Standing in awe of glaciers, searching the skies for golden eagles, and exploring remote alpine valleys – the Venediger High Trail is a fantastic hike through the mountain group of the same name. The route takes you south along the main ridge of the Venediger Group in Austria’s Hohe Tauern National Park. You hike through the mountains discovering the unspoilt nature of the Alps and the crowning Großvenediger peak.
The beauty of this high trail is that, once you reach the top, you only have a few metres of altitude difference each day. You can relax and explore the majestic mountains where jagged rock, ice, alpine pastures, and indescribable views await. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot marmots, chamois, and even ibexes on the way. With a bit of luck, you might see a golden eagle or a bearded vulture too.
After the ascent on the first day, you hike through alpine terrain with challenging rock passages. The stages are relatively gentle with short distances and moderately high altitudes. You only hike more than ten kilometres (6 miles) on the last day that includes a long descent. Otherwise, you can take it easy, enjoying the mountain scenery and culinary treats at the mountain huts at your own pace. In addition, the short distances make it easier to keep your concentration throughout the day, especially on the steep and exposed sections. There is a risk of rockfall so you should always keep your eyes and ears peeled. On the third stage, it’s a good idea to wear a helmet. You can get up-to-date information regarding the conditions from the hut keepers. You should be sure-footed and have a head for heights to fully enjoy this hike.
You can make your own version of the trail, which makes it very practical. The basic framework of the hike is seven stages covering almost 55 kilometres (34 miles). Starting from the town of Ströden in the Virgin Valley, you arrive one week later at the Matreier Tauernhaus inn in the Tauern Valley. You are able to descend back down into the valley from each hut if you like, so it’s easy to adjust the length of your hike. If you are fit, fast, and up for a challenge, you can sometimes walk two stages in one day or climb additional peaks en route.
As you stay above 2,000 metres (6,561 feet) most of the way, it’s best to plan this adventure for the summer when most of last winter’s snow has melted. There are no pit stops along the way, so don’t forget to pack some snacks in your rucksack. As the trails are quite short, you will arrive at a mountain hut at the finish line before long. There’s a mountain hut at the end of each stage ready to welcome you with a warm bed and delicious East Tyrolean dishes. The huts are usually only open from July until September. It’s best to reserve a spot in advance so you don’t have to worry about where you will stay on the mountain and to give your hosts time to prepare.
Another advantage of the Venediger High Trail is that it is easy to reach by public transport. There are buses to the start and end points from the East Tyrolean district capital of Lienz.
The first stage of the Venediger Höhenweg is rather short and is therefore perfect for immigration. So you can do it well on the day of arrival. This section leads you through the beautiful Maurertal, which makes it easy for you to get used to your new surroundings.You can get to the starting point in Ströden in Virgental in a relaxed manner with the 951 bus, which runs from Lienz via Matrei and Prägraten. You can find the current timetable at vvt.at. You can take the train to the district capital Lienz. However, there is also a paid car park in Ströden.You turn north and walk up to the right of the river through the Maurertal. The first steps are still quite leisurely before it slowly climbs steeply. Right at the beginning you can say goodbye to the woods that still line your path here. Because it doesn't take long before you cross the tree line. The next few days will be lovely meadows and bristly bushes, barren rocks and stunning views.Shortly behind the Stoan-Alm is the valley station of the material cable car of the Essen-Rostocker Hütte. She will bring your luggage up for you if you arrange that with the hut keeper. The Maurerbach is so friendly and shows you the way to your first stage destination. At the very end it goes uphill again, but the beautiful moraine landscape also sweetened this part of the way for you. If you still have time at the end of the day, you can make a detour to Lake Simony. There are still 150 meters in altitude and you are on the way for another hour with ascent and descent.
On the second stage, you first follow your loyal companion from the day before, the Maurerbach, a little further north. But soon you turn to the east, where it goes uphill in sharp bends. The view of the fascinating glaciers above you is rewarding for every strenuous step.This will take you to the Türmljoch, where you made your ascent of the day. High time for a break! You can really enjoy them here, because the views are wonderful. In the west you look down into the Maurertal, where you came from. The view over the Dorfertal in the east is new. Perhaps you also want to build a cairn, like many others before you.If you still want to climb the mighty Türml, you first walk around on the east side and then climb up the normal route from the south. It gets a bit clunky here. Before going up, remember that you have to come down the same way. You need appropriate equipment for the via ferrata on the north side.From the Türmljoch it is then only downhill. Over rocky slopes and sometimes quite steeply you hike down into the Dorfertal, where the Johannishütte awaits you with a meal for the evening and a bed for the night.
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The third day on the Venediger Höhenweg is the hike to the Sajathütte. The direct route over the Sajatscharte has been closed since 2015 due to the risk of falling rocks. That's why you take a detour today that is safer and takes you a few more meters up to an exciting three-thousand-meter peak. You can get current information from the host of the Sajathütte (sajathuette.at/2015/07/23/sperre-wanderweg-sajathuette-johannishuette).Directly from the Johannishütte, it goes steeply up the slopes below the Zopetkopf and Zopetspitze. If you look north over the course of the Dorfertal, you will see the mighty Großvenediger. At the next fork you hike left up to the Tulpscharte. The risk of falling rocks is too great on the right path. The way up to the Kreuzspitze is safer, but not without it. It's pretty steep uphill and every step needs to be set safely. The reward for your efforts is the Kreuzspitze, which at 3,164 meters makes a stately three-thousand-meter peak. You can be really happy when you reach the top.It is best to take a reasonable break on the cross, because the descent is also a challenge that requires maximum concentration. It goes down through a steep wall. The path is adequately secured with steel cables. Here you should be absolutely free from giddiness and experienced in exposed terrain. Whether you need a via ferrata set for this depends on your experience and your safety needs. In any case, a helmet doesn't do any harm here. Then it is not far to the Sajathütte, which is just what you need after this demanding tour.If you don't trust yourself to do this, you can go straight over the Zopetscharte to the Eisseehütte, the destination of the fourth stage. Here, too, there are some passages secured by rope to overcome in the descent.
On the fourth stage, you can look forward to wonderful views and a very leisurely hike. The first two thirds of the way you descend crossing the slope under the Vorderen Sajatspitze. You move high above the Virgental and have a great view of the Lasörling group opposite.At the so-called window, a bench invites you to enjoy this view once more. And you should do that too, because then you turn north to descend into the Timmeltal.When you reach the valley floor, follow the course of the Timmelbach uphill. As idyllic and lovely as the green valley may seem - here it gets really steep and exhausting. Fortunately, because the Eisseehütte is not far away and hikers know: After a sporty tour, the food always tastes particularly good.
Also on stage 5 you can completely enjoy the mountains again, because in good weather there are no technical challenges ahead. On the first half of the hike, there are hardly any differences in altitude waiting for you. From the Eisseehütte you first climb a short distance downhill to get to the high path that runs along the western slope above the Timmeltal. The Great Hexenkopf and the Hohe Eichham tower above you.Then you walk around the Wunwand and then you are again high above the Virgental. Here the ascent to the back of the donkey begins soon, on the other side of which you will find many tight bends that defuse the steep descent.Then the path allows you to take another short break. It's a little leisurely downhill before you start the final ascent of the day up to the Bonn-Matreier-Hütte. From your destination, you can make a short detour to the highest rock chapel in the Eastern Alps. This is directly above the refuge.
On the sixth stage it gets more challenging again. There are some exposed paths and secured climbing spots ahead of you. The first half of the route is quite rocky, the second half is greener. This section of the Venediger Höhenweg is at risk of falling rocks. Talk to the hosts of the Bonn-Matreier-Hütte to find out the current conditions.You can look forward to the most exciting part in the morning. After the first kilometer of the day you climb to the Galtenscharte. On your way up you will have to lend a hand at times. So you feel the rough beauty of the rocky landscape in the truest sense of the word. If you have crossed the notch, the Froßnitztal opens below you. After a descent of around 500 meters in altitude, you cross the slopes below the Schobers and the Hohe Achsel towards the north.There, where it slowly goes up again, you turn to the left in order to climb to your stage destination, the Badener Hütte. Shortly before that, you cross the Froßnitzbach. A little further up, it flows out of a small lake, which is only a few minutes' walk from the hut. Your hiking feet will definitely be happy to have a cool bath as soon as you have freed them from their boots.
On the seventh day there is not much uphill, but all the more downhill. Because today you hike back down into the valley - but not without treating yourself to one last breathtaking view towards Großvenediger. At the Löbbentörl you can once again enjoy the high alpine landscape and the view of the glaciers.Then it goes downhill - but only with the way and not with the mood. There are still some beautiful places waiting for you! The rocky surroundings are slowly giving way to green vegetation. Then you pass the so-called Eye of God, a small lake with an island floating in the water. Shortly afterwards, during a steep descent, you will probably pause again. Because here you have a great view of a thundering waterfall.Then it finally goes down to the Gschlösstal, where the path becomes easier. Soon you will reach Innergschlöss along the valley river, where you can stop for East Tyrolean specialties. If you want to end your hike here, you can take a wagon pulled by a tractor to the Matreier Tauernhaus. On foot you first go on the driveway out of the valley, but soon turn right over the river and then keep on a footpath that also takes you past Aussergschlöss to the Matreier Tauernhaus. From here the 955 bus will take you to Matrei and will take you directly to Lienz once in the afternoon. You can find your connections at vvt.at.