Prior to my trip I could find almost no English information about hiking in the Sudeten mountains (or Sudety) in Poland. It seems like this part of Poland undeservedly so, sees much less visitors than the well-known Tatra mountains. I had the opportunity to do an adventurous three-day hut-to-hut trekking in the Sudeten mountains. I hiked past weirdly-shaped rock formations and steep cliffs, heard about local mountain spirits, slept in old forest cabins and saw a wild fox for the first time. Here’s a mini guide with everything you want to know about hiking in the Sudeten mountains in Poland.
Hiking in the Sudeten mountains in Poland
Introduction to the Sudeten mountains
The Sudeten mountains are located in the border regions of Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. It is known as a relatively low mountain range with gentle slopes. The region is specifically famous for its minerals (about 230 types have been identified so far), mining industry and glass production. Decades ago, the forest was mostly used for wood in order to produce forest glass. Nowadays, the forest is no longer used for industrial purposes and you will find plenty of lichen, which only grows in clean, fresh air. You may also run into foxes, badger and marter. The black grouse also dwells there. As there has been a worrying decline of this rare bird, serious measures have been taken to protect it.
The Polish Sudeten mountain range is divided into smaller geographic massifs of which the most well-known are Góry Izerskie (also known as ‘IJzergebergte‘ in Dutch, Karkonosze (also known as the Giant mountains, Rudawy Janowickie and Góry Kaczawskie). The highest peak is Mount Sněžka/Śnieżka (1,603m) located in the Karkonosze massif. Karkonosze is also the most popular massif for hiking, boasting 33 trails covering about 100 kilometers. In Karkonosze there are also 19 mountain bike trails covering about 450 kilometers. It’s also a very popular region for skiing and cross-country skiing.
An example of a 3-day hut-to-hut trekking in the Sudeten mountains (including the Giant mountains)
As you may know, I love multiple day hikes. In Sudety there are plenty of mountain huts, which makes it easy to plan a trekking. Below you can find an example itinerary of a Sudeten 3-day hut-to-hut trekking (the one I did). Please find the exact route after day 3. If you click on this route you can also download the .gpx file.
Day 1: From ‘Świeradów-Zdrój ujęcie wody’ to Stacja Turystuczna Orle (mostly in Góry Izerskie massif)
We started outside the town of Świeradów-Zdrój and from there we hiked uphill through the forest on a narrow stony path until we reached ‘Na Stogu Izerskim’ at 1060 meters. From there, we continued on a broad, flat path with pine trees on both sides until we reached Schronisko ‘Chatka Góryzstów, which is an excellent place to have a rest. There are picknick tables outside (and inside) and you can try one of their famous savoury pancakes. After that, we finally reached cosy Stacja Turystuczna Orle (find information on the huts in the next paragraph).
Duration: 17.5 km, approximately 4-5 hours
Day 2: From Stacja Turystuczna Orle to Schronisko PTTK Na Hali Szrenicka (partly in Gory Izersky and Karkonosze massif)
On the second day we said goodbye to the Izery mountains. We followed a zigzag muddy path going slightly uphill through a dense pine tree forest until we reached the sport center ‘Polana Jakuszycka’. We now officially entered Karkonosze (the Giant Mountains). Not long after, we reached my favorite spot of this hike: Owcze Skały, a beautiful rock formation. A climb up the rocks offered a beautiful view of the surroundings. From here the path went down and after that gradually uphill again over a long wooden walkway. We passed our sleeping spot for that night, Schronisko PTKK Na Hali Szrenicka, but continued steeply upwards right next to the Polish-Czech border towards the Szrenica mountain hut and viewpoint. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and cold, so no stunning views. We did spot two foxes (!) and headed down to our sleeping spot.
Duration: 15,5 km, approximately 4-5 hours
Day 3: From Schronisko PTTK Na Hali Szrenicka to Michalowicze (Karkonosze massif)
We continued along the Polish-Czech border and past the rock formation at Twarożnik. After this, we opted for the uphill path on the side of mountain (instead of the path going over the ridge of the mountain) offering beautiful views over the valley. We now reached Równia na Snieznymi Kotlama (1489 meters). The highlight of the day was only a bit further: the viewing point ‘Śnieżne Kotły’ offering views on the impressive vertical rock walls and a few bright blue lakes. A beautiful end of our 3-day hike! From here, we hiked back down until we reached a butterfly farm (focussing on the re-introduction of a specific butterfly species) and finally the parking lot of Piechowiecze.
Duration: 14 km, approximately 4-5 hours
Below you can find the route:
Staying in the Sudeten mountain huts
During my hike I stayed in two mountain huts: Schronisko PTKK Na Hali Szrenicka and Stacja Turystuczna Orle. I found the huts comfortable, clean and affordable. You will have to bring your own sheets or you can rent them at the hut. There are both private rooms and dorms, some with private, some with shared bathrooms. Both huts have a restaurant, the opportunity to buy snacks and electricity. At Schronisko PTKK Na Hali Szrenicka there is a sauna, big enough for 4 people. At Stacja Turystuczna Orle there is a small museum run by Stanislaw Kornafel. The museum is full of minerals, exquisite ‘millefiori’ glass work from the famous Carlsthal glass factory and quirky and interesting other stuff from around the world. Here you can learn all about the history of the glass factory. The museum was not yet officially opened at the time of our visit, but the plan is to ask 5-10 złoty as an entrance fee in the future. Please note during low season, the restaurant closes early.
Tip: bring a notebook and collect the beautiful ‘hut stamps’
How to find your way in the Sudeten mountain range?
The trails were well-prepared with plenty of markings. At every crossing, there was a wooden signpost with directions and the number of minutes or kilometers it takes to get there. Still, make sure to also bring a device with an offline GPS map and preferably also bring a paper map.
Personally, I always use MapOut for my GPS map. It has nice graphics, also works offline, and is very accurate. Here is how to use MapOut. Another useful map is the app ‘Mapy.cz’
- Download the MapOut app on your phone
- Download the region you’re visiting in MapOut
- Go to Mapa Turystyczna and create your own route
- Download the GPX file into MapOut
- The route is now available in MapOut!
How to prepare for your hike in the Sudeten mountains?
- Ask about the current weather conditions. The best time for hiking is usually between May and September.
- Have the number of the Polish mountain rescue service in your phone (+48 601100300 or 985).
- Be prepared for all kind of weather conditions.
- Don’t underestimate the Sudeten mountains. Even though plenty of hikers visit every year: it’s still the mountains
- Please note that camping is not allowed in the Sudeten mountains in Poland.
- Learn some Polish before you go!
- Make sure to bring a bit of cash money to pay the entrance fee
- This is my packing list for regular backpacking trips, which I pretty much use for every trip including this one. I will soon publish an additional mountaineering / hiking packing list.
Example costs of hiking in the Sudeten mountains (2023)
- Entrance to museum at Stacja Turystuczna Orle: 5 zloty
- Room in mountain hut: 55 zloty
- Sheets rental: 12 zloty
- Pierogi: 23 zloty
- Soup: 17 zloty
- Entrance to Karkonosze National Park one day (8 zloty), three days (20 zloty)
Gateway towns to the Sudeten mountains
- Jelenia Gora. Jelenia Gora is a charming town set in a valley at the base of the Sudeten mountains with a beautiful town square. Trains regular run between Wrcolaw and Jelenia Goria taking about 2 – 2,5 hours.
- Karpacz. This is one of the most popular and well-known mountain towns in the region serving as a base for skiiers and hikers. The Wang Church in Karpacz is one of the highlights of the region (not visited by me unfortunately this time)
- Świeradów-Zdrój. Our gateway town. We started our hike at ‘Świeradów-Zdrój ujęcie wody’ located just outside the town center. The town itself includes a mine, skywalk and museum.
Meet the legend of Krakonos (or Rübezahl or Liczyrzepa) in Karkonosze
In the Giant Mountains (Karkonosze) you may come across paintings or statues featuring the folkloric mountain spirit ‘Krakanos’, who is a ruler of nature and a good-fortune bringer to local miners and shepherds. Its appearance changed over time, but in later depictions Krakonos appears as an old wrinkled creature with a wooden walking stick. As a huge Tolkien fan, I immediately noticed the resemblance with Gandalf, the wizard of Tolkien’s stories. Indeed some say, that Tolkien may have based Gandalf’s looks on this mountain spirit. The stories goes that Tolkien once purchased a postcard with an image of Krakanos and on the back of this postcard Tolkien wrote ‘ the origin of Gandalf’. Who would have thought that a random postcard would have such an incredibly impact on what we know as the best phantasy novel of all times…
One-day hikes in the Sudeten mountains
There are plenty of beautiful one day hikes you can do in the Sudeten mountains. You can easily create your own route using Mapa Turystyczna. Some of suggestions:
- Hike from Karpacz (Poland) to the summit of Mt. Sniezka and then down to Pec Pod Snezkou, a resort town on the Czech side of the mountain. Find the report here
- Hike back from Stog Izerski through the pine forest to Swieradow Zdroj
- Take the ski lift to Szrenica (make sure to check whether it’s open) and then go down via the green trail to Owcze Skały and finish in Jakuszyce (Leśniczówka)
- Take the ski lift to Szrenica (make sure to check whether it’s open). Hike to Twarożnik and then the blue trail to Rozdroże pod Wielki Szyszak and then follow the green path to Szlakrska Poręba (Marysin)
Could I hike the Sudeten mountains independently or should I go with a guide?
I honestly can’t answer this question for you as it largely depends on your personal experience and preference. The Sudeten mountains are relatively low and have gentle slopes, but nevertheless should not be underestimated. Weather conditions can change fast and preparation is key. Although local signage is good and online maps are available (including the truly awesome and free online map Mapa Turystyczna), there are limited English blogs available (especially on multiple day trekking), which makes preparation a bit more difficult. That being said: if you’re an experienced hiker you should be fine. If you prefer a guide I recommend Sylwia Neumann. She knows the area well, speaks good English and is a lovely person to have around.
Don’t forget to combine the Sudeten mountains with Wroclaw
After hiking in the Sudeten mountains, I would high recommend to visit Wrocław. Wrocław (pronounced as ‘”vrots-waf”) is a beautiful and photogenic town situated on the banks of the Oder river, made up of 12 islands and more than 100 bridges. Meet Wrocław’s dwarves, visit one of the many museums and wander over the colorful town square. Here are 6 reasons why Wroclaw is worth visiting.
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Good luck with your hike and let me know how it goes?