Fragrant Swiss pine forests, idyllic alpine pastures, adventurous peaks and flowery mountain meadows – the Karnisch High Trail is one of the great long-distance hiking trails in the Alps. You can expect diverse alpine landscapes combined with magnificent views of the Sesto Dolomites, the Julian Alps, the Hohe Tauern and the Gailtal Alps as you climb countless smaller summits.
In eight day-long stages, you will hike from Sillian in the west to Thoerl-Maglern in the east, following the main Carnic ridge along the Italian-Austrian border. In total, you will cover 93 miles (150 km) and climb an unbelievable 24,934 feet (7,600 metres) in altitude on this historic trail. The main crest of the Carnic High Altitude Trail was a highly contested border area during the First World War and you will alternate between Italy and Austria during your hike. Numerous information boards offer you more background knowledge about the military cemeteries, bunkers and fortified positions along the path.
Every evening, you can look forward to a cozy mountain hut or an alpine inn and enjoy the mountainous panorama. On the way, however, there are very few opportunities to stop for refreshments so make sure you pack sufficient provisions in your rucksack. Contact the huts in advance to see which can supply you with packed lunches.
If you are short on time but would like to dip your toes on the Karnisch High Trail then you can divide it into two sections. The first section from the Leckfeldalm to the Plöckenpass unveils barren mountain landscape and is the most popular part of the trail. Starting from the Plöckenpass, the second stage is quiet and secluded. You can take a bus from Kötschach station to the start of the second section.
You can reach the starting point of the Karnisch High Trail at the Leckfeldalm by foot or by taxi from Sillian. Situated on the railway line between Bolzano and Lienz, Sillian is easily reached by train. You can also return from Thoerl-Maglern by train in the same way.
The Karnisch is one of the six most beautiful long-distance hiking trails in Tyrol, the so-called ‘Great Walks’. All routes promise you three things: escape from your everyday, beautiful alpine landscapes and real adventure. As well as the Karnisch High Trail, the Tyrolean hiking trail elites include the Berlin High Trail Lechtal Mountain Trail, the Stubai High Trail, the Eagle Way, and the Inntal High Trail.
Majestic hiking along the Eagle Way – Great Walks
Discover the Zillertaler Alps on the Berlin High Trail:
Follow eagle wings on the Eagle Walk East Tyrol:
Hike at high altitudes on the Stubai High Trail:
Follow the picturesque Inntal High Trail in six stages:
Hut-Hopping on the Lechtal High Trail:
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 companion on today's hike: the picturesque view of the rocky peaks of the Sesto Dolomites.Your hike starts at the Alpengasthof Leckfeldalm. From here, it first goes on a wide gravel path through sparse mountain forest and across wide mountain meadows up to the Carnic ridge. You will soon leave the farm track and switch to a narrow mountain hiking trail. Once at the top of the ridge, you have not only completed most of today's ascent, you will also be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Dolomites.Next goal: Sillianer Hütte. The Alpenvereinshütte was extensively renovated in 2018 and shines in new splendor. From here, the Carnic high-altitude trail now meanders eastwards along the broad summit ridge. Only a few vertical meters await you on the entire stage and you can relax and enjoy the fantastic view of the surrounding mountains.After you have passed the Hochgratensee, it goes a little uphill and the ridge becomes rocky - pure high mountain feelings. The exciting path takes you over the summits of humility and the iron kingdom before your today's destination is in sight. The Obstansersee hut awaits you below the Carnic ridge, in a wide depression.So that you can fully enjoy the first stage, it is worth climbing up to the Leckfeldalm the night before and spending the night there. If the ascent is too long, you can also comfortably take the hut taxi to the Leckfeldalm.More information at Leckfeldalm.at/taxi.
With a distance of less than twelve kilometers, the second stage is the shortest hike on the Carnic High Trail. That's a good thing, because on your tour today you can expect the most exciting and challenging sections of the entire long-distance hike. A special highlight: the crossing of the rubble below the Great Kinigat.At the beginning of the Obstansersee hut, it goes quickly uphill to the Karischen ridge and then directly to the summit of the Pfannspitze. From the summit you have a wonderful view of the mountains of the Sesto Dolomites and the Friulian Dolomites. With the Pfannspitze you have already reached the highest point of the second stage - from now on you will only hike downhill most of the time.To the east you can already see the striking rock peaks of the little ones and the big Kinigat. The peaks are reserved for absolute mountain and climbing professionals - you hike along the Carnic high trail south below the rock faces. Here the hiking trail runs through a huge rubble car and you have a breathtaking view of the summit towering directly above you.At the Filmoor saddle you switch back to the north side of the Carnic ridge and hike below the impassable main ridge through a picturesque high mountain landscape. The hiking trail winds its way over barren mountain meadows along the slopes until you reach the Porzehütte, your today's destination.
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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 up and down you hike over rocky paths and then across wide mountain meadows to the numerous peaks along the way.Your third hiking day begins at the picturesque Porze hut. From here, the Karni Höhenweg winds steeply up to the summit of Bärenbadegg - with a height of 2,431 meters, it is the third highest peak of today's stage. Accordingly, the view is of course great. To the north you can see the parallel mountain range of the Gailtal Alps and to the south the rocky slopes of the eastern Dolomites are still impressive.Then it goes leisurely downhill to the Kesselscharte. The Carnic High Trail now runs over mountain meadows just a few meters below the ridge and leads you past the Cima Salvades and the Mosescharte to the Gamskofel.Soon the dramatic rock face of the Hochspitz rises directly in front of you. There is no direct ascent to the summit and the Carnic High Trail leads you over a rocky slope to the south past 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 another great view of the mighty summit structure of the Hochspitz.From this point on, it is only down towards the stage goal. Until the pass at the Luggauer Sattel you follow the Carnic ridge. There you leave the ridge path and hike through a breathtaking high valley down to the Hochweisssteinhaus.
On the section between the Hochweisssteinhaus and the Wolayersee hut, the Carnic ridge is extremely rocky, steep and exposed. Therefore, the Carnic High Trail leads you safely through the picturesque Val Fleons, an untouched high valley on the Italian side of the ridge. You can enjoy the view of the rocky peaks towering above you at all times.From the Hochweisssteinhaus you hike up to the Opener Joch, where you cross the Italian-Austrian border. With a great view of the Carnic ridge and the Val Fleons below you descend in serpentines. In the valley you hike through light, untouched mountain forests until the long climb to the Sella Sisanis pass begins.Once at the pass you have a great view of the Val Fleons. You can take a break on the banks of the small mountain lake Lago Pera before continuing your hike. Without any noteworthy height differences, you hike below the huge rock face of the Kreuzten to the Giramondo pass. Here you cross the border again and follow the hiking trail along the northern slope of the Carnic ridge over mountain meadows and through quiet mountain forests.The Wolyersee Hütte, your today's destination, is located directly on the deeply incised saddle between Seekopf and Seewarte.
The fifth stage of the Carnic High Trail is the transition from the rugged 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 the Plöcken Pass awaits you. From there it goes parallel to the main ridge on the slopes of the Angerbach valley up to the Zollnerseehütte. If the entire stage is too long for you, you can also split up the tour. You can also stay at the Valentinalm inn. This results in two partial stages of seven and 15 kilometers.From the Wolayerseehütte it goes up to the Valentintörl, which lies directly between the Rauchkofel in the north and the Seewarte in the south. From up here you can take a first look into the wide valley and even look down to the Plöcken Pass.The Carnic High Trail zigzags you down over rocky, barren mountain meadows. You pass the unmanaged Upper Valentinsalm and from the Gasthof Valentinsalm the surrounding landscape becomes visibly more lovely. You follow the path across mountain pastures and through small wooded areas down to the Plöckenhaus, which is located directly on the pass of the same name. Here you have truly earned an extensive break.Although the Carnic Ridge is less and less rocky towards the east, there is only a very adventurous climb up to the main ridge directly from the Plöcken Pass. Therefore, the Carnic High Trail meanders from the pass, parallel to the main ridge, through the valley of the Angerbach. Through mountain forests and sun-drenched mountain meadows, the route is steadily uphill. At the Köderkopf you will reach the highest point of today's stage and enjoy a wonderful view of the Carinthian mountains and the peaks of the Carnic main ridge.Then you hike down from the summit. The path winds 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 Plöcken Pass, you can take the 5051 bus from May to September to the Kötschach train station twice a day from there and start your journey home.More information and timetables at mobilbuero.com/de/fahrplaene.
The sixth stage takes you across the picturesque mountain meadows that characterize the landscape of the eastern Carnic main ridge. Although no steep ascents and descents await you, there are a few vertical meters on the long route of almost 24 kilometers. Just plan enough breaks on the hike so that you arrive at the destination with sufficient energy reserves.Your hike starts at the Zollnersee hut. Without any noteworthy differences in altitude, the Carnic High Trail leads you across vast mountain meadows just below the main ridge. You pass the Zollnersee, which together with the Hohen Trieb to the west makes a wonderful photo opportunity. The path winds along the wide ridge and soon you will see a wide, hilly plateau.This plateau forms the pastures of the Straninger Alm. It's always worth taking a break in the cozy alpine inn. Then it goes through a sparse mountain forest up to the Gugel, a flat secondary peak of the Carnic main ridge. From here you hike on a moderate slope over the Kordinsattel to Italy and then around the summit group consisting of shoulder and ring wall.Then the huge rocky summit of the Trogkofel will build up in front of you. You will pass the striking summit on a narrow path on its impressive south flank. At the Rudnigsattel you finally cross the pass between Trogkofel and Hinterrosskofel. Here the Carnic high-altitude trail 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 middle of the idyllic landscape of mountain meadows and alpine villages is your destination, the Alpengasthof Plattner.
The Carnic Main Ridge runs from Nassfeld and it is no longer as clear to follow as in the rockier west. Instead, a landscape of open valleys, extensive, quiet mountain forests and small mountain pastures awaits you. Most of the time the Carnic High Trail leads you through the valleys and over flat passes today.A first ascent awaits you right at the beginning: in serpentines you hike fresh and rested from the Alpengasthof Plattner up to the saddle between Gartnerkofel and Garnitzenberg. One last look back at Nassfeld and it continues. The hiking trail leads you gently downwards, down into a densely forested valley.At the mare bottom saddle you cross the border to Italy and hike south around the Zielkofel to the stable saddle. Here you switch back to Carinthia and can take a first rest at the Eggeralm a little later. Just a short section later you walk through a meadow valley and along the shores of Lake EggeralmThe trail runs almost flat and then through a forested mountain range. You cross a forested valley and then the long climb to the saddle between Starhand and Sagranberg begins. The Carnic High Trail leads you steadily uphill via hiking trails and farm tracks, you cross small forest areas and narrow alpine meadows. Arrived on the saddle, you can already discover the alpine village Dolinzaalm, your today's destination.After a breather, it goes downhill to your accommodation on a good hiking trail.
The eighth and last stage of the Carnic High Trail is really tough again. Most of the time you hike on good and comfortable paths across the broad ridges and through quiet mountain forests, but the long descent from the Göriacher Alm to the stage goal of Thoerl-Maglern can cause 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 start of your tour and then hike through a forested brook valley to the Freistitzer Alm. In the small Almdorf you can take a break or move on.The next few kilometers lead you directly over the Carnic ridge. It is covered with picturesque meadows and you can reach the Almdorf Achomitzer Alm without major ascents and descents. From there it goes into a wide, quiet forest area. The path winds slowly down until you reach the Bartolo saddle.Now the last major ascent of your hike takes place. You hike over the forested mountain ridge to the tree-lined Kapinberg. Always along the ridge it goes between the trees to the Göriacher Alm. Here you step out of the forest and will be rewarded with a fantastic view. On the other side of the wide Gailtal you can see the striking rock face of the Dobratsch and the mighty Klagenfurt basin opens to the east.Now only the six-kilometer descent separates you from your milestone. There is a difference in altitude of around 1,000 meters, but luckily you hike most of the time on well-developed hiking trails. Take your time anyway and prefer to make a short detour to the Habichtsblick viewpoint. From there you can admire the mountains of three countries at the same time: the Italian, Austrian and Slovenian mountains offer you a wonderful 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, have been to numerous peaks and slept like a stone in cozy mountain huts after your hiking days. You will dream and tell about this hike for a long time.Thoerl-Maglern has a train station and is directly connected to the network of the Austrian Federal Railways. So you can easily get back to the starting point of the tour or straight home.