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).
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.
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.
||Zosia quickly descends the metal
catwalk while other hikers wait for their turn on the summit.
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.
Zosia strolls along the ancient walls of Zamek Pieniński (Pieniny Castle)
which was probably built in the late 13th Century.
||Zosia arrives back at Krościenko late
in the afternoon.
Distance: 8.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 5 hours 16 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 516 metres