Hiking from Vienna in the east of Austria to Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria reveals the different sides of the pre-alps. Since 1978, the Voralpenweg 04 has been leading long-distance hikers through the provinces of Vienna, Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Salzburg. Wonderful mixed forests, rustic huts, world-famous towns and impressive summit views await you.
There are two variants to choose from between Kahlenberg peak and Gresten municipality – the northern and southern Vienna Woods route. In this Collection, I present the northern route. Although you never exceed 2,000 metres (6,561 feet) above sea level on this long-distance hiking trail, the stages, which are sometimes long, require a good level of fitness as well as sure-footedness and a head for heights in places. Towards the end of the Voralpenweg, the mountainous Salzkammergut area has a lot of altitude gain.
I have divided the entire 444-kilometre (276 mile) route into 22 stages, which you can combine or shorten as you choose. I’ve included tips on overnight accommodation en route in the descriptions of the daily stages that are particularly long.
With the peaks of the Alps always in view, the first days through the Vienna Woods and the hilly foothills of the Lower Austrian Alps are a leisurely start. You wander through the Ennstal and Sterytal valleys to Traunsee lake which is hugged by mighty rock faces. Next, you hike through the Höllengebirge mountains with their impressive peaks before discovering the crystal-clear lakes of the Salzkammergut region, which are among the most beautiful in Austria.
An absolute highlight of the route is the spectacular Schafberg mountain which stands proudly at 1,783 metre (5,849 feet). Passing the Fuschlsee lake, the Voralpenweg leads through Ramsau municipality to Gaisberg. From this mountain, you can enjoy incredible views over the city of Salzburg, where you are then headed. The official destination of this route is the spa town of Bad Reichenhall in the Berchtesgadener Land region of Bavaria. If you still have the legs, you can continue the Voralpenweg by following the Maximiliansweg through the Bavarian Prealps to Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg in Austria.
To get to the Kahlenberg, you can catch bus 38A from Vienna. At the end of your adventure in Bad Reichenhall, there’s a train station. You also pass stations along the way so you don’t have to walk the entire Voralpenweg in one go. You stop for the night in inns and mountain huts which are worth booking in advance. Summer is the best season to walk the entire Voralpenweg, when the higher peaks in the second part of the trail are free of snow and the mountain huts are open.
The Voralpenweg 04 starts on the Kahlenberg, which you can reach by bus 38A, with great views. Your gaze wanders over Vienna and the Danube Valley before you start the descent down to Klosterneuburg. You wander through the Vienna Woods, graze the Leopoldsberg and cross the border between Vienna and Lower Austria.After a detour to the imposing Klosterneuburg Abbey, the route takes you back into nature. It goes through a wonderful mixed forest to the idyllic Hagenbachklamm, in which you walk on narrow paths and over wooden bridges along the water. Only a little later you will reach your stage destination in the small village of Unterkirchbach.
The second stage starts in Unterkirchbach. At the beginning there is the ascent up to Hainbuch, where you can visit the European Chapel. Wonderful mixed forest characterizes the next section, which brings you to the Leopold Figl Warte on the Tulbinger Kogel. The view from the platform is simply unique and just a few steps away is a cozy inn.After a stop, you follow the path over the gentle hills of the Vienna Woods. The next spectacular panorama awaits you on the Troppberg: Here, too, there is a viewing point that you can climb - on a clear day the view extends to the summit of the Alps. Then you continue on narrow forest paths to Heinratsberg, where you spend the night in the Hotel Wienerwaldhof.
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After a night at the Wienerwaldhof, you start heading southwest and roam through forests and meadows. Again and again beautiful views of the rolling hills of Lower Austria open up. You cross Rekawinkel and a short time later hike over the Westautobahn. You quickly leave the traffic behind you and dive back into the forest. It continues over the Jochgrabenberg and through smaller villages on the Hasenriegel. The rustic Falkensteiner Hut invites you to take a break there on weekends.Passing the meadows of the Wienerwald golf club, you will reach the Forsthof inn. A little refreshment can't hurt, because towards the end of the third stage there is still a crisp ascent waiting for you: From the Forsthof it goes up to the Schöpfl, the highest mountain in the Vienna Woods. The Schöpfl-Schutzhaus is your destination today and the nearby Matraswarte offers you a magnificent all-round view.
From the highest peak of the Vienna Woods you descend to Laaben. You hike there on quiet forest paths and beautiful dirt roads. In Laaben you can strengthen yourself for the rest of the route at the Gasthof zur Linde. The pre-Alpine path then runs through a colorful cultural landscape that is peppered with traditional farms.In the valley of the Stössingbach it goes through the village of Stössing, where you will find an inn and a supermarket for a possible refreshment. On the last part of the fourth stage you hike to the Hegerberg, where you reach today's destination at the Johann-Enzinger-Haus.
Today the mountain group is about to change: you leave the hills of the Vienna Woods and reach the Türnitz Alps. The best thing to do is to strengthen yourself in the Johann-Enzinger-Haus with an extra portion of breakfast, because 26 kilometers and more than 800 meters of altitude await you on the fifth stage of the Voralpenweg 04.At first it goes from the Hegerberg down into the valley of the Michelbach. Then you hike through the beautiful Kyrnberger Wald into the Perschlingtal, where you pass a small castle. Already it's uphill again: At the Traxelhofer Höhe you can take a break at the edge of the forest and enjoy the great view.The rustic Ochsenburger Hütte spoils you halfway through the route with a piece of curd cheese strudel. Strengthened, you then follow the path down to Wilhelmsburg and leave the Vienna Woods behind you. After you have crossed the Traisen, you march over the northern foothills of the Türnitz Alps. The cozy Kaiserkogelhütte on the 723 meter high Kaiserkogel is your destination for today.
The sixth stage challenges you to 32 kilometers and over 900 meters in altitude. If you want to shorten the route a little, you can take the Mariazellerbahn from Rabenstein to Loich, for example. After a delicious breakfast in a hut on the Kaiserkogel, you descend to Rabenstein. You cross the Pielach and the Loizenbach in order to hike up on the other side of the valley to the weather hatch.In a gentle up and down it goes through the green Mostviertel. The many pear and apple trees along the way are unmistakable - a welcome snack. Through a colorful mosaic of forests and fields you follow the Voralpenweg 04 up to the Grüntalkogelhütte. At weekends, the hut spoils you with delicious sandwiches, and you can enjoy the magnificent view every day. The last section of the day brings you to the Plankenstein. There the mighty Plankenstein Castle is waiting for you, where you will spend the night.
Today you switch from the Türnitz Alps to the Ybbstaler Alps. This stage is also a sporting challenge with almost 30 kilometers and a few meters in altitude - that's why I recommend you to split the route into two days and spend one night in Scheibbs.You start in Plankenstein and initially walk over the green hills of the Mostviertel. Forests, meadows and fields alternate and you pass some streams to refresh yourself. At the Rainstein you can take a break and eat your provisions at the rest area. In a zigzag it goes on towards Blassenstein, from where you then descend to Scheibbs.If you want, you can stay here, otherwise it is worth stopping at one of the inns. This is followed by the sometimes steep ascent up to Ginselhöhe. From the promising summit you hike down to the Reinsberg ruins, which is a popular venue. Six kilometers further you finally reach your stage destination Gresten.
The eighth stage begins with the ascent from Gresten to the Grestner Hochkogel. You hike up grass-green slopes and can always look forward to wonderful views. Surrounded by nature, you walk along the edge of the forest to Sankt Leonhard, where you will find a pilgrimage church and an inn.After a well-deserved stop, you continue to the ridge of the Schobersberg. There you can visit a small wooden chapel and from the rest area you can enjoy a great panorama. Then the Voralpenweg 04 winds past hamlets and farms down into the valley. On the banks of the Ybbs is the picturesque Waidhofen with the beautiful Rothschild Castle, your destination today.
After a delicious breakfast you leave the beautiful Waidhofen with its colorful baroque facades and hike west. As in the last few days, you march through a patchwork carpet of forest, meadow and field. The Voralpenweg 04 leads you gently uphill.You pass the Hochkogel and in some places look far into the Mostviertel. After 13 kilometers you change from Lower Austria to Upper Austria, your third state on Voralpenweg 04. You reach your destination in the dreamy Maria Neustift, a well-known place of pilgrimage.
Maria Neustift is the starting point for the tenth stage of the Voralpenweg 04 - with 27 kilometers, another long day's route for which you should start early enough. From the place of pilgrimage it goes up to the Geierkogel. You will pass the small Glasner hut, which invites you to have a piece of cake. You hike through the forest to Spadenberg, at exactly 1,000 meters, the highest point of today's stage.Pass the Plattenberg and continue to the Sonnberg, from where you can enjoy an impressive view to the south of the Reichraminger Hintergebirge. On the Loseralm there is a small hut with a drinks machine - perfect for a break! The Traunviertel, through which you walk, is hilly and green. Shortly before Ternberg, the traditional Koglerhof invites you to linger in the guest garden. The Paukengrabenbach will then accompany you to the banks of the Enns, where you will reach the stage town of Ternberg.
Since the eleventh stage is a long and demanding day trip, I recommend you to spend a night in the rustic Grünburger hut. So you can split the route into two days and enjoy the beautiful landscape more intensely.You start in Ternberg im Ennstal and march towards the Upper Austrian Pre-Alps. Right at the beginning, Voralpenweg 04 winds past the Brandkogel up to the Herndleck. Magnificent views are guaranteed on this section. At an altitude of over 1,000 meters you follow the path through the forest and finally reach the Grünburger hut on the Brettmaisalm. Pure alpine idyll and delicious snacks await you here.If you don't spend the night in the hut, you then descend into the Dorngraben. There you follow the babbling brook through a romantic gorge to the charming Steyrtal. The emerald green river leads you past rocks and hamlets to the south. You will finally reach your destination in Frauenstein, a small pilgrimage site near Klaus an der Pyhrnbahn.
The starting point of today's stage is Frauenstein in the Upper Austrian Pre-Alps. Relaxed, you walk along the Steyr river and cross it at Klaus on the Pyhrnbahn. At the Klauser reservoir, which shimmers in a different color depending on the season, you turn right into the valley of the Steyrling. After ten kilometers you will reach the place of the same name, where the “Kaiserin Elisabeth” inn is ideal for a stop.Following the Steyrling, you get to the idyllic Brunnental and later to Bernerau. The path becomes steadily steeper and the Steyrling becomes narrower. Then you leave the creek bank and climb up in the forest to the panoramic ring saddle. From the Herrentisch viewpoint near the summit, you can enjoy an impressive view of the two Ödseen. Afterwards you hike down into the valley of the Straneggbach to the Almtalerhaus, where you can spend the night or you follow the route to Habernau to the Gasthof Jagersimmerl.
Three beautiful lakes await you on this stage in the famous Salzkammergut. You start in Habernau and hike to the beautiful Almsee without any notable differences in altitude - a fairy-tale sight, as the peaks are reflected in the water surface. After a worthwhile stop at the lake house on the south bank, the ascent up to Gschirrsattel begins. Here you crack the 1,000 meter mark and follow the pre-alpine path to the turquoise Offensee, which is a nature reserve.After a well-deserved cooling off, it goes along the Grieseneckbach through quiet mixed forest. After a short ascent, the trees light up briefly at the Fahrnaustube before you dive into the wild and romantic Rindbach Gorge. Rushing and rushing, the Rindbach searches its way through the narrow valley and brings you to Ebensee am Traunsee. Here you have reached your milestone.
The 14th stage of the Voralpenweg begins with a wonderful section on the southern bank of the Traunsee. After a night in Ebensee you climb up to the Kalvarienberg chapel, where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the lake. And on it goes uphill to the Gsoll at 1,124 meters. The hiking trail zigzags up under the Gsoll cable car. Once at the top of the mountain station, you really deserve a break in the rustic Kranabethhütte.With incredible views you hike on to Gasselhöhe and change there to the F. Haas-Weg, which you follow through wide pine fields. Past the Totengrabengupf you finally reach the Rieder Hütte, your destination for today. With a view of the peaks of the Höllengebirge you can end the day on the terrace.
This stage starts with a fantastic panorama at the Riederhütte. After a hearty breakfast, you hike through pine fields and over alpine meadows to the Eiblgruben-Sattel on the north side of the Brunnkogel. Surrounded by the mighty peaks and slopes of the Höllengebirge you follow the path downhill until you reach the source of a small stream. After a short stop you climb up the Grünalmkogel, at 1,821 meters the highest point of the Voralpenweg 04 so far.The view at the summit is really incredible and after you've enjoyed it extensively, you hike down to the Pfaffengraben. Now the last ascent for this day is ahead of you, which will bring you to the foot of the Jagerköpfl. If you want, you can take a detour to the summit. The last section of this stage leads you to the Hochleckenhaus, which you can already see in the distance. Spend the night in the popular hut on the Grießalm.
After a relaxing night in the Hochleckenhaus, this day begins with a dream view of the Attersee. You leave the Grießalm, cross a forest and then hike on wonderful paths to the Gaisalm. The Voralpenweg 04 leads you through wide mountain pine areas to the Brennerin-Alm, where a small rest area awaits you. From there you can make a worthwhile detour to the summit of the Brennerin, which allows wide views of the Salzkammergut.You always hike downhill over the rocky Dachsteinblick with the summit cross. With the Mahdlgupf, the next impressive vantage point is already waiting for you and a little later the route leads you to the popular Schoberstein. The following section is somewhat exposed and requires surefootedness. The path meanders in countless curves down into the valley to Weißenbach am Attersee, your stage destination.
Today we go to one of the most popular mountains in the Salzkammergut, namely the Schafberg. At the beginning you hike from Weißenbach along the shore of the Attersee, on whose crystal clear water small sailing boats rock. At Unterburgau you leave the lake, turn onto Moosstraße - which is not a street, but a wonderful hiking trail - and follow it through the forest.It goes up to the picturesque Moosalm. Via the Unter- and Oberackeralm you reach the wide Eisenaueralm at the foot of the Schafberg. The two huts, Buchberg and Kienbergerhütte, invite you to take a break with curd cheese strudel. This is followed by the ascent on the striking north side, with the almost vertical drop towering over you. Surefootedness and a head for heights are required to walk on the Himmelspfortenweg.Then you've made it and reach the Himmelspforte at 1,736 meters - unique views guaranteed. Just a few steps further, the Himmelspfortehütte and the Hotel Schafbergspitze, two promising accommodations for this night, await you.
This stage begins high above the Salzkammergut on the Schafberg. You start hiking with great views and follow the Voralpenweg 04 down to the Schafbergalm, where a station of the Schafbergalm is located. It's impressive how the train steams up the steep slope. At the summit of the Aignerriedel you switch from the alpine pasture to the forest and descend to Pucha.It goes past the European monastery Gut Aich and at the Plombergstein you can explore the caves and crevices at the foot of the mountain. You definitely cannot miss a detour to the picturesque town of Sankt Gilgen on Lake Wolfgang. On warm days, the lido invites you to take a dip in the cool water. From Sankt Gilgen you walk a bit along the Kohlbach and then after a good 14 kilometers you reach your destination at the Hochlackenhof.
After a restful night in the Hochlackenhof, this stage of the Voralpenweg 04 starts very relaxed: Along the Ellmaubach you hike to the Fuschlsee, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Salzkammergut. Before that, you will pass the Rumingmühle, which invites you to take a short break, and a little later you will reach the idyllic place Fuschl am See. Wooden boat houses and houses decorated with flowers on crystal clear water make this place so special.After a swim in the lake, walk past the impressive Red Bull headquarters. The path then begins to climb to lead you in the middle of the forest to the small Filblingsee. If you want, you can make a detour to the summit of Filbling from here. Finally, it goes on hiking trails and side roads down to Faistenau, your destination today.
On day 20 of the Voralpenweg you leave the village of Faistenau in the morning and walk to the banks of the Almbach. There you cross the dam that dams the creek to the front lake and then switch to the Metzgersteig. This leads you high above the Strubklamm through the forest - fantastic views are guaranteed. Following the Almbach, you will pass the Rossbachmühle and a short time later change to the banks of the Schwarzaubach.In Ebenau you then have the opportunity to stop before you reach the Meierhofbach. Again it goes along the water and after 13 kilometers the final ascent of the day starts. Over the Klausberg you hike up to the Gaisberg with its distinctive transmitter mast. At the top you can expect a magnificent view of Salzburg, which you will reach the next day. The last section takes you down to the beautiful Zistelalm, where you spend the night.
From the picturesque Zistelalm on the slopes of the Gaisberg, the penultimate stage begins in the forest. The Voralpenweg winds slowly down into the valley and you can treat yourself to a second breakfast on the Gersbergalm. Past the Heubergblick viewpoint, you hike down into the valley and reach the first foothills of the city of Salzburg.After a short detour to Gnigl and Schallmoos, you climb the Kapuzinerberg. With changing views of the city you will reach the Franziskischlössl and then follow the path to the Capuchin monastery. There you can visit the monastery church and afterwards it goes through the Steingasse to the Mozartsteg, which gives you completely new perspectives on Salzburg. You then march through the world-famous old town up to the mighty Hohensalzburg Fortress, where this stage ends. You will spend the night in one of the many accommodations in the beautiful city.
The dreamy Salzburg is the starting point for the last stage of the Voralpenweg 04. With a last look at the fortress, you leave the city in a south-westerly direction and pass Leopoldskron Castle. The buildings are slowly getting lower and soon you will be on the banks of the Glan. This leads you to Fürstenbrunn, where you start the ascent up to Langwiesen.It goes through quiet mixed forest and after a good 13 kilometers you can strengthen yourself in the Latschenwirt. With new strength, you hike a bit uphill again to the Wolfschwang Alm at the Untersberg Nature Park. From the Alm you can enjoy a wonderful alpine panorama and then you march on to Großgmain, where you cross the border to Germany.The walls of Gruttenstein Castle appear in front of you and announce the end of Voralpenweg 04. Your hiking adventure ends in the enchanting old town of Bad Reichenhall. Before you get on the train and start your journey home, you can stroll through the colorful streets.