Hiking in Austria: The Ultimate Guide
Austria encompasses the largest portion of the Alps among the eight alpine countries, roughly 29%. The Alps cover 60% of the country’s territory, only leaving out the western and northern parts of Austria. It makes it an attractive destination for all outdoor enthusiasts, from skiers to mountaineers and hikers.
The mountain area is dotted with trails of different difficulties and is covered by what is supposed to be over 500 mountain huts. Every hiker can enjoy their hospitality while exploring the breathtaking world of the Austrian Alps.
We hope this guide can help you see what hut-to-hut hiking in Austria is like and inspire you to spend your upcoming holidays in the Austrian Alps.
The hiking season in Austria lasts from mid-June to mid-late September. It is also when the mountain huts are open. They close their doors during winter and remain closed for as long as snow persists.
Outside the hiking season, winter transforms Austria into a snowy wonderland, perfect for skiing adventures. Discover the magic of winter with Ski Holidays Austria, offering a captivating experience amidst Austria's pristine snow-covered landscapes.
While some low-lying lodges may open their doors in May and remain open until October, you should not count on it if you plan your trip in advance.
You can visit any time from late June to early September without worrying about unwanted surprises. However, you will enjoy the most advantages if you come in early summer: blooming nature, fewer people, long days, and reasonable temperatures.
The high season lasts from late July to late August, with the footpaths and huts getting more crowded, the temperatures rising, and the weather growing more unstable.
The conditions become more appealing in September again, but you should keep in mind that the days grow shorter. If you know how to pace yourself well, though, it should not be a problem. An additional layer of clothing will also be welcome for the colder mornings.
During the hiking season, the temperatures can get relatively high. Although they mostly stay between 20°C and 30°C in the valleys, they can also rise above 30°C. Higher in the mountains, the temperatures are well above 20°C when the day is sunny, but that can change quickly during cloudy and windy days.
Afternoon storms are the hiker's main enemy. They are quite often during hot summer days and form quickly to surprise you in an inconvenient situation if you are unprepared. Therefore, you should regularly check the local weather forecast and plan your day accordingly.
Such storms also bring a decrease in temperatures, so you should be prepared for that as well.
Night temperatures fall considerably, meaning the mornings are colder too, and usually more pleasant for hiking. If you pace yourself well, you can be done for the day by the time it gets too hot. You also minimize the risk of getting caught in a storm.
Mountain huts are a familiar sight in the Austrian Alps. Most of them are managed by the Austrian Alpine Club, the largest mountaineering organization in the country. Although the huts differ in some things, you should receive some information about the basics of staying there.
Here is a quick overview of the most important guidelines when visiting Austria's mountain lodges:
Most mountain huts are rustic and do not offer luxurious accommodations. The logistics are too complicated for anything more than basic comfort high in the Alps. Nonetheless, you will cherish their authenticity and will not wish for more. By hiking, you should be getting away from the grandeur of civilization and learning how to be content with minimal things.
Most huts, especially the larger ones, offer different rooms, ranging from private rooms with one or two beds to dormitories, where you sleep with fellow hikers. Private rooms are in the minority, and they get booked sooner, so keep that in mind if that is paramount to you. While you do not need a sleeping bag with you, you have to bring your sleeping liner, so the huts will not have to wash bed linen every day. You might have to buy a disposable one on the spot if you do not bring your own.
While most huts have showers, their water supply may be rain-dependent. That can be problematic during droughty summers. We advise that you limit your expectations and avoid disappointment if they are unavailable. They are also not included in the price for your overnight stay. You will have to buy shower tokens that cost up to 5€ for a 3-4 minute shower.
As we are used to being surrounded by technology in our everyday lives, you might find it strange coming to terms with the huts not having mobile reception. Not all of them have that luxury, and you should prepare to spend a night or two without checking your emails.
Paying with credit cards is even less common. You must carry enough cash, especially if your hiking route does not pass valleys and larger towns. A minimum amount is between 60€ and 80€ per day per person.
You will not find as many dishes on the huts’ menus as you might in restaurants, but the local homemade food is delicious. Most mountain lodges serve traditional Austrian food, and you will get to try various dishes on your hut-to-hut hikes. Breakfast is usually standardized, but you will always find something different on your plate for dinner or lunch. As for drinks, you can always get the essentials in the huts: beer and schnapps! You can also buy bottled water and soft drinks, but do not expect too big of a selection.
Following mountain-hut etiquette is another essential piece of advice. Wearing your hiking shoes inside is a no-go. Optimally, you should bring slippers, but most lodges have a collection of crocs and flip-flops you can borrow. You should also respect “quiet time” after 10 pm and let everybody get sufficient sleep for the next day. When you leave the hut, try to do so without waking up other guests and take your trash to the valley.
Hut-to-hut hiking is getting more popular by the year, meaning the huts can get relatively crowded during the high season. You should always book as soon as possible to guarantee yourself a room or a bed for the night you will be visiting. Sometimes, you can book just a few weeks before your trip, but you might even have to do it a few months in advance for a private room.
You can book some of the Austrian mountain huts via the Alpsonline.org website on the internet. Your other options are to do it by phone or email. If you join the Austrian Alpine Club, you will also enjoy discounts for overnight stays in the huts, priority treatment, and insurance for mountain rescue with your membership card.
Booking huts as a foreigner is most likely a task you would rather have someone else do for you. And you can!
On our hut-to-hut hiking tours in Austria, we book all your accommodations to let you enjoy this hassle-free hiking holiday.
While most hiking trails in Austria are appropriate for any regular hiker, multi-day tours demand hours-long trekking and overcoming the altitude difference with a heavy backpack for multiple days in turn. And not just anybody can do that.
Being physically prepared for hiking is the first step you should take before starting to plan to have enjoyable trekking holidays. We adjusted our hut-to-hut hiking tours in Austria to make them achievable for a wider audience, but you still do not want to tackle them straight from the couch.
If you are a regular hiker, hiking weekly or at least bi-weekly, and not unfamiliar with multi-day hikes, you have a decent base for a hut-to-hut tour. If not, however, you should start by hiking every week, even if it is just a local knoll you are conquering. You can gradually increase distance and elevation gain before also adding some weight.
As you will be hiking with quite a heavy backpack, you should get used to it beforehand. Fill it up for one of your training hikes and see how it affects your shoulders, back, and overall performance.
The pace is not as important as mileage. The more kilometers of hiking you put behind you, the less shock it will be on your body when you go trekking from hut to hut. Your legs should be used to doing between 10 and 15 kilometers per day, remaining sure-footed. Otherwise, you are at risk of making a mistake on technical terrain, which usually leads to a dangerous fall.
To sum it up, you should definitely not take hiking in the Austrian Alps lightly, but if you are well-prepared, you should not worry about encountering any real issues. The trails are comfortable for hiking as they are not too rocky or demand any climbing skills.
There is a saying. And it goes something like this: “If you want to know how experienced a mountaineer is, watch him while he is packing his backpack.”
Going into the mountains is always somewhat risky, and you do not want to omit particular pieces of equipment you will sorely need. But you also have to be wise about it and discern essentials from dead weight. Every extra pound counts when you are hiking day after day.
The most vital pieces of your gear are your hiking shoes. Trail running shoes are gaining in popularity nowadays, and several hikers are already using them for multi-day treks. If you are an experienced hiker and have previously used trail running shoes for hiking on rugged terrain, you can also take them in the Austrian Alps.
Otherwise, we strongly recommend bringing hiking shoes or boots, as they are sturdier and offer support to your ankles. Carrying a heavy backpack takes a toll on your feet, and you are less likely to suffer an injury wearing hiking boots than trail running shoes.
Make sure that you feel comfortable in them, though. They should not hurt your feet or give you blisters. Otherwise, you might come to regret every step you take on your way.
Here is our list of all the essentials you will need on your hut-to-hut hiking in Austria:
While you can always draw up your own hut-to-hut hiking route, it might be better to start by sticking to established courses. They are easier to navigate, and with all the information about them available, you can prepare yourself for everything that awaits you. Austria boasts several, ranging from technically challenging to undemanding and from very long to shorter.
Adlerweg is Austria’s ultimate hiking challenge. It spans 413 kilometers, crosses 7 mountain ranges, and overcomes more than 31,000 meters of elevation gain across its 33 stages. The route's trace on the map resembles an eagle with wings outspread, giving it a suitable name, which translates to the Eagle Walk.
The trail is divided into two parts: the North Tyrolean and East Tyrolean. The Northern Adlerweg begins in St. Johann, passing Innsbruck, and finishes in St. Christoph am Arlberg, near the famous ski center of St. Anton am Arlberg. Meanwhile, the Eastern Adlerweg is slightly more technical and extends between Ströden and Lucknerhaus, crossing the High Tauern mountain range.
Due to its length, the Adlerweg winds across diverse terrain, accommodating all fitness levels and hiking experiences. Albeit not involving any scrambling or via ferrata routes, the trail has some height exposure upon steep slopes in certain sections, somewhere even further secured with steel cables. But most of it runs along cart tracks, forest paths, rocky trails, and even roads.
Hiking the entire Adlerweg is quite an extreme physical challenge, demanding more than a month of continuous hiking day after day. Most hikers trying to complete it space their plan out over multiple years.
Unless you intend to hike the whole route, you can stick to the parts you feel comfortable undertaking and avoid the technical sections. Consequently, the physical demands will be lower as well. As such, Adlerweg can be adapted to all hikers so everyone can witness its most picturesque parts.
Our Adlerweg Highlights hut-to-hut tour is appropriate for anyone with some hiking experience, fitness, and sure-footedness.
Spanning almost the entire Tyrol, the Adlerweg crosses the most breathtaking landscapes in Austria on its way — glacial valleys, emerald lakes, booming meadows, steep mountain passes, jagged peaks, waterfalls, lively mountain streams, and more.
While you might find yourself with your mouth more open than not anywhere along the trail, the most scenic part of the Adlerweg is in the Karwendel Alps. From Achen Lake in the east to Scharnitz in the west and Innsbruck in the south, the mountain range uncovers many colorful hidden gems for its visitors.
If you want to visit the most picturesque part of the Adlerweg, check out our Adlerweg Highlights tour, which takes you through the heart of the Karwendel Alps.
As a well-known and popular hut-to-hut hike, the Adlerweg is equipped with blazes and signs showing you the way. A yellow eagle logo means you are on the right path, but mostly you will follow the common Austrian red-white-red trail markers.
You will also find tables with information at the start and end of each stage. You will find out about the level of difficulty, estimated hiking time, stage number, and information about the huts along the way.
Circling around the Stubai Valley, the Stubai High Trail is 80 kilometers long and covers more than 5000 meters of elevation. It starts and ends in the alpine town of Neustift im Stubaital (you can also wrap up in the nearby Neder).
Austrians believe it is one of the country's most stunning hut-to-hut hike trails. Aside from the breathtaking views of the surrounding three-thousanders and their glaciers, the 7-stage route takes you past striking waterfalls, glacial lakes, and rustic mountain huts above 2000 meters.
Classified as a black (meaning difficult) trail per Austrian standards, the Stubai High Trail is a more trying technical challenge than Adlerweg. It involves a lot of walking across steep scree slopes on somewhat narrow footpaths, so you have to be used to height exposure aside from being sure-footed.
There are sections where a steel cable secures the most technical meters, but you will not have to do any climbing or scrambling. You can bypass the most demanding part of the route over the steel rungs below the Bremer Hütte and head along a much easier path. As such, you will not have to test your limits.
As for the physical difficulties, they are lesser than you might face on the Adlerweg. The stages are shorter and involve less elevation.
The whole area of Stubai Alps is stunning, with its towering peaks reaching above an altitude of 3000 meters. Besides equipping the landscape with a panoramic touch, the glaciers also fuel crystal-clear mountain streams, which make their way across the steep rocky slopes and form waterfalls before they find their bed along the valley floor.
The route leads across many scenic mountain passes, serving you with astonishing views of the valleys below and mountains above.
Our Stubai High Trail 5 Days hut-to-hut tour takes you past the highlights along the route, picking only the technically least demanding parts and housing you in four authentic mountain huts with breathtaking views.
Similarly to Adlerweg, the red-white-red signs will tell you whether you are on the right path. The whole route is well marked, and you will find painted markers with a designated trail number along it.
If you join one of our hiking tours, you will not need to worry about navigation as we will equip you with a GPS track of the planned route and offer you 24/7 support during your trek.
The Emperor's Crown Trail, also known as "Kaiserkrone," is a 65-km loop that encircles the Wilder Kaiser massif in Tirol, Austria. The trail is traditionally completed in 5-7 stages, each ending at either a mountain hut or a village with accommodation options. This trail is perfect for those new to multi-day hiking, as it offers moderate difficulty and avoids highly-exposed or technically challenging paths.
The Emperor's Crown Trail is an intermediate-level hike marked by red trails. It avoids highly exposed and technically demanding sections, making it accessible for hikers of varying skill levels. However, some stages involve long ascents, so physical fitness is essential. The trail is well-maintained, with any steep or semi-exposed sections secured for safety.
The trail takes you through active mountain pastures, dense forests of beech, birch, and spruce, and rolling ridges. The quality of the mountain huts and valley accommodations adds to the overall experience. The trail is best hiked from June until mid-October, depending on snow conditions.
If you're looking for a moderate yet rewarding hiking experience, our Emperor's Crown Trail tour is the perfect choice.
The Salzburger Almenweg is a 350-kilometer-long trail divided into 31 stages, offering a diverse hiking experience as you trek from one alpine pasture to the next. The circular hike is highly adaptable, allowing you to start and end your trek wherever and whenever you want. It accommodates hikers of all levels, from experienced mountaineers to families with children, and even allows dogs in many huts.
The trail is divided into different stages with varying levels of difficulty, making it accessible for both seasoned hikers and families. On average, you can expect to walk between 5 and 7 hours per day. The trail is well-marked and offers different terrains, from easy walks to more challenging ascents.
The Salzburger Almenweg is known for its stunning alpine pastures, or "Almen," and offers a unique experience of trekking from one to the next. The trail also provides the flexibility to choose your own adventure, whether you want to complete it in smaller sections or tackle multiple stages at once. The best season to hike is from mid-June to late September, when the weather is favorable, and most huts are open.
Karwendel High Trail, also known as Karwendel Höhenweg in German, is a 6-stage hut-to-hut hiking trail located in the Karwendel Mountains in Tyrol, Austria. This high alpine route offers a variety of experiences, including thrilling peak summits, impressive balcony trails, riverside walking, and numerous ascents and descents. Each stage ends in a cozy mountain refuge, where hikers can relax and enjoy Tyrolean cuisine.
The trail measures 60 kilometers and involves a total elevation gain and loss of 7000 meters. Due to its rigorous nature, this 6-day hike requires good stamina and conditioning. High-cut hiking boots and hiking poles are essential for this route. The trail varies in difficulty, from easy segments that follow wide gravel tracks to more challenging sections that require surefootedness and a lack of fear of heights.
The Karwendel High Trail is a feast for the eyes and the soul. It encompasses thrilling peak summits and offers impressive balcony trails. The trail also includes riverside walking and countless ascents and descents that will satisfy your alpine wanderlust. The hike takes you through protected areas in the Karwendel Mountains, making it essential for hikers to adhere to responsible travel guidelines, such as staying on marked trails and not disturbing wildlife.
The Lynx Trail is a long-distance hiking trail consisting of 11 stages that traverse three large internationally recognized protected areas, including Austria's first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site (beech forests). The trail spans from the Kalkalpen National Park into the Gesäuse National Park and then the Dürrenstein Wilderness Area. It offers a unique experience as it takes you through the habitat of the lynx, one of the most elusive and mysterious creatures in the wilderness.
The Lynx Trail is designed to be accessible for hikers of varying skill levels. At 210 kilometers, the trail is well-marked and offers a range of terrains. It is a long-distance trail, so a moderate level of fitness is recommended.
The trail is more than just a hiking route; it's a journey through the wilderness that offers a spiritual connection with nature. The lynx serves as the symbol of this wilderness, and though you may not see one, you'll certainly feel its presence.
The Lech River Trail is a renowned hiking route in Austria, certified by the European Ramblers Association for its quality. The trail stretches over 125 kilometers and starts in Lech Am Arlberg, concluding in Füssen. It is one of Europe's last wild river landscapes, offering hikers an opportunity to explore the Lechtal Valley's unique fauna and panoramic views from peaks at 1830 meters.
The trail is considered intermediate in terms of difficulty. While it is a long-distance hike, it is mostly downhill, making it accessible even for those who are not expert hikers. The trail is well-marked and takes you through a variety of terrains, offering both challenges and easier sections.
The Lech River Trail is not just famous for its natural beauty but also for its quality standards. The trail takes you through the Lechtal Valley, offering unique fauna and breathtaking views. One of the must-visit spots along the trail is the Holzgau Bridge, the second-longest hanging bridge in Austria, providing an adrenaline rush for those who dare to cross it.
The Schladminger Tauern High Trail is a multi-day hike in the Austrian Alps, specifically in the Schladminger Tauern mountains. The trail offers panoramic views of alpine lakes, mountains, meadows, and waterfalls. Typically completed in 5-7 days, the hike takes you through charming mountain huts that offer Austrian cuisine and lodging options.
The trail is challenging but can be shortened if you don't want to commit to the full length. It covers a distance of 45 km, with varying levels of difficulty and elevation gain. The terrain includes a mix of ridgelines, valleys, and alpine cirques.
The trail offers stunning views of the Schladminger Tauern mountains, including the highest peak, Hochgolling, with an elevation of 2,862 meters. Along the way, you'll encounter picturesque alpine lakes like Giglachseen and Brettersee, as well as cascading waterfalls. The huts along the trail, such as Ignaz-Mattis Hütte and Keinprechthütte, provide cozy accommodations and hearty meals.
The Venediger High Trail is a captivating trek in the Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria's largest national park. This 7-day hike takes you through the Venediger Group, a subrange of the Central Eastern Alps. The trail is approximately 50 kilometers long and offers an elevation gain of over 4,000 meters, making it a challenging yet rewarding experience.
The Venediger High Trail is considered a moderate to challenging trek, requiring good fitness and some alpine experience. The trail features a variety of terrains, from rocky paths to glacier crossings. While the hike doesn't involve technical climbing, it does require the use of crampons and an ice axe for certain sections, particularly when crossing glaciers like the Schlatenkees.
The trail offers an array of natural wonders, from towering peaks like the Großvenediger, which stands at 3,666 meters, to stunning glaciers and turquoise alpine lakes. One of the most memorable parts of the trail is the Innergschlöss, often referred to as the "most beautiful valley end of the Alps." Along the route, you'll also have the opportunity to stay in traditional mountain huts, such as the Neue Prager Hütte and the Defreggerhaus, which offer spectacular views and a taste of Austrian hospitality.
The Peter Habeler Runde is a circular trek that starts and ends in Vals, a mountaineering village in Tyrol, Austria. The hike was dedicated to Austrian mountaineer Peter Habeler, who made history by climbing Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1978. The trek is 56.1 kilometers long and has a total elevation gain and loss of 4,230 meters. It can be completed in 5 to 7 days, depending on your pace.
The trek is considered moderate but is not for the faint-hearted. It goes over rough terrain and has some exposed sections that are not suitable for people with a fear of heights. The most challenging part is the Friesenbergscharte, which is only accessible in good weather conditions. The trail requires experience in hiking on alpine terrain and sure-footedness.
The trek offers a variety of landscapes, from alpine pastures to barren stone landscapes. It overlaps with other popular trails like the Berlin Höhenweg and the Alpine crossing from Munich to Venice, making the huts quite busy, especially during July and August. The trek provides an excellent opportunity to experience the Austrian Alps, with cozy mountain huts waiting for you at the end of each stage.
We wanted to provide you with some thorough insight before you head on your hiking journey in Austria. Consequently, you can prepare for when you want to visit this beautiful alpine country for a hike.
You do not need to feel overwhelmed before even starting to plan because you can always find the right people to coordinate the tour instead — preferably someone with hiking experience and detailed knowledge of the area you are visiting. They allow you to skip this time-consuming and stressful process to give you enough time and energy for training.
Check out our self-guided hut-to-hut hiking tours in Austria, and let us know how we can help you plan the trek of your lifetime.
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