I had so many questions when I was planning my visit to Plitvice and couldn’t find all the answers. I would recommend staying in one of the park hotels so you can walk to the entrance and also so you can get a second day of hiking without paying a second time. If you have a pre-paid ticket (print it out to show at gate) you do not need to walk over to the place where they sell tickets (in the opposite direction of the lakes from the hotel). Follow the signs for The Lakes from the hotel to get to the entrance where you show your ticket and walk down to the boat. I only entered at Entrance 2 (stayed at Hotel Bellevue), so I don’t know anything about Entrance 1. We did the Upper Lakes in the late afternoon (4:00-6:00). We took the ferry from P1 to P2. There is about a 10 – 15 minute walk from the hotel down to the ferry. You might have to wait awhile for the ferry, but shouldn’t be too long. Quick ride over to P2. From there we followed the “E” trail all the way to the bus stop (ST3). People talk about this being uphill, but we really didn’t notice too much that we were walking uphill and my husband has hips that are sensitive to uphill climbs. At this time of day this walk was great – not that many other people – very peaceful and enjoyable. I wasn’t quite as impressed with the waterfalls as I expected to be (maybe because it was September? – although there was water flowing) but I also wasn’t expecting just the general beauty of the park. It took us about 1.5 hours to walk from P2 to the bus stop. There is also an option of turning back about half way there and walking back to the ferry stop on a different trail. Either would be nice. Probably about the same amount of time. I think the shuttle bus/train runs every half hour. We entered the park just after 4:00 and caught the 6:00 bus back. We ate dinner at the restaurant that sits by itself near the Hotel Bellevue. There are options for cafeteria style or ‘sit down and order’ restaurant style. The place was virtually empty at 6:30. We opted for the “National Restaurant” because we couldn’t even tell if the cafeteria place was open. It was a decent meal at a decent price.
Be sure to get your ticket stamped by the hotel if you are going out a second day. The next morning we had the hotel prepare us a bag breakfast that we picked up at the desk at 6:45am. I did not realize that the P2 to P3 ferry (or the buses?) do not run until 8:00am, although the park opens at 7:00. If I had known this I would have eaten breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 and then walked down to the entrance. I was able to take the P1 to P2 ferry about 7:15 and did a bit of walking around the upper lakes while I waited for the P2 to P3 ferry at 8:00. It took about 20 minutes for the boat to get to P3. Only a few people on the boat. When I got to P3 I walked up the road to the high trail above the lower lakes. If you walk down this road (keep going past the point where the trail turns to go down to the lower lakes) there are side trails that go off to viewpoints over the lower lakes. Be sure to go to the one with the rock wall for a great view. Eventually this turns into a trail (going away from the “road”) and there is a spectacular view point of the canyon before you go down a long set of stone steps to the big waterfall. The problem with doing this is that I got down to the main trail through the lower lakes later and it was jammed. I don’t know how much better it would have been if I had gone directly there instead of taking the high trail (which didn’t take more than a half hour). The lower lakes are beautiful but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the upper lakes because the trail was so crowded (and this was at 9:00am in mid-September – it probably got worse as the day went on). You could walk back to P3 and take the ferry or go to bus stop ST1 and take the bus back to ST2 (I took the bus – faster I think). It didn’t take me much more than an hour to do the upper and lower trails (at the Lower Lakes only).