Dolina Kościeliska (Kościeliska Valley),
time to walk 5 h
This is a half a day trip, an easy one, with the altitude difference at 180 metres. There are two car parks at the entry to the valley in Kiry, still it might be difficult to find parking space in the season. One can also get to Kiry with one of the numerous mini buses operating in the area or a public PKS bus.
Kościeliska valley is one of the most beautiful and most frequently visited valleys in the Tatra mountains. The first part of it up to Pisana Clearing is also available to horse carriages. In the 19th century Kościeliska valley was one of the strongest and biggest metallurgical centres in the area, in the neighbouring mountains various metals were found, mainly silver, later on also iron ore. The road goes along Kirowa Woda stream (further up also Kościeliski stream), one of the Czarny Dunajec river tributary. The road is quite wide, but there are a few narrower gates built of hard dolomite rock. The first one of those, almost at the entry to the valley, was named Brama Kantaka (Kantak's Gate) after Kazimierz Kantak from Poznań – outstanding fighter for Polish independence and tourist activist, the second one commemorates Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, well known Polish writer. Once we pass Brama Kantaka we come onto a spacious and sunny clearing called Wyżnia Kira Miętusia. South of the clearing goes the Droga Pod Reglami path towards Przysłop Miętusi and then further onto Małej Łąki Valley (black trail) and also to Czerwone Wierchy (red trail). We continue over the bridge and come onto the Cudakowa Clearing. In the south corner and over to the right – westwards is the Droga Pod Reglami path (black trail) leading to Chochołowska Valley.
Half way through the valley is the Stare Kościeliska clearing, with a chapel called Zbójnicka (Highlands Robber's) that was in fact built by the miners. The legend says that there had been a church once, which resulted in the whole valley's name (kościół -church in Polish). South of the valley over to the left and eastwards goes a path to very popular Mroźna Cave (black trail). This is one a very few caves in the Polish Tatra mountains opened to tourists, the only one provided with electricity. The ascend to the cave takes 20 minutes to walk, the cave seeing one hour. Next to crossroads is the Lodowe Źródło (Ice Spring) which is one of the most interesting curiosities of the valley, the water is only 4 degrees Celsius, and it springs in three different directions, seemingly up the valley as well, against laws of nature. Right is a path to Hala Stoły (green trail). After a while, we come to a beautiful and spacious Pisana Clearing. This is as far as horse carriages or sleighs can go. Left goes a yellow trail to Wąwóz Kraków (Kraków Ravine). Beautifully formed ravine used to remind hikers of narrow streets of Kraków Old Town, hence the name of the ravine itself as well as surrounding peaks – Ratusz (Town Hall), or Saturn, small cave available to tourists was named Smocza Jama (Dragon's Cave). It takes 40 minutes to see the ravine.
Past the clearing and over to the right there are steep paths leading towards three caves – Mylna, Raptawicka and Obłazkowa (red and black trails, ascend from the valley takes 15 minutes, Mylna Cave viewing an hour). The path is a narrower one now and we continue up the stream. After a few minute's walk we come over onto Smytna Clearing, where right of the road a cross was erected in 1852 by Wincenty Pol – a well known Polish poet and geographer, apparently on the spot of a miller's tombstone, who dug silver here and was killed by the robbers. Over to the right one can see the massive of Kominiarski Wierch. Going over two bridges we come to another crossroads, left goes a path to Smreczyński Staw (Smreczyński Pond) (black trail, half an hour's walk) and Tomanowa Valley with Czerwone Wierchy (green trail, 3,5 hour's walk). Right of the road goes a path to Mała Polana Orazańska and Ornak mountain shelter. The shelter (1108 m asl) was built in 1949 according to Anna Górska's design. It has got some 100 beds, a big dinning room and a buffet bar. It is situated on the edges of Pyszna reserve, former iron mine, later a skiing area) presently not accessible to tourists and a mainstay of wild life. Deer and brown bears are often seen around the shelter.
We return the same way.