The Kristall Trail connects the Stubalm and Koralm mountain ranges. Here, in southern Styria, the term alpine doesn’t just refer to mountains, but to colourful meadows too. So don't be surprised if you read about the Stubalpe or the Koralpe. The area has fascinating geology, wildlife and plants. You will pass marble, quartz and special rock formations called ovens. You might want to bring along a botanical book or download an app on your phone to identify the plants en route. With a bit of luck, you will find pretty mountain anemones, alpine avens and auricula. There are also two plants endemic to this region, which was largely unaffected by the last Ice Age: doronicum cataractarum and a unique kind of erigeron.
You will hike between 1,100 and 2,140 metres (3,600 and 7,020 feet) as you follow the trail. The paths are generally gentle, but some parts are a bit more demanding and rocky. If you are speedy, you can complete the 75-km (45-mile) route in four days. However, feel free to adjust the itinerary to suit you – there are plenty of huts along the way to spend the night. The stages are all fairly long, so you can always split them up.
The trail is open from June to September. Make sure you check the opening hours of the huts along the way. This also determines the days that you have to bring your own lunch. You should also book your overnight stays in advance as some of the cabins have limited places.
Although there’s parking at the start in Gaberl, I wouldn’t recommend driving to the hike. The hike finishes in Soboth, which is a 24-hour mission to get back to Gaberl with public transport. Instead, take the bus line 733 to Gaberl. It leaves from Köflach in the morning on Sundays and public holidays. Then you return home directly from Soboth after the hike.
On the first day of the Koralm Crystal Trail you hike across the meadows where the young Lipizzaner graze in summer. The area in the south of Styria is known for breeding this horse breed. Then you climb the highest mountain of the Stubalm, the Rappoldkogel, which rises 1,928 meters into the sky. Above you have a wide view of the Stubalm.At Gaberl you head south and first ascend to the Altes Almhaus. Partly through forest you overcome the steep climb to Rappoldkogel. After the slightly alpine, rocky descent from the summit, you reach the Salzstiegelhaus in a valley. From there it goes with some uphill and a little downhill over the Peter saddle to the Bernsteinhütte, which follows shortly after the Knödelhütte. On the way, look out for the so-called rock ovens - these are the boulders that lie in the middle of the meadows. Then you descend towards the Pack, where the Barbarahaus with its beds is waiting for you.This stage has a length of over 27 kilometers and 950 meters of altitude. And the descent is tough too. To cope with this in a day, you should bring some fitness. If you want to take your time, you can walk the route in two days. You can then spend the night in the Salzstiegelhaus directly behind the Rappoldkogel. There are plenty of opportunities to stop off on the way: there is something to eat in the Altem Almhaus, in the Salzstiegelhaus, in the Bernsteinhütte and in the Knödelhütte.
The second stage is a tough one too, with a distance of 20 kilometers. It's a good thing that the path is varied. You walk through forests and cultural landscapes. A raised bog and impressive rock ovens provide for diversion along the way. You can find these striking rock formations on the meadows or in the forest. It is usually not clear where the large boulders come from. You just stand alone in the landscape. That is why the locals have often told stories that explain their origins with supernatural powers.From the Barbarahaus you first cross the valley south of Pack and then climb towards Hebalm. This area is well developed because ski lifts are operated here in winter. Once you have left it behind, you follow the path through a forest to the Stoffhütte, which is located on the Hochmoor See-Eben. Then you hike to the Wildbach saddle, which is followed by the ascent to the Weberkogel. On the last part of the way to the stage you have a beautiful view of the Handalm with its rock ovens.You can stop at the Hebalm and also spend the night. A picnic is more suitable for the big rest on this day - for example on the bog. Because you reach the Hebalm after a third of the way. At the end of the stage on the Weinebene there are several accommodation options: the Weinebenehaus, the Almhüttendorf and the Gasthof Gösler.
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On this comparatively short stage you can take your time and relax a little. Nevertheless, with the Großer Speikkogel, the highest peak of the Koralm and the entire Kristall Trail is on the program. It measures 2,140 meters and is therefore a bit larger than the Kleine Speikkogel (2,117 m) right next door. You can take this second summit with you in a few steps in a south-easterly direction.The stage starts comfortably and only increases slightly at the beginning. You quickly left the wine plain and thus the ski area in summer sleep behind you. You will soon climb the 1989 meter high chicken support up a steep slope. Then you can take a breather on almost flat paths before heading straight up the back to the Großer Speikkogel. Alternatively, you can descend right into the Großer Kar before climbing to the chicken support and climb up to the Koralpenhaus - the stage destination - on the other side. However, you do not save yourself any vertical meters, you only postpone the ascent until later.If you get hungry along the way, after around three and a half kilometers you can either descend to the Bärentalhütte on a saddle or visit the Grillitschhütte on the right. With the second you lose less altitude. There are also a few beds for long-distance hikers.
On this day, a decent descent back to the valley awaits. You walk down 1,000 meters to Soboth. Enjoy the view again at the Dreieckkogel before you descend, because from there a large part of the path leads through the forest. But that was not always so. Around 200 years ago there were far fewer trees here. You will find out the reason for this on this stage.After descending in the south of the Großer Speikkogel, you will reach the Luckert rock, where the rock forms a natural tunnel. Shortly after, a small climb follows the Jauksattel. To the left of the Kleinalpl, you will come to the Dreieckkogel, which is ideal for a rest with its beautiful view. Shortly afterwards you will reach the triangle hut. The subsequent descent into the valley to Soboth runs mostly through forest in many curves. In a clearing at the former Gasthaus Urch, the ruins of a glassworks give you a glimpse into the past. From the 18th to the 19th century, glass production was an important industry in the region. This required a lot of coal, for which many trees were felled. Some of it has grown again to this day.The triangle hut allows a division of this stage. Here you can eat and stay overnight. At the end of the path in Soboth you have several guest houses to choose from. The place lies on the pass of the same name, which connects the Carinthian Lavanttal with the Styrian Schilcherland.