Most people come to Krakow for the history, the nightlife, and the café culture. We don’t think that’ much of a secret. But there are also places where you can go to escape the buzz of the Old Town and the crowds of Kazimierz. Cue this guide to hiking in Krakow, which runs through a series of some of the best places to hit the trails and get that hard-earned dose of nature within reach of the city center. It’s got a nice mix of options, from full-on national parks that encompass caves and wild woods to easy-to-access parklands only a short bus ride from town. Let’s get on the trail…
What will you find in this guide to hiking in Krakow?
Las Wolski, the Wolski Forest, is a large sweep of wooded hills that rise to the west of Krakow. They actually sit just between the city and the airport, so you’re likely to travel through if you take the bus to the Old Town when you arrive. We’d say this is one of the closest places for hiking in Krakow, since it’s only 10 minutes in the bus from the center. There are also loads of buses, because you take the same connection you’d take to get to Krakow Zoo, which actually sits inside the forest.
Ignore the zoo when you get off the bus and push through into the woods. There are a series of marked paths that run a circle through the woods. We especially like the one that skirts the southern side of Wolski, because they offer occasional views of the Vistula River. It can be easy to get lost here, so be sure to mark where you’re going on the map. Las Wolski can be hiked any season, but it’s especially lovely when the trees start to change color in the autumn.
The Tyniec Trail
There’s a flat, tarmacked route all the way along the Vistula River to the west of Krkaow that links to the historic village of Tyniec. It takes around 3-4 hours to hike but under an hour to cycle each way. As you go, you’ll be treated to lovely views of the Las Wolski forest to the north and the river itself, which snakes and bends between green meadows. More recently, there’s been quite a bit of construction on the parts of the path closer to town, so it’s not as nice as it once was. Still, the end point is the gorgeous Tyniec Abbey, which has a perch above farm fields and the riverway, not to mention its own on-site bar.
It’s possible to see the great hump of Babia Gora peak to the south of the city on a clear day. Officially, it’s a part of the Tatras, but it’s about halfway to the higher peaks of that range in Zakopane, so easier to get to from downtown Krakow. There are buses that go to the base of the trails here but they are rare and take a while. A car is your best bet.
Babia Gora might not look like the jagged Tatras further south, but it’s no walk in the path. It clocks up over 1,700 meters in height and sits in the center of its own reserve, the Babia Gora National Park. The route to the top is very exposed, on marked paths that are a mix of mud and loose stone. The views are the great reward – you’ll be able to see the mighty Carpathian Mountains in one direction and look back at Krakow itself in the other.
Ojcow National Park
The Ojcow National Park is the smallest national park in Poland. It covers a few plateaus and a single valley just to the north of Krakow, in a region known more generally as the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, or the Polish Jura. It’s super easy to reach from the center of the city. By car, it takes just under 40 minutes and there’s loads of parking on site. There are also buses, which complete the trip in 50 minutes and cost about $2 per person each way.
Once you get to Ojcow, there’s a whole web of hiking paths to get through. You can complete even the longest of them in a single day – this is the smallest national park in the country, remember? They’re pretty darn amazing, too, showcasing soaring karst rock stacks that have strange names, deep caves, and thick woodlands of beech and oak.
We’ve got a complete guide to the whole Ojcow National Park right here (coming soon), complete with in-depth info on the range of both easy and challenging hikes you can do there.
The Tatra Mountains
For us, there’s no question that the Tatra Mountains are the single best destination for hiking in Krakow. Strictly speaking they aren’t in Krakow itself at all, but around the mountain town of Zakopane. But you can easily get there on a bus in just two hours and have all the trails open up before you. And there are loads of them – a whopping 170 miles in total!
We’ve actually got a complete guide to hiking in Zakopane that has more details on the unmissable routes. Suffice to say here that there’s something for all levels, from casual strolls to epic summit pushes. Plus, lovely Zakopane is the perfect place to spend a few days in highland cabins enjoying the paths. The best time to hike here is between spring and summer. High snows in winter can up the avalanche risk and close the best routes.