Morskie Oko Lake – Czarny Staw pod Rysami Lake, time to walk 7 h
This is at least half a day trip, relatively easy one, with the altitude difference at 600 metres. We walk on an asphalt road to the biggest lake in the Tatras, which offers outstanding views over to the highest peaks of Poland – Mount Rysy and Mieguszowiecki Szczyt.
There is a car park in Palenica Białczańska, thou in the season there is not enough space and the road is often blocked and closed. There are anything between few and a dozen or so thousands walkers and hikers taking this road a day. To get to the very bank of the lake one needs to wait up to an hour or so.
To get there we go to Jaszczurówka and Cyrhla, or (better option for winter time) to Bukowina Tatrzańska and Głodówka to finally arrive at Palenica Białczańska (1,5 km away from Łysa Polana), we can either travel with our own car or take a bus or a mini bus. Then we continue walking or take a horse drawn cart. In winter time, the road is sometimes being closed above Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza waterfalls due to very high avalanche risk. The road initially goes at the very foot of Mount Wołoszyn (over to the right). Over to the left is the Białka river, which constitutes the national border between Poland and Slovakia in these parts. On the other side of the river is the beautiful Białej Wody Valley, from in between the trees you can also see some of the highest peaks of the Tatras, Mount Gerlach (2655 m asl) among others. Not far from Palenica, there is a path to Rusinowa Polana going over to the right (blue trail). The road winds on the way up and reaches the bridge over the Roztoka stream, that springs up from Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Five Polish Ponds Valley). Right off the bridge is a red trail going to Waksmundzka Clearing and Psia Trawka over to Zakopane. The middle one of three waterfalls that constitute Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza is best seen from the bridge.
In 1890 these were called after Adam Mickiewicz, one of the greatest Polish poets, whose remains were brought over to the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków that year (he was originally buried in Paris where he died). Past the bridge a path to Stara Roztoka shelter goes to the left. The valley goes all the way up to the right and climbs along Roztoka stream to Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Five Polish Ponds Valley), (green trail). The road continues south and after 2 kilometres reaches Wanta forester's lodge. There is a beautiful view over to the southern closing of the Biała Woda Valley, U-shaped so characteristic for valleys formed by glaciers. Within an hour we reach Włosienica Clearing, taking a few short cuts in the woods. This is as far as you can travel with a horse cart. There is a buffet bar there and toilets. At this point, there are 2 kilometres left to walk to the Morskie Oko lake itself. After a while, we leave the woods behind and arrive at Szałasiska Clearing, and continue on the open slopes of Opalony Wierch. The road cuts across a wide gully, called Żleb Żandarmerii, known for numerous avalanches that annually come down to the very road itself. In winter time one should always remember about the risk, as a few years ago two hikers were taken by an avalanche here. TOPR Tatra Voluntary Rescue Team always warns against the risk on the radio and TV, in most threatened places there are warning signs being put. When the risk is extremely high TOPR either closes the road off completely or organises diversions. Over to the left is the forested slope of Mount Żabi, worth paying attention to as the upper forest boundary is clearly visible here at 1650 m asl. This is where a lot of beautiful stone pines grow. When we finally arrive at the lake, we are faced with a wonderful panoramic view of the highest Polish peaks, zooming 1000 metres above the lake. In the south-west (to the right) is Zadni Mnich and Mnich, with its characteristic figure being a symbol of Tatra rock climbing, almost like Swiss Matterhorn. To the left are a few small overgrown ponds. The Old Shelter, a former carriage room dating back to the 19th century, was used for storing horse carriages in the times when these were used to travel, later on as a place providing accommodation. The New Shelter was built on the moraine in 1908, this looks almost new as it was modernised in 1992, hence the name. The shelter is situated at the altitude of 1404 m asl.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the area was a subject of conflict between Poland, that was then a part of Austria and Hungary. The owner of neighbouring lands on the Hungarian side of the border – Count Christian Hohenlohe, usurped the right to appropriate western slopes of Żabi and the area of Morskie Oko Lake. Hungarians based their claims on documents that were not very exact and forged maps, while Polish were supported with historical and legal evidence. The conflict however lasted and was ended with a trial at the International Tribunal in Graz, that in 1902 granted Poland rights to Morskie Oko lake area.
Then we come down stone steps to the banks. Morskie Oko is the largest lake in the whole Tatra mountains (almost 35 hectares, 860 metres long, 566 metres wide), is over 50 metres deep. Trout lives in the lake (feeding is not allowed). The very name of the lake – the Eye of the Sea, very popular in many world's mountains, goes back to legends that say about the connection of the lake to the sea. It is worth taking a walk around the lake (we head right and follow red trail) and climb to Czarny Staw pod Rysami lake 1580 m asl).
Czarny Staw is situated in a typical glacial kettle and is the second deepest lake in the Tatras (76,4 metres deep). Around the lake go trails to Mount Rysy, Kazalnica and Pod Chłopkiem Pass. Darkened kettle of Czarny Staw, vicinity of the highest Polish peaks and Alpine scenery encourage people to appreciate nature and humility towards those. Looking back we can also see a nice view over to Morskie Oko below and surrounding it from the west Opalone.
Descend to Morskie Oko the same way, then turning right we approach the shelter and continue to Palenica Białczańska.