In July 2017, I set out to Austria with friends to hike for four days along the Stubaier Höhenweg. In total, the Stubaier Höhenweg is serviced by eight huts, over a U-shaped traverse through beautiful alpine landscapes, over a course of 100 km (62 miles). Our tour afforded us the opportunity to visit four of these huts, overnighting in all four, traveling in a clockwise direction for 33.3 km (21 miles).
After the hut to hut hiking, we toured Austria and München for several days to visit various essential tourist destinations.
So, what the heck is hut to hut hiking? I walked the uninitiated through this in my prior blog post documenting my 2013 hut to hut tour in Pitztal, Austria. Here, I’ll just assume my loyal readership is fully informed. But feel free to click that link if you need a refresher or want to read about hiking in Pitztal. Or, click here if you want to learn about hiking in Tirol’s Zillertal.
And where, exactly, is Stubaital?
Stubaital, (the “Stubai Valley”) lies in the Federal State of Tirol, in western Austria, approximately 30 minutes south by car from Innsbruck.
The Stubai Alps form the border with Italy. On the southernmost portion of our trek, we were a snowball’s throw away from Südtirol.
On June 29, 2017, we flew out of Atlanta direct to Munich, Germany. The next morning, we arrived and spent the day touring Munich via Segway and enjoying food and beer at both Augustiner am Platzl and the world famous Hofbrauhaus. We spent the night at the Platzl Hotel which has the benefit of being in the Altstadt Marienplatz of Munich.
Our overall itinerary was as follows:
|Day 0:||Fly Atlanta to Munich, arrive morning of Day 1|
|Day 1:||Tour Munich, drink beer, eat wurst|
|Days 2-5:||Hike the Stubaier Höhenweg (4 hut circuit)|
|Day 6:||Innsbruck tourism and Tiroler Abend Folk Dancing. Overnight in Innsbruck.|
|Day 7:||Werfen, Hohenwerfen Castle & Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave. Overnight in Munich|
|Day 8:||Tour Munich|
|Day 9:||Fly back to Atlanta|
The entire trip is documented in a video you can find at the bottom of this post. The video is 1 hour long, which admittedly makes it difficult to digest for the casual viewer. For convenience, each section header of this post takes you directly to the appropriate part of the video.
The Stubaier Höhenweg Tour
The Stubaier Höhenweg is a high alpine hut to hut hiking tour that, over the course of nine days and eight nights, traverses beautiful mountain landscapes in Austria. Its complete traverse is possible without crossing glaciers or difficult passes which makes the route ideal for mountain walkers, families and others with limited alpine experience. However that is not to say you will not encounter snow, steep ground or the odd scramble here and there. Each evening offers the comfort and refuge of overnighting in a hut, which means a warm bed, dinner, beer, schnaps, breakfast and good company. The benefit of these accommodations cannot be overstated as you awake each morning, revitalized and eager to pursue your itinerary.
Our tour afforded us the opportunity to visit four of these huts, overnighting in all four, traveling in a clockwise direction from Innsbrucker Hütte to Bremer Hütte to Nürnberger Hütte to Sulzenauhütte and back down to the valley. The tour is approximately 34 km (21 miles) long from the top of the Elfer lift to the ending point at the Sulzenauhütte bus stop back in the valley. We experienced cold, rainy/cloudy conditions at the beginning of our tour, offset by spectacular sunny weather and beautiful vistas accenting the final half of our hiking.
The Stubaier Höhenweg is challenging alpine hiking. The entire eight day tour covers 62 miles (100 km) and consists of ascents/descents totaling nearly 26,246 feet (8,000 m). Each day consists of 4 – 8 hours of hiking through various alpine environments including: high meadows, cliffs, boulder fields, snow, passes and summits. Where appropriate, ladders and cables are provided for safety. Because no glacier crossings are involved, crampons and ice axes are not needed for this tour. However, walking sticks are a must. For added piece of mind, you may opt to bring harnesses and via ferrata gear (Black Diamond Easy Rider, Petzl Aspir and gloves) for negotiating some of the cable sections. For this tour, we merely employed the gloves.
Stage 1. July 1, 2017:
Neustift (via Elferbahn) ‐ Innsbrucker Hütte (3 hours, 45 minutes)
Our first day began in Munich with a quick breakfast and the 2.5 hour drive to Neustift, Austria, the beginning point of our tour. (Don’t forget to stop and purchase a vignette sticker for your car to allow use of Austria’s autobahn.)
In Neustift, we contemplated the rain as we ate pizza and visited the tourist center to acquire maps and Wander Stempel cards to keep track of the huts we intended to visit. Afterwards, we drove around the corner to the Elferbahn, the cable car that would lift us effortlessly and facilitate an easy, 3 hour and 45 minute hike to our first hut: the Innsbrucker Hütte. Upon arriving at the hut, we checked in to our 4 person Zimmerlager, showered, enjoyed beer and a Jausenplatte and relaxed.
From the top of the Elferlift, we began our hike to Innsbrucker Hütte, first stopping along the way at Elferhütte.
After a brief stop at Elferhütte (to buy hat pins), we continued on along the Panoramaweg to Karalm.
My only beef about the Innsbrucker Hütte is the cost of showering there. If I remember correctly, it was something like €2 for one precious minute of hot water. You need to be an exceptionally good planner to rinse the suds off before the bracing cold water flows from the shower head! A minor quibble, really. The food, beer, schnaps and sleeping quarters were all very good.
Stage 2. July 2, 2017:
Innsbrucker Hütte ‐ Bremer Hütte (7 hours, 20 minutes)
We set off under cold, wet conditions of 2°c/36°f. The previous night had brought steady rain. And this long day offered up a mixture of rain, mist and clouds, obscuring much of the promised vistas heralded in the trip literature. Still, the cool temperatures were appreciated on the uphills. And the mist presented an otherworldly air and its own special drama to our play. Importantly, the weather presented us with no difficulties in the hiking itself, so we were able to proceed through our day as originally planned.
The Bremer Hütte is sponsored by the German city of Bremen. And the Brothers Grimm–of fairy-tale fame–wrote a famous tale of the Bremen Town Musicians, the protagonists pictured above. Just another example of the whimsical findings along the way when hut to hut hiking in Austria.
I thoroughly enjoyed this hut. Smaller, older and more charming than the other, bigger huts in our itinerary. The proprietors and staff were friendly, the food excellent the facilities clean and the room comfortable. My personal mission was to introduce my party to various and sundry forms of schnaps. This, I accomplished in spades. What can I say? I improve lives.
Stage 3. July 3, 2017:
Bremer Hütte ‐ Nürnberger Hütte (4 hours, 40 minutes)
The next morning we awoke to clearing skies, improving conditions and a bracing temperature of 0°c/32°f.
It’s 30 degrees f, and Jake is in a t-shirt. He’s so big, he creates his own micro-climate!
The photo above reveals a recurring theme for me in my Austria hiking exploits. As a general rule, the time estimates provided by the trail signage prove unobtainable for me. Even in my advanced dotage, I consider myself a reasonably fit and experienced hiker. But here, in the Alps, I am simply slower. I accomplished this “3-4 hour” hike in 4 hours, 40 minutes. The younger members of our crew, of course, exceeded my results.
The Nürnberger Hütte, too was a very enjoyable hut, cozy, with good food.
Stage 4. July 4, 2017:
Nürnberger Hütte – Sulzenauhütte (4 hours, 25 minutes)
We began our day, greeted by sunshine and and warm 11°c/52°f temperatures. This day would also take us up and over the Mairspitze, which at 2,781 m (9,124 ft) was our tour’s highest elevation, offering the most commanding views.
We ascended steep, alpine grassland, passing sheep and goats as we pursued the Mairspitze.
We arrived early at the Sulzenauhütte. It’s a busy hut during the day, full of day hikers, as it’s an easy, 2-2.5 hour hike up from the valley. The beautiful weather lent itself to enjoying the outdoor terrace well into the night.
Stage 5. July 5, 2017:
Sulzenauhütte – Stubaital (2 hours, 15 minutes) & on to Innsbruck
Our final day in the Stubai was an easy descent to Sulzenau Alm and further to the valley. From the valley, we bused back to the Elferlift parking and our car. We drove the short half hour to Innsbruck, checked in to the excellent Goldener Adler Hotel, enjoyed lunch and beer at Stiftskeller Innsbruck: Augustiner Bräu and toured the Altstadt.
That evening, we enjoyed a lively and entertaining evening of Tirolean folk music with the Gundolf family. If you enjoy life and having fun, I recommend it.
Here is the Schuhplattler–Reith im Winkel dance:
Tourism. July 6, 2017:
Werfen, Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave, Burg Hohenwerfen, then on to München
We drove from Innsbruck to Werfen Austria to visit the Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave and Burg Hohenwerfen, the imposing 11th century fortress lording over the town below.
After touring Werfen, we drove to München for a final day of sightseeing and shopping before returning home.
München. June 30 & July 7, 2017:
Following are pictures from our first and our final day in München.
Stubaier Höhenweg Resources:
Here is a map showing the location of the huts we visited on our trip.
Maps: Alpenvereinskarte 31/1 and 31/2, available for purchase from the Austrian Alpine Club (UK). As an Alpenverein member, you get insurance and discounts at the huts. U.S. residents should join the UK section of the Austrian Alpenverein.
Huts: I booked all the huts in advance via email or online forms on the individual hut websites. Advance payment was not required.
Money: Just a note about money. In the remote villages and huts of Austria, cash is not only king, but is often the only form of payment accepted.
Weather: Late July through early September is the best opportunity for non-technical hiking in the Austrian Alps. Everything is weather dependent. Having a detailed itinerary affords you the opportunity to modify the plans based on weather conditions. We made changes to our original itinerary based on the weather. Beautiful, scenic hikes on warm, sunny days, can quickly turn into dangerous, life-threatening excursions in rain and snow. The Hohenwegs should only be attempted in ideal weather conditions.
If this post wasn’t long enough for you and you somehow feel cheated not having had the opportunity to see all the pictures to get the fullest sense of the fun we had, then I invite you to spend the next hour of your life watching this movie. I recommend full screen and High Definition.
Stubaier Höhenweg 2017: The Movie (1 hour, 1 minute):