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Small country, big paths! Hiking the North-South Trail through Austria

j.sinnitsch (CC BY 2.0)

Small country, big paths! Hiking the North-South Trail through Austria

Hiking Collection by Valerie

22-50

days

3-6 h

/ day

298 mi

55,225 ft

57,275 ft

We all know that Austria is – compared to many other countries – not so big. Crossing it once is therefore an undertaking that can definitely be accomplished, an unforgettable one at that. In this Collection, I'll show you the best way to do it – not from right to left, but from top to bottom, so to speak. Ready? Here's the North-South Trail.

Admittedly, even though I was born in this country, I've never wondered how long it would actually take to cross it in one go. So before you set off on your adventure, I’ll tell you about all the wonderful things about my home country and give you the facts. In the course of this trail – which, by the way, is the first of the "10 Great Austrian Long Distance Trails" – you’ll hike a total of almost 500 kilometers (310 miles). 22 stages and an impressive 16,830 metres (55,216 feet) of elevation gain await you. On your way, you pass through two provinces – Lower Austria and Styria – which are both incredibly beautiful. More than 7,000 hikers have already walked the North-South Trail since it was opened in 1970.

From the Nebelstein summit in the Waldviertel, you march to the market town of Spitz on the Danube. You visit the beautiful Wachau valley, the Mostviertel quarter and the Ötscherland area. At Lake Erlauf near Mariazell, you cross from Lower Austria to Styria and climb, among others, the Hohe Veitsch, the Hochschwab and the Eisenerzer Reichenstein peaks. The Gleinalpe, Stubalpe and Koralpe mountains sweeten the last third of the route. You experience your final 2,000 metre (6,561 feet) peak on the Großer Speikkogel, before arriving at your final destination, Eibiswald, after 22 days of hiking.

If you would like to shorten the route, you can do so easily as most places have a possible approach. This allows you to walk individual stages and adapt the route to suit you. Just make sure that the start and endpoints are close to a main road so you can access public transport. To reach the official starting point at Nebelstein, for example, you can take the train and regional bus from Vienna, St. Pölten or Linz to Harbach and then climb to the summit. In Eibiswald, your final destination, there is a train station from which you can depart in all possible directions. If you decide to hike the entire trail, these Tours always end in a destination that has plenty of accommodation. So, let's go! Pack your backpack and hike across Austria!

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Nord-Süd-Weitwanderweg 05

294 mi

55,800 ft

57,850 ft

Last updated: January 27, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:33
    14.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,550 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Your adventure north-south path starts at the summit of the fog stone. It is best to hike up the day before and spend the night in the hut of the same name. So you can tackle the long-distance hiking trail with fresh energy.

    

    The view from the summit is a wonderful prelude to the 22 stages that lie ahead

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  • Difficult
    07:27
    16.7 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    2,025 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Time for stage 2 of the north-south path. And one thing is certain: this almost 27-kilometer section has many sights to offer. If you are more of the kind of pleasure hiker, you can split it up into two stages. And enjoy it all the more.

    

    The tour begins at your destination yesterday, Liebenau. It goes

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  • Difficult
    07:02
    15.8 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,550 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    While you are hiking stage 3 of the north-south path, the Waldviertel shows itself again from its most beautiful side. From Schönbach you first walk into the valley of the Edelbach, which has a few wonderful hiking trails. One of them leads you past the Anschaumühle to Bad Traunstein. The Wachtstein

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    06:07
    12.1 mi
    2.0 mph
    1,700 ft
    3,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    From the high-altitude flights on the Waldviertel high plateau, we head to the wonderful Danube valley today. On a total of almost 20 kilometers, wonderful nature, wide views and one or the other beautiful monument await you.

    

    We start in Elsenreith, your destination yesterday. From here you first march

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  • Difficult
    06:18
    12.7 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,300 ft
    2,275 ft
    Ferry
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    One wonderful (former) castle after the other and in between a lot of water and wonderful views - this is stage 5 of the north-south path. Always south-east of the Danube, you climb a good 20 kilometers of this section but also a few meters in altitude.

    

    It starts with a ride on the roller ferry from Spitz

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  • Difficult
    05:38
    12.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The sixth stage of the North-South Trail is almost 20 kilometers and is about as long as its predecessors. Because the whole time is relatively leisurely and without any notable climbs, it is much less strenuous. This leaves you with more strength for culture - in this case a visit to the Wachau landmark

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    06:41
    14.3 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,275 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 7 runs in a relatively relaxed way from St. Leonhard am Forst to Plankenstein through the wonderfully dreamy Mostviertel. A few of the vertical meters that you see in the elevation profile are optional: Because it forms the "middle of the Mostviertel" and gives you a wonderful view, I have included

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    05:55
    11.5 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,650 ft
    1,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 8 is pending and takes you a total of almost 19 kilometers down to St. Anton an der Jesnitz, then up again to your destination for the day. Always there: the Ötscher, an impressive 1,893 meter high mountain range.

    

    From Plankenstein you climb step by step uphill to the initially highest point at

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  • Difficult
    06:36
    12.0 mi
    1.8 mph
    3,850 ft
    2,175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It's going uphill: on stage 9, which is a good 19 kilometers long, you've cracked the 1,000-meter mark for the first time in your north-south adventure since starting on the Nebelstein. By the way, this section lets you hike a few wonderful natural spectacles.

    

    From your overnight accommodation on Hochb

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    06:41
    13.3 mi
    2.0 mph
    1,900 ft
    3,725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You can't get enough of the mountain air so quickly. That's why you are allowed to stay above the 1,000-meter mark for a while during the tenth stage of the north-south trail before you head onto Styrian soil and down to your stage destination Mariazell for the first time. By the way: Almost half of

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  • Difficult
    08:41
    16.1 mi
    1.9 mph
    5,075 ft
    1,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Enough of civilization again and motivated for the real giants of the north-south path? Stage 11 approaches this project slowly but surely. And once you get to its highest point, on a clear day you can see almost all the way to your final destination.

    

    But first things first. From Mariazell you first make

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  • Difficult
    08:18
    14.6 mi
    1.8 mph
    3,425 ft
    3,975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    “You can no longer see the mountains for all the alpine pastures and huts”, this could be the motto of stage 12. It has several rustic places to stop for you. At almost 23.5 kilometers, it is also quite long, so please don't dawdle too long on the way.

    

    And off you go right away: After you've hiked from

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    06:17
    9.46 mi
    1.5 mph
    2,325 ft
    2,775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Today it's finally getting really alpine! With the 2,277 meter high Hochschwab summit, you are climbing the "highlight" of the north-south path. You should be appropriately equipped, sure-footed and free from giddiness, of course.

    

    From yesterday's destination, you first hike further into the valley through

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  • Difficult
    07:36
    11.7 mi
    1.5 mph
    4,150 ft
    2,175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    A few days full of highs: yesterday you climbed the highest peak of the north-south path, today's stage 14 takes you to its highest control point. This section is almost 19 kilometers long. So not an outlier compared to the previous tours. At the very end, however, you can expect a pretty steep climb

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  • Difficult
    05:02
    9.27 mi
    1.8 mph
    25 ft
    4,825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Yesterday's tour is followed by a few well-deserved pats in the form of a crystal clear mountain lake, a babbling waterfall and - of course - delicious Styrian delicacies.

    

    The day of stage 15 can start with a short detour to the summit of the Eisenerzer Reichenstein, but it doesn't have to. Either way

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    09:26
    17.6 mi
    1.9 mph
    5,350 ft
    2,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 16 awaits you and it's down to business: Overall, you have to master a good 28 kilometers and more than 1,600 meters in altitude. If you like, you can safely split this tour into two days. Either way, it's relatively leisurely to the Trabocher See and across the lowlands to Leoben. Then the proud

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    by Valerie

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  • Difficult
    09:44
    17.1 mi
    1.8 mph
    4,900 ft
    4,900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 17 also turns out to be not exactly stingy in terms of the amount of kilometers and meters in altitude. It goes over gentle alpine pastures, but the possibilities to stop off on the way or just fill the water bottle are rather meager. All these facts give the stage the sounding name of "dry spell

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  • Difficult
    06:19
    12.8 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    As promised, stage 18 of the north-south path is finally a little more leisurely. In total, “only” about 21 kilometers and a little more than 600 meters in altitude need to be hiked. Can you make it with your left, right?

    

    The first summit called Rossbachkogel is already waiting for you after a short ascent

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  • Difficult
    08:03
    17.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,775 ft
    3,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    If you want to experience a real Styrian hiking classic, this stage is the right place for you. Strictly speaking, you will even find two of them here: one is the tour from Gaberl to Salzstiegl and one is the beautiful section over the Hirschegger Alm.

    

    So the first is right at the beginning of the stage

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  • Difficult
    06:07
    12.3 mi
    2.0 mph
    3,025 ft
    1,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    On this stage you first go through forests, then directly to the tree line, until you later cross the Glein and Koralpe. This guarantees you wonderful nature and even more wonderful views over the Styrian and Carinthian mountains.

    

    First of all, you turn your back on Pack and walk past the “Steinernen

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    22
  • Distance
    298 mi
  • Duration
    152:32 h
  • Elevation
    55,225 ft57,275 ft

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Small country, big paths! Hiking the North-South Trail through Austria

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