Trzy Korony (Three Crowns)

Zosia Zgolak and I hiked up Trzy Korony (Three Crowns) in southern Poland's Pieniny National Park on 11 August 2023.  The origin of the mountain's current name is not entirely clear (previously, it was called Pieniny), but the mountain's five limestone peaks, when viewed from the Dunajec River Gorge, look like the points of a crown.  The highest peak is called Okrąglica and is topped by a metal viewing platform built to safely accommodate tourists.  With easy access via numerous well-maintained trails, the climb is immensely popular, and hiker lineups near the top are probably to be expected during peak season.  For our ascent, we would approach the mountain from the town of Krościenko to the north.

Zosia and I arrived in the town of Krościenko rather late in the morning and had to scramble a bit to find a place to park our car.  Luckily, we found a resident who offered us a spot on his property for 10 PLN (~$3.31 CAD).  From there, we walked back to the main access road (ul. Trzech Koron) and turned southward to begin a long and steady climb up the mountain.  The road turns to gravel near the edge of town and eventually downgrades to a wide trail as it passes the park boundary marked by an information sign.  All trail junctions in the park are signed, and as such, we had no trouble with route-finding.  While the trail was busy on this day, it did not feel too crowded, at least not initially.  That changed when we arrived at Przełęcz Szopka (Szopka Pass) where the trail from Krościenko joins with another popular ascent route from the village of Sromowce Niżne to the south.  Several large groups of hikers had congregated at the pass, and I just presumed that it was a nice spot to take a break since there are some views of the Tatra Mountains from there.  As we continued climbing though, the trail became even more congested until we were literally standing in a queue just beyond a small shelter.  While the hike from Krościenko to the shelter took us about 90 minutes, ascending the final 50 metres to the top of Okrąglica took us an additional two hours!  We waited in line to pay 8 PLN (~$2.65 CAD) per person at a ticket kiosk before waiting some more on a metal catwalk leading to the summit platform.  The platform can only accommodate about 10 people at a time, and of course, each person there spent probably at least 5-10 minutes soaking in the views and taking their obligatory selfies.  Despite the long wait, everybody on the catwalk appeared to be well-mannered and patient.  We passed our time looking down at the Dunajec River far below us and chatting with others in the queue or with one of Zosia's friends in Łódź by phone.  When we finally stepped onto the summit platform, we took our time just like everyone else to enjoy the amazing 360-degree panorama.

After spending about seven minutes on the summit platform, Zosia and I quickly descended the catwalk and took a slightly different route back to our original ascent trail.  This entailed hiking a slightly longer loop which included a short detour to visit the ruins of an ancient castle--Zamek Pieniński.  Again, all trail junctions are signed, and we had no major issues with route-finding.  We eventually intersected our ascent trail and hiked back to our parked car without any problems.  Unfortunately, we had to endure another round of waiting as we ran into a traffic gridlock while trying to drive out of Krościenko (road paving just west of the village ensnarled traffic for many kilometres in all directions).
Off to a late start, but this should be a short trip, right? Zosia begins the hike in the village of Krościenko by following uliczka Trzech Koron (Three Crowns Street) to its end.
No fees required here!

Zosia arrives at the boundary for Pieniny National Park.

Looks more like a municipal park than a national park! The grass on the hillsides in the park almost appear to be mowed.
Is there any ice cream stand here?

Zosia encounters a big crowd congregating at Przełęcz Szopka (Szopka Pass).

That's okay; there's always more people near the summit... The trail becomes more congested as Zosia approaches the top of Trzy Korony.
Doh! A long queue forms to ascend the final 50 metres of Trzy Korony.  Accessing the summit during peak season requires a fee payable at the kiosk.
Should have brought a novel to read...sigh. Dunajec River can be seen far below as Zosia waits on the metal catwalk leading to the summit.
What happens if you need to go to the bathroom while you're waiting in line?

Despite the long wait to reach the top, Zosia is still in good spirits.

I guess this is like climbing Everest...almost! The summit is tantalizingly close.
About f**king time!

After waiting in line for about two hours, Zosia and Sonny finally reach the summit of Trzy Korony.  The dark forested peak at left is Holica which is located within Slovakia.

I'm surprised no one was sitting on this and eating a leisurely lunch! A nondescript concrete monolith marks the summit of Trzy Korony (985 metres).

I guess this was worth the wait!

At left is the Polish village of Sromowce Niżne.  All land on the far side of Dunajec River is in Slovakia.  On the right horizon are the Tatra Mountains.


All these features are on the Polish side of the border.

The view to the west includes the adjacent rocky point--Nad Ogródki (bottom centre), Nowa Góra (closer pointy forested peak at right), and Babia Góra (big peak on distant far right horizon).  Also visible at upper right is Jezioro Czorsztyńskie (Lake Czorsztyńskie), a reservoir created by the damming of Dunajec River.

See you all later...suckers! Zosia quickly descends the metal catwalk while other hikers wait for their turn on the summit.
Kinga is a cool name!

In a quieter part of the mountain is this shrine to Saint Kinga, a former Grand Duchess of Poland who, upon the death of her husband, relinquished all her wealth to become a nun for the rest of her life.

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!

Zosia strolls along the ancient walls of Zamek Pieniński (Pieniny Castle) which was probably built in the late 13th Century.

We still have to fight through a massive traffic jam (road paving) after this...DOH! Zosia arrives back at Krościenko late in the afternoon.
Maybe a pre-dawn start in the off-season to avoid the crowds? Total Distance:  8.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 16 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  516 metres

GPX Data