The Carnic High Trail is one of most well-known long-distance hiking trails in the Alps. It takes you from Sillian on the western edge to Thoerl-Maglern in the very east in 8 stages. As you go, you'll encounter everything Alpine, from idyllic alpine pastures and dense Swiss stone pine forests to barren mountain meadows, rubble dumps, rocky mountain paths and adventurous peaks. What's more, as the hiking trail runs along the main ridge, you can expect fantastic views of some of the range's most powerful peaks, including the Sesto Dolomites, the Julian Alps, the Hohe Tauern and the Gailtaler Alps.
In a total of eight days, the Carnic High Trail will take you around 93 miles (150 kilometers) through the mountains, forcing you to contend with a total of around 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) of elevation gain. Fortunately, however, the altitude difference is evenly distributed over the eight stages with countless smaller summit ascents making up much of the altitude gain. In fact, there aren't any long, grueling ascents to contend with here.
On your hike, you'll cross the border between Italy and Austria over and over again. And while today, it's a matter of going where the trail takes you, this wasn't always possible. During the First World War, the Carnic Main Ridge was a fiercely contested border area, with soldiers' cemeteries, bunkers and fortified positions still being visible along the trail today. To keep these moments in mind so that this never happens again, you'll find numerous information boards along the edge of the trail. These give you an insight into what happened, why, and what it was like for the young soldiers caught up in the violence back then.
At each stage destination, you will find cozy Alpine huts and guest houses where you can recover from your hike. As you'll only pass a couple of huts as you hike the trail day to day, however, you'll need to take this time to stock up on supplies for the road ahead. The best thing to do is to discuss with the hut owners whether they can pack you a packed lunch.
If you'd rather shorten the walk, the Carnic High Trail can easily be divided into two sections. The first section from the Leckfeldalm to the Plöckenpass impresses with its barren high mountain landscape and is by far the most popular part of the long-distance hiking trail. From the Plöckenpass, the route is less dramatic — although no less beautiful — leading you through Alpine meadows and quiet mountain forests. The Plöckenpass is halfway along stage five and can be easily reached by bus from Kötschach railway station. That way, you can choose for yourself whether you want to hike the full trek — or stick to a section of it.
To get to the starting point in Leckfeldalm, take a taxi or walk from Sillian. Sillian is located on the railway line between Bolzano and Lienz and can be easily reached by train. Thoerl-Maglern, the destination of the Carnic High Trail, also has a train station to get you back home again.
Your first stage on the Carnic High Trail leads you from the green slopes of the Drau Valley up to the barren mountain meadows of the Carnic Ridge. Your guide on today's hike: the scenic view of the rocky peaks of the Sexten Dolomites.Your hike starts at Alpengasthof Leckfeldalm. From here, it first goes on a wide gravel road through sparse mountain forest and over wide mountain meadows up to the Carnic ridge. Soon you leave the farm path and change to a narrow mountain trail. Once at the top of the ridge you have not only made the majority of today's ascent, you will also be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Dolomites.Next destination: Sillian hut. The Alpenvereinshütte will be completely renovated in 2018, from 2019 overnight stays will be possible. Despite the construction work, you can take a break here and have a bite to eat. From the hut, the Karnische Höhenweg now meanders along the wide summit ridge, heading east. Only a few meters of altitude await you on the entire stage, so you can relax and enjoy the fantastic view of the surrounding mountains.After you have passed the Hochgrätsee, it is a bit uphill and the ridge is rocky - pure mountain feeling. On the exciting path it goes over the peaks of humility and the iron kingdom, before your today's stage goal is in sight. Below the Carnic ridge, located in a wide valley, the hut "Obstansersee" awaits you.So that you can enjoy the first stage to the fullest, it is worthwhile ascending to the Leckfeldalm the day before and spending the night there. If the ascent is too long for you, you can also comfortably take the hut taxi to the Leckfeldalm.More information at leckfeldalm.at/taxi.
With a distance of less than 12 kilometers, the second stage is the shortest hike on the Karnische Höhenweg. That's a good thing, because on your tour today, the most exciting and challenging sections of the entire long distance hike await you in return. Special highlight: the crossing of the Schuttkars below the Great Kinigat.From the Obstansersee hut, head straight up to the Karnischen Kamm and then directly onto the summit of the Pfannspitze. From the summit you have a wonderful view of the mountains of the Sesto Dolomites and the Friulan Dolomites. With the Pfannspitze you have already reached the highest point of the second stage - from now on you are hiking most of the time just downhill.Towards the east, you can already see the striking rock peaks of the little ones and the Great Kinigat. The summits are reserved for the absolute mountaineering and climbing professionals - you hike along the Karnischer Höhenweg to the south underneath the rock walls. Here, the trail runs through a huge Schuttkar and you have a breathtaking view of the towering directly above you.At the Filmoorsattel you switch back to the north side of the Carnic ridge and wander beneath the rough main ridge through a picturesque high mountain landscape. The hiking trail meanders along barren mountain meadows along the slopes until you reach the Porzehütte, your destination today.
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Today a real tightrope walk is on the program: Almost the entire route of the third stage runs directly over the summit ridge of the Carnic ridge. In the constant ups and downs you walk on rocky paths and then across wide mountain meadows to the numerous peaks along the way.Your third hiking day begins at the picturesque Porzehütte. From here, the Karnische Höhenweg winds steeply uphill to the summit of the Bärenbadegg - with an altitude of 2,431 meters at least the third highest peak of today's stage. Of course, the view is great. Towards the north, you can easily see the parallel mountain range of the Gailtal Alps and in the south, the rocky slopes of the eastern Dolomites still impress.Afterwards, it goes slowly downhill to the boiler bar. The Karnische Höhenweg now runs over mountain meadows only a few meters below the ridge and leads you to the Cima Salvades and the Mosescharte over to Gamskofel.Soon, the dramatic cliff face of the Hochspitz towers directly in front of you. There is no direct access to the summit here, so the Karnische Höhenweg leads you over a rocky slope south to the summit. A little later you will reach the Steinkarspitz. At 2,524 meters, the summit is the highest of today's stage. From here you have a great view of the mighty summit of the Hochspitz.From this point, it is finally only down towards the waypoint. Until you pass the pass at the Luggauer Sattel you follow the Karnischer Kamm. There you leave the ridge path and wander through a breathtaking high valley down to the Hochweißsteinhaus.
On the section between the Hochweißsteinhaus and the Wolayersee hut, the Karnische Kamm is extremely rocky, steep and exposed. Instead, the Carnic High Trail leads you safely through the picturesque Val Fleons, an untouched high valley on the Italian side of the ridge. At the same time you can enjoy the view of the towering rocky peaks above you.From Hochweißsteinhaus you hike uphill to the opener yoke, where you cross the Italian-Austrian border. With great views of the Carnic ridge and below you lying Val Fleons it goes down in serpentines. In the valley you wander through clear, untouched mountain forests, until the long climb to the pass Sella Sisani begins.Once at the pass you have a great view of the Val Fleons. On the shore of the small mountain lake Lago Pera you can take a rest before continuing your hike. Without significant differences in altitude you hike below the huge rock face of the crucified until the pass Giramondo. Here you cross the border again and follow the trail along the northern slope of the Carnic Ridge along mountain meadows and through quiet mountain forests.The Wolyersee Hut, your destination today, is located directly on the deep-cut saddle between Seekopf and Seewarte.
The fifth stage of the Karnische Höhenweg forms the transition from the rough high mountain landscape of the western section to the quiet alpine landscape of the eastern part of the long-distance hiking trail. First, a long descent to Plöckenpass awaits you. From there it goes parallel to the main ridge on the slopes of Angerbachtal up to the Zollnerseehütte. If the entire stage is too long for you, you can split the tour as well. You can spend the night in the inn Valentinalm. This results in two sub-stages to seven and 15 kilometers.From the Wolayerseehütte it starts at the beginning up to the Valentintörl, which lies directly between the Rauchkofel in the north and the Seewarte in the south. From up here you can already have a first look into the wide valley and even see down to the Plöckenpass.The Karnische Höhenweg leads you zigzagging down rocky, barren mountain meadows. You pass the uncultivated Obere Valentinsalm and from the Gasthof Valentinsalm the surrounding landscape becomes visibly sweeter. You follow the path over mountain pastures and through small woodland down to the Plöckenhaus, which is located directly on the pass with the same name. Here you have earned a long break honestly.Although the Karnische Kamm turns out to be less and less rocky to the east, there is only a very adventurous climb directly from the Plöcken pass up to the main ridge. Therefore, the Carnic mountain trail meanders from the pass, parallel to the main ridge, through the valley of Angerbach. Through mountain forests and sun-kissed mountain meadows, it goes steadily uphill. At the Köderkopf you reach the highest point of today's stage and enjoy a magnificent view of the Carinthian mountains and the peaks of the Karnien main ridge.From the summit, you then hike down to the valley. The path snakes over the mountain pastures on the northern slope of the Carnic ridge to the Zollnersee hut, today's stage destination.Many hikers on the Carnic High Trail only hike the western section to the Plöcken Pass, as it is particularly impressive due to its high mountain character. If you also want to end your hike at the Plöckenpass, then you can go there from May to September twice a day with the bus line 5051 to the station Kötschach and start the journey home there.More information and timetables at mobilbuero.com/de/fahrplaene.
The sixth stage takes you through the picturesque mountain meadows that characterize the landscape of the eastern Carnic main ridge. Although you do not expect steep climbs and descents, you'll find yourself climbing a few meters on the long stretch of almost 24 kilometers. Just plan enough breaks on the hike to get in with enough energy reserves at the finish.Your hike starts at the Zollnersee hut. Without noteworthy height differences, the Karnische Höhenweg leads you along wide mountain meadows just below the main ridge. You pass the Zollnersee, which, together with the west-facing Hohe Trieb, makes a wonderful photo opportunity. The path winds along the broad ridge and soon opens up the view of a wide, hilly plateau.This plateau forms the pastures of the Straninger Alm. In the cozy alpine pasture, it is worthwhile to rest in any case. Then it goes through a sparse mountain forest up to the Gugel, a shallow side summit of the Karnische main ridge. From here you continue on a moderately incline over the Kordinsattel to Italy and then around the summit group of shoulder and ring wall around.Then the mighty rocky summit of the Trogkofel is already building up in front of you. The striking summit you pass on a narrow path to its impressive southern flank. At the Rudnigsattel you finally cross the pass between Trogkofel and Hinterrosskofel. Here the Karnische Höhenweg runs through a depression on the northern slope of the ridge and leads you over the summit of the Madritsche to the picturesque alpine meadows of the Nassfeld. In the midst of the idlly landscape of mountain meadows and alpine villages you will also find your stage destination, the Alpengasthof Plattner.
From the Nassfeld runs the Karnische main ridge and he is not as clear to pursue as in the rockier west. Instead, a landscape of open valleys, sprawling, silent mountain forests and small mountain pastures awaits. Most of the time, the Carnic High Trail leads you through the valleys and flat passes today.A first ascent awaits you right at the beginning: in serpentines you hike fresh and rested from the alpine inn Plattner up to the saddle between Gartnerkofel and Garnitzenberg. One last look back into the Nassfeld and on it goes. The trail leads you gently downhill, down into a densely wooded valley.At Stutenbodensattel you cross the border to Italy and wander south around the Zielkofel to the barn. Here you change back to Carinthia and can make a first break at the Eggeralm a little later. Only a short walk later you walk through a meadow valley and along the shore of Lake Eggeralm.The trail runs almost flat and then through a wooded ridge. You cross a wooded valley and then begins the long climb to the saddle between Starhand and Sagranberg. The Karnische Höhenweg leads you steadily uphill through hiking paths and farm roads, you cross small forest and narrow alpine meadows. Arriving at the saddle, you can already discover the alpine village Dolinzaalm, your today's destination.After a breather then it goes on a good trail downhill to your accommodation.
The eighth and last stage of the Karnischer Höhenweg has it all right again. Most of the time you walk on good and comfortable paths over the broad mountain ridge and through quiet mountain forests, but the long descent from the Göriacher Alm to the stage goal Thoerl Maglern can ever provide for trembling knees. Take a break here and enjoy the fantastic view of the Klagenfurt basin.At the Dolinza Alm you cross the border to Italy at the beginning of your tour and then walk through a wooded brook valley to the Freistitzer Alm. In the small Almdorf you can take a break or even move on.The next few kilometers will take you directly over the Carnic Ridge. This is covered here with picturesque meadows and without major ups and downs you reach the Almdorf Achomitzer Alm. From there it goes into a wide, quiet forest area. The path gently winds down until you reach the Bartolosattel.Now the last bigger ascent of your hike takes place. Via the wooded ridge, you hike up to Kapinberg, which is also covered in trees. Always along the ridge, it continues between the trees to the Göriacher Alm. Here you come out of the forest and be rewarded with a fantastic view. On the other side of the broad Gailtal you can see the striking rock face of the Dobratsch and to the east the mighty Klagenfurt basin opens.Now only the six-kilometer descent from your waypoint separates you. About 1,000 meters difference in altitude are in front of you, but fortunately you spend most of the time on well-developed trails. Nevertheless, allow yourself plenty of time and make a short detour to the viewpoint hawk view. From there you can at the same time admire the mountains of three countries: the Italian, the Austrian and the Slovenian mountains offer you a marvelous alpine panorama.When you finally arrive in Thoerl Maglern, you can only look back with astonishment and pride on your last eight hiking days. On your way you enjoyed incredible views, you were on numerous peaks and slept like a stone in cozy alpine huts after your hiking days. From this walk you will probably dream for a long time and tell.Thoerl-Maglern has a railway station and is directly connected to the network of the Austrian Federal Railways. So you can easily return to the starting point of the tour or directly home.