On the Lechweg you can accompany one of the last wild rivers of Austria on its journey through the mountain landscapes of Vorarlberg and Tyrol: starting out life as a narrow mountain stream from its source, Lake Formarin, the Lech quickly becomes an untamed force of nature. Every year, the moment the snow starts to melt, the Lech becomes a truly wild river, forcing its way through the idyllic Lech Valley. It gushes past wide open meadows, through deep gorges and over wide gravel banks, with its partner path, the Lechweg, going wherever it goes, traveling right alongside it the whole way. The turquoise-blue river flows through the Austrian mountains for over 120 kilometers (75 miles) without restriction.
The Lechweg, the hiking path that follows it, is the best way to experience this force of nature: Over eight stages, the route runs from the source of the Lech at Lake Formarin to the Lechfall in Füssen in Bavaria, Germany—a journey over 125 kilometers (75 miles) long. As far as the elevation you can expect on this hike goes, you've only got to conquer around 2,300 meters (7,500 feet) uphill, while over 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) await you on the descent. Hiking down the river, you'll stay on comfortable hiking trails the entire way and don't need to fret about conquering any Alpine peaks or passes. All you need to worry about is enjoying the spectacular views of the picturesque mountain landscape you're smack-bang in the middle of, as well as enjoying the hospitality of the inns you'll be resting in each evening. That being said, some stages can become relatively challenging in parts, although these are always short.
Thanks to these conditions, the Lechweg is a great hike for beginners to long-distance Alpine hiking. If this is your first multi-day hike in the Alps, this route is perfect for you: Take the full eight days and properly experience this wild Alpine river landscape. If you don't have the time for the full trek, however, each day's starting and endpoint is accessible by bus, so you can choose your favorite individual route and make it into a day trip.
Your first day of hiking starts at almost 1,900 meters above sea level directly on the turquoise blue Formarinsee. After you have seen enough of the breathtaking mountain panorama, you walk on the Lechweg on comfortable paths and with fantastic views down the valley.Soon, a narrow mountain stream bubbles next to the path. The Formarin brook gets bigger and wider on your hike and joins after a while with the Spullerbach to the Lech.Shortly after you reach the Gasthaus Älple, which is perfect for a first break. Then you cross the Lech and walk along its shore down to the finish line Lech am Arlberg.The starting point is best reached with the hiking bus from Lech am Arlberg. Alternatively, you can arrive the day before and spend another night at the Freiburger Hütte on Formarinsee. All information about the hiking bus can be found at lechweg.com/en/service/bus-connections
On the second day you leave the noble ski resort of Lech am Arlberg and walk along the valley on lush mountain pastures. First, it goes with great views above the Lech on meadows, but soon the trail approaches the river again.The Lech has cut a deep swathe into the valley on this section, and from the Lechweg you can see the blue water running deep down between the rock walls. On the way, you will walk over wild mountain meadows and through sparse coniferous forests.Shortly before the village Warth you cross the Lech and then climb up through a forest. In Warth you will find several inns and so you can insert here a comfortable rest. After your well-deserved break, we will continue via Almwiesen to the stage destination Lechleiten.
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The third stage is a particularly comfortable section on the Lechweg. Most of the time it goes today on good ways down the valley and so you can relax and enjoy nature.From Lechleiten to Steeg, the Lechweg follows the course of the old main road. Since the 1980s, it is no longer used and slowly brings the nature of their area back. The old road leads mostly through sparse mountain forest, but again and again you have great views into the deep Lechtal.From the small hamlet Prenten the Lechweg leads you again directly along the riverbank and the further trail runs almost flat. After about 11 kilometers you will reach Steeg, where you can take a rest in one of the inns before you make the last section to Holzgau.
At the beginning of the fourth stage a special highlight of the Lechweg awaits you. It first goes up in the Höhenbachtalschlucht and there on the adventurous Holzgauer suspension bridge. With over 200 meters in length, it is one of the longest suspension bridges in Austria and it offers you a fantastic view of the gorge. If you are not completely free from giddiness, you can bypass the bridge by taking the trail through the valley and past Café Uta.On the other side of the valley, it goes over wide alpine meadows and through a mountain forest down to the riverbank. Soon you will reach the Jöchelspitzbahn. There you will also find several guest houses for a rest.Then you leave the river for a while and walk around the ravine of the Modertal, until you continue from Obergiblen along the Lechauen to the stage destination Elbigenalp.
After a restful night in Elbigenalp, the longest stage of the hike is on the program on the fifth day. Despite the long distance, the path is easy to master thanks to easy walk-through paths with enough breaks.From Elbigenalp it goes along the river bank of the Lech to Häselgehr. There, you will pass the Doserfall and climb up comfortable trails and through a sparse forest on the mountainside. A break bench and a fantastic view await you at the top. After your rest, it is evenly downhill to the Lech. On your way you will pass a small guest house in Klimm, which invites you to take a break after your ascent and descent.If you have strengthened, the Lechweg leads you through quiet mountain forests and the last section to the finish in Stanzach runs again over lush meadows.
The fifth long stage is followed by a real pleasure hike on the sixth day. There are hardly any vertical meters to overcome and on the comfortable paths you can enjoy the unique landscape to the fullest.You start in Stanzach and the Lechweg leads you right along the river. The Lech has created a very wide riverbed here. In early summer, the mass of water rushing through the valley, but in late summer and autumn only narrow rivulets splash through the gray gravel bed.After half the distance you reach the Lechausee. If the weather cooperates, then you should now have your bathing suit with you. The crystal clear water is perfect for cooling off and the soft pebble beaches make it easy to relax.Then it goes past the small town of Weißenbach. A detour is worthwhile, because there are several cafes and restaurants. After crossing the Lech on a bridge, you will reach the destination Rieden.
Starting from Rieden, on the seventh day you will hike directly on the banks of the river to Reutten. For flood protection reasons, the course of the river was straightened here a bit, but the banks are to be renatured again.You cross the river and wander through the villages Platten, Winkl and Wänge. Here you will also find cafés and inns, where you can take a rest before you continue on. Behind Wängle, a steep but short ascent awaits you. At the highest point is the tiny Costaries Chapel, where you can enjoy the fantastic view on a small bench during a breather.On natural, but comfortable mountain trails, it goes down to the idyllic Frauensee. Then you cross the Lech and wander through the bird sanctuary Pflacher Auen until the stage goal Pflach.
Your last stage starts in Pflach. You wander out of the small town and finally leave the Lechtal on a climbing path. From the ruins of the Sternschanze you can once again take a look into the picturesque valley, before you continue on the saddle between Kitzberg and Pilgerschrofen.At the top, you cross the border to Germany and on a serpentine path through a forest down to the shore of the famous Alpsee. You walk along the shore, always with a view of the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle.You leave the lakeshore and wander on the Alprosenweg up to the Calvary. Here you can expect a fantastic view of the Allgäu Alps. From there, it goes down a short distance and you are already at the Lechfall. Over several steps, the Lech plunges down into the impressive Lechschlucht before it evenly flows through Bavaria.But here at Lechfall not only your journey ends. From the waterfall the Lech no longer runs as wild river, in Bavaria it has been tamed. In Germany, it is dammed up several times and used for power generation. With this knowledge, you will really realize what a unique landscape is preserved up in the wild Lechtal.