If the prospect of a road trip excites you, the Zillertal High Alpine Road or Zillertaler Höhenstraße in Tyrol, Austria is a must-drive route. Whether part of a long road trip or just a day trip, this road has all the elements to feed your wanderlust.
Take the drive – come rain or shine
The panoramic route of almost 50km takes you up to 2,020m above sea level. Part of the appeal of a road trip is that no matter how much you read up on the route, you never know what lies behind the next bend or over the next hill. The Zillertal High Alpine Road delivers on every expectation.
We have driven the Zillertal High Alpine road twice, both times starting in unpredictable weather conditions. The first time, in the month of June, it started to rain before we reached the main look-out point. Disappointing? Yes. Regrets about attempting the drive in the first place? No. It was still a great experience even if we could sometimes only see the roadside.
Our second attempt was at the beginning of September after a morning of rain and clouds. A gamble? Yes. Did it pay off? Big time! Moral of the story? Never let a bit of cloud and rain get in the way of a great road trip experience.
Choose from 5 access routes
The Zillertal High Alpine Road is accessible from 5 towns in the Ziller Valley – Hippach, Zell im Zillertal, Aschau im Zillertal, Kaltenbach and Ried im Zillertal. We started both our drives in Hippach, which is the further most village from the entrance to the Ziller Valley.
From Hippach the road quickly winds its way up the Schwendberg. The first 5km or so is lined by various hotels and guesthouses, with a few farms in between. There is even a Volksschule (primary school) way up on the Schwendberg.
After about half an hour, when the homes and guest houses have seriously thinned out, you can expect to reach a toll station or mautstelle (see prices below). A friendly lady comes to the front passenger seat window, has a peek inside and tells you how much to pay. The money and receipt is exchanged through the car window before you may continue.
Stretch your legs at Melchboden
From the toll station it’s about 3km to the Melchboden, which is the higest point on the Zillertal High Alpine Road at 2020m. There is a big parking area in front of the Jausenstation Melchboden where you can have something to eat or drink. Children are attracted to the farmyard with goats, bunnies and chickens at the back of the restaurant.
Note: The restaurant charges €1 for the use of their toilet if you aren’t eating or drinking. Get a special coin to open the toilet gate at the bar counter.
Across the road from the parking area is a viewing point from where you can gaze onto a multitude of peaks in the Zillertal Alps. You can’t miss the huge frame designed to help you take beautiful pictures to remember your drive by.
Eat, drink and be merry on the way
Shortly after leaving the Melchboden, the road winds its way down between Alpine pastures to the Almgasthaus Zellberg Stüberl and the Hirschbichlalm. We didn’t stop here, but they are both in a beautiful setting. Both are well-known for hosting popular traditional music groups for the pleasure of their guests.
If by now you are in a hurry to get back to the valley, there is a turn-off to Zell am Ziller not far from these two restaurants. A short while later there is another turn-off to Aschau. Instead of taking any of these, we continued left toward the Zirmstadl and Murmelland at the traditional Kaltenbacher Skihütte mountain restaurant. The latter has the added attraction of Alpine marmots, an Alpine garden and a great play area for kids. Tip: The Schweinsbraten with a Semmelknödel and Sauerkraut (roast pork with a bread dumpling and sauerkraut) is a hit after working up a hunger on the drive.
Appreciate the remaining views after leaving Murmelland, because your road trip in the Zillertal Alps is almost a thing of the past.
Read More: Leave your wheels behind and explore the Zillertal Alps on foot. The scenic hike to the Olperer hut is a great place to start.
Road Opening Times
The Zillertal High Alpine Road is generally open from May to October each year. Depending on snowfall, it may be closed for short periods during this time. Always check the official website for the latest news (unfortunatley the up-to-date news is only available in German).
Motorbikes – €5
Private cars carrying up to 6 persons – €8
Cars and mini-buses for more than 6 persons – €17
Buses with more than 12 seats – €22
- Drive slowly to really appreciate the scenery. Pull off and allow other cars to pass if you get the idea they are in a bigger hurry than you.
- The road is very narrow at places. Keep an eye out for oncoming traffic where possible to enable you to pull off at a wide enough section in time. It is especially nerve wracking when a bus comes from the front!
- A public bus for hikers and sightseers without private transport leave from Aschau and stops in Kaltenbach and Ried before taking the Zillertal High Alpine Road all the way to the Almgasthof Zirmstadl. It makes one journey up and down the mountain per day, reaching the Almgasthof Zirmstadl at 10:45 and leaving again at 15:30. Get the full timetable here. The return journey costs €10 per adult and €6 per child older than 6 years. Various scenic hikes start and end at the Zirmstadl.
- From Mayrhofen, Bus 8340 goes to Melchboden via Hippach a few times daily. The full timetable is available here.
Read more: We stayed at Camping Aufenfeld in Aschau when we first drove the Zillertal High Alpine Road. Read all about this family-friendly camping place here.
Tourists were the last thing on the minds of the engineers who built the Zillertal High Alpine Road in the early 1960s. Its main purpose was to improve access to Alpine pastures for farmers as well as to mountain streams for the building of barriers to help prevent flooding. Once the road was built, its panoramic views over the Zillertal Alps couldn’t be denied. It was opened to the public in the late 1960s. A toll fee was introduced to help pay for upgrading and maintaining the road.
Read more: Explore another beautiful valley in the Austrian Alps. Here are our 4 favourite things to do in the Stubai Valley in summer.
Help finding your way
The 5 villages from where you can access the Zillertal High Alpine Road.
- She said it wasn’t necessary, but I’m going to thank her anyway. My friend Erna van Wyk took some of the pictures in this blog post when I was in the “wrong side of the car”. She is also responsible for the beautiful family picture of us.