Autumn hikes without the car

Autumn is walking season. When the Indian summer arrives in the Innsbruck region, not only is there the colourful autumn splendour to admire, but the views of the skyline will simply take your breath away. On sunny days when the temperature is just right for walking and the mountain air is crystal clear, a climb to a mountain top has to be the perfect activity. If you want to do yourself some good and also be kind to the environment, you can easily reach the starting point for your hike by public transport. Hiking buses will transport guests straight to the top guided walking tours in the region ... and they are free with the Welcome Card. But for the independent traveller, the region’s hiking trails can also easily be reached using scheduled public transport.

Zirbenweg
Zirbenweg ©Innsbruck Tourismus/Helga Andreatta

No fewer than 1,220 kilometres of walking trails are awaiting exploration in the Innsbruck region. If you have a Welcome Card (https://www.innsbruck.info/destination/unterkuenfte/welcome-card.html), available to every guest in participating hotels/guesthouses in Innsbruck from the first night at no charge, a free mountain walking programme operates from the end of May to October, Monday to Friday (https://www.innsbruck.info/wandern/bergwanderprogramm.html). Under the programme, qualified mountain and walking guides from the Innsbruck Alpine School (ASI) accompany guests to the most beautiful spots and viewpoints. The journeys there and back using the hiking bus is free for Welcome Card holders and of course their use also protects the environment. Such a wide variety of great walking activities ensures an unforgettable experience every day.

Monday: In the primeval forest high above Innsbruck – the Zirbenweg

On Mondays, the hiking bus with guide on board will take you to Innsbruck's home mountain – the Patscherkofel. This “gentle giant” rises out of slate and quartz rock to the south of Innsbruck. It is also easy to access without a guide. Jump on the Line J bus. It runs from the Nordkette terminus to the Patscherkofel, the starting point for this walk. With the Patscherkofel lift, you are swept up almost 2,000m, before reaching the starting point for family-friendly and scenically impressive walks. This, the most beautiful of Alpine trails, winds its way through centuries-old stands of stone pines. The Zirbenweg or Stone Pine Trail leads gently uphill and downhill in an easterly direction as far as the Tulfeinalm on the hillsides of the Glungezer.

Tuesday: The Pinnistal valley in the Stubai region

On Tuesdays the hiking bus heads up into the Stubai Alps. This trail explores the Pinnis valley in Neustift im Stubaital. The geology in the upper Pinnistal is unique, as the merger here of two different rock formations makes for an impressive sight. On the one hand you can see mighty limestone reefs, horizontally stratified ravines and light grey scre reaching down to the valley floor. There is hardly any fertile soil and little water. On the other hand, in close proximity and extending behind the Karalm, the primary rock, with its plentiful supply of water, serves as the ideal growth medium for dense shrubland where rhododendron bushes and lush green birch trees thrive. The romantic Alpine meadows of Herzeben and Issenanger also make the trip into the Pinnis valley particularly worthwhile. Here you can sit and enjoy regional delicacies, while overlooked by high Alpine countryside.

Wednesday: The Nordkette range above Innsbruck’s rooftops

From Innsbruck's city centre to a viewing platform for the natural world ... and in just 30 minutes. By taking the Nordkettenbahnen funicular and cable cars, passing the Hungerburg and the Seegrube, you reach the Hafelekar (2,300m) in the heart of Karwendel nature reserve, with Innsbruck pretty well at your feet. The imposing Nordkette with its rugged limestone cliffs is just one of many parallel chains in this, the largest nature reserve in Austria. Breathtaking – that is the only word that comes to mind when you survey from the Hafelekar an astounding vista over the city and surrounding mountains. The Goetheweg starts right next to Hafelekar mountain station and leads eastwards always close to the ridge. This good trail leads south, sometimes north, of the ridge through cols and stone-pine studded terrain up to the Pfeishütte. The view ranges from the rooftops of the city on one side and the unspoilt countryside of the Karwendel Alpine Park on the other, but the panorama also extends all the way to the Stubai and Wipp valleys.

Thursday: The Mountaineering Villages in the Sellraintal valley

The Mountaineering Villages (https://www.innsbruck.info/destination/orte/gries-im-sellrain/bergsteigerdoerfer.html) are the jewel in the crown of the Sellrain valley. Only about 20 villages in Austria are entitled to brand themselves with this title. Sellrain, Gries im Sellrain and St. Sigmund im Sellrain are among them. Amid a high Alpine backdrop of countless three-thousand-metre peaks, the Sellrain valley is barely 30 minutes away from Innsbruck. The hiking bus leaves for the Sellrain valley every Thursday. In the course of the guided tour you can imbibe the very special atmosphere of the Mountaineering Villages and breathe in the clear Alpine air.

Friday: Indian summer on the Mieming Plateau

Every Friday, the hiking bus departs for the Mieming Plateau, where a leisurely walk at the foot of the ever visible Hohe Munde begins in Telfs. A sight to savour at the popular Strassberghaus are the famous, stunningly beautiful "burning larches”. Once the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, that is when the splendour of the larches reveals itself. The colours of the trees’ autumn cloak range from yellow to orange. If you want to extend the hike, the climb to the Neue  Alplhütte along a trail through the Steinerne Meer or Rocky Sea is recommended. The Steinerne Meer was created in 2012 by a huge landslide and in 2015 a trail was laid right through the middle of the boulders. The incredible forces of nature in the mountains have created an impressive spectacle. Included in the hike is a refreshment stop at either the Neue Alplhütte or the Strassberghaus.

And at the weekend, you can hike through the mountains on your own

The region around Innsbruck is as varied as the range of hikes on offer and the weekend is the ideal time to get to know three mountain pastures with views over the Inn valley. The starting point is the Muttereralm mountain station. It’s easy to reach with the cable car: it takes about 1hr 15 mins to follow a wide forest trail to Birgitzer Alm (1,803m), which offers a unique view of the Nordkette and the Kalkkögel on the opposite side of the valley. After that it’s downhill (around 25 minutes) to the Götzner Alm (1,542m), where some special Alpine meadow specialities await. Grey cheese and buttermilk are produced here. Then it’s back to the starting point, the Mutterer Alm. That’s a good hour’s walk.  Keen walkers heading out of Innsbruck towards Mutters can always use the Stubai valley railway. This eco-friendly regional train, which also serves as a tram in the city, has been connecting Innsbruck with the Stubai valley since 1904.

The autumn event cycle

Running alongside the autumn hiking season, a varied programme of events take place in the region: so, for example, 8 September is Alpine Meadow Walking Day. Activities include a walk along the Alpine Pasture Trail 1600 in the Patscherkofel and Glungezer area with concerts, children’s events and tasty specialities served from stalls on the pastures or at the mountain restaurants.

The focal point in the Sellrain valley is a natural autumn spectacle: from the 25 –29 September, stag rutting is the highlight of a quite different type. This week is known locally as Hubertus week. It’s a time for celebrating the world of game hunting. In addition to countryside walks, guests can witness an impressive deer spectacle in the evening. (Information and Booking: Tourismusinfo Gries im Sellrain, gries@innsbruck.info).

Much more information around the topic of hiking, plus numerous tour suggestions can be found at www.innsbruck.info/wandern