Countless summits, sweeping valleys, and rustic mountain huts – the Saalach Valley Ridge is an exciting adventure through Austria’s Kitzbuhlen Alps. Located in western Austria in the region of Salzburg, the Saalach Valley offers excellent hiking through wild nature.
This route takes you 51 miles (82.5 km) through the mountains, with just under 13,120 feet (4,000 m) to climb, over 5 stages. Depending on your fitness level and preference, you can also split the hike into more stages. You can catch mountain gondolas to enjoy the stunning alpine panoramas. The hike is demanding, but you will be rewarded with unforgettable memories, sweeping views, delicious food, and nature at its best.
The Saalach Valley Ridge is a very varied hike that never gets boring. On the first stage, you walk from Saalfelden to Leogang accompanied by the quiet gurgle of meandering streams, before spending the night in Hütten, a historic mining village. On the second day, you follow in the footsteps of miners as you hike through the Schwarzleotal Valley, passing the Spielberghorn and Kohlmais peaks en route. On stage 3, you’ll use cable cars to reach a panoramic path from Zwölferkogel to Schattberg mountain. Stage 4 takes you up the Glemmtal Valley to the town of Viehhofen, surrounded by mountains at 2,800 feet (856 m). Stage 5 concludes your adventure with a ride of the summer toboggan run which takes you back down into the valley to Saalfelden.
Now you know what awaits, what do you need to consider before setting off? Make sure you bring enough water with you and wear suitable footwear. You climb up quite high, so surefootedness are needed on this adventure. You should also book your accommodation ahead of time to ensure you have a warm bed at the end of the day. This is especially important in Alpengasthof Stiegernigg, the endpoint of stage 4, which is very popular during high season. (viehhofen.com for more info).
Although it may look confusing on the map, this route is a circular. The gaps are sections that you will travel by cable car. I left these sections out so they didn’t increase the mileage and climbing totals of the tour.
So hop in the car or train and your adventure can start. Saalfelden, the start and endpoint of the high altitude trail, can be easily reached by train via Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich, or Klagenfurt. There’s also a high-speed train from Vienna. For more information on trains, visit: fahrplan.oebb.at.
Stage 1 of the Saalachtaler Höhenweg starts in the heart of Saalfeld. The beautiful town is approached several times a day by trains from important hubs (fahrplan.oebb.at). You have surely packed plenty of water and provisions, the sturdy hiking shoe is really looking forward to finally being carried out into the mountains and the rain protection is dormant for safety in the depths of your backpack.Ready to go! And while you walk through Saalfelden in this way, you let the busy life of the city work on you again. Because soon the path leads away from densely populated towns and up into the magical silence of the mountains. But that takes a little longer. Today you hike to the historic mining village of Hütten, a district of Leogang.First you walk out of town and always follow the Urslau Ache. You follow it to the main road, which you walk along briefly and soon cross. Through Lenzing and past its church, you continue marching towards Wiesersberg and then begin the ascent to Mitterbrand.It goes through switchbacks and past beautiful farms. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the Saalfelden basin and Leogang. Then it's zigzagging and through species-rich nature down to Ullach.You have already completed the most strenuous part of this stage - from here it goes in relatively relaxed up and down to the stage goal. You also have the chance to stop at Priesteregg Huwi's Alm and recharge your batteries with a hearty snack and a cool drink. Then you march past houses, later through a forest and finally along a bike path to Hütten, where you can find a bed for the night in one of several accommodations.
Day two of your Saalachtaler Höhenweg hike is on. And for that you start on the trail of the miners right at the beginning: It goes through the Schwarzleotal. To achieve this, you first march from yesterday's stage destination along the Leoganger Ache to soon cross it by bridge - you're almost in the middle of it. Along the merrily babbling Schwarzleobach you hike about two and a half kilometers to the Knappenstube Unterberghaus. Here you can not only take a look at the mining history of the valley, but also treat yourself to a refreshment. You will need it - because from now on the path will increase.It goes uphill through wonderful nature and past numerous small and large alpine pastures, such as the Vogleralm and Hundalm. At the Hundalm you should definitely take a look over your shoulder: Looking back, you will see the Steinerne Meer with the Breithorn, the Schönfeldspitze and the massif of the Hochkönig. The climb was worth it for that alone. But it goes on.You climb higher and higher and come past more and more alpine pastures. This also applies to the Lindlalm, a managed hut, which is primarily known for its Kaiserschmarrn. And you can treat yourself to it, since you have almost completed the climb.After the Lindlalm you walk uphill through a clearing, then down to a sign and then uphill again. After about thirty minutes (measured from the sign) you will reach the Spielbergtörl under the mighty slopes of the Spielberghorn. And from there it is relatively easy and accompanied by brilliant views in about an hour and a half to the top station of the Kohlmaiskopf cable car.Done! You don't have to go any further. The technology takes care of the last kilometers to your today's destination. The Kohlmaisbahn flies you down to Saalbach, where you then board Postbus number 680 to go to Hinterglemm (saalbach.com/de/service/infrastructure/postbus-wanderbus_a_1556). Once there, you first look for accommodation for a good night's sleep. You really earned it today.
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Day three of your Saalachtaler Höhenweg hike begins and ends with a cable car ride. In between are some beautiful peaks (crosses) and of course fabulous nature. From the valley station of the Zwölferkogel cable car in Hinterglemm you will be transported in one swing to the 1,984 meter high Zwölferkogel. Already on the way, but especially as soon as you arrive at the top, an amazing panorama opens up: in the south the Firnberge of the Hohe Tauern, in the east the Steinerne Meer and in the north the Leoganger Steinberge. You may be a little amazed up there at the summit cross. Then it starts - because today you will admire a few more of them.First, the path leads you down a little into a hollow. Always following the sign "Panoramaweg", you will soon reach the Seekar. From there you start the ascent to the highest point of your hike, the Schönhoferwand (2,116 meters).You leave it via a longer ridge with breathtaking views, hike further and further across meadows and finally through the east walls of the Malitzkogel to the summer gate. Here, especially in spring, caution is advised, as there could still be snow. Standing at the top of the summer gate, the effort of the climb quickly pays off. In the south, for example, you can see the glacier mountains of the Hohe Tauern.Further along the panorama path you now walk eastwards, always following the red-white-red marking until you stand on a hill, then over stony alpine pastures to Baumoosriedl. The path now drops a bit, but then rises again and finally takes you over the Seetörl at the Hacklberger Lakes and the Saalbachkogel to the Schattberg Westgipfelhütte.This is your chance to take a long break, treat yourself to a snack and sip something refreshing. With a wonderful view, of course. Because after the Westgipfelhütte it is only about 30 minutes to hike to the east summit of the Schamberges. From there, the cable car takes over again. It will fly you down to your stage destination Saalbach, where numerous accommodations are available to accommodate you for the night.
I hope that the night in the charming village of Saalbach was good. Because today there are again a lot of kilometers. It goes out of the valley. And at proud heights to Viehhofen.To do this, you also get back into a gondola right at the beginning. The Kohlmaisgipfelbahn takes you from the center of Saalbach to the 1,744 meter high Kohlmaiskopf. What is waiting up there? Of course, a grandiose panorama of the rocky comrades you already know: in the south you can see the glacier mountains of the Hohe Tauern, in the east the Steinerne Meer and in the north the Leoganger Steinberge.From the mountain station of the cable car, follow the signs to the Salaachtaler Höhenweg and begin by hiking through a forest, past a shelter hut and further on to the Wildenkarkogel. This is the second summit of your tour today. In relatively easy up and down it goes on to the next: first to the Großer Asitzkopf, then along the ridge to the Schaberkogel and on to the Geierkogel.From there it goes downhill (at least for the most part). The high trail leads you over the Sausteige, which once again offers a wonderful panoramic view of the Salzburg mountains, to the Jahnhütte. Then you follow a forest road that leads you through a few hairpin bends, past a moated castle and finally over a bridge to a crossroads. You turn towards Gasthof Stiegernigg, your destination today, which you will soon reach via a beautiful meadow forest path. Before that, however, you have the chance to take in the magnificent view of the Glemmtal and the grassy mountains that protect it from the numerous observation benches.Once you have arrived at Gasthof Stiegernigg (viehhofen.com), you can make yourself comfortable. Here you will - after making a reservation in good time - spend the night and mentally prepare for the last stage of the Saalachtaler Höhenweg.
It is time to tackle the last leg of your circular hike. And as befits a real mountain tour, you will end it with a bang. If you fancy summer tobogganing.But for now, you're going to walk. After an energizing breakfast in yesterday's stage destination Gasthof Stiegernigg you hike the way back a bit to the Jahnhütte. From there you march along the alpine rose path over alpine pastures and are accompanied by wonderful views. The path leads through forest for a while - until you reach the Saalachtaler Höhenweg and the highest point of this tour (1,650 meters).Following the high trail, you walk through a large part through beautiful forests until you reach the Berggasthof Biberg. This is one way to stop for a short rest. Traditional home-made food is served - with a truly wonderful panorama.
But the culinary highlights of this tour are not over yet. If you and your stomach can wait about 40 minutes, you will soon reach the Berggasthof Huggenberg and thus also a great place to stop.Then you have the choice: do you opt for the rapid valley descent by summer toboggan run, the leisurely variant with the lift or the descent on foot (about 45 minutes)? However you arrive at the valley station of the Huggenberg lift - from here it is still about three and a half kilometers (about an hour) to Saalfelden, the end point of your hike. You can also tackle this last stretch by bus from the "Saalfelden Biberg" stop to "Saalfelden Bahnhof" (fahrplan.oebb.at).