Hiking in the Austrian Alps

We had a two week holiday in the Austrian Alps in July 2018. Our aim was to hike on trails as high up in the mountains as we could without climbing and thus avoiding the need for technical climbing or glacier kit (we did carry lightweight ice axes though). We chose to not bring the tent along as well and to overnight using the alpine hut network across Austria. This was a big change for us as we like the freedom and solitude of camping, but the huts allowed us to go light and are a cultural experience in themselves.

So we flew from Scotland to Munich, then trains to Innsbruck in Austria. From there trains to our startpoint at the winter ski resort of Mayrhofen. Then… hike roughly westwards! The three ranges we crossed through were the Zillertal, Stubai and Otztal Alps and you can read our story in the links below…..

Overview map

Zillertal Aps

Stubai Alps

Ötztal Alps

Photo gallery

Thoughts on the hike We followed marked trails all the way on this trip but they took us through some incredible alpine scenery. Many times the trail looked improbable but wound its way through boulder fields, snow slopes, high passes and scrambles aided by ‘via ferrata’. The addition of an extra scramble to the summit of Inner Wetterspitze (3050m) was a great bonus.

The hiking included lots of ascent and descent and many trails were bouldery or over rocks so the going was slow. But the scenery was almost continually dazzling

We hiked from July 7th – 20th which is quite early season for the Alps and there were a few snow patches covering the trails but nothing that caused a problem. We did carry lightweight ice axes and were glad to have them at times for security crossing and descending icy snow patches.

The huts were a positive experience. I have to say I still prefer wild camping with its freedom to lay down where you like and not be confined indoors in bunks or to fixed eating times. But the food was mostly pretty great, the wardens friendly, it was good to chat to other hikers and each hut had great character and sited with splendid views.

In comparison to the classic US trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide, Austria provided more spectacular true alpine scenery with many glaciers and scrambling in exposed positions. There are more people though and much less wilderness with huts, the odd ski resort, occasional pylons dotted around. Trails are universally excellent and well marked but often include scrambling or via ferrata.

The lower valleys and villages are scenic and make resupplying easy. That plus the superb public transport network makes organising getting to and from trailheads simple.

We really enjoyed our visit and would easily head back out to Austria for another hike!

Resources

Walking in Austria Cicerone Solid overview. Check out the rest of the Cicerone website for various other Austrian guidebooks.

Walking Austria’s Alps hut to hut Cordee  Out of print 1999 guide but still available and an excellent book with lots of hiking ideas.

Trekking in the Zillertal Alps Cicerone Definitive guide to doing the Zillertal Rucksack Route (Hoehenweg) which is a classic 7-8 day loop in the area. We followed most of this then cut west from the Olperer Hut. Also good info on additional peak ascents along the way.

Trekking in the Stubai Alps Cicerone Another excellent detailed guide to the Stubai Alps this time.

Electronic maps on Viewranger android app I loaded Compass maps onto the Viewranger app on my mobile phone. Not absolutely necessary but I found these maps useful.

Paper maps from Compass

Austrian Alpine Club (UK branch) By joining you get discount rates at the huts as well as rescue insurance and many other benefits. Definitely worthwhile.

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