The Chochołowska Valley
( Dolina Chochołowska)
Dolina Chochołowska is well know for its stunning views throughout the year. It is also popular as it is a fairly easy walking route. The elevation from start to finish is only around 250m.
The hike to the top of the valley ( The Chochołowska Mountain Shelter) takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes. Perhaps slightly longer if you take breaks. The route up and down will take around 4 hours + any time you spend at the shelter.
The valley hike to the mountain shelter and back is around 14km in total. The path is a mix of tarmac and cobbled paths. Most of the hike is just a shallow upwards incline how this increases for short periods.
It is possible to hike the valley all through the year. In winter the valley is also used for horse sleigh rides while in the spring, autumn and summer you can rent a bike to reach the mountain shelter.
Another great thing about this valley it that is is one of the only routs within the national park where you can take dogs providing that you clean after them and keep them on a lead if it is busy.
How to reach the Chochołowska valley from Zakopane
The Chochołowska Valley is located just a short drive from Zakopane. You can reach the valley either by local bus from the Zakopane bus station or by car. There is a car at the entrance to the Valley at Polaną Siwą. The car park costs between 10 and 25 zl depending on when you go.
We suggest that you leave early during the busy summer months as the valley can get very busy.
Hiking to the Mountain Shelter
The hike starts at Polaną Siwą. You must firstly purchase your entry ticked to the National Park. This is just 6zl per adult.
Close to the ticket office it is possible to rent a bike or grab a bottle of water. Along the lower valley at the start of the hike you will see some of the traditional smoking huts ( bacówkach) where Oscypek, the local sheeps cheese, is made. This comes in many forms. We highly suggest that you give this a try whilst in Zakopane. It is best served hot from the grill with a dollop of cranberry jam on the side.
The first part of the walk is fairly open. There are wooden cottages, stalls selling highlander goods and even a new high ropes course.
You will then enter the forrest and walk along side the beautiful mountain stream ( Chochołowski Potok). After walking for around 40 minutes we will get to a clearing ( Huciska) where there are toilets and a picnic area. Here the tarmac road stops and you continue on a cobbled pathway. During the busy summer months there is a train that you can take from Polaną Siwą to this point. Unless you have mobility problems, walking is always the best choice! There are also horse carriages which are available to take you up to Huciska.
After passing the bacowki ( sheppards cheese making hut) there will be an alternative path to the mountain shelter. This route to the right passes the chapel of John the Baptist. The chapel is visible from the path. We suggest that you take this path ( with black markings) past the chapel and on to the mountain shelter. You can then return using the main path.
The mountain shelter was initially built in the 1950’s. It is possble to spend the night at the shelter which has over 120 beds. This is a great option for people looking to hike higher into the tatras.
Soon you will see a sign with 2 arrows. One points to Dolina Kościeliska ( another valley in the tatras) and one pointing to the continuation of the Chochołowska valley. From there there is another 60 minutes to the mountain shelter.
After another 30 minutes you will come to a clearing which on a sunny day brings some spectacular views. This open area is called Polana Chochołowska.
From the PTTK Chocholowska mountain shelter it is possble to reach higher peaks in the tatra mountins such as Grześ peak, Rakoń peak and Wołowiec peak which is on the Slovakia side of the tatra mountains.
As well as accommodation, the mountain shelter also offers food and drink to give you energy for your hike back down the valley. You can buy traditional food like bigos, zurek soup, stews and drinks. The hike back down the valley takes slightly less time due to the downward incline.