Hiking the highest mountain of Czech Republic | Karpacz – Snezka – Pec Pod Snezkou
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Sněžka (Sniezka) is the highest peak in The Karkonosze Mountains (also known as the Giant Mountains) on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. It reaches 1603 m. above sea level and is a perfect spot for a day hike from both countries.
When I started planning my trip to the Czech Republic, I knew that I absolutely needed to hike Sniezka. It’s like a little bucket list item of mine – to hike all the highest peaks of the countries I visit. So after a bit of research, I’ve decided that it would be an amazing idea to hike from a town called Karpacz (Poland) up to Mount Sniezka and then hike down to Pec Pod Snezkou, a resort town on the Czech side of the mountain.
All in one day.
With a heavy backpack packed with things for the week-long trip.
What could go wrong?
While I was doing the research on hiking trails on both sides of Sniezka, I didn’t find as much information in English as I hoped for. Probably because the destination is more popular among Czechs and Polish people rather than tourists from other countries. There is a very limited number of guides and websites in English. So I decided to share all the details of my hike and sources I found out on Sniezka and hikes around it in this blog post. Hopefully, it will help out some of you if you plan on hiking Sniezka.
Guide to hiking in the Karkonosze Mountains
Sniezka is located in the Karkonosze Mountains which is a range in the Sudetes. The whole territory on the Polish side belongs and is protected by the Karkonosze National Park.
To enter the park you have to pay a small entrance fee depending on how long you plan on visiting the park.
One day adult ticket – 8 zł (around 1,9 EUR)
Three-day adult ticket – 20 zł (around 4,7 EUR)
You can also purchase the ticket with a 50% discount if you’re a senior or a student.
Tickets are sold in all official information centres in towns nearby or right at the entrance to the National park. There is also an opportunity to purchase tickets in advance online on the park’s official website. However, I found it very confusing as all the payment options are Polish banks or apps. I definitely wouldn’t recommend buying tickets online the last minute as it takes time to apply or register on a certain app and figure out the payment method.
The best option is to visit the information centre and buy tickets there. Just check the opening times, so you wouldn’t miss it as we did!
IMPORTANT: If you’re hiking only in the Czech Republic side of the mountain and don’t plan on crossing the Polish border, you don’t have to purchase a ticket. It is completely free.
The Karkonosze mountains aren’t as high as other mountain ranges in Europe, but they are notorious for its frequent weather changes and harsh climate. That being said, I’ve never hiked in more bipolar mountains than these in my entire life.
One minute we had all peak completely covered in fog and rain dripping on our heads and the next the fog was gone and the sun was shining. Talk about frequent changes!
So if you plan on hiking these Giant mountains, you need to be fully prepared for every type of weather. Take a lot of layers and your rain gear.
On top of the mountain, the temperature drops quite a bit and it’s super windy. So while it can be very sunny with 20°C in your starting point, it’s probably only 8°C, foggy and very windy up on Sniezka.
Always check the weather forecast before your hike. The mountains aren’t as high as the Alps but they are as unpredictable or even more. You can find some forecast websites here.
Hiking trails are very well marked on both sides of the mountain. You can find markings with approximate hiking time during your hike and on the maps that are installed in all major stops and by the entrance to the park.
I would highly recommend taking a physical copy of the map from the information centre or print one from the internet before your hike. You can never know when technology will fail us. You can find one here.
The main trails leading up to the Sniezka from Karpacz, a small Polish town near the peak, are black and red.
The black one is very well paved cobblestone trail from the lower base terminal of the lift to Mala Kopa Mt. It takes around 2,5h to reach the top and the elevation of the trail reaches 820m in total. That being said, the trail can be a bit boring if you prefer more adventurous hikes with beautiful scenery. Plus, it gets very busy and crowded during the summer months for its easiness.
The red trail starts at the car park at Orlinek Hotel and takes around 3h to the top. The elevation difference is 810m and it is a bit more challenging hike than the black one.
From the Czech side, you can choose a green and yellow trail. It takes 3,5h up to Sniezka and 2,5h down from the top.
Or you can alternatively choose a cable lift if you prefer hiking one-way only or no hiking at all.
From Poland’s side, there is a chairlift from Karpacz to Kopa. You can reach Sniezka from Kopa in about 40 minutes by black and red trail. The chairlift operates from 09:00 to 18:00 in the summer months.
Lift from Karpacz to Kopa – 50 zł (11.75 EUR)
Round-trip – 55 zł (13 EUR)
Lift down from Kopa to Karpacz – 25 zł (5.9 EUR)
On the Czech side, there is a modern cable car from Pec Pod Snezkou to Sniezka with a stop at Ruzova Hora. You can take a cable up to the mountain and then hike down or vice versa.
Sniezka to Pec Pod Snezkou – 200 CZK (7.8 EUR)
Pec Pod Snezkou to Sniezka – 230 CZK (9 EUR)
Round-trip – 430 CZK (16.80 EUR)
Karpacz – Sniezka – Pec Pod Snezkou day hike
Now let’s get into a more detailed route of our hike. And a bit of a storytime about how we almost got stranded on a mountain.
We started our hike very early in the morning because we had to be in Prague at 6 p.m. in order to be on time for a check-in. We stayed the night before in Jelenia Gora which is a bigger town one hour away from Karpacz. The reason we stayed in Jelenia Gora and not Karpacz was that the accommodation was way cheaper than in Karpacz (I’m a budget traveller after all!). Plus, it was easier to catch a bus to Karpacz the next morning than find one the evening before.
So we took a bus from Jelenia Gora to Karpacz at 5:30 a.m. The price was 8 PLN (1.9 EUR) per person and it took us to Karpacz Bachus bus stop which was very close to our starting point.
We walked about 5 or so minutes to the entrance of the National park and followed the yellow route. We didn’t want the crowds on our hike, so we chose a less popular route (more challenging one as well).
Unfortunately, we got lost a bit in the very beginning when following the route and somehow ended up walking on a blue trail for a while. After realizing our mistake, we turned around and had to go back to find our yellow trail again. And this, folks, is how we wasted an hour of our precious hiking time.
Once we were back on track, we followed the yellow route until the first hut Nad Łomniczką. It took us about 1,5h to reach the hut from the starting point (not counting the lost time). From there we followed a red trail up to Dom Slaski and then the Sniezka peak.
The trail was very well maintained through-out the whole route. It was mostly big stones and occasional forest trail. Make sure to wear a good pair of hiking boots because it is quite slippery once you reach a higher elevation.
While we were hiking up the mountain, there was fog everywhere. We literally saw no more than a couple of meters ahead. Somewhere in the middle of our hike, the fog suddenly parted and we got a glimpse of beautiful mountain scenery which was like a breath of fresh air.
The whole route was very steep and quite challenging, especially with heavy backpacks and rain. However, I have to admit that the last 30 minutes from Dom Slaski to Sniezka peak were quite literally the death of me. It only made me appreciate how easy it is to hike with a simple day pack or no backpack at all.
Reaching the peak never felt as satisfying as it did on this hike.
It was super windy on top and even my three layers of clothing didn’t help much, so we headed to the restaurant which was on top to get some tea, warm up and prepare for a hike down to the Czech Republic. But after sitting for 15 minutes, we quickly realized that we are quite tired and a bit short on time to get down on foot. So after a debate, we decided to take a cable car down to Pec Pod Snezkou and catch a bus to Prague earlier just to be safe.
But somehow universe just loves to make my travel adventures hard and once we realized that the cable was stopped due to strong wind, it was a bit too late to make it down on time for a bus.
So that left us a bit stressed and angry with a 2,5 h hike down and a bus which we had to catch in about 2 hours.
We were practically running down the mountain desperate to make it on time. Now that I think about it, there was no chance we could have made it.
But low and behold, the universe decides to annoy us a bit more and after 10 minutes of practically running down, the cable car starts working. Imagine my frustration. If only we would have waited 10 minutes, we could have been on that cable car.
Oh, and remember when I said that the weather changes are very frequent in these mountains? Yeah, so in the Czech side the sun was shining and we were melting from the heat. I was a sweaty, annoyed and stressed out mess.
Fortunately for us, there was a middle cable stop which we reached in 40 or so minutes and were able to hop on there. The ride took us 20 minutes to reach Pec Pod Snezkou and then 15 minutes of fast walk to a bus station. And you know what? We actually made it.
We managed to catch a bus on time and reach our hostel in Prague in time for our check-in.
Moral of the story?
Life happens. Be patient. Everything works out in the end.
And that’s how our trip to the Czech Republic began. Quite eventful and very much stressful but memorable day for sure.
Have you been to Sniezka?
What is the most memorable hike you did?