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Szlak pieszy: Z Zawoi na Małą Babią Górę

Hiking trail: From Zawoja to Mała Babia Góra

Widok na szczyt Babia Góra. Po lewej mężczyzna spacerujący po szczycie.  W oddali widać słońce.
Zawoja Tourist region: Beskid Żywiecki i Orawa
Mała Babia Góra is an alternative mountain hiking idea for those who want to hike away from the crowds and enjoy beautiful views at the same time. Is this possible? Absolutely! Mała Babia Góra is the third highest peak in the Polish Beskids but not as crowded as the Queen of the Beskids: Babia Góra itself. The route proposed below requires no special mountain skills and is packed with loads of fantastic panoramas and points of interest along the way! Here you’ll see the trunk of the oldest fir tree in Poland, which is almost 600 years old, take a look at the shelter at Markowe Szczawiny and follow the paths where tobacco was once smuggled from Hungary. Lots of scenic spots, a history lesson and a bit of thrill: that’s what awaits you on this route!


The starting point of the trailZawoja Czatoża

Access to the starting point of the trail From national road no. 28 between Sucha Beskidzka and Jordanów, turn in Białka onto road no. 957 towards Zawoja. After reaching the roundabout in Zawoja Widły, we head right towards Markowa, and after 2 kilometres, we take a gentle right turn towards Chatoża. We keep going straight ahead, ignoring that the road is getting narrower and narrower. When we spot the end of the tarmac, it’s a sign that we’ll be on site in a few dozen metres.

parking At the end of the aforementioned road, on the right-hand side; it accommodates approximately 10 vehicles. The number of free places largely depends on weather conditions. If there are no more space here, one must backtrack a few hundred metres to the last bus stop and look for parking there or negotiate with the owner of one of the nearby properties for permission to leave your car in the yard.

Time to complete the trail Approximately 6 hours. There are two places along the route that allow you to shorten the hike and ‘evacuate’ to the starting point.

Difficulty level of the trail/Difficulty level of the trail Due to the intensity of the ascent to Mała Babia Góra.

Trail map

Attention: In the area of Babia Góra National Park, entrance tickets are required. It’s best to buy them on-line while still at home, as on the trail, there may be problems with coverage, or you’ll be connected via a Slovakian operator. You can almost certainly expect to be asked by a park employee about the ticket at the shelter in Markowe Szczawiny. If it’s not available, you’ll be asked to buy an entrance pass from the controller.


To be in Beskid Żywiecki, in Zawoja, at the foot of the Queen of the Beskid Mountains – Babia Góra, and not to get to the very peak?! Why not? You don’t always have to walk the most popular routes. Instead of hiking in crowds from the Krowiarki Pass or slightly lower hamlets to the top of Babia Góra, we suggest a trip along much less frequented trails and visiting an interesting place in Slovakia and conquering Mała Babia Góra.

Let’s check out what’s happening at Babi Szałas.

From the car park, we set off along the road into the forest following the yellow signs. They will only accompany us for a few dozen metres, which isn’t even recorded on the attached map. After a while, the trail of this colour turns left, and black signs appear on our path (ahead), with which we’ll continue hiking. We walk along a wide forest road that rises quite steeply. After half an hour or so of walking, the trail turns sharply to the right along with the main path, and after a while, it becomes flat, but don’t let this fool you. After 5 minutes, there’s another sharp turn, this time to the left. The site isn’t best marked. It can be recognised by the fact that there’s clearly more space on the left side of the road for a timber yard. Now we’re walking along a forest path steeply uphill, and after another 10 minutes, at the bifurcation, we head slightly to the right.

The time taken to complete this section depends on the condition of the hiker. The fact that the worst is over will be evidenced by the appearance of grass on the path. From here on, the ascent eases noticeably, although there are still some fairly steep sections.

About an hour and 15 minutes after setting off from the car park, we arrive at Babi Szałas, which is 1,078 metres amsl. A highlander’s welcome, a campfire circle and even sausage skewers await us here. Sitting in front of the hut, you can admire a panorama of the entire massif of Babia Góra. Recognition of its various parts is facilitated by a photo board on which the characteristic points are marked.

To the northern edge of Slovakia

After resting and feasting our eyes on the view, we move on. We still have 5 minutes of gentle ascent ahead of us, and soon we reach the perpendicular road on which the yellow trail runs. Turn left and enter Hala Kamińskiego. Follow this pasture for a few minutes slightly downhill, and you reach the next trail junction (15 minutes from Babi Szałas). We’re most interested in the yellow trail, which we’ll now follow to the top of Mędralowa. The ascent is very gentle, and overcoming it requires virtually no effort.

For Poles, Mędralowa is simply one of the peaks in the border range distinguished only by the fact that the border curves here at a right angle. For Slovaks, however, it’s a very important point on the map: the country’s northernmost point. This is indicated by a special board which describes the attractions and points of interest in the area in three languages (Slovak, Polish and English). With plenty of time to spare, you might consider walking along the border towards the Głuchaczka Pass and returning towards Mała Babia Góra diagonally through Slovakia.

Heading to Cyl

At Mędralowa, we once again change the colour of the signs we’ll be hiking along. Now we’re entering the red route, which is the section of the Main Beskid Trail leading from Ustroń in Beskid Śląski (in the west) to Wołosate in Bieszczady (in the east).

The route follows a path covered with tall grass, so when hiking in the rain, you not only have to expect wet shoes but also wet trousers.

Although we made a gentle ascent to Mędralowa, the descent along the border is initially quite steep. After a dozen minutes or so, we’re already on the Jałowiecka Północna Pass, also known as Tabakowe Siodło (Tobacco Saddle). Legends link the name to the smuggling tradition, the use of the surrounding paths by smugglers who smuggled tobacco, or snuff, from Hungary.

Important information about the trail

If the weather breaks or you have health problems, you can walk down from here and reach the car park from where you set off, it’ll take about 40 minutes.

After less than a quarter of an hour you reach the border of the Babia Góra National Park, with a possibility to rest in a tourist shelter before the ascent starting here. It’s initially gentle, so you can gradually get used to attacking the summit of Mała Babia Góra.

After half an hour’s walk from the pass, we arrive at Żywieckie Rozstaje. The red trail turns left here, traversing the massif of Mała Babia Góra to reach the shelter at Markowe Szczawiny. You can use it in case of trouble, as after 20 minutes of walk, it reaches the yellow trail, which can lead you to the starting point after three quarters of an hour. Shortly speaking: using the red trail and then the yellow trail allows you to descend to the car park in just over an hour.

If all is well, we move on. Now we follow the green signs (note: the height profile of the on-line map shows blue, i.e. the colour of the Slovak trail), which we have already seen on Hala Kamińskiego, abandoned before Mędralowa and greeted again after descending from it. There’s about 1 hour 30 minutes of strenuous ascent ahead. In one section, we’ll be hiking between tall ferns, so walking in the rain will also get your trunk wet.

When stopping to catch your breath, it’s worth looking behind you, where the view of Beskid Śląski and Beskid Żywiecki gradually becomes more extensive. After about an hour’s walk, we reach a local summit, from which we’ll walk slightly downhill for a while and soon enter a stone footpath that will take us to Mała Babia Góra at an altitude of 1,517 metres amsl, which is also called Cyl.

Mała Babia Góra offers an impressive panorama: in the west, you can see the Beskid Żywiecki, and in the distance, Beskid Śląski with Żywieckie Lake lying at the foot of the peaks. More to the right is the Little Beskids, and to the north: Beskid Makowski; further on, a small part of Beskid Wyspowy and the Polica Range. The view to the east is obscured by Babia Góra, or Diablak, visible in all its majesty; the trails leading to the summit are clearly visible: yellow (Academics’ Path, on the left) and red (along the ridge). To the right of Babia Góra is Lake Orava and the Slovakian part of Orava.

You can also clearly see the route we have taken so far. Below are the buildings of Zawoja Czatoża, to the left of them, the road we started our hike on, and above it, the clear line of the trail leading to Babi Szałas. Hala Kamińskiego isn’t visible, but from Mędralowa, it’s possible to see the border clearing we hiked.

Through Markowe Szczawiny, past Gruba Jodła

All that awaits us now is the way down. Its first stage is a descent along the green trail (the map consistently shows the blue trail) to Brona Pass, which takes about 10 minutes. There are several benches on the pass, so you can rest comfortably and think about the idea of reaching the summit of Diablak. The ascent and descent along the red trail take nearly 2 hours.

The second stage is to follow the red trail to the shelter at Markowe Szczawiny. The hike takes about 20–25 minutes, depending on the traffic on the steep section just below the pass and the weather conditions (there’s snow here even in early May).

The third part of the descent is a hike along the yellow trail from the shelter to the starting point. Note: the height profile shows the red trail running parallel. After 15 minutes of pleasant hiking along a path traversing the slope, we come to a sign warning of a landslide. For several dozen metres, the terrain is uneven, with numerous stones, so great care must be taken. Further on, the trail turns into a forest path, and as you go along it, you slowly lose altitude and cross more streams, and after about 45 minutes, you reach Fickowe Rozstaje, where the red trail turns left to Żywieckie Rozstaje. We continue along the yellow trail, which from now on descends more definitely.

15 minutes further on, an information board directs you to Gruba Jodła. Access to this site runs parallel to the main trail; it’s worth deviating from it and following the special signs.

Years ago, a truly mighty fir tree grew here. 19th-century researchers reported that the circumference of its trunk at a height of 1.3 metres was 6.4 metres, the height of the tree was estimated at 55–60 metres, and its age at 600 years. The local shepherds burned the inside of the trunk to use it as shelter for them, and as a result of these actions, the tree fell in 1914. Several years ago, upon the initiative of the Babia Góra National Park, the size of the fir trunk was reconstructed in stone.

We reach the main trail by following the special signs and continue to the car park, to which we still have about 20 minutes of walking left. After a quarter of an hour, you’ll pass a tourist shelter, and immediately afterwards, you’ll meet the black trail, which we mentioned earlier as the ‘rescue road’ from the Jałowiecka Pass. We only hike along it for 5 minutes, as afterwards the black signs turn left onto the road we hiked in the morning, while we continue straight ahead and reach the car park after just a minute.

This is how we covered the beautiful route, visiting Slovakia for a while and conquering Cyl.

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