Where To Hike In The High Tatras With A Baby?
Slovakia’s High Tatras is our favorite high mountain getaway. We’ve already written a series about the best day hikes there, including several lesser-known paths. Since then we visit the High Tatras with our baby boy – and if you’re planning to do the same, we’re here to help. Also, if you don’t have a baby, but you’re looking for easy hikes in the High Tatras, this post is for you.
First of all, it’s not straightforward to find easy hikes, because the High Tatras offer countless long and demanding trails. It’s also not straightforward which hikes can be safely done with a baby carrier. Of course, it can be different which trails are suitable for a particular person or family. It depends on your previous experience and current fitness level among other factors, so we can’t tell you what suits your exact needs. But we collected the trails that we think are suitable for us with a baby, and we’re trying to give you detailed descriptions about them to help you make an informed decision.
A gentle note: our baby can’t walk yet, and he’s in the baby carrier while hiking. This means that the main limit to our hikes is our stamina and whether the trail is safe to take with a carrier. So these trails are not necessarily suitable or safe with a small kid who hikes (and jumps around) on his own.
The easiest of all: walk around Štrbské pleso
Let’s start with a flat walk that’s even suitable for strollers: the walk around Štrbské pleso, the most accessible alpine lake in the High Tatras. It’s located about 5 minutes walk from the parking lot in the town of Štrbské pleso, and it takes about 50 minutes to complete the circle around it.
Okay, okay, I hear you telling me you expect real hikes, not a simple (yet very pretty) walk like this. Then let’s continue from here, because Štrbské pleso is a trailhead for lots of hiking trails.
Štrbské pleso – Popradské pleso
Popradské pleso (Lake Poprad) is a popular hiking destination. Actually, it’s usually not even a destination but a rest stop on the way to many other trails that start there. However, if you’re looking for easy hikes, it’s one of the best options, too.
The trail starts from Štrbské pleso and runs in the forest for a while. But soon you’ll be rewarded with amazing peak views and you’ll have them all the way to Lake Poprad. The lake itself, with magnificent peaks towering above, is a feast for the eye. There’s also a hotel and a restaurant on the lakeshore, and an easy loop trail around the lake. This loop adds about 40-50 minutes to your hike and is absolutely worth doing!
If you’re looking for a picnic spot where you can put the carrier down and let your baby crawl around a bit, then aim for the shore of Lake Poprad. Otherwise the trail is not steep, but there’s hardly any flat sections between Štrbské pleso and Lake Poprad.
Štrbské pleso – Jamské pleso
Lesser-known and less busy than the trail to Popradské pleso, we have to tell you that this trail is also less scenic. Peaks are further and the trail runs in the forest for the most part. In exchange, it’s quite easy. Jamské pleso is small and somewhat hidden, but it’s a lovely lake, and you can find nice picnic spots under the pine trees on the lakeshore.
Štrbské pleso – Skok waterfall
Another easy hike takes you up from Štrbské pleso to Skok waterfall. It runs in Mylnická Valley and along a rushing mountain stream for the most part. 30 meters high Skok waterfall is one of the most visited ones in Slovakia, so expect this trail to be busy in good weather.
You can find suitable spots for a longer rest along the mountain stream or at the bottom of Skok. But beware, there’s no shade at the waterfall.
To continue the trail in Mylnická Valley, you need to climb up right by the waterfall, supported by chains. We’ve done the full loop through Mylnická and Furkotská Valleys when there were just the two of us, but we wouldn’t do it with a baby carrier. It’s Skok waterfall where the easy part of this trail ends.
Small Cold Valley from Hrebienok
Okay, we’re bored with Štrbské pleso, let’s go somewhere else. Like our favorite valley, Malá Studená Dolina – the Small Cold Valley in English. This is a hike that you can adjust to your stamina, and you’ll enjoy pretty views, no matter what. (Well, unless views are lost in the dense fog.)
The trail starts from Hotel Hrebienok that you can reach from Starý Smokovec by funicular or on foot. It’s about 45 minutes walk. (Even though there’s a paved road to Hotel Hrebienok, cars are not allowed to use it. You need to leave your car in Starý Smokovec. Hourly or daily parking fees are charged when parking on any street in the village.)
Several trails start from Hotel Hrebienok, including two paths that both take you to Small Cold Valley. The green route is longer, but it runs right by a stream and offers views of several small cascading waterfalls. The red route is somewhat shorter and further from the stream, though you still have the peak views to enjoy.
The green and red routes then merge and lead you to 20 meters tall Obrovský waterfall (or Giant Waterfall in English), the tallest one in this area. If you want a really short and easy hike, you can turn back from this waterfall. There’s plenty of space for a picnic blanket at the stream crossing before the waterfall.
When the green and red routes depart again, the green one takes you into Small Cold Valley. There are several mountain huts on the way, and the first section of the trail in Small Cold Valley is still quite easy. You can find picnic spots along the stream, and the meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in the summer.
The medium level hike, we’d say, ends at the largest wildflower meadow with a distant view of a waterfall further above in the valley. Where exactly is that? You’ll notice because the path suddenly gets much steeper from there. It’s a strenuous path (and rewarding – needles to mention, right?) that takes you up to Téryho mountain hut where you get views of the three Spišské Lakes: Veľké Spišské pleso, Nižné Spišské pleso and Prostredné Spišské pleso.
You can get a warm lunch in the hut, or sit down on the lakeshore. The trail continues towards Priečne saddle, but we recommend turning back from the Spišské Lakes. Up until that point, it’s strenuous but safe to do with a baby carrier. Hiking through the saddle though is more of a climb, supported by chains, and actually, we’d recommend using safety ropes and a helmet, too.
So Priečne saddle is the reason that we don’t recommend doing the Small and Great Cold Valley hikes as a loop (as we once naively did), definitely not with a baby carrier on your back. You can instead explore the two valleys separately on different days.
Great Cold Valley from Hrebienok
The trail to Veľká Studená Dolina – or Great Cold Valley in English – is the same as the one towards Small Cold Valley in the beginning. You can take the funicular or walk to Hotel Hrebienok, and then choose between the green route along the stream or the shorter red route. But instead of hiking to Obrovský waterfall from the crossing, you take the blue route to Great Cold Valley.
Another valley hike, relatively easy in the beginning and getting steeper and more strenuous towards the end of the valley. How is it different from the trail in Small Cold Valley? Well, first of all, landscapes in the mountains are all different. Just like peaks and lakes. 😛 On the other hand, if we really try to differentiate, I’d say that Small Cold Valley is a lovely, laughing girl, while Great Cold Valley is its more stern brother. Impressive but harsh and wild. The terrain is not very suitable for picnic spots with a baby, though we could find some on the way.
Our favorite section is the two stream crossings (don’t worry, there are bridges) and the tiny cascading waterfalls along the route between them. The last, strenuous section leads you past two smaller lakes, Vareškové pleso and Dlhé pleso, and ends at a third one, Sesterské pleso. Zbojnícka mountain hut is located close to that third lake – which is the point to turn back for a day hike in the valley.
There are three small chain-supported sections in Great Cold Valley (unlike in Small Cold Valley where there’s none), but we were confident doing them even with a baby carrier. Chains are there truly only for extra safety in each case, it could have been done without chains, too. But if you’re looking for the easier path, that’s the one in Small Cold Valley.
Skalnaté pleso – Veľká Svišťovka
As a smooth start, you can take the gondola from the village of Tatranská Lomnica to Skalnaté pleso, another stunning alpine lake. That would save you 900 meters in altitude and about 3 hours of hiking steeply upwards. Otherwise you can hike the 6 kilometres from the village to the lake. (It’s a steep path through forest and meadows, following the gondola for the most part.)
After having a picnic at Skalnaté pleso, you can do a short, moderate and very scenic hike to Veľká Svišťovka pass. Peaks towered above us on this route, and we got a fabulous glimpse of Green Lake far below us in the valley from Veľká Svišťovka pass. There’s a trail towards Green Lake that we’ve already done, but wouldn’t do with a baby carrier, because it’s very steep, narrow and supported by chains at parts. One can easily slip and fall, especially while carrying weight.
Before or after the hike to Veľká Svišťovka, you can also enjoy a cable car ride to 2634 metres high Lomnický štít which is the only peak that’s so easily accessible in the High Tatras. Actually, it’s only accessible by cable car, there’s no hiking trail there.
A handy trail map of the High Tatras
Are you asking about a trail map you could use while exploring the Tatras? Lucky for you, there’s a great one out there that we always use in Slovakia – actually, wherever we hike in Central Europe. It’s called mapy.cz, and they have an Android app, as well, where you can download hiking trails so that you can access them offline. You’re welcome. 🙂
Any other questions you have or routes you’d recommend? Spill!
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