Europe! Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Rafael Cardoso
  8. Avatar for Francesco Castellana
    Francesco Castellana

    Great article, like every other article you ‘ve published! They are helping me a lot to plan my trip to Slovakia.
    I wanted to ask you, despite the fact that is strenuous, do you think that the hike to Rysy peak from the Slovakian side is suitable for a not experienced hiker? I’ve read conflicting opinions about it: some sites say it is too difficult, some others say that, since ladders have been added to the path, it is not so difficult, even if you are not a very experienced hiker.
    I’ve hiked before in my life, but never in high mountains (max. 700-800 m.), so I really want to ponder decisions about my time in the High Tatras.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Francesco. I’m glad we can help! I think it’s more important to be fit than an experienced hiker for Rysy. The trail is easy to follow and not technically difficult (there’s no rock scrambling or real route finding). The only part that was “challenging” was staying on the trail at the very top. In our situation, with the clouds, it was hard to really know where to go. In this case, you hike to one hash mark, look for the next one, and then hike to it, and repeat until you get to the top. But if you get a clear day, the trail will be much easier to follow and you will be able to see the summit. Overall, the hike is long and strenuous, but as long as you are relatively fit (able to walk 12 to 13 km) and handle some hills, you should be fine. Cheers, Julie

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