Early this year, I planned a Karkonosze mountains weekend trip together with a few friends. I’d be the first time for me to go hiking in the winter. We decided to go on the last weekend of February. You could already see first signs of upcoming spring and we therefore hoped for some good weather and sun.
The reason why we chose Karkonosze range was that we’ve been to the Tatra mountains already (the highest mountains in Poland) quite a few times, both in winter and summer.
We wanted to experience something new.
The Karkonosze range is set on the border between Poland and Czech Republic, only 3 hours from Wroclaw. So it makes a great getaway for a weekend trip.
We departed from Wroclaw and arrived in Karpacz shortly before 5 pm. We headed straight onto the Yellow Trail which would lead us to Schronisko PTTK Strzecha Akademicka - the mountain lodge we booked in advance.
Once we were on the trail, we quickly discovered that the spring weather we hoped for was far from present.
The national park was covered with a thick layer of ice and a layer of fresh snow (10-30 cm). While we slowly walked up, the weather changed drastically: we experienced heavy snow, wind, rain and beautiful sun all in just 1,5 hours hiking.
The next day, I planned a 18 km hiking loop on both Polish and Czech ground. But in our mountain lodge, we learned that many trails were closed due to weather conditions. You could still go (at your own risk) with snowshoes or cross-country skis, if you’re an experienced hiker and know the terrain well.
So we quickly made changes in plans and decided to go up to the highest peak of the Karkonosze mountains - Mount Sniezka.
This turned out to be a great and rewarding 10 kilometer round trip hike with breathtaking nature and beautiful views. The trail from Dom Slaski to the summit was a little bit icy and busy, as many people take the chairlift up from Karpacz to summit the mountain. So good hiking shoes are a must and crampons recommendable.
We finished the day off with hot Gluehwein (mulled wine) and food at Samotnia Mountain Lodge, which is only a 5 minute walk from where we stayed.
Weather and Equipment
Although the Karkonosze mountains with its highest peak at 1603m / 5259 feet are not high mountains such as the Alps, they’re known for its harsh climate and frequent weather changes. You can expect fog, heavy rainfall (snow in winter) one minute, and beautiful sun soon after. Therefore it’s really important to come prepared.
Here’s what you should take with you:
Schroniska ( - pl., schronisko - sg.) are what mountain lodges or hostels are called in Polish.
They are usually set along trails in the mountains and to reach them, require hiking or taking the gondola. Accommodation is pretty basic and cheap, about 30-40 PLN for a bed in a dorm room.
Booking in advance is necessary as they fill up very fast. You need to call or e-mail the lodge. Some require prepayment.
Karpacz and Szklarska Poreba are the two main getaways in the Karkonosze mountains. Travel time is about 3 hours from Wroclaw and 1 hour from Jelenia Góra. You can get there by:
a) train www.rozklad-pkp.pl
b) PKS bus www.pks.jgora.pl/pl/rozklady
c) car - national route no. 3
Other recommended destinations to start your hikes are Jakuszyc, Piechowic, Podgórzyn and Borowice. All are reachable by bus from Jelenia Góra.