Karłów is a small town whose existence and fate are inextricably linked with the huge, flat, vast and fragmented rock, shortly called Szczeliniec. You will probably visit Karłów, because it is still the most popular starting point for the conquerors of Szczeliniec, but it was not always like that.
The village was founded in 1730 by the Austrian Archduke Charles VI of Habsburg and received an honorable (and pleasing to the ear of most men) name in honor of its founder: Carlsberg. Today, the historical name of Karłów is more associated with a well-known beer brand, but its origin, as you can see, is different.
Despite the fact that a regular settlement functioned and developed at the foot of Szczeliniec from 1730, Szczeliniec remained an area untouched by human feet. He was commonly considered impossible to conquer and if it had not been for the "war games" conducted by Austria and Prussia, it is not known how much he would still be hiding his charms from the world.
Lower Silesia and the land of Kłodzko have always been a valuable morsel and there have always been a few people willing to have it. This time things moved quickly. During one of the hunts in October 1740, the Austrian Emperor Charles VI suddenly fainted (he had previously eaten a mushroom dish) and died shortly after. He was succeeded by a woman - Maria Teresa. Of course, not everyone liked it. Disputes and struggles over the succession began. Taking advantage of the Austrian confusion, Prussia attacked and took over Silesia and the Kłodzko region in two months.
Later, these lands were the cause of military clashes between Austria and Prussia many times (e.g. during the three Silesian wars). So the Prussians decided to build a few fortifications. To the west of Kłodzko, three defensive forts were built: Fort Wilhelm, Fort Fryderyk and near Szczeliniec, on Góra Ptak, near the Lisia Przełęcz, Fort Charles. If you take a short walk to the remains of Fort Charles, which remain there until today, you will see that it offers a perfect view of the massive rocks of Szczeliniec. No wonder that during the construction of Fort Charles an idea came up to build another fort. This time on the hitherto unconquered Szczeliniec.
Conquest of Szczeliniec
Szczeliniec was conquered in 1790 by a forced attack. The main participants in the conquest of Szczeliniec were: Franz Pabel, who knew the area very well and was born in Karłów, Prussian soldiers and brute force in the form of gunpowder, thanks to which several narrow passages were blown up.
A path was marked out and a few hanging bridges were built to make it easier to navigate up the mountain. The news about the beauty of Szczeliniec probably spread quickly, because already in August 1790 the heir of the Prussian throne visited the mountain, and a few days later King Frederick William II himself, assisted by princesses and numerous entourage. The role of the guide for the royal family was played by Franz Pabel.
The idea of building a defensive fort in Szczeliniec was abandoned.
Szczeliniec quickly became the target of mass tourist visits. In the same year (1790), the most prominent representative of German literature and the precursor of Romanticism, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, visited the mountain. Ten years later, the future president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, came to the then fashionable sunrise in Szczeliniec.
Unfortunately, Szczeliniec also has a list of famous people who were not there, although they really wanted to. This kind of bad luck touched our outstanding pianist: Fryderyk Chopin, who (in the summer of 1826) was undergoing treatment in nearby Duszniki-Zdrój. Due to the specific microclimate in Szczeliniec and fear of its negative impact on Chopin's health, the doctors forbade him to visit the mountain.
From the moment of the king's first visit to Szczeliniec, Franz Pabel was strongly involved in all work related to the maintenance, conservation and making Szczeliniec available to visitors. He discovered and named most of the rocks in Szczeliniec. In 1804, the Szczelińca Cash Register was established, a wooden locked gate was built, and admission to the top was paid. The fees were used to finance the construction of stairs, handrails and paths, and to cover the costs of works related to the provision of further areas of the mountain.
The King of Prussia returned to Szczeliniec in 1813. It was then that he officially gave Franz Pabel the title of a guide and cashier of Szczeliniec. Pabel thus became the first official guide in Europe. He has guided tours into old age and has acted as a guide for over 70 years.
As you go to Szczeliniec, you will climb a total of 665 stairs. Almost all of them were made by Franz Pabel. After reaching the top, you will find a memorial plaque near the shelter.
Parking and access
The main car park for those willing to take a trip to Szczeliniec is located in Karłów. The Hundred Curves Road leads to it. It is a fragment of the provincial road No. 387 connecting several towns in the Kłodzko Valley from Radków to Kudowa Zdrój. The road meanders picturesquely through forests, among rock mushrooms. There are forest car parks by the road. They lead the plates to nearby attractions. However, the capacity of the car parks is not sufficient enough to accommodate all those who come here in high season. When driving on the road, you should move carefully, because some tourists (unfortunately) try to park on the side of the road.
Parking for tourists in Karłów consists of several independent car parks, mostly private ones. Their total capacity is very large, so they can take a lot of cars. I was here in the middle of the summer season there was no problem with parking. I would be more worried about the capacity of Szczeliniec than about the capacity of car parks in Karłów 🙂
The prices in all car parks are similar: all-day parking without a time limit is PLN 15-20 per passenger car (July 2021).
Parking lot - Szczeliniec Wielki, GPS coordinates:
50.476150, 16.338174 - click and route
The trail to Szczeliniec
The trail towards Szczeliniec is easy to find, because its course is adjacent to the largest parking lot. The trail begins with a marvelous gastronomic and commercial avenue, where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs, indulgence hits for the upcoming season, and quench your thirst and hunger. You can equip yourself with a wooden bow, sword or ax (depending on your preferences) and full knight armor with or without a cape. So equipped, go ahead and hit the trail!
Unfortunately, we didn't buy anything. We only slipped discreetly and quickly along the entire length of the bazaar (you have to go through it, because there is no other way). However, it must be honestly said that we saw the advantages of the bazaar on the way back, when everyone was a bit hungry. Grilled oscypek with cranberry, waffles and ice cream (something nice for everyone) were perfectly installed.
When you leave the trade booths behind your back, you will reach a place where the trail seems to fork. The passage through Szczeliniec is one-way. The left branch of the bifurcation is a one-way trail uphill to Szczeliniec, and the right one is the way back from Szczeliniec.
After entering the trail, you will be greeted by green handrails, preventing you from going beyond the designated path. The handrails run along the entire length of the trail. If at any point you are in doubt as to which way to go, just go where the handrails lead.
There are really few places where the handrails do not tightly restrict the movement zone, so it is rather impossible to get lost here. The path will lead you to the top, where there is a shelter and memorial plaques (in memory of Franz Pabel, memorabilia of the stay of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and John Quincy Adams).
The free trail fragment ends here. The further walk requires you to go through the gate at the ticket office, which is located behind the shelter, and pay the entrance fee to the most beautiful, truly spectacular part of the trail. In high season, expect a long line here, which often wraps around the hut and beyond. Fortunately, the queue moves forward quickly, because one person buys tickets for the whole family, and then everyone passes through the gate. Several people will then disappear from the queue at a time. So if you reach the top and see a huge queue, don't be discouraged. Everything should go faster than it seems at first glance. In practice, waiting in a fairly long queue (it was probably 50m) took us about 30 minutes.
With tickets in hand, you can move on. Expect a real feast for the eyes. A new, stunning sight emerges from behind each alley of rocks. Behind each rock there is something interesting. Sometimes you will have to bend down deep, sometimes you will have to pull your stomach in sharply. Along the way, you will descend deep into rock chasms, crevices and pits, which are not accidentally called "Hell" or "Devil's Kitchen". After a dozen or so minutes of delight over the hellish chill and darkness, you will finally get to "Heaven".
The adventure is fantastic, fun is great for everyone and everyone from Szczeliniec comes back delighted. After crossing the trail, no one has any doubts as to the reason for abandoning the construction of a defensive fort in this place. Nature has done a great job here, creating a masterpiece that cannot be compared to anything else.
After passing all the attractions, the path will lead you down to the junction point of the trail, which I wrote about earlier, and this is the end of the trip. Just going through the bazaar, then the buffet area and you are back at the parking lot.
The map with the course and parameters of the trail is attached below:
Alternative parking and trail
There is another one worth recommending, definitely less known and less popular entrance to Szczeliniec. It starts with a small car park and is not surrounded by any stalls. The length of the route is similar to the one described above, the most popular ascent to Szczeliniec Wielki, and with a bit more elevation. It is definitely less crowded, and if you like to have a little peace and freedom, this path may be more appealing to you.
Unfortunately, the parking lot downstairs can accommodate a maximum of a dozen cars, so in the high season there is a danger that, despite the less popular, there may not be enough space for you.
Parking at the yellow trail to Szczeliniec Wielki, GPS coordinates:
50.486285, 16.334907 - click and route
The course and parameters of the trail can be seen on the map below:
Szczeliniec - opening hours
Accessibility to visiting Szczeliniec Wielki is closely related to the length of the day, so the opening hours vary depending on the season.
The times of access to the route by Szczeliniec Wielki are as follows:
- in the period from April 20 to May 31 from 9.00 a.m. to 19.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from June 1 to June 14 from 9.00 a.m. to 19.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from June 15 to June 30 from 8.00 a.m. to 20.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from July 1 to July 31 from 8.00 a.m. to 20.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from August 1 to August 31 from 8.00 a.m. to 19.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from September 1 to September 30 from 9.00 a.m. to 19.00 all days of the week;
- in the period from October 1 to October 31 from 9.00 a.m. to 16.00 on all days of the week.
Szczeliniec - tickets
As I mentioned earlier, there is a very long queue to enter Szczeliniec Wielki in the season. You can spend more than half an hour in the queue for a ticket. It is a pity to waste time on this, the more that you can buy a ticket for a specific day online in advance and then you enter on the go, without queuing. So I recommend buying a ticket on Polish National Parks website - [click].
Standing crowded, standing in line is a waste of time and no fun.
From 2022, limits for entering Szczeliniec have been introduced, and the preferred form of purchasing tickets is online purchase - [click]. Only leftovers from online sales for a given hour will be sold in the booth at the entrance to the trail. During the high season, it should be expected that there will be no chance to buy tickets on the spot, as they will all probably sell out earlier via the Internet.
Admission prices (2021):
- normal ticket - PLN 12
- reduced ticket - PLN 6
Map of Szczeliniec
Of course, the rocks and the most interesting parts of the trail have their names. For better orientation in the field, I present a map with the names of the most interesting contributions along the entire route through Szczeliniec, made available by the Table Mountains National Park.
Accommodation in the Szczeliniec area
Szczeliniec is located near several attractive holiday resorts, such as Kudowa Zdrój or Duszniki Zdrój. You will find there a few other interesting attractions (eg the Chapel of Skulls in Kudowa Zdrój - Czermna).
I have included some interesting accommodation suggestions below. In addition, I provide a link that has been prepared so that when you click on it, the search results are automatically filtered and only accommodation from the vicinity of Szczeliniec Wielki - [click]
The only thing that is missing is information about the weather. Generally, this is probably the most important piece of information 🙂
You will find it below. The weather data is updated automatically, so whenever you enter it, it will be up-to-date.
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