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Tatra National Park

The Tatra Mountains are one great curiosity on the natural map of Poland. This small patch of our lowland country has risen high above the surrounding lands. The highest Polish peaks and the deepest caves are located here. Only here, snow in the middle of summer is nothing strange. Only here, deep postglacial lakes are frozen for six months. Thanks to this, we can find many treasures in the Tatras which cannot be found anywhere else. This is the only place where the stone pine forests grow, and the edelweiss, saxifrage, gentian and pasque-flower bloom in such great numbers. This is the only place where chamois, marmots and snowy voles live. Apart from the wild Bieszczady Mountains, our ancestors never managed to exterminate bears only in the Tatra Mountains. This is the only place where wallcreepers build their nests in the crevices of rocks. Nowhere else do the golden eagles look as majestic as against the background of inaccessible mountain peaks. In addition, one can find here plenty of traces of the unique culture of the Podhale highlanders (górale), which arose from the centuries-old pastoral tradition and the struggle for survival on the rocky ground.

Planning a hike? Remember:

  • Stay to the right while hiking on the trails to enable others to pass.
  • All organized tours for children – including student trips from primary schools, middle schools and secondary schools – must be conducted by authorized Tatra mountain guides.
  • From April 1 to November 30, all trails are closed from dusk until dawn.
  • From October 31 to April 25, Mroźna Cave is closed.
  • From December 1 to May 15, the following trail sections are closed:
    1) W Grzybowcu Pass – Wyżnia Kondracka Pass;
    2) Tomanowa Valley – Chuda Przełączka Saddle;
    3) Pięciu Stawów Polskich Valley – Świstówka Roztocka – Morskie Oko Lake.

Follow the rules

Tatra’s many trails provide great access to nearly every corner of the national park.
There are no garbage bins in the Park. Please take all of your garbage back to your home, hotel or guest house. Any garbage left in the park is a threat to wildlife
There are many tourist lodges available within the Park.
Any harm to these facilities puts the safety and lives of other hikers at risk, and lessens the experience for future visitors.
Never approach an animal to get a closer look, take a picture, etc. – enjoy it at a safe distance. Remember that wild animals can be dangerous!
Human food is not good for wildlife, and it encourages animals to get used handouts and people, losing the natural wariness they need to survive. Once accustomed, wild animals become aggressive and approach people to seek food.
Fires, open flames and smoking are prohibited except in designated and marked places
Please do not collect them – leave what you find.
A dog’s presence disturbs wildlife, even if the dog is obedient, on a leash, not barking and not leaving waste. Dogs are a particular problem when animals are with their cubs, calves and kits, as the parent may react aggressively to defend its young, endangering you and your pet.
These are sources of drinking water for people and wildlife, and some are home to rare species.
Wild animals and visitors alike are in the area and should not be disturbed.

If you have any questions

about current conditions in the Tatra Mountains and tourism in the Tatra National Park area, please contact Tourist Information Point of the TNP, which is located on Chałubińskiego 44 street in Zakopane & open each day (without holidays) 7.30 a.m. - 4.15 p.m.

FAQ

The Tatra National Park is one of 23 national parks in Poland. It encompasses territory of 21 197 hectares - and as it forms one natural whole with Slovak parts of the Tatras, in total ca 100 000 hectares are protected. The highest peaks within the Park exceed 2400 meters above the sea level (Rysy, the highest peak in Poland: 2499 m). In parts of High Tatras the alpine landscape can be seen, whilst in the western parts the mountains are less prominent. The rocks in the Tatras have extremely interesting geology, and date back 400 millions years into the past. When taking just a little step on a marked trail we often move into entirely different geological era. Also the glaciers have left their mark on the Tatras - the mountains owe those masses of ice many of their current features such as lakes or steep rock faces. 

In the Polish Tatras there is about 100 000 species of vascular plants, 200 of which can be seen nowhere else in the country. When wandering in alpine zones one can easily spot chamois, the animal which is a symbol of Tatra National Park. The Tatras are wild mountains in which also European predators find their home (wolves, lynxes, and bears). That is why one should obey the recommendations issued by the Park so that threatening situations when meeting those animals are be avoided. Let us keep in mind that the limitations for visitors activity are meant to protect the fauna and the flora of the Park, as well as increase the safety of hikers, climbers and others. 

There is 275 kilometers of marked trails in the Park at the disposal of the visitors. In wintertime (with exception of three sections) also ski-tourists are welcome on these. The dense network of marked trails allows to reach even the most attractive sights, as well as places were unique plant and animal species can be witnessed. In steep and technically demanding places artificial aids (chains, ladders, rungs) have been installed. 

Within the Park there are designated areas where sport and leisure activities can be practiced. Climbing is allowed in the Morskie Oko, and Hala Gąsienicowa areas, as well as in Dolina Lejowa, and Jaroniec crags in the Western Tatras. There are more than 800 caves identified in the Polish Tatras, among which 6 are accessible for general visitors, and 25 for experienced cavers. Downhill skiers may use the pistes in the vicinity of Kasprowy Wierch: in Goryczkowa and Gąsienicowa valleys. There are 8 refuges available for visitors in the Tatra National Park, all of them owned by Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (PTTK). Rich educational resources are available for visitors: natural exhibitions at Natural Education Centre (ul. Chałubińskiego 42a), and in Carriage House in Kuźnice, Secret Garden by the Education Centre, rock exhibition depicting the geological map of the Tatras (ul. Karłowicza), historical exhibition “The Deeds of the Zamoyskis”, and outdoor exhibitions in Kuźnice. 

We invite you to visit the Park and take full advantage of the rich tourist infrastructure.
According to nature protection legislation the goal of a national park is to preserve biodiversity, restore proper conditions of natural resources and components, as well as to aid revitalisation of disturbed natural habitats for vegetation, animals and fungi. Apart from fulfilment of the above listed, natural parks’ goals include admittance of various groups of visitors (hikers, climbers, sportspeople, etc.) to a degree which does not affect protection of nature negatively. Natural parks also conduct actions related to education about nature. 

So as to be able to fulfil the obligations required by laws, natural parks are allowed to obtain funds from various sources. It should be remembered that state budget subsidy for park’s functioning covers only 15% of total income. The remainder must be generated by the park on its own. 

Income and expenses of the Tatra National Park vary each year, although certain categories have similar share. For instance, in 2014 the funds obtained made it possible to:

1.  ensure safety of visitors (funds transferred to Tatra Mountain Rescue Service) - 1 178 000 PLN,
2.  restore and maintain marked trails and bridges infrastructure: 2 162 000 PLN,
3.  remove waste and leftovers from the Park: 500 000 PLN,
4.  hire and enable operation of portable toilets for visitors: 590 000 PLN,
5.  conduct environment protection actions: 1 045 000 PLN,
6.  conduct forest ecosystems protection actions: 1 693 000 PLN,
7.  conduct natural education actions: 649 000 PLN. 

Entrance fees constitute 29% of total Park income. Without funds obtained in this manner fulfilment of all Park obligations would be extremely difficult. A particular item on the list of Park expenses is maintenance of marked trails, which require systematic supervision and repairs due to great numbers of visitors and harsh natural phenomena.
Although dog is sometimes considered as the man’s best friend, it is the worst enemy for the animals living in the wild. The research conducted in the whole world and published in acclaimed scientific papers confirms this. It should be kept in mind that wolf is the ancestor of all dog breeds. Even though domesticated many thousands years ago, the dogs have not lost their predatory instinct. When wild animals see or smell a dog they react with defensive response associated with increased stress hormone levels.

It is very rare that dogs illegally walked in the Tatra National Park manage to catch and kill a wild animal. Deaths of animals inhabiting the Park, in most cases the roe and deer, are usually caused by packs of stray dogs or unattended ones living in the households in the vicinity of the Park. In the wintertime almost all animals try to save as much energy as possible, so they reduce their activity. When disturbed, however, they may run, what can cause their exhaustion and death. This concerns mountainous terrains in particular, where conditions are especially harsh: snow cover is thick and temperatures are low. In spring and summer seasons the presence of dogs threatens the young and pregnant females, which cannot move away quickly. Let us remember that dogs - usually well fed and rested - are at an advantage.

Dogs may be carriers of various diseases and parasites (viruses, bacteria, fleas, ticks, tapeworms) which spread with canine faeces or fallen hair. Because of similarities, the wolves are most susceptible to the diseases carried by dogs, yet this threat concerns practically all species living in the wild. Dogs also leave their scent - by means of which they mark their territory. This disturbs the deer (causes elevation of their stress hormone levels), and their spatial as well temporal activity patterns become altered. 

Walking dogs on marked trails affects the safety of humans too, the children in particular. Many breeds of dogs when walked on narrow paths and faced with crowds of people can feel threatened, and respond in an aggressive manner. It should be remembered that dogs have excellent sense of smell, so they may detect and provoke bears hiding in the thickets near the marked trail. 

Areas where dogs cannot be walked, such as Tatra National Park, comprise a small percent of territory of Poland. Let us give these spaces to the wild animals to rule - let us make them feel safe and at peace there.
When we think of nocturnal animals, we usually think about owls and bats. The list of “nightly” animals, however, is very long. It includes also the ones we see during the day: majority of rodents, martens, ermines, weasels, shrews, hedgehogs, badgers, wolves, bears, boars, roes and deer. For the “day-time” animals, including the majority of passerine birds, night is the time of repose. Both the active as well as resting animals should find peace in their refuges, feeding grounds, and lairs.

In the Tatra National Park it is of particular importance, for the Park must guarantee its wild inhabitants the best possible protection against the humans who might disturb them. In the Polish Tatras the network of marked trials is very dense (there is 275 kilometres of them in total), almost 96% of the Park’s territory lies less than a kilometre from the marked trail. If one considers the immense numbers of visitors to the Park (ca 2.7 million people per year), the situation of the animals is far from comfortable. Prohibition of visiting the Park at night is meant to ensure peace and freedom of movement to the animals. It is even more important, if we consider the fact that wolves, bears, lynxes and foxes tend to wander the marked trails at night. The proof for this are their tracks and faeces we find in the morning.

Prohibition of visiting the Park at night is also a means of protection of humans from meeting a wild bear. At night the animals usually become more aggressive, a surprised of frightened bear may be really dangerous. Many observations conducted in various parts of the world indicate that majority of non-provoked attacks of bears on humans occur at night.
Among many prohibitions introduced in protected areas of the entire world - and so in the Tatra National Park - the prohibition of feeding the wild animals is the most emphasised. Visitors tend to bring food to the animals to help them in difficult winter conditions, or just for fun, so as to take a snapshot of an animal. The problem of feeding the wild animals and the consequences of this is thus widely noticed and debated, also in urbanised areas (see: the problems with pigeons or boars). 

When feeding the animals we usually wrongly assume they eat the same food as humans do. The animal diet, shaped by evolutionary processes, varies depending on the animal’s age and season of the year. The result of inappropriate food intake is worsening of animal’s health. Additionally, when animals spend significant periods of time within the supplementary feeding grounds, they become more prone to predators’ attacks. They also become weaker and less resistant to difficult winter conditions. When fed by humans regularly, they lose any fear of them. 

The basic task of natural parks is protection of nature in all its complexity, including the natural behaviour of the animals. The consequences of the animals becoming accustomed to human presence are usually bleak for both groups. This concerns many species of animals, among others mallards, spotted nutcrackers, some passerines, squirrels, deer, foxes and bears. Human fed animals lose their ability to find natural food, cannot search for areas without predators threat, they become an easy prey for poachers. It should be remembered that foxes are often carriers of rabies, a disease which is dangerous also to humans. Meeting a bear which expects to be fed can have a tragic outcome. 

Animals excessively accustomed to human presence can also become victims of our thoughtlessness. In 2007 a young bear attracted by scent of food became drowned and stoned by tourists. In 2014 poachers killed a tame male deer which used to approach people for food in the are of Rusinowa Polana and Wiktorówki. The best known case, however, is the female bear Magda - regularly fed by mountain hut employee and accustomed to human presence - which had to be moved to Wrocław zoo, where she died soon afterwards.
One of the most important issues related to protection of the Park’s natural resources are great amounts of rubbish left by visitors. Only in 2014 it was about 20 tonnes. The rubbish is not neutral to the Park’s nature: it attracts wild animals, and this can have dire consequences. Smaller animals (e.g. rodents, shrews, weasels, insects) lured by odours become trapped (e.g. in bottles), and die. For the other species the main threat is the food found in leftovers. It in unsuitable as far as volume and quality is concerned, and so it also can cause animal’s death. The significant amount of inorganic matter (e.g. plastics) consumed while foraging on rubbish can also cause health problems and death. In this situation installation of rubbish bins in the Park appears as the best solution, but this is deceiving. In Tatra National Park no such bins exist. Such containers would have to have specialised locks, so that animals would not be able to open them or get inside. Even if the bins were emptied with maximum possible diligence, and visitors to the Park left no rubbish in their vicinity - the odour of leftovers would be constantly present in the nature. The bins would attract animals’ attention even more than scattered pieces of rubbish. This could cause many problems: the animal behaviour would most likely be changed, and visitors would be endangered as the animals lured out of the forest would roam in the vicinity of hiking trails. 

The facility to obtain food makes the animals lose the ability to obtain it in the natural environment, and avoid dangers. As a result they fall victims to predators or starve when no “easy food” is available. It should also be remembered that foxes, so eager to dine on human leftovers, are carries of rabies, and can pose threat to humans - as well as bears attracted with food smells, requesting sandwiches from backpacks. The history of Tatra National Park remembers many instances when predators attracted to leftovers were dangerous to humans. 

For these reasons Tatra National Park would like to remind the visitors that all rubbish should be carried away and disposed of outside the Park.
Development of economy has caused immense damage to natural environment. In some areas of the world not only certain species of plants and animals were wiped out, but their habitats were also annihilated. Creation of National Parks was meant as a means to counteract that, the first such park was Yellowstone (established in 1872), whilst Tatra National Park was created in 1954. 

The primary tasks of a national park comprise protection of nature, as well as enabling access to park’s resources by visitors - in such a way, however, that human presence does not affect the natural environment in a negative way.

In the Tatra National Park there is 275 kilometres of marked hiking trails. With small exceptions they are also available to ski-touring in winter. As the network of trails is dense, the Tatra nature aficionados can reach almost all attractive spots in the Polish Tatras. It should be remembered that the hiking trails cross the habitats of many rare and endangered animal species, including the three largest European predators: bears, wolves and lynxes. Golden eagles, eagle-owls and grouse are also particularly sensitive to human presence in their wild habitats.

The effect of almost constant presence of humans in areas inhabited by wild animals is the latter’s excessive accustoming to that. Chamois, marmots, foxes, bears, and deer, among others, are thus affected.

The Tatra National Park hosts about 3 million visitors per year. It was observed, both here as well as in other parks, that the animals are getting used to the sight of humans hiking on trails, and do not become scared. It is thus of extreme importance that Park visitors stay on the trails. The process of animals becoming used to human presence is not a desired one, but is a price for simultaneous protection of nature and allowing humans into the Park. Even though thousands of people walk road to Morskie Oko daily, it does not affect significantly the welfare of the animals, whilst presence of even a single human during wild animals courtship display, within a winter refuge of grouse, or in habitat of young golden eagles may be disastrous. The effects of frightening the animals can be disruption of courtship display, forcing them to abandon their refuges and snow shelters in winter - what makes the animals vulnerable to predator’s attacks. In winter the grouse become an easy prey, as they hide from harsh conditions in carefully selected spots, and their body temperature is lowered. When frightened, they become disoriented. Eagles when stressed can occasionally leave their young in nests - a few hour absence of the parent may mean death to all young birds.

What’s worth visiting?

Tatra Archive of Planet Earth

Dolina Kościeliska 3, Kościelisko, open Tuesday to Sunday: 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. (October 1st-May 31st) & 8.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m. (June 1st-September 30th)

Nature Education Centre of the TNP

Chałubińskiego 42a, Zakopane, open Monday to Saturday 8.00 a.m. - 3.00 p.m.

Did you know that our logo...

The logo of the Tatra National Park features the chamois, a living symbol of the Tatras. It was and still is the hero of folk tales, stories and songs. It is also the motif of numerous paintings and sculptures. Local names are derived from it (pol. kozica): Kozi Wierch, Kozia Dolina or Kozi Grzbiet. This animal has become a permanent element of the awareness of the Podhale inhabitants as an example of freedom and love for the mountains. The chamois is a herd animal. Special structure of its hooves allows it to move efficiently on steep mountain walls in all weather conditions. To observe chamois, it is worth equipping yourself with binoculars, thanks to which you will be able to admire them from a distance without scaring them unnecessarily.