The Zirbenweg trail – the ultimate beginner’s hike in the Austrian Alps

You can get addicted to the views

Views of the Inn Valley, Innsbruck and the Nordkette from the Zirbenweg in Austria.
Best views of the Inn Valley, Innsbruck and the Nordkette.

The Zirbenweg trail or stone pine trail is one of the best Innsbruck hiking experiences and the ultimate beginner’s trail in the Austrian Alps.  We certainly return every year to walk this 7km trail lined by Europe’s oldest and largest stone pine population and with panoramic views of the Inn Valley.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Total walking time: 2 to 2,5 hours (continuous walking)

Difference in altitude: About 200m

Where to find the Zirbenweg trail  

The Zirbenweg trail winds its way at an altitude of about 2,000m between the Patscherkofel and Glungezer mountains and is accessible via cable car. Most people, including us, start at Patscherkofel. Our main consideration is that we like to end at the Tulfeinalm (2,035m), one of our favourite mountain restaurants, and take the cable car straight home from there. (Yes, we are fortunate to live within walking distance from the valley station 🙄 ).

A sign and cows to show you the way

From the Patscherkofel cable car mountain station (1,964m) the start of the trail is clearly marked with a wooden sign welcoming you: “Wilkommen am Zirbenweg”. It is also possible to be met by a welcoming committee of cows, as we were on our last hike. They are nothing to be afraid of, just make your way around them quietly while keeping an eye out for any sudden, unexpected behaviour.

Cows at the start of the Zirbenweg trail in Tyrol, Austria.
A hearty welcome – bells and all!

The first part of the Zirbenweg trail offers excellent views down the Inn Valley and on the Nordkette mountain range. The path is wide and even, allowing for your eyes to roam over the surrounding scenery. There is ample opportunity to wander off the main path to viewing points with benches.

Start of the Zirbenweg trail.
There are even binoculars to appreciate the views near the start of the Zirbenweg trail.

Quench your thirst at Boscheben mountain restaurant

When you reach a plateau where the trail swerves right past a Roman Catholic relic on a tree, you know you are getting closer to Alpengasthof Boscheben (2,035m). After this, there is a sharp turn to the left from where it is only minutes before you reach this mountain restaurant.

Catholic relic on Zirbenweg, Austria.
Keep an eye out for Catholic relics along the way.

Boscheben isn’t directly next to the Zirbenweg trail but you can’t miss it about 50m in along a path turning off to your right.  You are welcomed by a friendly face behind a self-service window.

The self-service counter at Alpengasthof Boscheben on the Zirbenweg.
Another hearty welcome.

We ordered beers and cool drinks before sitting ourselves down at a table with a view. And when I say view, I mean view! Sadly, we still had about two-thirds of the Zirbenweg trail to go and had to move on after a 30-minute break.

Cheers at the Alpengasthof Boscheben on the Zirbenweg.
Cheers!

The Zirbenweg trail = diverse landscapes

From Boscheben, the trail enters the forest. Sure-footedness is needed here due to the path becoming narrower. There is a steep embankment on one side, and a few small rocks and tree roots to step over or around. After leaving the forest, the trail continues over a rocky patch. Although there are no faraway views, I love this stretch in the shade of the trees and rocks until you turn left at a T-junction.

Rocky part of Zirbenweg, Austria.
Watch where you step on a short stretch of rocky trail.

A little hill awaits, after which the Inn Valley once again lies open in front of you. Now there are only about 1,25 hours left to the Tulfeinalm.

Best views ever from the Zirbenweg trail in Austria.
Stone pines and mountain views – what more do you expect from the Zirbenweg trail?

Find Tyrol’s oldest living stone pine through a peephole

The next stretch of the Zirbenweg trail is characterized by thick shrubs. In August, there are blueberries to be picked. The boys decided they needed enough to make jam and emptied a packet of cashew nuts to put their harvest in.

Blueberries along the Zirbenweg in Austria.
Many handfuls of blueberries were picked.

Information boards in German and English (unfortunately, sometimes German only) give interesting facts about the geology and the vegetation along the trail.  At one spot, there is a wooden “peephole” through which you should see a 750-year old stone pine, the oldest living tree in Tyrol. Call us blind, but none of us can say for sure that we did see the tree in question.

Looking for oldest stone pine along the Zirbenweg in Austria.
In search of the evasive 750-year old stone pine.

Over a stream, up a short hill, past some huge rocks, and the Tulfeinalm appears in the distance. But before you get to it, you might want to have a look inside the little chapel to your right. Or quench your thirst at the water fountain on the left (also the cow’s drinking place).

The Tulfeinalm from the Zirbenweg in Tyrol, Austria.
Our goal is in sight.

Schnapps and Kaspressknödel at Heidi’s Tulfeinalm

The Tulfeinalm is one of our favourite mountain restaurants. Not only is it close to home, but Heidi, the lady who runs it, always greets us like long lost friends. M knows she has a surprise for him and we have come to look forward to the schnapps with which she sends us on our way again.

On a busy day, you must queue to order your food and drinks inside, after which you are served at your table. Patience is required but it makes the beer taste all the better once you get it!

Lunch at the Tulfeinalm on the Zirbenweg.
Jacques and Steph enjoy their lunch.

Traditional food such as knödel (dumplings), schlutzkrapfen (a kind of half-moon ravioli served with brown butter and parmesan cheese) are on the menu at the Tulfeinalm. Their Kaspressknödelsuppe (a flat cheese dumpling) is one of the best in Tyrol.

Read more: The most beautiful family hike in Austria

Interesting Facts

  • The 750-year old stone pine is in a natural forest in what is called the Ampass Basin. It is believed to have sprouted to life at the beginning of the Habsburg Dynasty around 1273 and was declared a national monument in 1926.
  • The Zirbenweg trail is open roughly from the end of May to the end of October. On our first hike in June 2013, we even had a patch of snow to cross.
  • No less than 400 Alpine peaks can be seen from the Zirbenweg trail.
  • Allow 3 hours to hike the Zirbenweg trail at a leisurely pace, resting and taking in the scenery.
  • The Austrian stone pine (Zirbe in German) is a popular type of wood that only grows 1800m above sea level. Its scent is said to have a stress-relieving effect. (More reason to walk the Zirbenweg trail!)
  • The sign after every kilometre that tells you how far you have left is a welcome encouragement for kids.

    Kilometre sign on the Zirbenweg, Austria.
    3 down, 4 to go!
  • The Zirbenweg trail is part of the Tyrolean eagle trail (Adlerweg), an Innsbruck hiking highlight.

Tips

  • Try to start out as early as possible. Not only will you miss the worst heat of the day on a hot day, but you are also less likely to meet too many other hikers on the trail.
  • If you are flexible and the weather allows it, avoid walking on a Sunday when the trail is at its busiest.
  • Take cash – the Tulfeinalm and Alpengasthof Boscheben have no credit card facilities.

Getting there

 

Regardless of where you choose to start your hike, there is a regular bus running between the Patscherkofel and the Glungezer cable car stations from June to October. Find the timetable here.

If you are coming by car and want to start your hike at Patscherkofel, it is best to leave your car in the parking area at Glungezer (free of charge) and take the bus to the start. This way, you can simply head home when you are done.

If you are using public transport from Innsbruck, the J Bus gets to Patscherkofel in 15 minutes. From Tulfes, you can get Bus 4134 back to Innsbruck.

Prices

A round-trip ticket, which includes the bus and the cable cars, costs €24,50 per adult and €15 per child. Without the bus ticket, it is €22,50 and €14 respectively. Click on the links for the full price lists for Patscherkofel and Glungezer.

Tip: The Patscherkofel and Glungezer cable cars are both included in the Innsbruck Card in summer. That means you would only have to pay for the bus if you have the Innsbruck Card. Our guests actually bought the Innsbruck Card at the Patscherkofel base station. 

Cable Car Operating Times

Patscherkofel Cable Car

First ride – 09:00

Last ride – 17:00

Patscherkofelbahn, Innsbruck.
The way up.

Glungezer Cable Car

First ride – 09:00

Last ride from Tulfeinalm –  16:30 on weekdays and 17:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Take note, they close for lunch between 12:00 and 12:45 each day. Detailed operating times here.

Glungezerbahn, Austria
The way down

Read more: Hike to the Olperer Hut in the Zillertal Alps

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Maxine

Oh my gosh, what incredible views! It’s great there are places to stop at for beer and food. Beautiful pictures also!

Divyakshi Gupta

A 750 year old pine forest! Wow! With such stunning views and natural delights like blueberries on the way, this one is super captivating! 🙂 the restro with a view looks tempting. I’d love to do this someday. Pines are love! ❤️Being an easy one, seems doable for beginnwnrs like me 🙂

Marcus and Mel

The views of the Alps are amazing and it is a great destination in the summer. The Tulfeinalm restaurant and beer look like a good way to complete a hike.

Tom

The Zirbenweg Looks like a lovely afternoon hike! The landscape is really beautiful! I had (and loved) Knödel before, but i never heard about the Schlutzkrapfen – I have to try them 😀 Awesome post, thank you for sharing it.

Siddhartha Joshi

I think it’s fascinating to walk a trail lined by Europe’s oldest and largest stone pine population…and with views like the ones you’ve shared makes the journey even more wonderful 🙂

I haven’t been to Austria yet, but might visit later this year…I wonder if it’s good to visit in winters too…

Drew

Love the detailed research. The Austrian Alps are beautiful, and I love hiking, so it is a perfect combo. I also like that I can grab a beer and maybe a sausage while taking in a view. Works for me!

Johann

So awesome to read about trekking and hiking trails around the world. Of course the views are stunning and breaks at those restaurants with some beers will be truly refreshing. I noticed the food looks super yummy too. So cool to have those binoculars in the way. I’ve never seen that on a trail before. Would love to do this one day.

Red Nomad OZ (Marion Halliday)

Wow! You’re so lucky to be close to such a brilliant walk – but the altitude is not that much lower than the highest point in Australia (2228 m)!!! Also in Australia there are not many walks with food/beer stops along the way – I’m sure hiking would be a lot more popular if there were, haha!

Punita Malhotra

The hiking trail is breathtaking. Though I’m not cut out for heavy hiking, this seems very doable for me. The eating joints with those amazing views, and fresh mountain air are very appealing.

Megan Jerrard

Definitely says something about the hike if you return every year – thanks for sharing your photos and info! Thanks for the tip to keep an eye out for Catholic relics along the way – makes it even more of an interesting hike – I love that there are pit stops you can take for breaks along the way.

Seriously stunning views – haha though I think finding the 750 year old pine through that peephole looks like somewhat of a needle in a haystack case! The Tulfeinalm looks like a great mountain restaurant – I’ll definitely make this trip!

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