Long distance hiking from mountains to lakes – Nockberge Trail in the Eastern Alps
© FRANZ GERDL
The Nockberge Mountains’ history stretches back an incredible 60 million years, older than any other mountain range in the Eastern Alps. Their impressive age is reflected in the gentle hilltops (also called Nocken), rounded peaks and magnificent ridges. This gentleness and peace combined with the largely unspoiled nature is what makes the Nockberge Mountains so special. Conservationists began fighting to preserve this natural jewel in the 1970s. Thanks to them, you can walk through a protected UNESCO biosphere park today.
The Nockberge Trail takes you right through this hiking paradise in Carinthia in Austria. This high-altitude route leads from Katschberg to Millstätter See in eight stages and is packed full of wide views. Along the way, you collect countless peaks and cams as you hike from one magnificent vantage point to the next. You pass popular winter sports resorts such as Turracher Höhe or Bad Kleinkirchheim, which have a lot to offer in summer too.
The route goes up and downhill; over lush green alpine pastures, along ridges with magnificent panoramas, through shady pine forests and idyllic valleys. Along the 135-kilometre (83 mi) route, you can relax at refreshing lakes, wonderful benches and sunny mountain hut terraces. You won’t be able to resist the smell of Carinthian Kasnudeln cheese pasta or a freshly baked Reindling cake.
If you like technically moderate climbs without exposed passages and are up for a daily distance of up to 23 kilometres (14.2 mi), then the Nockberge Trail is an ideal long-distance hike for you.
The best way to reach the starting point on the Katschberghöhe is by car. The destination Seeboden is well connected to public buses. There’s also a train station nearby in Spittal an der Drau. You spend each night in cosy mountain huts or in places with a good selection of accommodation. Let yourself be enchanted by the sublime tranquility and scenic beauty of the Carinthian Nockberge Mountains.
On the second day of the Nockberge Trail, it starts slightly downhill from the Neue Bonner Hütte to a fork in the road. Here you keep left and follow the Nockberge Trail over the Ebenwaldhöhe. After you have crossed the small Plareitbach, you train your calves during the ascent up to the Laußnitzer hut. The alpine snack with bacon is particularly recommended.
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This stage starts with a highlight: From the picturesque Innerkrems you hike through the beautiful Donnerschlucht gorge. Following the Kremsbach, the Nockberge Trail leads you over small wooden bridges and past waterfalls to the east. The Schluchtenweg ends at a road where you can take a detour to the Dr. Josef-Mehrl-Hütte - what gives you more energy than a piece of apple strudel?
With 20 kilometers and over 1,100 meters in altitude, the fourth stage really challenges your calves. After a night on the Turracher Höhe, your day starts with a wonderful view of the Turrachsee. From there you follow the Barbaraweg steadily uphill - initially through shady forest until you reach the tree line. You will pass an old mine where cinnabar used to be mined.
The fifth stage begins in the magical mountain scenery on the shores of the Falkertsee. To start the day you can jump into the cool waters. Following a stream, you hike from the south bank past the Ochsenauge to the Falkertscharte. From there it is definitely worth taking a detour to the Falkert, one of the most famous peaks of the Nockberge.
Bad Kleinkirchheim is the starting point for the sixth stage of the Nockberge Trail. At first you follow the St.-Oswald-Bach northwards until you turn left to Obertschern. Then the road becomes a small forest path that leads you steadily and sometimes quite steeply up the mountain. You cross a forest road several times, which you can follow as an alternative to the steep path.
At a good 23 kilometers, this stage is the longest of the Nockberge Trail - it's best to load an extra portion on your plate at breakfast in the Erlacherhaus. It starts parallel to the Rossbach to the north. You cross the rippling water and follow the long-distance hiking trail to the Arkersattel, from where you can make a detour to the Arkerkopf. A wooden summit cross marks the 1,970 meter high summit.
The last stage is already beginning, which has many highlights in store for you. From the Millstätter Hütte you follow the wide gravel path towards the Alexanderhütte, you will pass the water-spouting Nock dragon. In a dangling it goes to the Tschierwegernock. From the summit cross you can enjoy a wonderful view of Lake Millstatt, while the Tschiernock marks the last summit of the Nockberge Trail.