The Zirbenweg or stone pine trail near Innsbruck in Austria is an Alpine hike you can get addicted to. We certainly return every year to walk the 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
From Patscherkofel to Glungezer
The Zirbenweg winds its way at an altitude of about 2,000m between the Patscherkofel and Glungezer mountains. 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 somewhat different welcoming committee
From the Patscherkofel 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.
The first part of the trail offers excellent views down the Inn Valley and on the Nordkette mountain range. The hiking 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.
Quench your thirst at Boscheben
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.
Boscheben isn’t directly next to the 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.
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 to go and had to move on after a 30-minute break.
Continue along 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.
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.
Find Tyrol’s oldest living stone pine through a peephole
The next stretch 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.
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.
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).
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!
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
- 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 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.
- Allow 3 hours to hike the Zirbenweg 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!)
- The sign after every kilometre that tells you how far you have left is welcome encouragement for kids.
- The Zirbenweg is part of the Tyrolean eagle trail (Adlerweg).
- 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.
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 hike from Patscherkofel to Glungezer, 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.
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 Patscherkofelbahn and Glungezer 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
First ride – 09:00
Last ride – 17:00
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.