Among the countless beauties of the Austrian Alps, there are those that are hard and challenging to reach – and those that are not. An example of the latter are the incredibly beautiful gorge trails with well-established wooden boardwalks, impressive rock walls, wild mountains streams and waterfalls.
They’re usually short and family-friendly, but beware that they also have an entrance fee and opening hours. And even though short trails featuring lovely waterfalls might be your first thought in bad weather (when peaks are in the clouds, and you don’t think of starting a full day hike), these gorge trails can get temporarily closed during and after thunderstorms due to the danger of flooding. So don’t forget to check their official website before visiting them. Now let’s see some of them through pictures…
Best time to visit the gorges
Bärenschützklamm, Liechtensteinklamm and Kitzlochklamm are open only from May to October. In general, bad weather and icy paths make these trails dangerous in the winter months, but they are delightful, safe and relatively easy to do in good weather in the warmer part of the year.
After an extensive reconstruction, the new gorge trail through 300 metres deep Liechtensteinklamm was opened in 2020. It was actually opened just a few weeks before we spent a short summer holiday in Austria, and we felt lucky to visit it. Though we were not among the first ones, because Liechtensteinklamm is extremely busy, probably the most well-known gorge trail in Austria.
It deserves the hype though, because the narrow glen is a stunning sight, with thundering water and towering cliffs. The new trail offers spectacular views of it from a safe and relatively easy wooden path. There are 400+ steps on your way though – definitely NOT stroller and wheelchair accessible. One of the new highlights is a 30 metres high spiral staircase called “Helix”, and the section following the stairs was our favorite. The trail ends at the veil waterfall, and then you get back to the trailhead on the same path. It takes about 1.5 hours there and back.
How to access the gorge?
Liechtensteinklamm is not far from St. Johann im Pongau (in the state of Salzburg). Don’t follow Google’s navigation, keep your eyes open for the signs instead, then you can easily find the several large (free) parking lots.
Only about half an hour drive from Liechtensteinklamm, we couldn’t miss another fabulous gorge trail: the one through Kitzlochklamm. It follows the standard recipe: deep ravine, mossy rocks, crystal clear mountain stream, captivating waterfalls and small cascades while taking one’s way up on the wooden path with bridges, tunnels and stairs. There’s a cool new observation deck from where we could see a wonderland below our feet.
You can return to the trailhead on the same path, or make it a loop, but then you’ll leave the gorge and hike in the forest. It’s quite a short trail, took us about 1 hour there and back (with all the pictures).
There are several via ferrata routes in Kitzlochklamm, and you can rent equipment on the spot. We didn’t try any of them though as we had our baby with us in the carrier backpack.
How to access the gorge?
The entrance of the gorge is located in the town of Taxenbach, near Zell am See (in the state of Salzburg). There’s a large, free parking lot right by the trailhead.
Bärenschütz Gorge is one of the most famous gorges in Styria. With sheer vertical walls rising up to 300 metres and about 20 waterfalls on your way up in the glen, no wonder it’s popular. A 1300 metres long, narrow wooden boardwalk with bridges and ladders are built in the glen making it easily accessible to the average hiker.
However, easily accessible doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. Climbing ladders for about an hour can be tiring, though the altitude change is only 350 metres. You don’t have a chance to turn back though as this is a one way trail: only up! The path is also quite narrow (and busy), but there are wider sections from time to time where you can stop for a rest.
From the end of the gorge trail, a 20-minutes hike took us to “Guter Hirte” restaurant. That’s where the downhill route (called Prügelweg) starts. We added another hike to the day, getting to Hochlantsch peak (1722 m) from “Guter Hirte” restaurant before taking the route back to the parking lot. The extension to Hochlantsch and back added about 3 hours to the original 4.5 hours loop, making it a full day adventure.
How to access the gorge?
The trailhead is at “Gasthof zum Bärenschütz” restaurant, not far from the town of Mixnitz. Just follow the signs for Bärenschützklamm, and you’ll end up at the free parking lot (there are several of them before the trailhead).
Alpinsteig durch die Höll, Styria
“Alpine trail through hell” – does this one sound tempting? We thought so! It starts with 70 meters high Riesachfälle, a thundering waterfall that’s made of two sections. Riesachfälle is only a short walk from the parking lot, and it’s also the starting point of the alpine trail “Alpinsteig durch die Höll”.
This fascinating route starts with a 50 meters long hanging bridge, and continues with more iron bridges and ladders along a picturesque glen with several more waterfalls. It’s a one way trail: only up!
Though it has a scary name, the path is very safe and family-friendly. Older kids will likely find it fun, but toddlers should be put in a carrier. If you have a fear of heights, it might not be for you, especially the hanging bridge. (Otherwise, you’ll find the hanging bridge a stunning experience!)
When we left the glen behind, we followed the path towards Riesachsee (1338 m), a pretty lake reflecting the peaks of the Schladminger Tauern. Even though a sudden storm ruined our perfect mirror, at least we only had the easiest part of the trail to complete in the pouring rain: a comfortable forest path that took us back to the parking lot at Riesachfälle.
The full loop from Riesachfälle to Reisachsee on the alpine trail, then back on the forest trail is about 6.5 kilometers and takes about 3 hours.
How to access the gorge?
You need to drive from Schladming through Rohrmoos into the Untertal. The last section is a toll road, and you can park your car at the large parking lot by Gasthof Riesachfall. If you still have time after the hike, you can do the easy Wild Waters Trail in Rohrmoos Untertal. (We didn’t, but it was due to the bad weather.)
Silberkarklamm is a gorge of the Dachstein-Schladming region with another well-established gorge trail and wonderful views – as we read it travel guides. However, the weather was so bad that it was closed when we visited this region, so we couldn’t go, and we don’t have anything to tell you about it from our experience. Unfortunately, this can happen any time of the year if there’s a danger of flooding, but it also means that the waterfalls in these gorges never dry out.
Now we’d like to hear about your favorite glen hikes!
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