Zakopane has plenty of hikes for walkers of all abilities and fitness levels. Many of the trails lead off just a short distance from the center of town. The trails are clearly marked, and good hiking maps are available from the tourist information office or shops around town that specialize in hiking equipment. Keep in mind that these are mountains and treat them accordingly: Get an early start, pack plenty of water and sunscreen, and start heading down the mountain at the first sign of an afternoon thunderstorm. For more ambitious climbs, guides are available from the Polish Association of Mountain Guides (Polskie Stowarzyszenie Przewodników Wysokogórskich; Droga na Wierch 4; www.pspw.pl in Polish only). On the website, you'll find a list of guides, with a photo and a telephone number for each. Individual guides start at daily rates of around 800 z for one person and 900 z for two. You can also sign up for one of the guided walking tours or extreme hiking tours offered by Zakopane Tours (www.zakopane-tours.com).
Not surprisingly, in recent years, Zakopane has become increasingly popular with mountain bikers, and a network of cycling trails now complements the hiking trails. Biking is also a good way to get around in nice weather, since the resort is spread out and walking from place to place can take a lot of time. Check in with one of the tourist information offices for rental information and to buy a cycling map.
In winter, the most popular hill for skiing is Kasprowy Wierch (1,987m/6,519 ft.); several slopes of all difficulty levels start here. The cable-car operator Polskie Koleje Linowe has an excellent website (tel. 18/201-45-10; www.pkl.pl) listing prices and timetables for lifts and cable cars, and also for the funicular to another popular destination, Gubakowa. To reach it, take a bus from Zakopane to Kuznice, and then go by cable car to the peak. The Harenda ski area (Harenda 63; tel. 18/202-56-80; www.harendazakopane.pl) is small but has several lifts and a snow park for boarding. Nosal (Balzera 30; tel. 18/206-27-00; www.nosal.pl) is another popular ski area, with ski rentals and a highly recommended ski school for beginners.
Zakopane is a good base for rafting the Dunajec River, which runs through a gorge in the Pieniny mountains east of the Tatras along the border with Slovakia. Dunajec is about 60km (37 miles) from Zakopane and the drive/bus ride takes around an hour. Rafting season runs from April through October, and on a sunny afternoon this can be a fabulous day out, especially for kids. It's less white-water rafting and more of a slow, gentle float down the river on group rafts manned by Górale mountain men kitted out in their traditional folk garb. The boating center on the Polish side is at Sromowce Katy. For information, contact the main organizer, the unpronounceable Polskie Stowarzyszenie Flisaków Pieninskich-Biuro Spywu (tel. 18/262-97-21; www.flisacy.com.pl). Prices start around 50 z per person. Alternatively, the Info-Tour travel agency (Koscieliska 11b; tel. 18/206-42-64) is one of several agencies in Zakopane that can arrange rafting trips, including transportation, for about 120 z a person.