This page describes the last of the four parts of the long-distance trail which circumvents the range of the Tatras. It covers the Orava region, which lies on the North of the Slovak Western Tatras, until the Polish border, more exactly from the village of Velké Borové to the entrance of Dolina Chocholowska.
Mostly on the roads (but quiet roads) as well as wide tracks, this is the most unclear part from the tour of the Tatras, because of the border, and there are several options. This is why I chose to describe it separately from part 3.
I must owe that I don't know it much and I base myself on experience of others, and very succint observations during few occasions as I drove in the area.
Any corrections or remarks from slovak cyclers welcome !
Once out of the gorges of Kvačianska Dolina, in Huty, cycle back to the road 584 to the North East.
This road climbs to a small pass "Hutnianské Sedlo", named after the previous village.
Cycle down until the big resort of the city Zuberec. At the 3rd junction, after the 2 tourist informations and bus stops, turn right in the direction of Oravice (road 203).
Before that, if you are also exploring the valleys of the Tatras, there is a really easy and wide valley to explore by bike, the valley Rohacka, whose aspalted road starts at a junction on the right a bit earlier in the center of Zuberec.
The longest section of this valley runs from Zuberec to Byvala Tatliatkova Chata (red marks). From Zuberec to Zverovka Chata (nice mountain hotel in which you can accomodate) the road is almost flat; from this point to the end it is still asphalt but much steeper. From Zverovka Chata there is a second branch you can cycle, in the valley Latana Dolina (yellow marks). At the very beginning, near Zuberec, are also 2 unmarked little valleys into you can venture (single-track roads), the valleys Siva Dolina and Pribiska Dolina, not explicitely marked for bikes but this area is a sort of no-man's land in the Tatras, and the chances to get caught and fined are really small.
Back to our main road going to Oravice, you cross some landscapes of wide fields and then to road enters a deep forest, following for a while a little stream. This area is called the valley Dolina Mihulcie.
Then you reach Oravice.
From this little resort, famous for its thermal spa, is located the entrance of the little valley Brobovecka, which is also not marked for bikes, but which you can afford cycling without worries at least until the little cottage at the end of the asphalt road.
The end of this trail description consists in describing how to get back to Poland, to the start of par 1 (Podhale region) and put an end to this four days trail.
If you have a road-bike, and if you are not too adventurous, you can keep on the road and, at the price of a long diversion, cross the legal road border at Sucha Hora, via Vitanova (much furher north, from Oravice). From Sucha Hora, then you need to get back to the Tatras in the South, in the direction of Witow. If you choose this option and if you have time, you can venture even a bit forther North on the Polish road, until the city of Chocholow. This is one of the finest localities with traditional wooden houses in the style of the region.
From Witow, you get back to the entrance of the valley Dolina Chocholowska without problems.
If you have a mountain bike, and if you are adventurous, here is another option. It is possible only since this year (2008) and the entrance of Poland and Slovakia to the Schengen space, which means total freedom to cross the border anywhere you want, OUT of the parc of course (since offtrails in forbidden in national parcs of both countries).
Which means, that you can cross the border from Slovakia to Poland at the closest of the limit of the Slovak National Park (The Polish one being less wide on its side).
So here is the plan: from Oravice, an asphalt road leaves the town to the South East. The name of this valley is Ticha Dolina (not to mix with Ticha Dolina from Podbanské, in Part 2). It becomes later a single track, and climbs in the forest, before making a sudden turn just few meters before the border.
On the Polish side is located a wide meadow called Cicha Polana, with some barns, which means some tracks also, joining back the main road, and then the entrance of Polish valley Dolina Chocholowska.
The distance separating these 2 places is really short, perhaps some 200m, across the border, not more. Some maps show a little junction exactly in the bend on the slovak side, reaching the border, some not (left bottom corner in image below). This point is called "Orawska Brama" in Polish, which means "Door to Orava", and according to the map editor TatryMap (left top corner in image below), there is a plan to build a marked trail on it in order to link both countries, in a near future.
But after few searches on the web it seems that this project is still not realized. Anyway, since we now belong to the the Schengen space, don't hesitate to try, in the worse case it's just a question of wild-crossing some 200m of forest, the fun will only be better, with a nice conclusion of this four-parts journey :)
Here is an abstract of all maps I have inquired about this very spot :
Update : In September 2009 while reading the magazine TPN (official publication of the Polish Tatras National Park, always very interesting), I popped into this mountain-bike article about this very area (Magura Witowska, that lies on the pass Orawska Brama). Four trails are described, and the first of the four goes in the border section that concerns us. Basically it confirms what the maps seemed to show: few meters offtrails, but the rest is OK on tracks. More details in the article (unfortunately in Polish only)
If you haven't started the journey at this spot, the trail is to be continued in the next part, Podhale region...
Getting ThereIt all depends on which end of this trail you plan to start.
If you plan to reach Huty, better aim the city of Dolny Kubin (from Slovakia or from Poland), then Zuberec, and this area. No bus in my knowledge in this area.
If you plan to reach the valley Dolina Chocholowska, the best way to reach the region from the city of Cracow (airport). Better avoid Zakopane (frequent traffic jams during week ends and holidays); from Nowy Tag, take the direction of Czarny Dunajec and then Chocholow.
When to BikeSpring, Summer, Autumn.
Not Winter ! :)
In the Spring, you will enjoy the views to the snowy tops while the lower parts of the mountains are green. The ideal moment is end of May. it can be still quiet cold in the mornings and evenings.
In the summer, it will be warm, but there will be a lot of tourist cars on the roads.
The Autumn is perhaps the best season, with stable weather, colours turning red-yellow, perhaps some sign of snows on the tops, and again less people. The ideal moment is end of September to mid-october.
Cycle preferably at least 2 or 3 days after rainy weather, in order not to dirty you too much in the mud in parts located on cycling tracks.