Lake Morskie Oko

The trail that leads to Lake Morskie Oko is probably the most popular route in the Polish Tatra Mountains. Visit Zakopane and fail to see Lake Morskie Oko? For many that would be just impossible to imagine. However, you need to bear in mind that if you decide to take this route, you will mostly be walking along a tarmac road. In the summer and on warm spring weekends, you will probably meet crowds of tourists along the route to Lake Morskie Oko. But you should see it at least once.

The entire route is 18.6 km long. According to guidebooks, it will take around 4.35 h to get there and back. If you are in poorer shape, prepare for even 6-7 hours of walking. This route is a very good choice for families with young children - there is no risk of spraining your ankle on the rocks. You can even take your baby stroller with you.

Let me start by saying that since the route is very popular, it is best to take the mini-bus to get to the starting point. The mini-buses travel between Zakopane (FIS bar opposite the bus terminal, ul. Kościuszki) and Łysa Polana. A ticket costs ca. PLN 10.

We set out from Palenica Białczańska, located at 990 m a.s.l., and arrive at Lake Morskie Oko, located at 1,395 m a.s.l. This walk is possible to do for any tourist. Even older people will have no problems walking to the lake.

The route is not difficult, and thanks to the asphalt surface, we will not even notice that we are in the mountains. 200 m before the Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza waterfall, there are wooden buildings constructed by the Park management. They house an exhibition about the Tatra Mountains.

Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza is a scenic spot at the junction of the Białka and Dolina Roztoki valleys. The waterfall appeared on the rock outcroppings in the bed of the Potok Roztoka creek, which flows from the Dolina Pięciu Stawów valley. From the bridge constructed at the waterfall, you can only see the Pośredni (Middle) Waterfall. No trails lead to the Wyżny (Higher) and Niżny (Lower) waterfalls. Be careful in winter and watch out for occasional avalanches.

There are benches and tables at the waterfalls, where you can rest on your way to Lake Morskie Oko.

Two kilometres later, you can take a shortcut if you are not walking with a stroller and you want to feel like you are really in the mountains. This slope is much more steep than the asphalt road, but it makes the route shorter by several hundred metres. There are four sections of the trail that do not follow the asphalt road. You need to get back to the tarmac once they are over. This is the only way to get to Lake Morskie Oko.

At the Polana Włosienica clearing, you can rest on the benches and use the portable toilets. You need to remember that you are in a Natural Park, and you cannot simply relieve yourself in the forest or even stray off the designated trails. It might be hard to imagine, but there are quite a few wild animals living in the Tatra National Park. These include bears, which can be very dangerous to humans.

In less than two hours after passing the Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza waterfall, we arrive at our destination. Morskie Oko is the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains. It is 1,395 m a.s.l. and is 862 m long and 568 m wide. It is up to 51.8 m deep. It usually freezes over in November, and the ice melts in May.

In the 17th century, it was called the White Lake. Later, the name was changed to the Fish Lake or the Fish Pond, because it did not require artificial fish stocking. It was first called by its modern name by German settlers from Spis.

Above the lake, there is one of the most beautiful Polish mountain shelters. Next to it, there is an old shelter that was originally a carriage house. This is the oldest preserved shelter building in Poland. Both buildings are protected as part of the Polish national heritage. The „New Shelter” was built in 1908. It is the starting point of hiking routes to Mount Rysy, Mięguszowiecka Przełęcz at Chłopek or Szpiglasowa Przełęcz.

From Lake Morskie Oko you can see:

to the south-east: Rysy, Niżnie Rysy, Kopa Spadowa and Żabi Mnich,

to the south: Mięguszowieckie Szczyty, Kazalnica, Wołowy Grzbiet, Wołowa Turnia, Żabia Turnia Mięguszowiecka and Żabi Koń,

to the north-west: Opalony Wierch and Miedziane,

to the south-west: Mnich and Cubryna,

to the east: Żabi Szczyt Niżny, Żabia Czuba and Siedem Granatów.

You can also circle the lake along a special route. It starts with a stony path, which was created in the 19th century. As you walk by, stop at the Shrine of the Virgin May of Happy Returns.

According to guidebooks, you will need ca. 2 h to return from Lake Morskie Oko to Palenica Białczańska.

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