Barania Góra, emblematic mountain of the Vistula
Barania Góra, the "Mountain of the sheep", 1220m, second tallest of the Silesian Beskids after Skrzyczne for a story of few meters, can legitimately advertise itself to the mountain lovers as the first to visit for few reasons.
Lovers of peacefulness will above all appreciate the lack of infrastructures on its top, apart from a judiciously located outlook tower that allows panoramic views above the tree-line.
Barania Góra is also known as the emblematic mountain of the Vistula (Wisła, just like the homonym mountain resort on its foot), where Poland's largest river, flowing over 1048km via Cracow and Warszaw till the Baltic, takes its source. To be precise, two sister streams, the Black and the White Vistula (Czarna Wisełka i Biała Wisełka), born on different slopes (the first at the Przysłop pass, the other at Magurka Wiślańska) merge into a reservoir, Jezioro Czernianskie. Into whose downstream end merges a third river, the Malinka. All three are beautiful mountain streams that flow into cascades, and along which go some of the routes that are commonly walked like a sort of pilgrimage.
Barania Góra is indeed the tallest of a serie of tops gradually growing on a large massif from North to South, including Malinów, Malinowska Skała, Zielony Kopiec, Magurka Wiślańska and Barania itself. The ridge walk provides extensive panoramic views to the surrounding valleys and villages such as Milówka, Kamesznica, Koniaków. On a clear day, a wide portion the Tatras, the Malá Fatra, and the rest of the Beskids (Moravian on the West, Żywiecki on the East) are commonly seen.
On Malinowska Skała is located a feature worth mention, some bizarre sandstone outcrops somehow similar to those on Kiczory, in the Stożek Wielki range.
The massif of Barania Góra is separated from the rest of the Silesian Beskids by two high road passes, Kubalonka (758m) and Samopolska (937m), which are both sought-after goals for road cycling and made many times stages of legend of the Tour de Pologne. Kubalonka marks the limit with the Western Silesian Beskid and Stożek Wielki, while Samopolska separates it from the entity of Skrzyczne.
Barania Góra is also a natural reserve that extends on most of the western slope, in the perimeter formed by the rivers Malinka and Black Vistula. Many endemic plants and trees grow in a fragile environment that reminds of primeval forests. The route that visit the summit via the Black Vistula, the Przysłop hut, and returning via the White Vistula is an educative trail with informative panels set all along the way, informing the visitor about the specificities of the ecosystem.
The most usual and popular trailheads are from Wisła so the access to Wisła is described here. However, Milówka, Kamesznica, Koniaków end Węgierska Górka, are other possible starting points, in this case it is advised to reach first the town of Żywiec.
This is the route from Poland, but the region is close to the convergence of three borders so it is worth describing the access from Czech Republic and Slovakia.
From Czech republic and Český Těšín, one can go either via the Polish side of the city Cieszyn and then Ustroń, or via Jablunkov and the Bukovec pass that reaches Istebna and eventually Wisła by the Kubalonka pass. Longer but more scenerical.
From Slovakia, we get into Poland via Zwardoń, which provides access to Koniaków and possibly the Kubalonka pass as above, despite the trailheads on the Żywiec are reached faster.
Żywiec, Węgierska Górka, Milówka as well as Wisła are all served by train lines. Kamesznica and Koniaków aren't, but buses are going there.
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Given the amount of trails that visit this mountain, a simple map is better than a long paragraph.
Instead, here are few ideas of loops that make a complete overview of the mountain :
- Loop by the valleys of Czarna Wisełka and Biała Wisełka. The same can be done returning along the Malinka, or the yellow-marked trail running on the W ridge of Zielony Kopiec. This is the "usual" visit.
- Loop from Węgierska Górka, using the red and the green trails
- Loop from Kamesznica , using the yellow and black trails
* Mountain huts
- Schronisko Górskie na Przysłopie pod Baranią Górą. Large cubic concrete mountain hut, not very good looking but in a nice location. Accessible by bike thanks to the asphalted track. The only one in the whole mountain.
- Wildcamping : forbidden into the Natural reserve (perimeter formed by the rivers Malinka and Black Vistula). Very little place in other locations due to the lack of grassy meadows into deep forests.
- Official campsites in Wisła and Węgierska Górka
- Lots of accomodations, from agrotouristic farms (strongly recommended if you are a mountain lover) to luxuous hotesl, in the Wisła and the Żywiec valleys. Just look into google for a location name followed by one of the words as follows :
- Accomodation = Noclegi
- Hotel = Hotel/Hotel. "Hostels" often designate Youth hostels or motels.
- Green lodge = Agroturystyka
- Guesthouse = Pokoje gościnne
- Summer residence = Dom letniskowe
- Flat for rent = Kwatery
- Mountain hut = Schronisko
- Tavern = Chata (not to mix with the Czech homonym for mountain hut)
- Restaurant = Restoracja
- Campsite = Kemping