The Karwendel Höhenweg (high-altitude trail) showcases the breathtaking Karwendel mountains in six stages. You follow mostly black-rated mountain paths between 1,500 metres (4,920 feet) and 2,000 metres (6,560 feet), climbing 3,400 metres (11,150 feet) in total. Therefore, you need to be an experienced mountaineer to take on this 60-kilometre (37-mile) route. You can walk the path in both directions, from east to west or vice versa. At the end of each hike, you’ll find a hut offering delicious food and regional produce, where you can also stay overnight. These rustic, cozy inns will help motivate you to reach the end of a challenging hike. For those who are willing to take it on, the Karwendel Höhenweg is an all-round alpine mountain experience.
The Karwendel mountains are found in the northern Limestone Alps, the largest nature park in Austria. This mountainous world, which mostly covers Tyrolean soil, has vast and untouched wilderness. You will hike through tranquil high valleys and alpine pastures, cross mountain pine fields and the rubble cirques that are typical in the area. You will climb up rugged summits from which you can admire views over the densely populated Inn Valley. This contrast makes you all the more aware that you are moving away from everyday life on your multi-day hike.
The Karwendel Höhenweg requires fitness and mountaineering skills as some sections are quite difficult. For experienced mountain hikers, however, the six daily stages should be easy to complete. In case you find the route too tough, you can ascend or descend from all huts. You can also shorten the first and third stages by taking a cable car. Your effort will be rewarded, however. At the end of each stage, you can sit on the terrace of a mountain hut, enjoying a beer and elderberry spritzer and watching the sunset over the mountains. Make sure you reserve a hut in advance though, as spaces fill up fast during the high season between June and October.
If these stages don’t challenge you enough, you can collect more altitude metres on small summit excursions around the huts. The Reither Spitze and the Stempeljochspitze, among others, are worth the extra exploring.
It’s worth travelling to the start of this adventure by train as the stages don’t start and finish in the same place. Your adventure begins at the station in Reith in Tirol and ends at the station in Scharnitz. Both stations have regular connections to Munich and Innsbruck.
Important: These are high mountains so inform yourself about the weather and trail conditions before you set off. Heavy rain and thunderstorms can damage the paths and make them impassable. Sure-footedness, personal responsibility, caution and attention are the most important rules in alpine terrain. During the hike, hut keepers will be happy to provide you with information on the weather and current trail conditions. Take care and you can look forward to six wonderful days in beautiful surroundings!
The first stage begins at the train station in Reith in Tirol with the varied ascent to the Nördlinger Hütte. In this section you will overcome 1,300 meters in altitude and around seven kilometers of distance. At the train station, follow the road north. A little later you come to the panorama path, which turns into path no.211. You follow this in serpentines to the Schartlehnerhaus at an altitude of 1,856 meters. From there you walk over the mountain ridge along the "Schoass ridge" first in serpentines, then more straight up to the Nördlinger hut.At 2,239 meters, the Nördlinger Hütte is the highest shelter in the Karwendel. From the hut's impressive sun terrace, you have an incomparable view of the Inn Valley, the Mieming Range and the Wetterstein Mountains. To the south there is an overwhelming view of the glacier mountains of the Alpenhautpkamm. Tip: If you still have residual energy from the ascent, climb from the Nördlinger Hütte to the Reither Spitze (2,374 m). The sunrise is even more spectacular from here. This is a medium-difficult mountain hike with some exposed but well secured places with ropes. Surefootedness and a head for heights are required. Allow about 30 minutes to reach the summit.If you still want to take care of yourself on the first day, the following option is available: Take the funicular in Seefeld to the Rosshütte (1,751 m) and continue with the Härmelekopfbahn to the mountain station - the starting point of your hike. From here you can go directly to the Nördlinger Hütte via the Kuntersteig (10).
On the second stage there are 280 ascents and 720 vertical meters in descent, as well as 6.4 kilometers, which you can master in about four hours. The goal of your tour is the Solsteinhaus, which you can reach via the Ursprungattel and the Eppzirler Scharte. From the Nördlinger Hütte, the path leads first to the east, then to the north below the east ridges of the Reither Spitze and then back to the origin saddle (2,087 meters). From here you take the downhill path to the northeast to the Breiten Sattel (1,794 meters). Once there, turn right onto trail 74 to the Eppzirler Scharte (2,102 meters). Your path leads you first through a scree field and later in serpentines up to the notch. During a short break you can enjoy views far beyond the Karwendel Mountains. Now it goes on a clearly visible path in the coarse gravel 200 meters downhill into the Höllkar. Last but not least, you follow trail 211/212, which leads to the Solsteinhaus in moderate ups and downs.The Solsteinhaus is located on green alpine meadows at the foot of the Großer Solstein. Once here, you can fortify yourself with a good snack and a cool drink. As soon as your batteries are recharged, you can explore the surroundings of the hut. Because here more is possible than just enjoying the view. The hut scores with an outdoor climbing wall and a flying fox - for those who can take a little adrenaline. You can collect more vertical meters on foot on a tour of the Großer Solstein (735 vertical meters, two hours) or the Zischgenkopf (530 vertical meters, two hours).
Info: If you want to end the hike at this point, you can walk from the Solsteinhaus to Zirl or Hochzirl in about two and a half hours and from there continue by bus to Innsbruck. The path is classified as easy.
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After a rustic breakfast at the Solsteinhaus, you start in the third and longest stage of your tour, which takes around eight hours. On your way to the Pfeishütte via the Gipfelstürmerweg and Goetheweg you will overcome 1,400 meters in altitude and 18.5 kilometers. From Solsteinhaus you start on trail 213 down to Möslalm. At the following junction you take the summit walker (215) to the east. After a short descent through insured passages, you climb steeply to the Frau-Hitt-Sattel, west of the striking “Frau Hitt” rock needle. From the saddle you climb steeply down the Schmidhubersteig and across mountain meadows to the Restaurant Seegrube (1,906 meters). From here you can climb 216 on the Hafelekarhaus (2,269 meters). South of the Hafelekarspitze, the Goetheweg (219) leads to the Pfeishütte (1,922 meters), your today's destination.On your long hike you can enjoy views of the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck and the Inn Valley, later you switch to the north side of the Nordkette and experience all the splendor of the Karwendel mountains. The Pfeishütte is very quaint and smaller than other huts in the area. It is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks such as Rumer Spitze, Stempeljochspitze and Bachofenspitze. The highlight is the south-facing terrace with 100 seats.Good news for everyone who is discouraged by the 1,300 vertical meters: you can shorten your way by 363 vertical meters by taking the Hafelekarbahn from the Seegrube restaurant to the Hafelekarhaus. And if you just want to rest a day in the cozy Pfeishütte, book a second night. You won't get bored.
The fourth stage is much more comfortable than the previous day with 500 meters of altitude, 9.1 kilometers and a walking time of four and a half hours. This stage takes you over the Stempeljoch and the wild and romantic Wilde-Bande-Steig to the Bettelwurfhütte, your today's destination.
After a good breakfast you start from the Pfeishütte on trail 221 (Via Alpina) in an easterly direction to the Stempeljoch (2215 meters). From here the path leads steeply down over a gravel journey. Note that in early summer there may still be old snow fields on which there is a high risk of slipping. Use telescopic poles to achieve more balance and find out how you are safe on the move with step strokes and walking techniques.After a short descent, turn left into the Wilde-Gange-Steig. Now your way leads you to the Lafatscher Joch (2081 meters). Then the trail 222 (Via Alpina) runs gently uphill through the small and large Speckkar. Now you are almost at the Bettelwurfhütte (2077 meters), which is also called the "Eagle's Nest of the Karwendel" due to its spectacular location on the southern flank of the Little Bettelwurf. Once here, there are still a few tour options available after a breather. Excursions to the small (2649 m, 1:45 hours) and large begging (2725 m, 1:45 hours) and the Speckkarspitze (2621 m, 2:45 hours) are worthwhile. If you want to end your tour here, note that you have to take a taxi from the Halltal. You can find more information here: alpenverein.at/bettelwurfhuette/aktuelles/aktuelles.php
Again a moderate stage is waiting for you. In total, you will overcome 130 vertical meters and 5.8 kilometers in about two and a half hours. The fifth stage leads along old mule tracks across the Lafatscher Joch to the Hallerangerhaus. In the morning you start from the Bettelwurfhütte on trail 222 back to the Lafatscher Joch (2,081 meters). There you branch north onto trail 223. This section of the route is part of the “Adlerweg” long-distance hiking trail. Between the Lafatscher, the Rosskopf and the Speckkarspitze it is always downhill to the Hallerangerhaus (1,768 meters). The landscape changes increasingly on your way. After the dazzling gray of the rock, you walk through low mountain pine forest until conifers join the low shrubbery. In the vicinity of the Hallerangerhaus you will meet cows grazing peacefully, who clearly enjoy their freedom on the alpine pasture.The area around the house is a popular climbing area up to the upper level of difficulty. On the sun terrace you can enjoy pleasant evening hours and let yourself be pampered with homemade dishes.
Your last stage via the Hinterautal to Scharnitz is coming up. It is only 30 meters uphill, but you cover 19.5 kilometers on your way into the valley and descend 840 meters, which adds up to five and a half hours of walking. From Hallerangerhaus, follow path 224 west. At this point, a detour to the Sunntiger peak (2321 meters) is recommended. Thanks to its southern exposure, the easy hiking mountain is also suitable for a tour in early summer. Then it continues to the Kohleralm. A detour to the Kastenalm is suitable for a stopover. The junction is signposted. Otherwise you go further and further down the valley. On your way you leave the origin of the Isar behind - at this point three mountain streams flow together and unite to form the turquoise Isar. Now you climb back up to the Gleirschhöhe (1,069 meters) and then comfortably down to the Isar Bridge and on to Scharnitz.If the long way out of the valley is too boring for you on foot, I have a tip for you: You can rent a bike from the Hallerangerhaus and shorten the way from the Kastenalm to Scharnitz considerably. Find out at the Hallerangerhaus where you can drop off your bike in town. You can easily take the return journey by train. You can reach both Munich and Innsbruck with the regional train in about an hour. If you want to end your adventure comfortably, you can find accommodation and refreshments in Scharnitz.