With thousands upon thousands of kilometers of the Alps, Austria feels like heaven on Earth for mountaineers, hikers, trekkers and all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. It’s no secret that Austria is famous as a skiing destination, but hikers know that the Alps can be even more beautiful during the warmer months.
From easy, 2-hour loop trails on level terrain to backpacking expeditions that will take you weeks to complete – there are some great hikes in Austria, and many that are suitable for everyone. Read on to learn more about the top 11 trails in the country!
Before we get into those incredible hiking trails, we have some quick tips for you that will help you really make the most of your hiking in Austria.
Most of the hiking trails are public transport friendly – the busses will take you even to the tiniest and most remote villages precisely because they are popular with foreigners.
Hiking in Austria is best done May through October – during the other months, the mountain are normally covered with snow. If you don’t want to ski at all and just want to hike in their amazing mountains, we highly recommend you plan your trip to Austria during the summer. July and August are probably the best months to go since the temperatures are nowhere near as harsh as they are in late spring or early fall.
I will include a link to Austria’s mountain safety tips, but one of the things you should be aware of is presence of wild and farm animals pretty much everywhere. Do not disturb them and let them do their thing in peace. Also, if you are thinking of bringing your dog on a hike, make sure that it’s allowed to do so. Some of the trails pass through private property, and not all owners allow you to have an animal on their land.
Some things are not even listed on their mountain guides because they are implied, but beginners might not be entirely aware of them – always check whether you need technical equipment, wear sturdy boots with good traction, bring your own food and water and be prepared for sudden weather changes. And obviously, do not attempt trails that are well above your skill level!
The Wachau World Heritage trail is a hike with many different stages. You could make it a short 2-hour hike if you want to see just a few interesting spots, or you could turn it into a 180-kilometer backpacking trip, if you want to explore every single sight on the trail!
The long version of the trail takes you through the Danube Valley and the entire Wachau Wine county. Along the way you will see over 20 different castles, ruins, fortresses and more scenic viewpoints than you can count. You will also hike across stone terraces, steep mountain hills and even cross several forest paths.
It is possible to pay for a guided tour of the entire trail. It is quire pricey, but it does include staying in hotels, bus tickets, wine tastings and more.
If you’re not in the mood for 8-10 days of backpacking, then just go on the trail stage that takes you from Maria Laach church to Aggsbach Markt. It’s just a 2-hour trail with multiple interesting landmarks and gorgeous landscapes.
The Lünersee loop is an excellent easy hike for families. It’s suitable even for hiking beginners, and it only takes up to two hours max. If you want to enjoy the beauty of Austrian landscapes without actually breaking a sweat, this is one of the best trails to explore.
The loop spans 6 kilometers along the banks of Lünersee, offering stunning picturesque scenery with every step. The majority of the trail is on ground level, with just one steep ascent to the left of the dam.
Now, if you’re up for something more challenging, there are several detours along the circuit trail that you can go and explore. They’ll take you up to nearby summits, for even more spectacular views of this stunning lake and the landscape that surrounds it. However, these detours are not recommended for people with little hiking experience, as the trails are much steeper and more difficult than the simple lake loop.
If you want to enjoy idyllic scenery, thrilling rope bridges and gorgeous waterfalls, this is a great trail for you. It is pretty short – the entire circuit is only some 4 kilometers and can be covered in under 2 hours, but only by people who are in pretty good shape. Don’t let the length of the trail fool you – it’s a moderately difficult hike, suitable for hikers who don’t hesitate.
The main views of the trail are undoubtedly the imposing Riesach waterfalls that are the highest in Styria. After the enchanting waterfalls, the steep trail takes you to Riesachsee lake and then through the Höll gorge. Since ‘Höll’ literally means hell, it’s safe to say that this trail is not suitable for small children or dogs. The ascent is really steep and the suspension bridge is only slightly terrifying. But the viewing platforms make it all worth it, especially if you remember to bring your favorite camera so that you can capture those stunning views.
One of the more challenging and strenuous trails in Austria is the Alp Tour Obertal. The 11-kilometer hike takes you from Hopfriesen to Giglachseen Lakes, with some extraordinary stops along the way.
Some of the highlights of the hike include the 19th century Nickel Museum – which is in fact a smelting furnace -, three remarkably beautiful lakes that will take your breath away and rather unique flora.
The trail begins at Hopfriesen and the first part takes you along the classic Miner’s Trail. From there, you will pass through forests, go over creeks, pass by lakes and various interesting rock formations. You will eventually get to Murspitzsattel mountain saddle, which offers sepctacular views of the Duisitzkar cirque and its amazing lake. After that, the trail descends into the cirque, with several huts along the way where you can stop for a break.
It’s only downhill from there – the end of the trail is the valley floor of Eschachboden, while the bus back to Schladming departs next to Eschachalm inn. One important thing to note about this trail is that it passes over multiple private properties. Owners of those don’t allow for dogs, so you can’t bring your canine friend along for the hike.
The Salzburger Almenweg is a 350-kilometer trail with 31 different stages. Experienced backpackers could attempt to cross the entire trail – with more than 550 huts along the way, there’s no shortage of places where you can rest and get something to eat. And if you’re not up for a two-week hiking expedition, then just selecting one or two of the best stages is a great option for you.
The trail stages vary in difficulty and length – some are just 2-hour walks, while others are 11-kilometer trails that are strenuous even for the most experienced hikers.
Stage 2 is probably one of the best paths for beginners and people who just want to look at idyllic scenery. It’s an 11-kilometer trail without any significant climbs, so it’s suitable for pretty much everyone. You can cross the trail in just 3-4 hours, and you will get to experience some mesmerizing scenic views of the Alpine range along the way.
If you’re into more challenging hikes, stage 29 is great for you. It takes you from Hofpürglhütte to St. Martin, and it includes a pretty steep ascent and an even steeper descent. The trail is some 21 kilometers long and it takes at least 9 hours to complete passing through forests, along high moors, over hills and next to huts, all the while offering magnificent views of the mountainous landscapes.
The Innergschlöss Glacier Trail will take you right into the center of ‘eternal ice’ in the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park. The trail begins in Gschlöss valley, which is easily one of the most beautiful valleys in the Eastern Alps. From there, you will ascend to the Salzbodensee lake, pass by a cliffside chapel and even stare into God’s Eye – a small, eye-shaped tarn.
The trail then takes you to a bridge over the Schlatenbach river and ultimately to a stunning lookout point that stares directly into the glacier. From there, just continue on the trail until you eventually end up back in the valley, and hike to Matreier Tauernhaus – the starting point of this scenic loop.
You can also shorten the hike by two hours if you get on the Venediger Taxi – it will take you from Matreier Tauernhaus directly to the start of the loop glacier trail. Even if you don’t want to skip the beginning of the trail, it’s useful to know this in case you are too tired to hike all the way back to the guesthouse once you complete the loop.
The trail begins just above Gasthof Valluga in St. Christoph with an easy uphill walk through the Maroital Valley. Although the total elevation difference is pretty big, the climbs are not very steep so they aren’t too strenuous. And after you’ve passed the tallest point, it’s all downhill from there.
The descent isn’t too steep either, making this trail perfectly suitable for intermediate hikers. The loop trail will take you all the way across the regional border and into Vorarlberg, more specifically to the Kaltenberghütte hut, which offers spectacular lake views and panorama of Klostertal Valley. Along the way you will also get some glimpses of the majestic Patteriol peak, which is often called the Matterhorn of Verwall, due to its shape.
One of the best things about this scenic hike is that it’s not too popular, so you will often have the trail all to yourself. And since you’re surrounded by untouched nature and total peace and quiet, the whole experience can easily have a therapeutic effect.
The Alpine Rose trail is a themed day hike that rewards you with a field of stunning roses. It’s a magnificent view and it smells incredible – if you want to truly enjoy the sight of the wonderful flowers, it’s best to do the hike in June or July when the roses are in full bloom.
The trail starts near the Rendlbahn Cable car – you could get in the gondola for the first ascent, which would shed off some two hours of the hike. Or you can just get on the trail there – it’s entirely up to you, so choose according to your fitness and energy levels.
If you want an even bigger challenge, you can always attempt to ascend on one of the nearby peaks. You’re in the Alps – there’s certainly no shortage of tall mountain peaks wherever you look. The Alpine Rose trail will eventually take you to Rendlalpe, from where it is possible to attempt ascents on the nearby summits. But only try this if you are fully prepared – it will add hours to the hike, and most of the trails are more difficult than the initial rose trail.
This is a scenic mountain tour that will have avid hikers and alpinists excited. The stony trail takes you to three peaks of Fuchskarspitze, and then to two more summits – the Maddona (middle) and the southern Fuchskarspitze summit.
The trail is partially exposed and rocky, making it suitable only for people with advanced hiking experience. Because of the higher difficulty, it’s almost never crowded and you can usually have it all to yourself. If you are looking for a challenging hike in Austria without all the Instagrammers, this is definitely the one to try.
Because it’s a technically difficult trail, it’s recommended that you have a safety rope – some climbs are not that easy, and if you have any doubts about whether or not you can make them, equipping the rope is the safest way to go. You should be able to pull of the hike without any other technical equipment – standard items like boots with great traction, food and sun protection are obviously implied.
The Three-Lakes loop trail is exactly what its name implies – a moderate circular trail that takes you around three lakes. As you might expect, the views along the way are absolutely magnificent. The exact lakes you will see are Vilsalpsee (pictured above), Traualpsee and Lache. All three lie in the Tannheimer Tal Valley and they are actually pretty close to one another.
Which means that this isn’t a particularly long trail. It’s about 15 kilometers, and you should be able to cover it in 5 hours or so. It’s recommended for advanced hikers because of the steep ascent – you will be going downhill for about 1,100 meters down some steep hills, which is why it’s best that beginners skip this trail.
The circuit trail actually begins with a gondola ride to the Neunerköpfle mountain, from where you will ascent to the summit for a breathtaking views of the landscape below.
Vilsalpsee is considered the most impressive lake in all of Tirol, and it is actually surrounded by a nature reserve that has some rare animal and plant species. And it’s actually the last lake you will reach on the trail (Lache is the first, followed by Traualpsee), so you can spend as much time as you want in the area, taking in the lovely scenery.
This hiking trail is perfect for people who want a real challenge. It takes you to two different summits in a day, and it’s only suitable for experienced hikers. Parts of the trail include climbing, narrow gravel paths and steep descents, which require surefootedness.
The trail starts off in Gemstelboden, where you’re already at an altitude of 1200 meters. It’s not very steep at first, so the ascent is not too tiring. There are more difficult parts here though, but the hardest ones are secured with wire rope, so they shouldn’t take too much time.
You will reach the Geißhorn summit first, after about 3-4 hours of hiking. The views from the top are absolutely spectacular – if you’re lucky enough, you might even spot some ibex! And even if you don’t, the panorama of the surrounding mountains is definitely impressive enough to keep you amazed.
From Geißhorn, it’s time to start descending to the saddle and hiking towards the second summit of the day – Kemptner Köpfle. Even though it’s actually not as tall as Geißhorn, the ascent on this summit is more difficult. But only because you have to climb the last few meters, in order to get to the true top. The descent from Kemptner Köpfle is pretty steep and includes narrow and gravel paths, so you need to bring your A-game.