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!
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 of you. At the start it’s first a long way down to Eisenwerk, where you will meet the Lainsitz. It accompanies you a little through the Waldviertel, which shows a particularly typical side here. Then the Einsiedelbach will take over as your companion. You march through its valley to Karlstift and, after a break in the historic place, continue towards Reichenauerwald. A relatively long section through dense forest awaits you - then you will see your first stage destination on the horizon: Liebenau. In a local accommodation you can make yourself comfortable and prepare for stage 2.
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 through a lot of forest, over lush meadows and in constant ups and downs towards Rubner Teich. This idyllic spot is the perfect place for a first bite of your snack or a short break. The picturesque Tanner Moor is also very close by. Strictly speaking, it is not part of this tour, but a detour can be worthwhile. Via Arbesbach, in whose local department store you can fill your backpack again, and via Altmelon, the wonderful hilly landscape of the Waldviertel finally brings you to Schönbach. Today's stage ends here - and you really deserve a quiet night.
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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 on the outskirts requires a short detour, but it certainly makes up for it with its view.At Walterschlag you will soon dive into a mighty forest, the heart of which is the picturesque Weyrerteich. A few kilometers later in Ottenschlag, which incidentally has a nice castle tavern for you to stop off at, the final spurt of the tour begins: You pass the villages of Pleßberg, Ernst and Felles and finally reach your destination today, Elsenreith.
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 down to Trandorf. And here it is as if you could already hear the babbling of the Danube. But one thing separates you from it: the Jauerling, for which you first have to climb another 100 meters. For what is waiting up there, the effort pays off: A 38 meter high observation tower gives you a magnificent view. Maybe even up to your today's goal? Who knows. In any case, you can reach it by going downhill on beautiful forest paths. Welcome to the wonderful Wachau! And at the finish of the fourth stage: Spitz an der Donau.
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 to Arnsdorf on the southern bank of the Danube. Once on the other side, you then hike through the shady Buchental up to Maria Langegg and thus past the impressive Aggstein ruins. Once again a short distance up on a small ridge, Aggsbach-Dorf welcomes you soon. And that's not all - one last time it means: grit your teeth and climb up to the resting place at the stump of the picture beech. You finally reach your destination via Berging - again with a wonderful castle: Schönbach an der Donau.
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, the Benedictine monastery Melk.From Schönbühel you hike - mind you via the Austrian Way of St. James - first via Hub to the confluence of the Pielach and the Danube. You cross Melk and you can already see the monastery mentioned at the beginning. A visit to its magnificent halls pays off! Then you leave the city towards the south, cross the western motorway once and immediately find yourself in the quiet forest. You cross the Hiesberg and descend to Gassen. From there it is not far to your stage destination St. Leonhard am Forst.
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 the Schweinzberg as a highlight in the tour. In order to master today's stage, the detour is by no means a must.From St. Leonhard am Forst you walk in a south-easterly direction and on easy dirt roads past the villages of Fritzberg, Maierhöfen and Ausserreith. After you have got the control stamp for your hiking book from Unterhub, you will soon start - if you like - with the ascent to the Schweinzberg. As soon as the view to the south opens, you can already see Plankenstein Castle in front of you. You have to go there - Schweinzberg or not - at the end of today. It's not far from the saddle between Texing and St. Georgen an der Leys. Explore the castle and find quarters for the night. Stage 8 is on the program tomorrow.
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 Schindlegg. A few kilometers further, at the Rainstein, it goes downhill again. And steep - until you find yourself in the middle of the village of St. Anton an der Jesnitz. In the local tavern you have the opportunity to treat yourself to some refreshment for the last few kilometers. Walking through the Reitgraben, it gradually goes uphill again. Then you will soon be at your destination today, the cozy Almgasthaus on Hochbärneck.
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 Hochbärneck, you first climb downhill towards Tormäuer, where you follow a long stretch of the beautiful, wild Erlauf. There is always the chance to cool off your brave hiking feet in the emerald green water. While you are walking along here, you will also pass the entrance of the impressive Ötscher stalactite cave. Then you dive into wonderful forest areas that accompany you to Lackenhof. Treat yourself to some refreshment in the small village, because now it's uphill to the Riffelsattel and from there another 130 meters in altitude to the Ötscher Schutzhaus. Here you can take a breather - it continues tomorrow.
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 the way is already behind you after this stage!From the Ötscher Schutzhaus you first of all make your way back to the Riffelsattel you climbed yesterday. Via the Feldwiesalm you will soon reach the Gemeindealm and enjoy a first glimpse of your today's destination, Mariazell. Steep paths lead you to the picturesque shore of the Erlaufsee, which accompanies you for a while. With the bridge over the Erlauf, you finally cross the Lower Austrian-Styrian border and are now in a different federal state. Styria welcomes you in a friendly manner: you march on relatively flat paths to your destination.
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 your way to Schöneben (where you may find one or two pilgrims, because you are on the Styrian Mariazellerweg). Once there, you start the ascent. First you go to the Herrenboden, while you then continue up to the Niederalpl, you can already see the Hohe Veitsch. That's where it goes today. And through the slopes under the Little and Big Wild Ridge. Up there: a wonderful all-round view and before you know it, you’re standing in front of the door of your current night quarters, the Graf-Meran-Haus.
“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 your night quarters over the Hohe Veitsch plateau, you tackle the so-called Teufelssteig. It leads you on a steep but easily accessible path down to the Rotsohlalm, the first opportunity for a nice stopover. Then you continue to the Turnauer and then to the Göriacher Alm before you finally reach the Seebergalm. Hopefully you have strengthened yourself well in one (or more) hut (s), because there is still an up and down that has it all: First up to the Seebergsattel, then down to Seewiesen and finally through the Untere Dullwitz to your destination, the Voisthaler Hütte.
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 the Dullwitz. But the first ascent is not far: over the Graf-Meran-Steig it goes up to the Ochsenreichkar. A few meters later, at the Schiestlhaus, you know that the worst is behind you. You really deserve a stop with it. Freshly strengthened, it is really not far to the highest point of the north-south path: the summit of the Hochschwab. The view up here makes up for all the efforts of the ascent. With that you have made the uphill passages of this tour, but there are still a few kilometers to go: Past the butcher's bivouac and the Häuselalm, you will finally reach your overnight accommodation, the Sonnschienhütte, over the picturesque Sackwiesensee.
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 of 900 meters in altitude. If that's too much for you for one day, you can split this stage over two days with a clear conscience.Either way you let Dr. Kotek Get your night quarters behind you first. It goes west, past the Hörndlalm to the Kulmalm. Soon the mighty women's wall will rise up in front of you. At the weekend you can let yourself be guided through their passage cave. Next on the list is the Neuwaldeggsattel and a few kilometers later the Hirscheggsattel. From here it’s not far to the Leobner Hütte, which - if my suggestion mentioned at the beginning sounds good to you - is a possible accommodation for the night. But you can also just enjoy a snack here and then head down the Knappensteig to the top of the Präbichl pass. What has been quite leisurely so far ends with a decent final ascent: 900 meters in altitude to the Reichensteinhütte, to be precise. For this, when you arrive at the top, you will not only be rewarded with a warm delicacy, but also with a magnificent panorama. Wasn't that bad, was it?
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, it goes from the hut over the plateau, first to the Reichhals, then down a stony path under steep walls to the Krumphals and the picturesque Krumpensee. A break is recommended here. How many mountain peaks do you count in the mirror of the freezing cold water? You then continue downhill past the waterfall mentioned at the beginning to the Hirnalm snack station. Yes, and here you can also take a break. It is well deserved. And more than half of the tour is already behind you. Now all you have to do is hike out of the valley towards Hafning and continue to your stage destination Trofaiach.
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 1,000-meter ascent to your stage destination, the Hans-Prosl-Haus on the Mugel, is waiting.From yesterday's destination you hike - as already mentioned at the beginning - to the Trabocher Lake, where you can take a dip in the summer. Over a plateau that is not exactly stingy with beautiful views, you then march on and on to Leoben. Here you could, if you like, interrupt your tour and continue tomorrow. Otherwise you start here with the ascent to the Mugel. And it turns out to be crisp: First you pass the so-called Spitz Christi, a rock on the edge of the path, then the currently closed Gasthaus Schmollhube. From the Gstattmoaralm the path then climbs again until you soon find yourself at the Mugelschutzhaus directly on the summit. Here you check in and gather strength for stage 17.
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". But don't worry: it is not only one of the most demanding tours on the North-South Trail, but also one of the most beautiful. And now you're prepared.It starts at yesterday's stage destination, the Mugelschutzhaus, from where you first walk downhill to the Trasattel, and shortly afterwards you climb back up to the Hochalm. After a further descent, you will find the - unfortunately not entertained - Almwirt and a little later the Gössbach, incidentally the only water point on this stage. Then there is a longer ascent to the Pöllasattel and on to the Fensteralm. Here you can see roughly what awaits you on the second half of the stage: Polsterkogel, Polstersattel, Eiblkogel, Kreuzsattel, Lärchkogel, Speikkogel and Gleinalmsattel. Is it already tingling in your legs? Let's go! After all the ups and downs from Sattel to Kogel and vice versa, it is clear to you how the altitude profile of this tour came about. If you have the last saddle behind you, you will finally arrive at your night quarters, the Gleinalm Schutzhaus. Here you have earned some refreshment and a good night's sleep. Tomorrow it will be a little more comfortable again - I promise.
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 from your overnight accommodation. Climbing it is optional - you can also go around it using its left flank. The same applies to the Terenbachalm, which follows only a little later. In any case, both guarantee a magnificent panorama of the Styrian mountains. In this variant, I will guide you to the Rossbachkogel - for this you will bypass the summit of the Terenbachkogel. If you do that, you can fill up your water bottle at the Zeißmannhütte and stop off at the Oskar-Schauer-Sattelhaus. Over the bull's cross and a slight up and down, you finally march to the so-called Gaberl, where you will spend the night today.
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: from Gaberl you walk over the Alte Almhaus to Salzstiegl. Here you will meet other hikers again and again - especially when you stop at the Altes Almhaus. And if you like, you can add a detour on the Rappoldkogel along the way. From the Salzstiegl it then goes over the Peterer Sattl to the Hirschegger Alm. On it you hike long and with great views until you approach the tree line again and with it two nice places to stop for refreshments - the Bernstein and Knödelhütte. It's not far from the latter: Via the access road you hike to the Ochsenkogel with the Barbarahaus and a little later you will find yourself in the village of Pack, including opportunities to spend the night.
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 Weibl” towards the Hebalm. The former ski area attracts many hikers in summer. One or the other refreshment stop is also available here. You pass the Bärofen, which you can also climb over a longer detour, and you will already find yourself in the picturesque high moor See-Eben. Via the Wildbachsattel with its monument to the last wolf shot here, you will soon reach the Handalm with its impressive rock ovens and a wildlife park. Past the Paulus Chapel, you are already standing in the middle of the wine plain. There are two nice places to stop for a break, one of which also offers you a room for the night.
One more time ... over the 2,000 mark! That means: On the 19 kilometers of the penultimate stage, you can be prepared for a few grandiose panoramic views. After all, this section is also known for its unique panorama.You start well rested on the wine level and make your way (leisurely) to the Grillitschhütte. A steep ascent begins here: it goes on the so-called chicken support. Once at the top, you can take a breather on the flat paths until you start the final ascent of the tour, up to the Großer Speikkogel. In return, you can expect not only a great panorama on its summit, but also the radar station called Goldhaube, which you have had in front of your eyes all day. You now hike eastwards over the Glitzalm, you will soon dive into a forest and there you will reach the “Kramerin” chapel. A little later you are already standing in front of the door of your current night quarters: the rustic Schwanberger Brendlhütte.
Today the time has come: the last stage of your north-south trail adventure is on. To do this, you leave the West Styrian Alms behind you and steer steadily downhill towards your final destination, Eibiswald. At the edge of the village, the long-distance hiking stone created by Carl Hermann welcomes you - a symbol for the end of the long-distance hiking trail. And for your grandiose achievement, walking a long-distance hiking trail across Austria.The Brendlhütte also marks something: the start of a few enjoyable kilometers. It goes downhill towards St. Katharina in der Wiel. Once there, you can have a refreshment in Café Rosi. The only climb of the stage follows a few kilometers later around St. Oswald ob Eibiswald. At a viewing platform on the side of the path, you will soon have a first nice view of your destination. Before you reach it, however, you will pass a decisive highlight: There is almost no way around a stop at the Garber tavern with its impressive observation tower. The delicious dishes that are served here form a successful, temporary end to your adventure. Through the Silent Valley you finally hike through the forest to Eibiswald. Your goal has now been achieved - you can be proud of yourself!