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.
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.
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.
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.
Trail Difficulty Colour Classification
|Blue||Easy paths to walk on (that can sometimes also be narrow and steep)|
|Red||Intermediate. 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.|
|Black||Difficult. 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.
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.
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.
|Stubai High Trail||Almost 100 km from hut to hut in the Stubai Alps|
|Berliner Höhenweg||A 6-day trek over 82 km in the Zillertal.|
|Adlerweg||413 km over 33 stages from eastern to western Tyrol.|
|Lasörling High Trail||For experienced hikers, covering 57 km from Matrei in East Tyrol to Prägraten am Großvenediger.|
|Schladminger Tauern High Trail||Following the summits and ridges of the Schladminger Tauern mountains over 70 km in 7 stages.|
|Dachstein Circular Trail||From Gossau to Ramsau in 8 stages.|
|Voralpenweg 4||An 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.
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.
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.
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.
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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, not all tourist sites, services, and hotels are currently operating as normal. Please check the latest restrictions and/or requirements with individual service providers and official government advisories before visiting Austria.