Favorite Hikes and Day Trips
from and around Innsbruck

by Bruce Railsback, Visiting Professor, UNO-Innsbruck


                                  Contents:
Vocabulary      Important Points      Hikes      Day Trips     


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VOCABULARY:

General alpine geographic terms:
Alm: high clearing or pasture. Many are named for valley towns but are far above them.
Höhe: high place (or altitude).
Joch: saddle or high pass.
Kar: a cirque, commonly containing scree or loose rock; commonly used in the Karwendel (e.g., "Haflekar").
Kees: glacier
Kofel: summit or knoll, as in "Patscherkofel".
Kogel: a summit.
Kopf: head, rounded summit.
See: lake.
Spitze: peak, mountain top.
Tal: valley

Geography north of the Inn Valley:
Kalkalpen (Calcareous Alps) - the Alps north of the Inn Valley, consisting mostly of Mesozoic limestone.
Karwendel - the Calcareous Alps north of Innsbruck and into Germany; a subset of the Calcareous Alps.
Nordkette: the southernmost ridge of the Karwendel north of Innsbruck, and thus the ridge overlooking Innsbruck to the north.
Haflekarspitze: the peak in the Nordkette accessed by the cablecar climbing from Hungerburg.

Geography south of the Inn Valley:
Metamorphic Alps: the Alps south of the Inn Valley, consisting mostly of metamorphic rocks.
Sill: The river flowing from the Brenner pass down northward to Innsbruck and into the Inn.
Zillertal: the valley of the Ziller River, east of Innsbruck and the Sill Valley. Zell am Ziller and Mayrhofen are noteworthy towns.
Ötztal: the valley of the Ötz River, west of Innsbruck and the Sill Valley. Solden and Obergurgl are noteworthy towns.
Stubaital: the valley of the Ruetz River, which opens into the Sill Valley from the southwest and thus is southwest of Innsbruck.

Hiking and access terms and expressions:
Seilbahn: Cable car system.
Steig: a climbing trail
Talstation: Lower terminus of a cable car or ski lift.
Bergstation: Upper terminus of a cable car or ski lift. Many bergstations include places to eat.
Lawine: avalanche.
Letzte Talfaht: Last trip down.
Weg: trail
Nur für geübte: Only for the experienced (climbers).

IMPORTANT POINTS:

Buy hiking maps ("wanderkarte") for areas to which you plan to go. The Tyrolia bookstore on Maria Theresien Strasse carries a good selection of the Compass wanderkarte and Freytag & Berndt maps for the Tirol. Freytag and Berndt's map of Innsbruck is great for Innsbruck's streets, but its representation of hiking trails above Innsbruck can be rather schematic.

Have raingear, a sweater, gloves, a hat, food, and water with you. You will go hiking many times and not need the extra clothes, but the one day that a storm moves in will make carrying them all summer worthwhile.

If it's cloudy on a morning when you've planned a mountain trip by cable car or ski lift, remember two things: it may be clear at the top of the lift (the bergstation may be above the clouds), and the weather often clears during a day that begins with clouds. For every day you go up and get completely disappointed, there will be at least two when you'll be glad you went on faith.

Bus stops have signs indicating when buses go and where they go. When you get off a bus at a distant location, find the departing bus stop and read its posted schedule. Remember to look at the symbols at the top of each column, because they will indicate if a scheduled run of the bus is only on certain days. Plan your departure and write down the time.

When getting off a cable car or ski lift, be sure to note when the last trip down ("letzte talfahrt") is. There's usually a sign; ask if there isn't one. Writing down the time is a good idea, especially with the confusion that Americans experience with 24-hour time. Missing the last trip down can mean freezing to death.

Stay on the posted trails, both for your own ease and safety and to lessen the erosion caused by your visit. Most of the standard trails are posted with red and white marks on rocks, and occasional signs indicate trail numbers and directions.

 

HIKES

Trails above Hungerburg and Hötting. There are lots of trails above Innsbruck on the slopes of the Nordkette - great places to get away in a matter of minutes, and to get some exercise. Here's a large map photographed at Hungerburg, and the left and right nicely printable (at 230 dpi or 90 dpcm) halves of it. Or, here's a less nice-looking map made from two of the signs along the trails.

 

The Zirbenweg from the Patscherkofel. This is a delightful near-horizontal hike at the tree line along the south side of the Inn Valley. Take the Innsbruck J bus, which leaves from Maria Theresien Strasse on Marktgraben on the :08s and :38s, to the Patscherkofelbahn stop in Igls. From there, take the cable car up the Patscherkofel; don't get off in the middle where passengers switch cars. At the top, go out the gate to the east, walk up behind the bergstation, and find the Zirbenweg signs, and take off. The Zirbenweg and trail 350 are well posted. After passing (or stopping) at the Tulfeinalm hütte at the east end, you'll come to the Glungezerbahn ski lift; take it down (with a stop in the middle) for a glorious ride down through the firs and pines to Tulfes. In Tulfes, catch a bus back to Igls or to Innsbruck.
        You can buy a round-trip ticket at the Patscherkofelbahn talstation for the Patscherkofelbahn cable car trip up, the Glungerzerbahn ski lift ride down, and the bus ride from Tulfes to Igls. Allow about an hour for the Glungezerbahn trip down to Tulfes, and don't expect the bus drivers to wait for you if you're twenty seconds late. Be forwarned that the 4:00 pm bus back to Igls leaves you waiting a long time for a J bus; that's why paying to take the Postbus to Innsbruck is probably worthwhile. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        Views from the Zirbenweg:
View View

 

The Hermann Buhl Weg and Goethe Weg from the Haflekar. This trail along the north side of the Inn Valley and well above the tree line provides breathtaking views southward of the Inn Valley, similar views northward into the Karwendel, and in a few places both at the same time as you stand on the Nordkette ridge. Either catch the inclined railway (Hungerburgbahn) from the talstation on Rennweg by the Inn up to Hungerburg, or take the J bus to Hungerburg (it leaves from the Maria Theresien Strasse stop on Marktgraben on the :02s and :32s). Take the first cable car up to Seegrube and the second to the Haflekar. After a look out over Innsbruck and perhaps a climb to the Haflekarspitze, take the trail starting east from just outside the observation area and outdoor seating. Hike east at least to the sign for the Muhlkar, where you should have views both of the Inn and into the Karwendel. From there, you'll see a long intimidating segment across the rocky scree slope - very do-able if you"re so inclined. After crossing all the scree, you'll climb up to a pass from which you can descend to Pfeishütte for lunch. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        A view from the Hafelekarspitze:
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The Rofanspitze trail, a relatively easy hike to a true peak in the Calcareous Alps. Take a train east from Innsbruck to Jenbach; it's about a thirty minute ride, and the white castle (Schloss Tratzberg) to the north (left) from the train is your warning that you're coming into Jenbach. From the Jenbach platform, go to the north or Achensee side of the station, emerge from the station, and catch the bus to Maurach. In Maurach, take the cable car up. From the bergstation, you'll have a great view of the Achensee. Signs should indicate the path to the Rofanspitze. If you go the route to the right and find yourself climbing up a rock stairway, be comforted that it will eventually give way to an open gentle hike. From the Rofanspitze, you'll see across the Calcareous Alps, south into the Metamorphic Alps, and east along the Inn Valley.(Kompass Wanderkarte 27)
        Views of the Achensee and from the Rofanspitze:
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The Schlegeisstausee glacier walk, a flat walk up a classic U-shaped glacial valley. From Mayrhofen (see below), take the bus to Schlegeistausee. You'll have to pay the regular fare (about 8 euros) and then an additional charge for the bus's use of a long tunnel. The bus ride itself is worth the trip, and ends with the climb up to the dam ("stau") for the reservoir (thus a "stau-see") below the Schlegeis glacier (thus "Schlegeisstausee"). This walk goes completely flat along the south side of the reservoir, passing first a restaurant at the bus stop, a wurst kiosk as you cross a bridge (note the restrooms at the wurst kiosk!) and later a hütte when the trail finally crosses the stream feeding the glacier. From there, the trail begins to climb slightly toward the glacier. The walk looks short from the bus stop, but it proves to be a longer walk than it looks, and it provides great views up into the surrounding mountains, as well as of the glacier itself. As you approach the upper end of the valley, you can climb up and to the left to Furtschagel Hütte, where lunch will be available and there will be truly grand views.(Kompass Wanderkarte 37)
        A spectacular day at Schlegeisstausee (left) and the glacier with its terminal moraines (right):
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The "Italy Trail" from Schlegeisstausee, a not-very-steep hike up the ZamserBach valley on Trail 524 to a pass at the Italian border. From Mayrhofen (see below), take the bus to Schlegeistausee. You'll have to pay the regular fare (about 8 euros) and then an additional charge for the bus's use of a long tunnel. The bus ride itself is worth the trip, and ends with the climb up to the dam ("stau") for the reservoir (thus a "stau-see") below the Schlegeis glacier (thus "Schlegeisstausee"). Follow the road around the lake until it crosses a wooden bridge, then turn right (south) and go past the wurst kiosk (note the restrooms there!). The trail (524) goes up the valley to the south, with great views of waterfalls to the right, and it alternates crossing rocky landslides and flat valleys above the landslide blockages. The last climb to the pass gets a little steep but is well worth the view of the Stampflkees glacier to the right (note its two sharp lateral moraines). Pause to savor the border crossing (no passport needed), and go on to the Pfitscherjoch hütte at least to see the grand view into the Italian valley to the south. (Kompass Wanderkarte 37)
        The view into Italy from Pfitscherjoch hütte, the Stampflkees glacier and lateral moraines, and a landslide (from right) blocking the valley on the way to Pfitscherjoch:
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Seefeld and beyond Take the train from Innsbruck to Seefeld, getting a seat on the left side to get the views from the spectacular railway that climbs up the north side of the Inn Valley west of Innsbruck. Get off at Seefeld. The train station opens into central Seefeld; instead turn right to go north along the railroad tracks and then turn right again on Olympia Strasse or Andreas Hofer Strasse to cross the tracks and go up to the Rosshüttebahn. Buy a ticket for the bergstation, not just for the Rosshütte mittelstation. The first trip, to the mittlestation, is by inclined railway. From the mittelstation, which offers a nice self-service restaurant, you can take one of two cable cars (your ticket allows you the choice). The one to the left goes across the valley to the Härmelkopf, from which there are great views of the Inn Valley and hiking trails. The other cable car goes up to Seefelderjoch; I've not explored that yet, but it seems to be a popular destination. One option is to take Trail 10 from one of these (Härmelkopf and Seefelderjoch) to the other. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        Views toward Scharnitz and up the Inn Valley:
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Neustift, the Elferlift, and the Pinnistal, which offers a beautiful all-downhill hike. Take the Stubai bus from the Innsbruck bus station (just south of the train station) throgh Neders to Neustift, getting off at the Tankstelle stop. Take the Elferlift up (if the chair has its hood down, lift it to enjoy the view). At the top of the lift, you have options. One is to hike up to the Elferhütte, which is some work but yields a bite to eat and views like the one at left. The other option, or course of action after going up to the Elferhütte and back, is to take the Pinnistal trail. It takes off to the left from the top of the lift and goes down through beautiful meadows as Trail 9 (?) to the upper reaches of the Pinnistal, a valley that opens into the Stubai valley. Once you reach the floor of the Pinnistal at Pinnisalm, you can hike down that valley along the Pinnisbach on Trail 123 and back to Neders, thus returning to the bus line on an entirely downhill hike. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        Views from the Elferhütte, across the Pinnistal, and up the Pinnistal:
View View View

 

The trail from Tiefenbach to Vent. Take the train from Innsbruck to Ötztal Bahnhof, catch the bus in front of the train station and ride to Solden, and from the Gaislachkogelbahn stop in Solden catch the bus to Tiefenbach, which involves a tunnel between the Rettenbachferner and Tiefenback glaciers (in fact, you go under the Rettenbachferner glacier). You can take the cable car up to the top of the Tiefenbach glacier to presumably get a great view (I only saw clouds and howling winds the mornig I was there). Find the Vent walk by going to the lower end of the parking lot (off to the right between a small holding pond and an area used for skateboarding). Start up a small road, which leads to more lifts, but a hiking trail will soon take off to the left. This trail goes to Vent, a village at the head of the valley along which you will descend. I've only begun this hike and haven't done it all the way to Vent, but it looks like a great hike. From Vent, you'll want to take a bus to Solden, the bus from Solden to Ötztal Bahnhof, and the train home. (Kompass Wanderkarte 43)
        On the trail one day, and the overcast/undercast conditions:
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The Alexander Enzinger Weg, a great ridge-top trail south of Zell am See and Kaprun. This would be a very ambitious one-day trip from Innsbruck, and much more reasonable with the night before, and probably after, in Zell am See (there's a direct rain from Innsbruck via Kitzbuhl). From the bus station in the center of Zell am See, or from the bus stop at the train station, take the Kesselfall bus up the Kaprun valley to the talstation for the Kitzsteinhorn lifts (it's a stop or two north of the Kesselfall stop). As you buy your lift ticket, inquire about the time of the last trip down on the Maiskogel bahn, on which you'll come down. Take the triple lift ride up to the Kitzsteinhorn peak for the view. Then come back down one lift to the Alpincenter and take off on the Alexander Enzinger Weg (Trail 5) to the north. There are several trails in the area, so check your navigation and map carefully. (You can also come down two lifts and then take the trail, but you'll have an invigorating climb up the ridge to get to the main trail). The Alexander Enzinger Weg follows a ridge north, providing great two-way views across slopes filled with wildflowers. At the north end, catch the Maiskogel cable car down, and catch the bus north back to Zell am See (it stops at the talstation). The only word of warning is that, although signs say the trail is a two-and-a-half hour walk, it took us something more like four brisk hours. (Freytag & Berndt Wanderkarte 122)
        A view along the trail:
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DAY TRIPS

The Stubai Glacier. Take the Stubai bus from the Innsbruck bus station (next to the train station); the bus pulls up next to Sterzinger Strasse. Ride the bus all the way to Mutterbergalm, the last stop, The take the two cable cars up to the glacier, where there is a restaurant. You can hike across the Schaufelferner glacier to gain even better views of the Metamorphic Alps and to see the crevasses and other ice features; the hike ends at the Jochdohle hütte, from which the view is grand. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        A view across the glacier, and from Jochdohle hütte:
View View

 

Mittenwald. Take the train from Innsbruck through Seefeld and Scharnitz to Mittenwald, getting a seat on the left side to get the views from the spectacular railway that climbs up the north side of the Inn Valley west of Innsbruck. After emerging from the station at Mittenwald, cross the tracks to get to the talstation. The cable car climbs steeply into a cleft in the rocks below the bergstation. You can and inevitably will go out of the bergstation to the high bowl from which there are great views that make the whole trip worthwhile. You can also walk from the bergstation through a tunnel to another outlet from which you can hike down to Mittenwald. Hiking at altitude is possible on a trail to the south, but it follows a sharp ridge and requires some daring. (Kompass Wanderkarte 5)
        Two views from above Mittenwald:
View View

 

The Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain peak, on the German-Austrian border. Take a train from Innsbruck via Mittenwald to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From the G-P train platform, you can walk undergound to get to the train station for the touristic Zugsptizebahn train to the Zugspitze. This will involve riding a small conventional train from its G-P terminus to Grainau, where you disembark and get on the small cars of a cog-rail train. The latter takes you up the steep valley side and then through a spectacularly long steep tunnel to the Sonnalpin hütte just below the Zugspitze. Then you can take a short cable car ride to the Zubspitze itself, where you may have grand views like the one at left (and where you'll have numerous opportunities for food and drink).
        Another option is to get off the cog-rail train at Eibsee and take a long cable car from there to the Zugsptize. Yet another is to catch a bus outside the main train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, ride it to the west side of Garmisch, and then walk on the minor roads across the beautiful valley floor to Grainau, where you can then catch the cog-rail train and be one your way. (Kompass Wanderkarte 5)
        A view from the Zugspitze, and in the main valley west of Garmisch:
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Hintertux Glacier From Mayrhofen, take a bus to Hintertux, and from there take the two cable cars up to Tuxerferner Haus. You can also take a ski lift from there to the top of the glacier. At last inspection, one of the features here was a tunnel cut into the glacier, so that you can literally walk into the ice (see left below). Also note the lateral moraines (right below), best seen from the mittelstation of the cable car run. (Kompass Wanderkarte 37)
        Ice (left) and its results (right):
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Steinach Take a train south from Innsbruck in the direction of Brenner to Steinach. Emerge from the Steinach station going a little left to cross the Sill, get to the main street (parallel the tracks and the Sill), go right a couple of blocks on the main street, and then left. You should see signs for the seilbahn to Bergeralm (the mittelstation) and ski lift to Nösslachjochhütte (the bergstation). There is food at Bergeralm (a kiosk, a restaurant under construction in 2002, and the traditional hütte just down the hill), but none at the bergstation (despite the name). From the top you'll have great views over the Geschnitztal to Serles, north down the Sill Valley to the Calcareous Alps, and south up the Sill Valley to Brenner and beyond. Trails here are somewhat enigmatic but provide some nice hiking opportunities. (Kompass Wanderkarte 36)
        A view from Nösslachjochhütte north down the Sill Valley:
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Mayrhofen and the Zillertal: Take a train east from Innsbruck to Jenbach; it's about a thirty minute ride, and the white castle to the north (left) from the train is your warning that you're coming into Jenbach. From the Jenbach platform, go to the Zillertal station on the south side and take either the train ride (a charming ride up the broad valley) or the bus to Mayrhofen. The train station in Mayrhofen is the bus station for busses leaving to hiking destinations. Mayrhofen has an abundance of places to stay if you want to have a multi-day adventure there, and doing so will let you catch earlier buses more easily. The buses out of Mayhofen (for example, to Schlegeisstausee) have stops in Mayrhofen, so you can catch them easily if you're staying in Mayrhofen.

 

A map (left) and satellite image (right) labeled with many of the locations described above)

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