The Via Natura hike reveals the beauty of the Zirbitzkogel-Grebenzen Nature Park, located in the west of Styria near the border with Carinthia in Austria. Over 130 kilometers (80 miles), the long-distance hike teaches you to read nature and see it with fresh eyes. The stages cover different aspects of nature: How nature inspires philosophers and artists, how to live in harmony with nature and what influence nature has on our everyday lives. At the beginning and end of each stage, you can find information about the topics at information points.
This big circular hike takes you through picturesque valleys, mysterious moors and dense forests. You climb the two peaks after which the nature park is named, the Grebenzen and the Zirbitzkogel, which at 2,396 metres (7,860 feet) is the highest peak in the Seetal Alps. Don’t forget to pack your swimming gear in your rucksack in summer, as you'll pass several lakes where you can relax and take a refreshing dip.
This adventure is ideal in spring, when it is already nice and warm, and in autumn. In summer you can hike in the shade on the many forest paths. The stages do not always end in a place where you can stay overnight. In these cases, you can arrange with your host to pick you up at your destination. The trail often heads down into the valley past inns where you can enjoy a meal or pick up supplies so you only have to carry a few provisions with you.
Officially, the circular hike is divided into ten stages. However, since the seventh stage is very long and has a lot of elevation gain, I’ve split it into three days. This Collection, therefore, includes 12 Tours. You can enjoy plenty of rests as some of the stages are very short. Other days are a moderate 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 miles) in distance with altitude gain never exceeding 1,000 metres (3,280 feet). The gentle walking makes the Via Natura a leisurely long-distance hike that gives you enough time to get in touch with nature.
Your adventure begins in the city of Neumarkt in Styria which has a train station, allowing you to arrive and depart in an eco-friendly way. The tourist information centres in Sankt Lambrecht and Neumarkt can help you organize luggage transport for the Via Natura.
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The third stage is the first on the Via Natura, which is a little more demanding. There are comparatively many vertical meters on the program because you climb the 1,892 meter high Grebenzen. So it's best to ensure that you have enough energy at breakfast. The theme of the day is the essence of water.On the way to Zeutschach you will pass the original source, which you can practically watch as the water gushes - even if it happens below the surface of the water. Then you start the long day climb. Before you dive into the forest, you can look over to the Zirbitzkogel on the other side of the valley. You will also climb this summit on the Via Natura. In between, the path becomes a little flatter every now and then so that you can take a short break.
The fourth stage only takes you to the other side of the ridge north of Sankt Lambrecht. On this day you can take it easy and relax your legs a little after yesterday's stage. To start the day, you can visit the wonderful monastery garden in peace and look for clues to the four elements on the baroque-style grounds.Then you go to the mountainside, where a path runs right above the valley. Take your time and enjoy the view. You pass the few houses in Heiligenstadt. A wooded ridge rises in front of you, which you skilfully bypass without any vertical meters.It only goes up a few meters and then the end of the stage is reached. Your destination Sankt Blasen is picturesquely enclosed by mountains a little above the valley, which promises you a beautiful view for the rest of the day. There is a guest house and an inn with overnight accommodation.
On this day it is mainly downhill, because you are hiking back into the valley. First it goes down through the forest. Then you follow the path over and over again over meadows and past the first farms, which show the proximity to the inhabited valley.Shortly after half of the route you are actually almost in Mühlen, your stage destination. If you want, you can take a shortcut here and hike straight into the village. Otherwise you'll make another loop to the south. Here you pass the village of Noreia, which was once believed to be the site of an ancient settlement and therefore bears this special name.Down in the valley you hike through a beautiful moor. So take your time on the last meters of the day and keep an eye out for butterflies and birds before you hike to mills. From there you can go a little further north-west to Hitzmannsdorf, where there is a guesthouse.