Winter 2021 has been a dream run so far! The weather in Lower Silesia (Dolny Śląsk) has turned out to be an absolute delight for every winter person, and I couldn’t have asked for more. The region experienced an unprecedented amount of snowfall during January-February. Quite naturally, Sudetes mountains with all the dreamy hiking trails became a hot favourite in the region.
Hence, prolonging my weekend mountain trips to the Sudetes, I decided to embark on this 3-hour journey from Wroclaw to Szklarska Poręba and in the quest for this fulfilling hike up to Sniezne Kotly in the Karkonosze National Park.
Szklarska Poręba in Jelenia Gora county rests in the foothills of the splendid Karkonosze National Park. Karkonosze is well placed between the Czech Republic and Poland and is a soothing haven for all nature enthusiasts, hikers, outdoors lovers, skiers, campers, and photography enthusiasts.
About Karkonosze National Park, and Szklarska Poręba, Śnieżne Kotły
Located in the foothills of the majestic Karkonosze, Szklarska Poręba is a picturesque mountain town that draws a large number of tourists round the year. Its proximity to the major Lower Silesian city Wroclaw makes it a hot destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts in Poland and those from faraway places.
Winter in Poland is incredibly beautiful, hence places like Szklarska Poręba attract plenty of tourists from other counties in Poland. Besides hiking and skiing, Szklarska Poręba is also preferred for outdoor activities like sleigh riding, rink, snowshoeing, snow tubing, and winter camping. Śnieżne Kotły is two glacial cirques that sit atop a cliff in Karkonosze National Park in the Sudetes Mountains.
The top of the mountains offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the mountains, frozen alpine, the fells from the Czech Republic side, and the uninterrupted views of Szklarska Poręba town. The strategic location of Śnieżne Kotły in the Karkonosze National Park with numerous trails from the Czech Republic and Poland make it an exciting prospect for all nature enthusiasts.
How to reach Szklarska Poręba from Wroclaw
As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, Koleje Dolnośląskie (KD) – Lower Silesia’s local train network is exceptional, and it’s the best means of transport one can take to reach anywhere in the region. The KD trains are super fast, clean (I love their toilets ;)), comfortable, cheap, and cover the most scenic routes of the Dolny Slask region.
Szklarska Poręba Gorna is 3 hours by train from Wroclaw Main Railway Station. Optionally, Szklarska Poręba can be reached by road as well, which takes a little more than 2 hours. As a popular mountain getaway near Wroclaw, Szklarska Poręba is perfectly placed with a better rail and road network for seamless travels.
The hiking trail
Soon after we exited the Szklarska Poręba Górna, we headed to the town centre from where it was Yellow Trail all the way long until we made it to Śnieżne Kotły (Snow Cauldrons)
Yellow Trail: Szklarska Poręba – Schronisko PTTK Shelter – Little Snow Cauldron – Śnieżne Kotły
Yellow Trail: Śnieżne Kotły – Schronisko PTTK Shelter
Blue Trail: Schronisko PTTK Shelter – Szklarska Poręba, Szklarka
Black Trail: Szklarka – Szklarska Poręba, Kilińskiego
Yellow Trail: Szklarska Poręba, Kilińskiego – Szklarska Poręba
** Because of heavy snowfall and avalanche in the Polish mountains during winter, some parts of the hiking trails remain closed. These blockages on different trails keep changing their form from time to time subject to the weather conditions in that particular region. It is highly recommended to keep a close eye on the ‘functional’ trail when you are planning your trip to the Karkonosze mountains.
The hike to Śnieżne Kotły in the Karkonosze National Park
The hike to Śnieżne Kotły is a thoroughly absorbing walk through the thick foliage of Karkonosze National Park. Be informed that besides the hike in the national park, you have an additional 1 hour of walking to do (back and forth) to cross the beautiful town of Szklarska Poręba and reach the main railway station.
Entry to the national park region is chargeable at 8 pln. Soon after you enter Karkonosze, a gush of crisp alpine breeze and verdant views will greet you.
The hike starts soon after you step into the picturesque setting of the quaint Szklarska Poręba town. 2 kilometres later, you will find yourself trudging through the snow-coated trails of the magnificent national park. As you proceed along the yellow trail, the one that I took, the landscape changes and so do the flora of the park. Trees decked with scant leaves, refreshing streams, giant boulders, and entire surroundings meticulously decorated with tons of seamless snow make the hike such a pleasant exploit.
The elevation of the trail is mostly gentle besides a few steep ones that are rather tiring. Karkonosze National Park in the Sudetes is also known to be carved out of the oldest rock forms in Europe and it is so evident when you look at the fine polished appearance of the rocks around.
The hike gets challenging when you reach Schronisko PTTK. I have a thing for these shelters in the Polish mountains. They are so picture-postcard in their appearance, and aptly located to serve the weary adventurers with some warmth, food, and mulled wine.
The walk from Schronisko shelter gets quite tricky as you’d be looking at one steep upslope. It only gets more difficult from there as you will be confronting harsh wind and flat sunrays. This region in particular is prone to avalanche and gusty wind.
Karkonosze receives a huge amount of snowfall from late autumn to early spring, which results in the dramatic landscape of the region engulfed in snow and toughened ice. Upon reaching the top, the Czech side of Karkonosze is visible which is equally charming if not less. The border region is duly marked with poles and a sign. From the markings, you can see Śnieżne Kotły which is perfectly tucked at the edge of the cliff. This spot is everything worth all the pain that every adventurer endures to toil up there at 1500 meters.
Surroundings at the summit are unbelievably beautiful straight out of some mystical place with some look-out points around offering the glorious 360-degree view of the snowy mountains, valley, and a distant Szklarska Poręba town. The wind chill factor is quite prominent at the top so much so that even with the sun out, I couldn’t feel my cheeks and fingers. Perils of capturing all the right moments!
Up there, you can find plenty of spots to pose for perfect photographs, enjoy the virgin beauty of mountains, enjoy your snacks/meal, and chill for a while before settling for the onward journey. The pictures that capture the real essence of winter in Poland and the very best of Karkonosze mountains in Sudetes.
The walk back is mostly downslope, and quite easy. Fresh snow makes it easier to tackle the unevenness of the trail. While coming down, the quietude of alpine forest and burbling ripples from pristine streams emerging from fresh snow only make the hike more relaxing towards the end.
Overall, it took my friends and I around 7.5 hours to complete this 22 km (approximately) of thoroughly refreshing winter hike near Wroclaw. And such adventures are the only reason why I cherish my battered toes and weary calf muscles. I’ll keep coming up with more pieces like this one as I explore the vast Lower Silesian land, and some stunning places near Wroclaw that are worth exploring.
Things to keep in mind before you plan a hike in the Karkonosze National Park
1. Please avoid going to the mountains in jeans and leather boots. Try to wear warm, comfortable, and hiking clothes.
2. Don’t plan a trip to Karkonosze without double-checking the weather. Winter in the national park region is harsh and unforgiving.
3. Hiking poles, and spikes for shoes are highly recommended for a winter hike.
4. If you plan to go there on a weekend, make sure that you compare the price of the normal ticket and a weekend ticket, which is quite cheaper than the normal one.
5. Try to take the early morning train so that you comfortably complete the hike before it starts to get dark.
6. Double check the hiking trails that you picked for yourself. They close some tricky trails in winter and it is well reflected on the map as well.
7. Refer to the Poland Tourism map to determine the hiking trails. The app of Mapa Turystyczna is free of cost in the Play Store. If you manage to grab a paper map from Szklarska Poręba, nothing like it.
8. Travel light but carry some extra pair of socks so that you can change when needed.
All said I wish you a pleasant and great trip to Śnieżne Kotły. Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me by messages or email. If you want me to add something here, please write to me in the comments below. Lastly, don’t forget to recommend Whistling Hound to your contacts if you like the blog. Stay adventurous friends.
Don’t forget to check out: 16 Best Places Near Wrocław For Everyone Planning A Quick Escape From The City