Popularly known as the Puszcza Kampinoska, the Kampinos National Park begins just outside Warsaw’s northwestern administrative boundaries and stretches west for about 40km. It’s one of the largest national parks in Poland, with around three-quarters of its area covered by forest, mainly pine and oak.
The park includes Europe’s largest area of inland sand dunes, mostly tree-covered and up to 30m high, and it’s a strange feeling to have sand between your toes so far from the sea. Other parts of the park are barely accessible peat bogs that shelter much of its animal life.
Kampinos is popular with hikers and cyclists from the capital, who take advantage of its 300km of marked walking and cycling trails. The eastern part of the park, closer to the city, is more favoured by walkers as it’s accessible by public transport; the western part is less visited. As well as half- and one-day hikes, there are two long trails that traverse the entire length of the park, both starting from Dziekanów Leśny on the eastern edge of the park. The red trail (54km) ends in Brochów, and the green one (51km) in Żelazowa Wola.
If you plan on hiking in the park, buy a copy of the Compass Kampinoski Park Narodowy map (scale 1:30,000), available from bookshops in Warsaw.
Bivouac sites designated for camping are the only accommodation options within the park’s boundaries, but there are hotels close by in Czosnów, Laski, Leszno, Tułowice and Zaborów. Warsaw’s tourist information centres have a list of places to stay near the park.