Many legends have unfurled around the waters of the Danube River. It flows through deep valleys and wild plains, where it has shaped the landscape, trade, and culture for thousands of years. The long-distance hike, the Danube Trail (Donausteig), showcases the Danube in all its diversity. From Passau, a Bavarian town in Germany, the route runs for 270 kilometres (167.7 miles) along the mighty river, passing through the Austrian city of Linz before arriving in Grein in Upper Austria. Along the way, you encounter unique cultural treasures, protected natural areas and large swathes of unspoilt nature.
In this Collection, I present the Danube Trail in 23 stages. You can choose between the northern or southern route which both start in Passau and end in Grein. The abbreviation at the beginning of the stage names indicates which route variant the stage belongs to: N (north), S (south) or G (both). If you would like to hike north of the Danube, then I recommend following the stages in this order: N01 to N05, G01, G02, N06 to N08, G03 to G08. For the southern route, you can walk: S01 to S04, G01, G02, S05 to S07, G03 to G08.
Every stage ends in a town where you can find restaurants and accommodation, as well as transport links such as trains, buses or boats. If you want to explore the Danube region in Bavaria and Upper Austria even more extensively, then you can join numerous paths which branch off from the route and lead into the hinterland. Your imagination can roam freely here.
Coming from Passau, the mighty river winds its way through the forested Danube Valley along the German-Austrian border. You hike up and down, often directly along the water’s edge, before re-ascending high into the valley. A definite highlight on this stretch is the Schlögener Schlinge, a magical viewpoint over a bend in the river. Next, you hike through the Eferdinger Basin, a fertile plain known as the vegetable garden of Upper Austria. Between the region of Mühlviertel and the Kürnberger forest, the Danube flows through the provincial capital Linz before reaching the floodplain forests around the mouths of the Enns and Traun rivers. You hike along flat paths through colourful landscapes in the Machland region before finally exploring the romantic area of Strudengau and arriving in the small town of Grein, the final destination of the Danube Trail.
You don’t need any special technical skills to walk this long-distance trail. However, some stages are quite long and include some climbing so you need stamina. Along the Danube Trail, you find a number of rest spots and viewing platforms with detailed information boards that are ideal for a break. Special highlights are the seven peaks of the Danube Trail, which afford wonderful views. If you are interested in the legends and myths of this region, you can read more about these on the 120 information boards dotted along the trail. So, if it wasn’t obvious already, the Danube Trail is a wonderful hike!
The northern route of the Donausteig starts in the three-river city of Passau, right on the border between Germany and Austria. Starting from the train station, you walk through the picturesque old town and after crossing the Danube, the Ludwigsteig leads you up the steep flank to Veste Oberhaus. From the various viewpoints you can enjoy changing views of Passau. The imposing castle complex including museum and café is worth a detour.Then it goes further down to the Ilz, which you also cross. Above the Ilzstadt you can see the third river in the group, the Inn. On the plateau of the Ilz-Erlau Hochland, a foothill of the Bavarian Forest, you hike through a hilly cultural landscape. After a good eleven kilometers, you can enjoy freshly baked bread and pastries in the rustic Grafmühle.Strengthened, it goes back down the Danube into a mixed forest, where the viewpoint Donaublick awaits you. A short time later you will reach the promising König-Max-Höhe, the highest point of this stage. You then descend to the banks of the Danube to Erlau to follow the idyllic Jägersteig to Obernzell on the other side of the valley. The recognized resort with its castle and castle park is your destination today.
After the first stage, which is more than 27 kilometers long, the second day continues with a demanding 23 kilometers: From Obernzell you follow the mighty Danube along the Donauuferstraße to the Kohlbachmühle. There you turn left and start the ascent up to a picturesque high plateau in the Bavarian Forest. You continue uphill past fields, meadows and typical farms.On the steep slopes of the Danube Valley you will reach the Ebenstein rock plateau in the forest. You look down on the fabulous river and can take a break at the chapel. After the village of Riedl, there is one of the most beautiful descents through the Donauleiten of the entire Donausteig. Along the Dandlbach, which forms the border between Germany and Austria, you descend over the wild and romantic Öttl-Steig to the river bank.After a short stretch on the popular Danube Cycle Path, the steep Frauensteig, also known as the smuggler path, leads you through the wonderful mixed forest of the Donauleiten up to the Penzenstein. From the rock pulpit, your gaze sweeps over the Mühlviertel highlands and the mighty Danube. Afterwards you hike through a colorful cultural landscape to the village, where you turn onto the Burgherrenweg. Following soft forest paths, you will reach Rannariedl Castle and then Niederranna, your stage destination.
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The third Donausteig stage starts with a brisk ascent from Niederranna: through the forest, it goes back up to the high plateau above the Danube valley. Again and again the path offers wonderful views down to the legendary river, on which ships and boats cavort. The striking tower of Marsbach Castle will soon appear in front of you, once the domicile of the feared robber barons.This is followed by the descent down to the banks of the Danube, where you will pass the Haichenbach ruins. The viewing platform on the castle keep offers you incredible views of the natural wonder of the Schlögener Schlinge - simply terrific! Afterwards you hike relaxed along the water, first on an asphalt bank path, then on the wild and romantic hiking trail of the nature trail "Donauschlinge". Surefootedness is required for this section.Across from Inzell you switch to a narrow riverside road that leads you through the fertile alluvial terrace from Grafenau to Obermühl. You cross the tributary Kleine Mühl and finally reach today's destination in Obermühl on the Danube. Since there are only two inns in the place, I recommend that you reserve your sleeping space in advance.
Stage 4 of the northern route starts in Obermühl. From the village center you initially hike up the slope of the steep Donauleiten on a forest path. Arrived on the high plateau of the Mühlviertel highlands, you will reach the observation tower at the Burgstall - the highest elevation that rises directly from the Danube river. From the viewing platform, an impressive panorama opens up over the Mühlviertel, the Danube Valley and the Sauwald to the Alps.You then cross Kirchberg ob der Donau and then follow the Donausteig through a typical cultural landscape. It goes down to the bank of the blue Danube and at the mouth of the Great Mühl you reach the place Untermühl. After a short refreshment in the local inn, it goes steeply up to Neuhaus Castle, which you can visit by appointment. From here, the Donausteig leads along scenic paths past impressive square courtyards to Sankt Martin im Mühlkreis. You have reached your destination in the place high above the Danube.
Sankt Martin is the starting point for the fifth and just under 13 kilometers long stage of the Donausteig north route. You leave the place and walk relaxed past fields, meadows and courtyards to the banks of the small Pesenbach. There is a lot to discover along the picturesque path: the bizarre rock formation of the candle stone, the waterfalls and basins of the Blauer Gasse and wooden climbing systems through gorge-like sections, to name just a few highlights.Passing the Hofratskanzel viewpoint, you will reach the traditional Gasthof Schlagerwirt in a forest clearing. After you have enjoyed the delicious dishes with products from your own production, you hike back to the banks of the Pesenbach, only to turn onto the venerable Prälatensteig a short time later.In the mixed forest it goes up a bit and then down to the Danube bank. On the descent you can enjoy wonderful views of the Upper Danube Valley, the Eferdinger Basin and the distant Salzkammergut. The last section of the fifth stage runs along the water to Oberlandshaag, where you cross the Danube. On the other bank, picturesque Aschach awaits you with its beautiful promenade, your destination for today.
The starting point for this stage of the Donausteig main route (designated with the letter G) is Aschach, which lies at the transition from the steep Danube valley to the fertile plain of the Eferdinger basin. At the beginning you follow the Danube downstream to soon turn into the cultivated plain of the Eferdinger Basin. It goes flat past fields until a steep forest path takes you up to the Schaunberg castle ruins. It was once the largest castle in Upper Austria. A fabulous view opens up to you from the keep.The route then follows a wooded high-altitude hiking trail along the ridge of the hill. Again and again you enjoy deep views of the Eferdinger Basin and the Danube before you go back down into the valley. In Pupping you will pass a beautiful monastery complex including a monastery garden that is well worth seeing. After a short stop, you hike along the Aschach. You take a short detour back to the banks of the Danube and finally reach Eferding, your destination for today.
Today you can expect a relaxed and flat route along the blue Danube. With a view of Starhemberg Castle you leave Eferding and after a good two kilometers cross a tributary of the Aschach. Through the alluvial forest it goes to the Aschach, which you follow a little further downstream. Then you stand again on the bank of the second longest river in Europe and wander downstream with a view of huge ships.The relaxed route offers you plenty of space to think and enjoy. When the Ottensheim-Wilhering Danube power plant appears in front of you, it is not far to today's stage destination. The Innbach accompanies you on the last section to Wilhering. If you want, you can take the roller ferry to Ottensheim at the end of this stage. Otherwise you will spend the night in one of the accommodations in Wilhering.
Starting from Ottensheim, you hike a piece on the Treppelweg along the Danube. At the bend in the Danube you leave the bank and start today's summit storm. It goes uphill through a rural cultural landscape and past mighty square courtyards. The field of vision expands again and again and you can enjoy wonderful views of the Eferding Basin. You reach the highlight of the sixth stage of the north route at the 685 meter high Koglerauer Spitz, where a summit cross awaits you. The promising summit is one of the seven leading summits of the Donausteig.Then it goes through forests and small towns downhill towards Linz. You should plan enough time to discover the Pöstlingberg, the second highlight of this Donausteig stage: The popular excursion mountain with its pilgrimage church is a landmark of Linz and offers you views all the way to the Alps - simply amazing! Two restaurants and a café provide you with new energy and then a way of the cross takes you down to the Episcopal Gymnasium Petrinum. From there you walk through the city and across the Danube to the magnificent main square. If your feet are already tired on the Pöstlingberg, you can also take the Pöstlingbergbahn down to Linz.
Linz, European Capital of Culture 2009, is the starting point for this Donausteig stage. With a view of the Lentos and the Brucknerhaus, you follow the Danube downstream. At the bend in the Danube, you leave the stream and hike through the Au to Pleschinger See. From the popular bathing lake it goes up to the Predigtstuhl, from which you have a great view back to Linz.Between forest and meadows you continue uphill towards the forest summit of the Pfenningberg, one of the seven Donausteig peaks. The descent leads through the hilly Mühlviertel mountains down into the valley of the Reichenbach. Along the edge of the forest you follow the meandering stream to the former monastery in Pulgarn. Take a look at the monastery church before you cover the last section to Steyregg. In the historic small town you have reached your destination and can take a detour to the castle museum.
This stage of the Donausteig north route starts in Steyregg, on the edge of the Linz basin. You hike back to Pulgarn, which you visited yesterday. At the train station you turn towards the Danube and march through a fascinating meadow landscape: small ponds, ancient trees and steep gravel pits await you.Then the Donauuferdamm leads you downstream for a few kilometers. At the Abhaben-Asten power plant, you leave the Danube and cross its branch. In a gentle up and down, you then wander through a rural cultural landscape, while your gaze wander over the wide Danube plain to the Mostviertel. Then the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial will appear in front of you - a warning monument that is definitely worth a visit. Afterwards, you go back to the banks of the Danube, where you will reach today's destination in Mauthausen.
With just under 13 kilometers, this stage of the main route is a relaxed affair. From Mauthausen on the banks of the Danube you hike up a partly wooded ridge to the legendary Heinrichsbründl. Then it goes into the wide plain of the fertile Machland: small towns, wide fields and large courtyards characterize the landscape. Halfway through the route you cross the shimmering Aist and after a short climb you can take a break at the Gmeiner winegrower.The route then takes you up to the Lanzenberg vantage point: Your gaze wanders far to the mystical Ötscher in the Mostviertel and even to the Traunstein in the Salzkammergut. Through smaller forest areas you hike the last part of this stage down to Perg. At the unusual Kalvarienbergkirche you have reached the edge of the Mühlviertel hill country again. In the old town of Perg you can end the day in one of the restaurants.
13 flat kilometers await you on this stage of the Donausteig main route. After a night in the historic town of Perg, head to the banks of the Naarn. The river leaves the hilly Mühlviertel here and flows through the fertile plain of the Machland. At the old floodplain, now a settlement, you leave the urban area and follow the course of the Naarn.With the water always in view, you pass colorful fields in a relaxed manner. The “Haid” rest area offers a welcome rest. You switch to the other bank and after Wagra you can take a detour to the Celtic village Mitterkirchen, an open-air museum that is well worth seeing. Behind the Machland dam, which protects the towns from flooding, you reach Mitterkirchen - your destination for today.
This Donausteig stage starts in Mitterkirchen and today takes you a little away from the Danube to the impressive Clam Castle. At first you cross the Naarn and then hike through the fertile Machland plain to Baumgartenberg. There begins a constant up and down through the hilly Mühlviertel, which is characterized by large square courtyards. You keep going up until the mighty walls of Burg Clam appear in front of you. It has been inhabited by the Clam family since 1454 and is known as a location for numerous concerts and events.
After a detour to the castle tavern, you walk past the idyllic Klam market and then through the wild and romantic Klam gorge: the path leads over bridges and on wooden walkways along the rushing water. At the end of the gorge in Saxen you reach the edge of the Machland plain again. The demanding ascent up to the Gobel, one of the seven Donausteig peaks, then begins. Once at the top, a wonderful view from the observation tower awaits you - the panorama extends from Machland to the Strudengau to the historic town of Grein. On the descent you will pass the Gobelwarte rest area after a few minutes. Through the forest it zigzags down to Grein on the banks of the Danube, your destination today.
The sixth stage of the Donausteig main route starts in Grein, the gateway to the Strudengau. From the center it goes up to the vantage point on Kalvarienberg, from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the Danube. Then you leave the last settlements behind you and dive into the forest. A beautiful path leads you down into the valley to the Gießenbachmühle, where you can take a first break.
This is followed by a wonderful section through the romantic Stillenstein Gorge, in which you will discover rushing water cascades and interesting rock formations. You leave the gorge over the steep Jägersteig and a short time later you hike high above the Danube through an atmospheric mixed forest. Shady forest paths lead you down to Struden with Werfenstein Castle. After you have crossed the village of Sankt Nikola, you climb the steep valley flank.
Along the Danube valley, it goes over meadows and past the Kleinleitner cider station. Here you can look forward to a magnificent view over the Strudengau up to the Ötscher. After descending back to the banks of the Danube, you will reach the historic town of Sarmingstein, the end of the Strudengau and your today's destination.
The day starts with a brisk ascent from Sarmingstein: From the confluence of the Sarmingbach into the Danube, it goes through the forest up to the Predigtstuhl. On the Felskanzel high above the Danube you reach one of the seven Donausteig peaks with a magnificent view. After a well-deserved break on the viewing bench, it goes deep into the Aist-Naarn-Kuppenland.You hike slightly downhill into the valley of the Sarmingbach and follow its course north. At the Dobmühle you leave the Sarmingbachtal and march relaxed through a colorful cultural landscape with large courtyards. After less than ten kilometers you will reach Waldhausen with its former monastery. In the pretty town you have reached your stage destination and can end the day in one of the cozy inns.
The starting point for this demanding Donausteig stage is Waldhausen. It starts at the market square. From there you walk to the former Waldhausen Abbey, a jewel worth seeing. The path then runs through a secluded landscape with small forest areas, babbling brooks and traditional farms. You hike up and down to the edge of the Waldhausen basin, with wide views of the Danube valley, the Ötscher and the Traunstein opening again and again.After a good nine kilometers you will reach the Aumühle in Gießenbachtal, where you can take a break in the inn. You briefly follow the Gießenbach before it goes up to the Wetzelstein. Once at the top, a great panorama awaits you from one of the seven Donausteig peaks. The cultural highlight of this stage is the well-fortified Kreuzen Castle, which was once the second largest fortress in Upper Austria.After climbing the keep you descend into the mystical Wolfsschlucht - shady mixed forest, huge rocks and wooden bridges await you. At the end of the Wolfsschlucht you can try your hand at various delicacies in the Speckalm snack bar in Lehen. From there it goes through a hilly landscape down to the banks of the Danube, where you reach the official destination of the main route in Grein. In the beautiful city you can review your long-distance hike again.
The southern route of the Donausteig starts just like the northern route in the three-river city of Passau. From the train station it goes to the Inn, which you cross on the Fünferlsteg. A short time later, from the other bank, you can see the colorful facades and the Ortspitz, where the Inn, Ilz and Danube meet. You leave the foothills of Passau behind you and turn into Haibach Valley on the German-Austrian border. This is where the ascent up to Freinberg on the Sauwald high plateau begins - wonderful views back into the Danube valley and to Passau are guaranteed.If you need some refreshment after a good seven kilometers, you can stop at Gasthaus Blaas, which is secluded on a hilltop. Then you hike back to the blue Danube before it goes uphill again via Unteresternberg. It goes on field and forest paths through the hilly landscape dotted with farms. In between you will always reach beautiful viewpoints. The last section of the first southern route stage takes you from the Sauwald high plateau down to Kasten an der Donau, where you will find two guest houses and a campsite to stay overnight.
The starting point for the second Donausteig stage of the southern route is Kasten. From the small town in the breakthrough valley of the upper Danube on the Austrian side you hike up to Vichtenstein. Once at the top, you can look forward to an impressive view of the Danube and the Jochenstein power plant. Past the well-fortified Vichtenstein Castle you march through the forest always uphill.With a view of the Bavarian Forest and the Bohemian Forest, you can reach the legendary Jagabild Chapel on the saddle of the Haugstein. A detour to the forest summit of the Haugstein, the highest mountain in the Sauwald, is worthwhile. The descent to Stadl leads along a crossroads. From there, the Donausteig runs through a colorful forest and meadow landscape and slowly brings you back to the banks of the Danube. On forest paths it goes down the Donauleiten to Engelhartszell, your stage destination.
More than 23 kilometers and 500 vertical meters await you on the third stage, so pack an extra sandwich in your backpack. From the village center you follow the course of the mighty Danube river and after a few steps you can visit the impressive monastery on the outskirts. Then it goes on the Treppelweg directly along the water before you turn into the mixed forests of the steep Donauleiten in Oberranna. After a good seven kilometers you can look forward to a wildly romantic section through the Kösslbachtal. A narrow hiking trail leads steadily uphill through primeval forest-like ravine forests and moss-covered log heaps.At the Donausteig rest area “4/4 view” with a view of all of Upper Austria's quarters, you've earned a break. In a gentle up and down it then goes through the cultural landscape and on the Paschinger hill you can enjoy a wonderful view again. Then you descend to the grandiose natural wonder of the Schlögener Schlinge and reach today's stage in Schlögen.
After a night in Schlögen, the fourth stage starts with a fantastic view of the Schlögen loop. Right at the beginning, you can expect a steep ascent up to the “Schlögener Blick”, which will make you forget all the effort. This vantage point is the guiding view of the entire Donausteig. At the same height you stroll on over the plateau high above the Danube valley.A recommended stop is the Hoamat Inn with its lovely garden. Afterwards you continue strengthened through small wooded areas and across colorful fields. This opens up great views as far as the Alps. On the last hill before you descend again to the bank of the Danube, the Eferdinger Basin is at your feet. You then hike relaxed through small villages and past farms to Aschach an der Donau. This stage of the Donausteig south route ends at Kirchenplatz, right by the green shimmering water.
The starting point for this Donausteig stage is Wilhering Ufer opposite Ottensheim. The Treppelweg leads you to the imposing Wilhering Abbey, whose artistic furnishings will inspire you. We continue on the Prinzensteig through beautiful mixed forest above the Danube - for this section you need surefootedness and a certain head for heights. Again and again you can look forward to changing prospects.In Friesenegg you can take a short detour to tower 13 of the Maximilian fortress. Afterwards you walk in amazement through the villa district of the Zaubertal. The last ascent of this stage begins at the Kalvarienbergkirche up to the summit of the Freinberg, on which the Franz-Josefs-Warte is located in a spacious park. For a grandiose panorama, climb the steps to the viewing platform and look from there over the Danube valley and over large parts of the urban Linz basin.After this highlight, you hike down the slope of the important Römerberg to the majestic Linz Castle. There, the successful mixture of modern and historical architecture of the castle museum sets the mood for the city of Linz. At the main square you have reached your today's destination and can end the day with a delicious ice cream.
At the beginning of this stage, you walk from Linz's main square through the picturesque old town, before you climb the Freinberg. Two impressive structures await you at the top: the trial tower and the Maximilian Chapel. After a short break, we continue south. You will soon pass the Leondinger Museum, which is housed in tower 9 of the Maximilian fortifications. You go out of the city through suburban settlements and after 13 kilometers you cross the shimmering Traun.
On old footpaths that Anton Bruckner used, you will reach the Donausteig rest area “Ölkam” in the village of the same name. Finally, it goes hilly through a typical cultural landscape to Sankt Florian. The famous monastery impresses with its basilica as you descend. The Donausteig leads from the historic Sankt Florian market through the wide Ipfbach valley. Another structural highlight of this stage is the stylish Tillysburg Castle. With a wonderful view over the Danube valley, you hike on to Enns, your destination today. The city with the striking tower is the oldest city in Austria.
With only eight kilometers, this stage is a very relaxed one and so you can spend a little more time in beautiful Enns. From the main square it goes on the Linzerstraße out of town to the Basilica of St. Laurenz, which is considered the cradle of Christianity in Upper Austria. You will also pass excavations of the Roman Lauriacum, a legionary camp of the Danube Limes, and will reach the train station a little later.Then you leave the last houses behind you and follow the babbling Kristeinbach for a while, which brings you to the banks of the Danube one more time. In the middle of the alluvial forest, it goes to the lonely Donausteig resting place "bike ferry" directly on the Danube. The view from here of Mauthausen opposite is simply wonderful. Passing the natural monument Taborteich you will reach the bicycle ferry, which will take you across Europe's second longest river like in the old days. The Mauthausen market is your destination for today.