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Szlak pieszy: Przełomem Dunajca na piechotę

Hiking trail: Along the Dunajec River Gorge on foot

Przełom Dunajca
Szczawnica Tourist region: Pieniny i Spisz
Rafting down the Dunajec River Gorge is undoubtedly a great attraction that everyone should try at least once in their lives. The tales of the rafters, the fascinating views and the thrill of the rushing bends provide many emotions. However, there’s no way to stop even for a moment, to gaze longer at the lofty rocks of Trzy Korony or Sokolica. There’s a way to remedy this: we have to go along the gorge section of the river on foot. Returning through Slovakia, we can look at Pieniny from a different perspective and, by visiting the village of Lesnica, find out how its inhabitants influence the weather in Szczawnica. The reward for completing the hike will be an insanely good apple pie in the PTTK shelter Orlica or delicious trout in any of the restaurants in Szczawnica. Sounds like a good plan for a weekend getaway? We think so, too!

Practical information

The starting point of the trailSzczawnica Niżna

Access to the starting point of the trail Road no. 969 from Nowy Targ (from the west) or from Nowy Sącz (from the north) to Krościenko nad Dunajcem (the route partly coincides with the car route Around Gorce and from there to Szczawnica.ni spływu Przełomem Dunajca; brak bezpłatnych alternatyw.

Piktogram parkingYou can leave your car at one of the paid car parks at the Dunajec Gorge rafting terminus; there are no free alternatives.

Time to complete the trail6 hours (to the starting point) or 6 hours 45 minutes (to the centre)

 Difficulty level of the trail Easy

Trail map Back to the starting point


Trail map To the centre




Being in Pieniny without seeing the Dunajec Gorge or Trzy Korony is like being in Rome and not visiting the Vatican. The most popular way of discovering the beauties of this area is a Dunajec River Gorge rafting trip, which is made even more attractive by the colourful stories of the rafters. We, on the other hand, invite you to explore the area on foot. The advantage of this variant is that you can stop anywhere to enjoy the emerging views without any time constraints. Returning via the Slovak town of Lesnica, we’ll learn interesting stories about the church located there.

Upstream to Červený Kláštor

The starting point is the terminus of the Dunajec rafting trip. It’s a good landmark for those who have come to Szczawnica for a day trip, as well as for those who are spending several days here. From here, we move upstream and cross the bridge over Grajcarek, and after a while, we meet red signs that will lead us to Červený Kláštor. There are a number of reference points at the start of the route: the junction at the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society’s Orlica shelter (5 minutes), the entrance to the Pieniny National Park (8 minutes), the Dunajec river crossing (15 minutes), the Polish-Slovakian border (25 minutes) and the mouth of Leśnicki Potok (35 minutes from the start of the route).

It’s worth stopping here for a while, looking at the rocks rising above the stream, or even walking 150–200 metres into its valley to admire the majestic wall.

So far, we’ve been marching on tarmac, but now we’re entering a gravel surface. It’s a good idea to hike with a map to identify the next bends in the river and the rocks dominating over it. After just a few minutes, the spires of Sokolica will appear, which we’ll look at from different angles; everyone will be able to choose from which place they think they are the most beautiful and where it is best to take a photo. We suggest that you pay particular attention to the point just after the sign ordering you to dismount from your bicycle (about 30 minutes from the mouth of Leśnicki Potok).

The hike is enriched by educational boards providing information about interesting places along the route. From one of them, which we’ll soon reach, we learn that we’re at the place where rafting ended in the 19th century, and before World War I, there was an inn for tourists from Szczawnica and Śmierdzonka. Another plaque will tell us about Facimiech and a place called Pod Siedmioma Mnichami.

fun fact

On the way, you’ll pass the narrowest place called Janosikowy Skok, where the two banks of the river are separated by just 12 metres. According to legend, it was here that Janosik jumped over the Dunajec River after escaping from the Pieniny Castle in Niedzica, and an imprint of his kierpce (leather shoes) remained on the rock on the left bank. Other accounts say that this is where Janosik tested the physical fitness of candidates for his group.

From here on, the valley is noticeably wider, and after about 20 minutes of hiking, we’ll re-enter the tarmac. A few more minutes’ walk and we find ourselves in an open space that serves as a recreational area. After crossing to its western part (keeping to the path closer to the Dunajec River), it’s necessary to turn around to look at probably the most beautiful shot of the whole massif of Trzy Korony. When you cross the stream, you’ll find yourself at the buildings of Červený Kláštor (Red Monastery), whose construction began in 1330. It was first administered by the Carthusian Order, later by the Camaldolese Order, and since 1782 (after the Josephine abolition of monasteries), it has been used for secular purposes; part of the building is open to the public. It takes about three hours to reach the site.

fun fact

The Red Monastery is linked to Brother Cyprian, an apothecary, physician and botanist, author of the oldest preserved herbarium with plants of the Tatra and Pieniny Mountains. According to accounts, the monk was also an inventor who flew from Trzy Korony to the courtyard of the monastery on the wings he created. Another version of this legend says that the flight was much longer, ending as far as at the Morskie Oko Lake, where an angel, irritated by the aviator’s pride, struck him with lightning. The monk then hit the lofty crag known to this day as Mnich (Monk).

tour option

If you plan to return to Szczawnica by mountain, you need to walk less than 10 minutes more upstream to the footbridge that will allow you to get to the Polish bank, where you enter the yellow trail and hike with the flow of the river. After passing the shelter of the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society Trzy Korony, you have to choose one of the route variants described below.

Slovak paths to St Dorothy

In the basic option, we propose to return via Slovakia. From the Červený Kláštor, we’ll continue along the blue trail. Our nearest destinations are Sedlo Cerla (35 minutes) and the village of Lesnica (less than 2 hours).

Near the monastery, the markings aren’t the best; fortunately, orientation in the area isn’t difficult. You simply have to enter the tarmac road running south along the monastery wall (the Dunajec is just behind you) and follow it for about 300 metres. At the end of this straight section, you’ll cross a bridge, spot a tarmac street ascending from the left and, after a few dozen metres, head into a dirt road on the left. We wander along a dirt road for a few minutes before entering the woods, and a forest path takes us out along its curves to a clearing. Hiking along its edge, you’ll soon reach the pass (Sedlo Cerla, about 35 minutes from Červený Kláštor). A photo and map, located here, make it easy to identify the visible peaks, among which the massif of Siedem Mnichów dominates.

From the pass we hike gently uphill at first, but soon the ascent gets steeper, fortunately, only for a moment, then the terrain drops slightly, after which another ascent begins. After half an hour’s walk, we come to a glade whose upper end offers an interesting panorama: from Żar (on the left), through Macelowa to Trzy Korony with Góra Zamkowa and Holica. A little further on, we meet the yellow trail (which we encountered earlier at a place called Huta), and soon we reach Targov (665 metres amsl).

This is the highest point on this section. From here on, we’ll hike down a wide but very eroded forest road used by forestry workers to haul wood. It’ll take about 20 minutes to reach the first buildings of Lesnica, then we’ll reach the cemetery, where we’ll turn left and march towards the village centre with the 18th-century Church of St Michael the Archangel. The Baroque furnishings of this temple include a particularly noteworthy main altar and a statue of St Dorothy.

One of the legends associated with it says that a woman from Szczawnica Niżna was supposed to have a birth that endangered her health. On the advice of her neighbours, she asked that a candle be lit in her name by St Dorothy and that prayers be offered for her intentions. The requests were apparently listened to, as the birth went without complications.

Another story concerning the local church tells that the bells hung in the church scare away storms. According to it, Szczawnica residents know that when the Lesnica bells are heard, the storm will bypass the village and unleash rain over Szczawnica.

Time to go back to Poland

From the church, we continue along the main road through the village, passing several traditional wooden buildings along the way. After a few minutes, we reach a trail junction.

If the weather is unfavourable and there’s not much energy left, you can continue along the road following the blue trail signs to the mouth of Leśnicki Potok (about 15 minutes), from where, following the Dunajec River, you’ll soon reach the Polish-Slovakian border, and after half an hour’s walk, you’ll reach your starting point.

If the weather is fine, and you feel strong enough for more demanding hike, let’s head to the right and start hiking along the yellow trail. We quickly leave the village and gently gain altitude. To our left, a view of the final section of the Dunajec Gorge with Sokolica towering above it gradually opens up. Approximately 20 minutes after entering the yellow trail, the route branches off. If our accommodation is in Szczawnica, and we reached the starting point on foot, we can head right to descend through Szafranówka and Palenica to the centre of Szczawnica (about 1 hour 15 minutes). On the other hand, if we left our car at the car park by the Dunajec River, we should head left to reach the starting point (about an hour’s walk) via the border ridge and passing by the Orlica shelter.

After any rain, the final section of the ascent to the ridge, as well as the initial part of the descent towards Dunajec, is very slippery; moving through these sections without Nordic walking poles is extremely difficult, even dangerous. In the open space, there’s nothing to hold on to; lower down, you have to move near trees. It’s only when a clear footpath appears on the slope that the route becomes easier, and you can relax and descend calmly to the Orlica shelter, from which a comfortable path leads to the Dunajec River. The last section is the one we discovered in the morning: we reach the beginning of the red trail, cross the Grajcarek and find ourselves at the car park from where we set off.

The maximalist version

If you want to admire the Dunajec Gorge both from the river level and from a height, you can go to Červený Kláštor as described above, then return to Szczawnica via the Trzy Korony massif. The only thing to remember is that the last part of the trip will be the crossing of the Dunajec River by a raft boat. The service is available at specific times, depending on the month.

Possible options for this route:

  • along the yellow trail through the Szopczański Ravine and Szopka Pass, crossing time 6.5 hours,


  • along the green route through Zamkowa Góra and Pieniny Castle, walking time 7.5 hours, 

In both variants, we skip the climb to the most famous peak of the Pieniny, i.e. Trzy Korony. Reaching them from the Szopka Pass (blue trail) will take about an hour, while from the Kosarzyska Glade (green trail), about 45 minutes. In high season, you have to reckon with queues to get to the top, and waiting times can be over an hour.

To avoid time pressure, it’s advisable to start by crossing the Dunajec River, ascending the peaks, then descending to Sromowce Niżne to cross the river there and return from Červený Kláštor to Szczawnica following the course of the Dunajec River. In this variant, the walking time for the entire route is approximately 6 hours 45 minutes.

The are several options, and everyone can choose the one most appropriate to their strengths and ambitions. Enjoy your hike.

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