First, we’ve never heard anyone calling this route 3 Lakes Trail. Second, we’re aware that you can find three (or sometimes even more) alpine lakes along other routes in the High Tatras. But 3 Lakes Trail has a nice ring, isn’t it? And the easiest way to memorize the route is from lake to lake, so we just made up this name for ourselves. Needless to tell, it also highlights the fact that you’ll be rewarded with three fabulous lake views along the way.
The best introduction to the High Tatras
In our opinion this hike is the best introduction to the High Tatras. It’s not too hard but very scenic all the way. It’s also flexible, because you can choose to do only part of it and still have an amazing experience. The whole route is a full day hike, but it’s not too steep and there’s no sections secured by chains and iron ropes (unlike many other routes in the High Tatras).
There are charming clear creeks, peak views and lots of wildflowers on the way. The weather was chilly and foggy on the day when we first did this hike, but still it made us fall in love with the Tatras immediately. The dark peaks disappearing in the dense fog reminded us to scenes from Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movies. But when the sun shines, you see a landscape from fairyland. We got to experience that, too.
The trailhead: Štrbské pleso
The trailhead is actually the first lake itself: Štrbské pleso. It’s the most accessible lake in the High Tatras as the parking lot is 5 minutes walk from the lake. There are also restaurants and hotels around the lake, and the loop trail around it which is a popular walking and jogging route. If you are looking for a very short and easy walk then this loop trail around Štrbské pleso could be a perfect choice. It takes only about 40-50 minutes.
Štrbské pleso is a nice place to hang out, but it’s quite busy, too. We found it the most beautiful on early mornings and late afternoons when the weather is calm and the lake reflects all the surrounding peaks like a huge mirror. It’s also an important location for hikers as several trails start here. Like the red route towards Popradské pleso.
Everyone’s favorite rest stop: Popradské pleso
The hike to Popradské pleso takes about 1-1.5 hour and it’s still quite easy. (Of course, it depends on who says it, but the elevation change is only about 150-200 metres.) It starts in the forest but we got our first peak views very soon, and we had them for the rest of the hike.
With that said, Popradské pleso is also easily accessible. That means it still doesn’t feel like you are out in the wild. There’s a restaurant and a hotel by the lake, so you can even have a warm lunch if you want.
There’s an easy loop trail around Popradské pleso. It adds about an hour to do it before moving on – and it’s absolutely worth it because of the pretty peak views. If you don’t want to continue on more strenuous trails, we especially recommend completing this loop before turning back to Strbské pleso. But you have several choices to continue further. One is to take the blue route to Veľké Hincovo pleso.
The deepest lake: Veľké Hincovo pleso
The blue route runs through a charming valley (Mengusovská Valley or Mengusovská dolina in Slovak) surrounded by dramatic grey peaks. The meadows are full of wildflowers from early summer, and we crossed several crystal clear mountain creeks on the way.
The path gets steeper towards the end of the valley. In early summer, you usually encounter some snow here – like it happened with us on our first visit. It was mid-June, but the area around Veľké Hincovo pleso was still covered with snow, and the surface of the lake was mostly frozen. It was secret winterland up there. But some colorful flowers already popped their heads up under the snow.
With a maximum depth of 53 meters, Veľké Hincovo pleso is the deepest glacial lake in the High Tatras. It impressed us plenty of times ever since that first visit, no matter the weather. Okay, we have to admit it looks the best in the sunshine.
Best time to do this hike
Hiking season in the High Tatras is summer. Most of the trails are closed until the middle of June due to snow anyway. They are usually open from the 15th of June to the end of October.
Where to stay
Veľké Hincovo pleso is a perfect day hike. You can find accommodation in the small town of Strbské Pleso (right by the lake), but Poprad is also not far (half an hour drive from Strbské pleso). Poprad is a bigger city so if there’s no available rooms in Strbské Pleso – which can easily happen in high season – you are still good to find something in Poprad or in other small towns nearby.
Other great hikes in the High Tatras
Finally, this is not the end of it. This post is just a first piece from our series featuring our favorite day hikes in the High Tatras. So stay tuned for more beautiful hikes – you can see them all here!
Summary of all the details
- Trailhead: Štrbské pleso
- Route: Štrbské pleso – Popradské pleso (red route); Popradské pleso – Veľké Hincovo pleso (blue route); same way back
- Total time (estimation): 5.5-6 hours
- Difficulty: medium
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This post was updated in July 2020.
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