TREKS NEAR TOWN
These are hikes you can do by taking a minibus from Zakopane that take you a bit higher up, are reasonably strenuous, offer lovely views, involve no technical difficulty and are on proper, marked paths.
This trek takes you into a lovely lake, set in an amphitheatre of the Polish High Tatras. The good thing is although it does involve a consistent, upward slog, it is really is not difficult. It allows you to access a truly alpine environment. Be warned though, in summer you will not be alone trying to access this beauty spot! However, it is possible to find your own little pitch to sit back and soak up the view. Mind the aggressive greedy fish in the lake though!
From Zakopane, take one of the millions of minibuses plying backwards and forwards to Kuźnice (cost 3zl - pay when you exit the minibus).
At the minibus drop-off, take a left, pay your National Park entrance fee (currently around £1) and start tramping up the blue trail signposted for Schronisko PTTK Murowaniec. Eventually you will be rewarded with wonderful mountain views as you amble along. Presently you will happen upon at very large mountain hut serving meals, beers etc as well as offering accommodation. On arriving at the hut, you are still following the blue trail, but this time it is signposted for Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy. This will take you to the lake. There are lots of options for other side routes leading from here to other lakes. Make sure you have a map for this.
Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy in winter
To return, head back to the hut, follow the blue trail retracing your ascent. You can then choose to take the yellow trail back to Kuźnice at Przełęcz między Kopami. I actually once saw a bear with cubs across a gully from me as I descended this trail.
At Kuźnice a minibus will ferry you back to Zakopane.
This is my absolute favourite easy trail because of the totally amazing views. Make sure you save this for a clear day. It is also a favourite because although the locals and various school groups seem to gravitate to here (can be a bit mobbed in summer - best seen out of this season), it is generally not visited by western tourists. So shhhhhhhhhh....don't tell anyone!!!
Memorials to deceased mountaineers and mountain rescuers
So, to get here, jump on one of the numerous Morskie Oko minibuses which leave from the front of the railway station in Zakopane. Make sure you ask the driver to let you off at Zazadnia - cost should be about 8zl - pay when you leave the minibus. Pay your National Park fee and follow the blue trail. It leads firstly to Kaplica Matki Boskiej which is a beautiful wooden church/sanctuary. The basement has an ever present urn of mountain tea to help yourself to - you can make a donation in the box.
The church above can be wonderfully atmospheric on a snowy winters day. Also, don't miss the very sad plaques and engravings to killed climbers and mountain rescuers behind the church.
From here, keep slogging up those steps a bit further and you will be really rewarded when you reach Rusinowa Polana. On a clear day the view to the High Tatras is amazing. No exaggeration!
Once you have soaked up the view, you can retrace the blue trail to Zazadnia and flag down one of the twenty million minibuses roaring back to Zakopane. However, two easy trails go further from here. The blue very easily takes you down to the roadhead at Morskie Oko with continued nice views as you go. Loads of Zakopane minibuses ply from here. Or, the black trail is a lovely walk with great views over the Bielovodska valley which eventually descends down to the red trail with Morskie Oko hordes, ending with the above mentioned minibus terminus. Cost back to Zakopane - around 10zl.
Views from the black trail