Rydza Śmigłego Pass in the village of Chyszówki.
Availability of parking spaces dependent on weather, arrival times and disciplined drivers (the greater the spacing between vehicles, the less spaces there are). It’s better not to risk parking on the side of the main road, as the continuous line along the edge of the road clearly indicates that it’s forbidden to cross it (the police often enforce this) or in the surrounding meadows belonging to private individuals. The alternative is to drive down to the eastern side of the pass and look for opportunities to leave your car on private land adjacent to the houses, with the permission of the owners of course.
Getting to the starting point of the trail depends on where you live/stay. The most important thing is to be on national road no. 28 between Mszana Dolna and Limanowa. Driving from Mszana, you have to turn in Dobra to Jurków (4 kilometres) and, in its centre, follow the signpost ‘Chyszówki 1’. Coming from Limanowa, in Zamieście, we turn left towards Zalesie, and after about 3 kilometres, in Słopnice, we have to turn right towards Jurków.
Approximately 3 hours 30 minutes.
The trail is easy; only the middle part of the ascent to Mogielica can be a bit tiring.
Naming the pass after Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły was adopted in the inter-war period. It relates to the battles fought in Beskid Wyspowy by the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions from 23 November to 9 December 1914. To honour these events, a cross with a commemorative message was erected here on the 10th anniversary of Poland’s independence, followed a decade later by an obelisk. In turn, 80 years later, a monument was erected with a plaque in tribute to the soldiers of the Union of Armed Struggle-Home Army and those who fought against the occupying German and Soviet forces in the years 1939–1956. The whole is formed by the Meeting of Generations monument. On 11 November, solemn Roll Calls of the Fallen are held at the pass, combined with a verbal and musical performance and a Mass.
Slight problems with orientation
The green trail, which we’ll follow, isn’t really well marked here. We start the hike by descending slightly below the bus shelter, where we cross the road and head into the forest visible in the distance. Entering between the trees, take the road on the right and, leaving the open space again after a while, wander straight ahead, between the houses of the Do Sarysza hamlet and further on through the fields.
Gradually, an ever-widening view opens up before us: at the back is Łopień, to the left is the vast Śnieżnica, and next to it, there’s the characteristic conical shape of Ćwilin.
After a snowfall, when the trail isn’t trodden, there can be problems with orientation here. You need to steer slightly to the left of a small bulge in the terrain and, passing it, ‘aim’ for a small ravine where the trail runs. It’s a bit easier further on, although you have to look out for signs at several bifurcations.
For about 40–50 minutes, the trail leads quite steeply uphill. Problems with breathing can be experienced even by people with a good level of fitness. It’s therefore worth starting the hike early, not only because of the few parking spaces but also the mental comfort of not being chased by time.
At some point, you’ll cross the road encircling Mogielica, where multi-use trails are marked out. They’re used by cross-country skiers and ski tourers in winter and by cyclists and hikers in summer.
The summit is near
Less than an hour and a half after setting off from the car park, we’ll emerge from the forest into the Wyśnikówka Glade. In summer, we’ll follow the road to its upper part without any problems. In winter, you have to go a bit by feel. Referring to the arrangement of the digits on a clock face, one can take the direction more or less to 11 o’clock, thus to have the forest on the left, slightly downwards, and wander closer to the individual trees on the right. In the upper part of the clearing, the place where you enter the forest is indicated by a board with the inscription ‘Mogielica Reserve’.
The Wyśnikówka Glade is a must-see resting point. Not only to catch your breath after the ascent and gather strength before attacking the summit but also to admire the expansive view with the lonely Babia Góra and the Polica Range to its right to the west and the peaks of Beskid Sądecki to the east.
A moment after entering the Mogielica Reserve, the blue trail joins us, and soon afterwards, on the left, you’ll pass a flat rocky outcrop called Zbójnicki Stół (Robber Table). Legends say that it was used by robbers roaming the area to count money and looted valuables, which they then hid in the surrounding caves.
The initially fairly gentle ascent becomes steeper and somewhat tiring. Fortunately, it’s only a short effort (from the clearing, about 15 minutes), and soon we’re on the highest peak of the Beskid Wyspowy, having reached an altitude of 1,170 metres amsl (on many blogs, you can find photos indicating that the altitude was previously given as 1 metre higher). In a nearby locker, you’ll find a stamp allowing you to document reaching another point from the Crown of Polish Mountains.
Years ago, a triangulation tower stood on Mogielica. Later, a lookout tower was erected, which has been closed since 2020 due to poor maintenance (as of spring 2022). At its foot, there are several chapels, crosses commemorating pilgrims hiking to the summit along the Way of the Cross located on the route, as well as a plaque commemorating the crash of a Heinkel 111 bomber on a training flight. The plane crashed on 28 January 1944 on the eastern slopes of Mogielica. The crew perished, and Home Army units stationed nearby collected the surviving armaments.
From the summit, we set off following the green and blue signs. After a while, we meet the yellow trail and the red-marked historical-educational trail of the 1st Podhale Rifle Regiment of the Home Army named after Capt. Julian Krzewicki, which leads along the slopes of Mogielica to places connected with events of World War II. For us, the most important is the yellow trail, by which we descend to Słopnice.
Note: From the top, you need to go straight ahead, don’t turn right!
Just after the trail junction, we veer off to the right, without any signs, to the Papal Cross, whose shape refers to a papal pastoral.
The cross was erected in 2004 on the 50th anniversary of Karol Wojtyła celebrating Mass for his fellow hikers on the nearby Stumorgowa Glade. When the weather is good, there’s a magnificent view of the Gorce (with a lookout tower on Gorc) with the Tatra Mountains visible behind. More to the left is Lubań (with its viewing tower), the Pieniny Mountains and the peaks of Beskid Sądecki.
There are many folk tales associated with Mogielica. We have already mentioned the robbers counting treasures at Zbójnicki Stół (Robber Table). Another legend says that Mogielica was the wife of the giant Łopień, after whom the peak on the other side of the pass was named. There are even reports that the two hills are linked by a network of underground passages.
Definitely downhill and then slightly uphill
Approximately 10 minutes from the start of the descent from the summit, we say goodbye to the green signs and turn left at a right angle, cautiously starting the descent down a very steep slope towards U Błazka Glade (approximately 30 minutes from leaving the green trail). Years ago, Józef Misiura’s forester’s lodge stood here, referred to orally as the U Błazka grove, through which the courier route from Szczawa to Jurków, Dobra or Tymbark led.
From the glade, the route runs more and more gently downhill, and by the first buildings of Słopnice Królewskie, it changes into a comfortable road, which from the beginning of the village buildings is already covered with tarmac. Follow it calmly to the route leading to the pass from the east side (30 minutes from U Błazka Glade) and turn left to return to the car park. From this point onwards, we’re accompanied by signs of the red trail. There aren’t many of them, but they can be spotted at long distances on elements of road infrastructure (signs, energy barriers). The monotonous uphill hike is broken up a bit by roadside shrines. We’ll reach the Rydz Śmigły Pass after about half an hour.