The High Tatras are part of the Tatra Mountains, which in turn are part of the Carpathian Mountains. Two thirds of the area belong to Slovakia, while the rest is located in Poland. The High Tatras are often referred as the smallest high mountains in the world in terms of area. In fact, the area is just 340 square kilometers, but over 100 peaks reach the 2000-meter mark here. The Rysy is a mountain that has 3 peaks above this mark and the highest point is 2503 meters. In addition, the Rysy is the highest mountain in the High Tatras, to which a hiking trail leads. The ascent is difficult, but also feasible for inexperienced mountaineers. But this is not the only reason why the Rysy is a very popular travel destination. Thousands of hikers come every year to explore the unique nature. Spectacular mountain landscapes, fantastic glacial lakes, huge waterfalls, and a fascinating animal world await you in the High Tatras. I don’t want to withhold this from you and that’s why I’m going to present you my exciting hike on the Rysy in this post.
The route of my hike in brief
Since I climbed the mountain during my trip to Slovakia, my proposed hike starts in the Slovak part of the national park. If you click on a link below, you will be taken directly to the corresponding section of the route. This starts at the hiking car park in Štrbské Pleso. From here the path leads over an asphalt road to the idyllic Popradské pleso. There is also a mountain hotel right on the lake where I stayed at the time. The hiking trail continues up serpentines to the high valley Kotlina Zabich plies, in which the beautiful lakes Žabie plesá are located. This is followed by an arduous but impressive ascent to Chata pod Rysmi. From this hut you can reach the Sedlo Váha. The last part up to the summit is characterized by a very steep ascent and leads over boulders without proper signposting. However, the view from Rysy at an altitude of 2500 meters is breathtakingly beautiful.
The entire route is approximately 19 kilometers long and has an altitude difference of over 1200 meters. Accordingly, this hike is very strenuous, but not technically difficult. In any case, appropriate equipment is recommended. Hiking shoes and weatherproof clothing, even in summer, are mandatory. I took a photo of a poster that shows the entire route. I also marked the route and all the important points on the map.
Popradské Pleso train station
Alpine terrain, steep ascent
Over 1200 meters of ascent
How to get to the High Tatras
The starting point of the hike is a parking lot northeast of the village of Štrbské Pleso. If you arrive by car, I recommend following the GPS to “Parkovisko Popradské Pleso”. Here you can park along the street for 10 euros per day (we only had to pay 6 € in 2019). A parking attendant will issue you a ticket. If the ticket office is not manned, you can pay for your ticket when you return. That was also the case with us since we arrived late in the evening. The cars are only guarded during the day, so take your valuables with you if you want to stay overnight.
Traveling by train is also very convenient, as the Popradské Pleso station is also right by the car park. For example, trains from Poprad arrive here. Train tickets are also very cheap in Slovakia. You can find more information on the website of the railway company or in the app cp.sk. I marked the parking lot and the train station on the map.
From the hiking car park to Popradské Pleso
We reach the parking lot in the late afternoon. Our destination is the mountain hotel on Lake Popradské. We hastily pack the most necessary clothes in our daypacks and set off. In the distance, gigantic mountains tower up in front of us. The anticipation is rising. When turning off the road onto the hiking trail, we hear the rush of water. A bridge leads over a rapid river that plunges into the valley. Moss-covered stones lie motionless in the riverbed while the water rushes wildly over them. The background noise even drowns out the passing minivan, which takes tourists to the hotel for a fee. However, we prefer to follow the asphalt road on foot. It meanders through extensive meadows that shine in lush green tones. The dark clouds, the passing fog and the gigantic mountains in the background create a fantastic contrast. Euphoria and the feeling of freedom arise in this atmospheric scene. I am always amazed at how quickly nature lifts my spirits.
The further we hike uphill, the more the extensive meadows and wild bushes along the way disappear. But the number of dark green conifers increases steadily until we finally reach a forest area. Here we cross the turbulent river again, whose water rushes over the musty rocks towards the valley. We quietly watch the roar until the energetic honking of the minivan, which passes us at least four times, shocks us again.
The idyll on Popradské Pleso
The road then continues through forest areas and finally ends at the mountain hotel. The Popradské Pleso, which you should definitely visit, is located here at an altitude of 1500 meters. A beautiful hiking trail leads around the entire lake. Since we want to spend the night here, we quickly check into the hotel, eat something, and then explore the lake. But more on that later. Follow the link to find out more about the accommodation now. In total, this section is 4 kilometers long and has an altitude difference of around 200 meters. It took us about 45 minutes to get there.
Short Facts for your Trip
The main season on the Rysy runs from June to September. We were in Slovakia in July and it was quite busy on the hiking route. So, I recommend coming in June or September. In the winter months the hiking trail is closed and only accessible to very experienced mountaineers. You can find the climate of the individual months on the following website.
Uphill to the Frog Lakes
From Popradské Pleso, a blue-marked hiking trail leads towards Rysy. We follow the route through a forest in the early morning. Tree roots and stones cross the path until a natural lane finally forms. The forest is now behind us and we only pass mountain pines occasionally. Shortly after a wooden bridge that crosses the Žabi potok, we reach the Nad Zabim potokom junction. It took us around 40 minutes. From here we follow the red signposted route, which for the first time shows a significant increase.
Ascent over the Wachterka to the Žabie plesá
We climb the Wachterka high valley via serpentines. The climb is arduous, but the great views make up for the effort. In the distance behind us are the valleys of the High Tatras. Craggy mountain walls rise up on the sides. Mountain rivers plunge into the depths on the gigantic slopes. On the 1000 meters into the high valley Kotlina Zabich plies, in which the Frog Lakes are located, it is more than 300 meters uphill.
We reach the small and large Frog Lake (Žabie plesá) at 1900 meters above sea level. The name is derived from a rocky island in the lake, which is said to have the shape of a frog. Here we take a break, eat something, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. The crystal-clear lake shimmers in the sun in a mix of dark blue and turquoise. Clouds accumulate on the surrounding mountain ridges. It is quiet. Only the sound of the stones rolling under the feet of the passing hikers breaks the silence.
Climb to the mountain hut under the Rysy
We leave the lakes behind and after a short time we reach a huge block of snow and ice. And that in the hottest month of the year. This sits like a pretense at the foot of a mountain slope. Tourists scribble their initials in the lower part or pose in front of the ice sheet. We too take a few pictures before we continue our way.
Suddenly a line forms in front of us. The hiking path now leads over high boulders that can only be climbed using iron ladders. We even have to pull ourselves up on other rocks by chains. The path becomes narrow. Hikers who have already taken the way back squeeze past us. We manage 100 meters in altitude in a very short time. This section is accordingly arduous, but also adventurous. In the end, a look back down into the valley at the Frog Lakes is enough and the effort is forgotten. But see for yourself.
The air is getting thinner
It follows a section over huge stones that make their way up via serpentines. My heart is racing, and my legs are aching. Again and again we have to take short breaks. While I lean forward and rest my hands on my thighs, I hear a bird of prey above us. Maybe a vulture just waiting for tourists to perish here? Unlikely, but we still wonder if there have been any accidents on this route. A search on the internet shows that so far only mountaineers have had an accident on the Rysy. But perhaps those who have had an accident are just not mentioned in order not to deter future tourists. My thoughts tell me that the air is getting thinner. At 2250 meters above sea level, we finally reach the chata pod rysmi mountain hut. Inside, drinks and snacks are offered. You can even stay overnight here on request. Lots of people sit on the terrace and enjoy the fabulous view. We too sit down and gather strength for the upcoming ascent to the summit.
Final spurt to the summit of Rysy
Suddenly a gigantic layer of ice that stretches over a mountain slope blocks our way. A narrow path leads through the snow to the other side. That narrow that oncoming hikers have to wait. There is no protection. Due to the high frequency of use, the ground resembles a mix of snow, ice and mud. I feel my way forward at a snail’s pace. Just don’t step wrong and slip away, because on the right the layer of ice falls deep into the valley. The thoughts come back to tourists who have had an accident. The bird is still circling in the sky as if it knows where it’s worth to wait. Fortunately, the section is not very long, and we can safely reach the opposite side.
Above the clouds
The Sedlo Váha is located at an altitude of over 2300 meters and promises an impressive view. When we reach the viewpoint, however, fog and dark clouds move over the ridge. Sometimes we can’t even see 10 meters away. The clouds devour the gigantic mountains and only occasionally let the sun’s rays through. Nevertheless, there is something magical about this natural spectacle. The tourists in the distance look like dwarfs on their way to their mountain caves. So, we sit on the cool boulders and capture the mystical moment for ourselves.
From Sedlo Váha we hike uphill over huge stones. A real hiking trail can no longer be seen, but wooden posts with markings show the way. The steep ascent, some of which requires climbing over boulders, robs us of our strength. Moreover, the thin air forces us to take a break. On the last few meters, we almost have to climb up on all fours because the ascent is so steep. When we finally arrive at the summit, we let ourselves go from exhaustion, take a breather, and then concentrate on the view. Far down in the valley we see the Frog Lakes. Mighty rock walls and mountains tower up all around. Clouds pass us and stick to the mountains. In fact, the view is indescribably beautiful. Although hundreds of other tourists are sitting next to us at the summit, it’s quiet up here. Because we all watch and enjoy the breathtaking spectacle of nature.
The way back from Rysy to the valley
As beautiful as the view is up here, we have to make our way back. Step by step we climb backwards from the summit because the slope is too steep for the normal descent. But after a short time, we can hike again as usual. If you think that a descent is much easier than an ascent, I will unfortunately have to disappoint you. Our muscles performed the same movement for hours, but suddenly completely different muscles are used. It’s a different kind of effort. The legs are tired, and we have to concentrate on every step in order not to twist our ankle. Our legs, especially the knees, ache with every step we take. The hiking boots help, but the further down we get, the more tired we get. Our concentration decreases and we start making the wrong steps. Only our hiking boots prevent worse. We even imagine that the hiking socks we bought especially support us. In the end, I have the feeling that my legs are moving on their own and I just have to set the direction. The pain in my knees and legs is suddenly numb. But after several hours and over 1000 meters downhill, we finally reach our accommodation on the lake.
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Overnight in a mountain hotel on Popradské Pleso
The mountain hotel was worth booking because of its idyllic location alone. Surrounded by impressive mountains, it is located directly on the picturesque Popradské Pleso away from civilization. On a huge terrace you can enjoy the view with a beer. In addition, a circular hiking trail leads around the lake and guarantees wonderful impressions. Even if you do not want to spend the night here, I can highly recommend the tour around the lake.
Mostly people stay in the hotel who use the location as a starting point for one of the many hikes. Everyone will find a suitable room here, but they are very simply furnished. There is even a dormitory. The in-house restaurant provides you with delicious meals and alcoholic drinks. We were completely satisfied, and I can recommend it to anyone who wants to stay close to the hiking routes.
Conclusion on the hike to the Rysy
Overall, I really liked the route. The lakes, mountains and landscapes are really unique and breathtaking. Those who appreciate wild nature will love this hike. Although the route is very strenuous, no relevant experience is required to tackle it. However, you should have a certain amount of equipment and respect for the alpine environment. You have to conquer over 1200 meters in altitude on 9 kilometers and descend the same route back. A good physical condition is therefore essential. It is also possible to continue the hike to the crystal-clear Eye of the Sea (Morskie Oko) in Poland. However, from there you have to organize the transport back to Slovakia. We climbed the Rysy in July. Accordingly, many other tourists were on the way. If you are looking for a little more peace and quiet, you should come in June or September. In addition to the Rysy, there are countless other ways to explore the High Tatras. Take a look at my other posts, in which I show you great lakes or hikes to rapid waterfalls. If you have any tips for the Tatras, please let me know in the comments. I really want to go to the High Tatras one more time. I hope you enjoyed my post. I had a lot of fun digging out my memories and pictures of the Rysy.
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