Hiking in Austria: Explore This Beautiful Country on Foot

Important Things to Know for a Stress-Free Walking Holiday in Austria

Hiking in Austria is the best way to see this beautiful country and experience its traditions. There are thousands of hiking trails of all levels of difficulty across the length and breadth of Austria. Discovering them is one of the best parts of living here. We easily do 100 km of hiking per month, winter and summer. Start planning your walking holidays in Austria with our handy guide to the different hiking regions and other must-know information.

Hiking in Austria.

5 Good Reasons for Hiking in Austria

  • There’s a trail for everyone. Old, young, fit, unfit – Austria offers everyone the opportunity to put their hiking boots on and get in touch with nature. Even if you have to take a cable car to get you nearer to a mountain hut or summit, everything is possible.
  • The choices are endless – whether you are taking a leisurely walk around a lake, hiking in the Alps, or trekking from hut to hut. According to some sources, there are close to 40,000 hiking trails in Austria. I think it may even be more.
  • Trails are well-maintained and signposted. Even if you do feel lost, you’ll almost always come across a local to reassure you or help you on the right way.
  • Spectacular scenery is guaranteed. Just when you thought it can’t get prettier, completely different scenery awaits on the next summit, in the next gorge, or around the next lake.
  • Traditional mountain huts add character and provide welcome refreshments. I maintain that the best thing about hiking in the Austrian Alps is the Alm or hut at the end of the trail. Alm culture also gives you a glimpse into age-old traditions and cuisine.


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Austrian Hiking Regions

The entire Austria is basically one big hiking region. To make it easier to know what kind of hiking to expect where, here is a summary of the landscapes in Austria’s nine federal states.

Tyrol (Tirol)

A multitude of beautiful valleys with the Alps rising up around them is what characterizes hiking in the Austrian Tyrol. Hikers have access to 24,000 km of marked trails.

Austria’s highest mountain, the Großglockner at 3,798 m, lies on the border of East Tyrol and Carinthia. It forms part of the Hohe Tauern National Park where there are many superb hiking opportunities.

Around the provincial capital of Innsbruck, the Karwendel Nature Park spans 727 km² over eleven landscape conservation areas. The 413 km multi-day Adlerweg trail crosses the Karwendel mountains. You’ll also find Tyrol’s largest lake, the Achensee, nestled between the Karwendel and Rofan mountain ranges.

Gaisalm Achensee
The Gaisalm on the shore of the Achensee can only be reached on foot or by boat.

For an easier day hike near Innsbruck, the Zirbenweg provides beautiful vistas of the Inn Valley.

Other multi-day trails include the Stubai High Trail, the Tauernblick Panorama Trail in the Wilder Kaiser mountains, and the 22-stage Ötztal trek. The long-distance hike from Munich to Venice, also called the Traumpfad, crosses the North Tyrolean Alps and the area it covers is said to be one of the best places to travel for adventure in Europe.

One of the most popular hiking regions in Tyrol is the Zillertal, where numerous trails and mountain huts await you. The hike to the famous suspension bridge above the Olperer Hut is one of them.

Vorarlberg

In Austria’s westernmost province, the Verwall, Rätikon and Silvretta mountain ranges attract hikers.

The provincial capital of Bregenz is on the shore of the Bodensee (also called Lake Constance). This is the corner where Austria, Switzerland, and Germany join up. Themed hiking trails such as the Bregenz Cheese Trail combine active holidays with culinary delights.

Less than an hour from Bregenz lies the green alpine landscape of the Montafon. Over 1,000 km of trails make this region one of the most popular hiking areas in Austria.

Silbertal Langer See Vorarlberg
The Silbertal Langer See in the Montafon mountains. © Österreich Werbung Fotograf: Popp & Hackner

Further east, you’ll find the majestic peaks of the Great Walser Valley and the Kleinwalsertal in the limestone Alps. The Kleinwalsertal on the border with Germany is home to the Breitachklamm, the deepest rock gorge in central Europe.

Land Salzburg

This federal state of Austria, also known as Salzburgerland, boasts over 7,000 kilometers of hiking trails around blue mountain lakes, down forested valleys, and up to rugged peaks. Popular hiking regions include the Saalach Valley, Hochkönig, Saalbach Hinterglemm, and Saalfelden Leogang.

Near the pretty lakeside village of Zell am See, you’ll find numerous deep gorges where safe wooden walkways and stairs let you get close to nature. The nearby Kitzteinhorn glacier provides all-year-round Alpine scenery.

Hiking the Sigmund Thun Gorge is a great way to cool off in summer in Zell am See.
Hiking up the narrow Sigmund Thun Gorge.

Lake Wolfgang, which is over 50 meters deep, is one of several lakes against a mountain backdrop in Salzburgerland. The Three Lakes Trail to the Schafsberg is a more challenging hike. However, there is also an easier 10 km Lungau Four Lakes Hike through the Taurach Valley.

An easy, fun hike near Salzburg is the Sound of Music Trail to the famous meadow where Maria and the Von Trapp kids had a picnic and sang Do-Re-Mi. It’s near the town of Werfen, where you’ll also find the Werfen Ice Caves. Getting to the caves requires two short, but scenic hikes, and a thrilling cable car ride.

In the Pongau, the 31 stages of the 350 km Almenweg crosses 120 alpine pastures featuring a sea of blue gentian from May onwards.

The Saalachtaler high trail leads over mountains to the Hohe Tauern National Park and ends after more than 50 km on the scenic Alpenrosenweg.

Carinthia (Kärnten)

As Austria’s southernmost province, Carinthia lies in the middle of an alpine border triangle. The region is connected to Italy and Slovenia by the Karawanken, a mountain range of the eastern Alps.

The well-known Alpe-Adria-Trail starts here at the foot of the Großglockner before continuing for 750 km and 40+ stages through Carinthia and Slovenia to the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy.

Heiligenblut Austria
Heiligenblut am Großglockner is the where the first stage of the Alpe-Adria-Trail ends and the second stage starts.

Hiking gets easier near Carinthia’s provincial capital of Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. The Wörthersee is the largest of over 50 lakes, big and small, offering scenic hiking in the province.

Styria (Steiermark)

Styria in southern Austria is where you’ll find the largest continual alpine landscape in Europe. It boasts no less than seven nature parks.

Murtal Styria
Hiking past St Peter am Kammersberg in the Styrian Murtal.

One of Styria’s best-known themed hikes is along the 17 million-year-old volcanic landscape known as the Styrian Volcanic Land. Further northeast, another highlight is the hike to Loser Fenster, a stone formation in the shape of a window on top of a mountain.

The Ramsau am Dachstein and Schladming Dachstein regions in Styria are popular bases for walking holidays in Austria.

Vienna (Wien)

Vienna, enclosed by Lower Austria, is not only the capital city but also the smallest federal state in Austria. There are eleven city hiking trails leading to forests, meadows, viewing platforms, and adventure playgrounds in and around the city.

Wienerberg hiking
The Wienerberg Park is a green area with 14 km of hiking trails in Vienna.

Walk along the banks of the Danube River, wander through the vineyards of the Bisamberg, hike up the Kahlenberg, or explore the Wienerwald – it’s all possible in Vienna.

There’s even a long-distance hiking trail called rundumadum around Vienna. It’s 120 km long and broken up into 24 easy stages.

In total, there are more than 400 hiking trails in the relatively small area that makes up Vienna.

Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)

In the province of Upper Austria on the border with Germany and the Czech Republic, lakes meet Alpine landscapes for breathtaking scenery.

Lakes, streams, and rivers in the pretty Salzkammergut lake district guarantee a variety of trails from easy to difficult. This is where you’ll find the pretty village of Hallstatt where hiking further from the centre will take you to beautiful spots away from the tourist crowds. The Panorama Trail around Lake Attersee is also worth hiking.

Hallstatt Waterfront
The Hallstatt waterfront.

Upper Austria’s provincial capital Linz is a good base for hiking along the Danube. The 450 km long Donausteig Trail over 23 stages passes here.

Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)

Austria’s largest federal state in terms of surface area borders on Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Here, between the Vienna Woods and the Alps, you’ll find unspoiled landscapes such as the Blockheide Nature Park near Gmünd.

Spitz Wachau
Spitz an der Donau in the World Heritage Wachau area. © Österreich Werbung. Photographer: Wolfgang Weinhäupl

A hiking highlight of the region is the 14 stages of the 180 km long World Heritage Trail in Wachau. The scenic trail above the Danube leads through forests and vineyards past historic ruins like those of Aggstein Castle.

Burgenland

In Austria’s easternmost province you can hike through vineyards, over the rolling hills of the Leitha Mountains, and around Lake Neusiedl. Those who don’t mind steeper hikes can walk to the viewing platform on the Sonnenberg, Burgenland’s highest mountain peak.

Lake Neusiedl Austria
Lake Neusiedl at Podersdorf in Burgenland. © Österreich Werbung. Photographer: Martin Steinthale

Discover the numerous nature parks with themed trails, such as the Wine Road Hike in the Pinka Valley in southern Burgenland, the Apple Trail in the Neuhaus Hills, or the Cherry Blossom Trail along the Leitha Mountains.

Trail Signage and Difficulty Ratings

Hiking trail signposts in Austria are yellow, while trail markers resemble the red/white/red of the Austrian flag. Trail difficulty is indicated by coloured dots on some signposts. These classifications are done for trails that are managed by the Austrian Alpine Association.

Hiking signage in Austria

Trail Difficulty Colour Classification

BlueEasy paths to walk on (that can sometimes also be narrow and steep)
RedIntermediate. These trails are predominantly narrow, often steep, and can have sections that pose a risk of falling. Some of these sections may be secured, for example with safety ropes.
BlackDifficult. Trails are narrow, often steep, and there’s a risk of falling. Secured sections are more frequent and you may be required to use your hands sometimes. For people who are surefooted and don’t suffer from vertigo.

Note that the trail distance and typical Alpine dangers (like falling rocks, avalanches, and altitude) are not taken into account when classifying a route.

Red, white, red hiking marker in Austria.
Red, white, red, hiking markers assure hikers they’re still on track.

Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria

Traditional overnight huts from the Austrian and German Alpine Associations are scattered throughout the Austrian Alps. Many are on the path of a multi-day hiking trail. Some are easy to reach, while others require an advanced level of fitness.

All huts offer sleeping facilities either in a dorm-like room, but most also have smaller rooms for families or those who like more privacy. Generally, you are required to take your own sleeping bag inner sheet.

Sulzenau Hut
The Sulzenau Hut in the Stubai Alps where we slept on a two-day hike with small kids.

At most huts, you’ll get a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bathrooms are basic and you often have to pay for a hot shower.

Here is a summary of some of the most popular multi-day hut to hut hiking trails in Austria. A “höhenweg” or high trail is a high altitude hut to hut trail. Of course, it’s also possible to do only one, two, or three stages of a multi-day hike.

TrailShort Description
Stubai High Trail
Almost 100 km from hut to hut in the Stubai Alps
Berliner HöhenwegA 6-day trek over 82 km in the Zillertal.
Adlerweg413 km over 33 stages from eastern to western Tyrol.
Lasörling High TrailFor experienced hikers, covering 57 km from Matrei in East Tyrol to Prägraten am Großvenediger.
Schladminger Tauern High TrailFollowing the summits and ridges of the Schladminger Tauern mountains over 70 km in 7 stages.
Dachstein Circular TrailFrom Gossau to Ramsau in 8 stages.
Voralpenweg 4An easier long-distance trail that starts in Vienna and ends 501 km away in Bad Reichenhall.

Tips for Safe Hiking in Austria

There are many easy and safe hiking trails to choose from in Austria. But nature is unpredictable and accidents happen. That’s why the Austrian Alpine Association put together ten tips for safe and enjoyable hiking excursions.

  • Good Basic Health – Hiking in the mountains requires endurance. You must be in good physical shape to maintain a healthy heart rate. Do a realistic self-assessment of your capabilities and limits. Avoid time pressure and choose a pace that leaves no one in the group out of breath.
  • Careful Planning – Consult hiking maps, guides, or an expert that’s familiar with a trail for information about the length, elevation gain, difficulty, and current conditions. Pay particular attention to the weather forecast. Rain, wind, and cold could increase the risk of accidents. When planning group hikes, make sure the route suites the weakest member of the group.
  • Be Well-Equipped – Pack a light backpack with appropriate equipment for the type of hike you’re planning. Must-haves in any backpack are protection against rain, cold, and sunburn. That’s why rain and sun protection gear are great gifts to buy hikers. A first aid kit and a mobile phone (to call 112 in case of an emergency) are also non-negotiable. Maps or GPS will help you find your way in case you get lost.
  • Suitable Footwear – Good hiking boots protect the feet and improve surefootedness. Look for a perfect fit, non-slip tread soles, waterproofness, and lightness when making your choice.
  • Surefootedness – Falls as a result of slipping or tripping, are the most common cause of hiking accidents. Walking too fast or being fatigued will severely affect your surefootedness and concentration.
  • Stay on Marked Trails – The risk of disorientation, falling, and getting in the way of falling rocks increase on pathless terrain. Avoid shortcuts and be especially careful of old snowfields. They are often underestimated and can be very dangerous.
  • Take Regular Breaks – Timely and regular breaks are not only necessary to relax and enjoy the scenery but to have something to eat and drink. Isotonic drinks are good thirst quenchers while muesli bars, dried fruit, and biscuits will still hunger pains.
  • Take Responsibility for Children – Variety and playful discovery help to keep children engaged on a hike. Dangerous sections with a risk of falling require 1:1 supervision by adults.
  • Hike in Small Groups – Small groups provide flexibility and ensure there is someone to help (or call for help) in case of an emergency. Even so, always inform someone who isn’t part of the group about your destination, route, and expected time of return.
  • Respect Nature – Protecting nature while hiking means a lot of different things. Do not leave litter, avoid making a noise, stay on the trails, do not disturb wild and grazing animals, leave plants untouched, and respect protected areas.
Shoes for hiking in Austria.
Make sure your hiking shoes are walked-in and comfortable.
info

More than half of fatal hiking accidents are due to falls. Make sure you have enough energy left for the descent, which is more demanding in terms of motor skills, after a strenuous hike up a mountain. If your reserves are low you become careless and the risk of a fall increases.

How to Behave Around Cows in the Austrian Alps

Summer in Austria is also the time when herds of cattle, mostly cows, are grazing in the mountain pastures. Many of them have calves with them.

The interaction between hikers, dogs, and cows has been in the news a lot since a German woman was trampled to death in the Tyrolean Pinnistal in 2014.

The farmer who the animals belonged to was ordered to pay the woman’s family €180,000 plus a monthly pension of €1,500. However, a higher court later ruled the woman was partly to blame for the incident because she should have known about the risks of hiking near cows with a dog. The farmer had put up warning signs, but the first court found they were inadequate.

Cow warning sign in the Austrian Alps.
An old and a new sign to warn hikers of the dangers of hiking close to cows with calves.

Stricter rules and new warning signs have been introduced since the incident. Here is a short summary of the most important safety measures to keep in mind. You can also watch a video explaining the code of conduct in English.

  • Avoid contact with grazing animals. Do not feed them and keep a safe distance.
  • Walk past calmly and quietly as to not startle the animals.
  • Always keep dogs away from mother cows who instinctively want to protect their young.
  • Keep dogs on a short leash. However, if it looks like you are going to be attacked by a grazing animal, immediately let the dog loose. (The idea is that the dog can more easily outrun a cow, giving you the chance to seek safety.)
  • Always stay on the path when crossing a pasture. Only leave it if it’s blocked by grazing animals. In such instances, walk around them as far as possible.
  • If you are approached by grazing animals, stay calm and avoid turning your back on them. Slowly move out of their way.
  • Quickly leave a pasture as soon as you see signs that grazing animals are becoming nervous or restless.
  • Don’t climb over fences. Use a gate if there is one and close it properly behind you.
info

In all our years of hiking in Austria, we’ve never felt threatened by cows. However, now that we have a dog who accompanies us on most of our hikes, we are super cautious. The few times we have encountered cows with her present, they were unperturbed by us. Maybe it was because they didn’t have calves with them.

Best Apps to Download for Hiking in Austria

  • SOS EU Alp (Mountain Rescue Tyrol Emergency App) – Valuable for hikers in Tyrol, South Tyrol, and Bavaria. In case of an emergency, the app starts a call with the nearest call centre.
  • Bergfex Tours & GPS Tracking – One of the apps we use most for maps and tracking or recording our hikes. The free version is more than adequate for most needs.
  • PeakFinder – Find out which summit you’re standing on or what the peaks in the distance are called. It costs under €5 and works offline too.
  • Alpine FlowerFinder – Helps you identify all the beautiful flowers you’ll undoubtedly see while hiking in Austria. Works offline and costs under €10.
  • Komoot – We use this free app for inspiration for hikes to do near us. It’s full of hikes recorded and described by users. Some even have photos attached.
  • City Hiking Trails Vienna – A great overview with maps of the hiking trails in Vienna.

Best Hotels for Walking Holidays in Austria

Staying in a hotel from where you can start hiking in any direction is the best way to spend your walking holidays in Austria. From luxury 5-star resorts to budget holiday apartments, you won’t struggle to find something that suits your pocket and style.



Booking.com

Most mountain hotels have a free hiking programme for guests. Some even give you hiking poles and backpacks to use for the duration of your stay. And with a guest card for the region, which is very common, you may even get free use of public transport and cable cars.

Idyllic Mountain Stays

Wanderhotel Kirchner – This hotel in the Salzburgerland mountains at Bramberg am Wildkogel keep guests fit with 6 guided hikes per week. There are also certified guides at the hotel to help you plan individual hiking tours.

Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol – Its prime position on a sunny plateau near Seefeld in Tirol makes this 5-star hotel the ideal place to hide out for a week or two. After returning from a hike, you can relax in the heated pool or spa area.

Das Edelweiss Salzburg Mountain Resort – Tucked away in the beautiful Grossarl Valley, this hotel spoils its guests with culinary delights after returning from a day of hiking.

Frequently Asked Questions

*Disclosure*

Having fun in Austria, and then writing about it is hard work 😆 . That’s why some links in this article are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use any of them to make a purchase. It’s totally cool if you don’t. I love to help anyway. If you do, it will help us discover another part of Austria to write about.

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About Linda de Beer 90 Articles
Name: Linda de Beer Profession: Travel blogger and freelance writer
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