Discover the beauty of Austria by foot on the alpine walking trails of the Salzburger Almenweg, a long-distance hike leading through the Pongau district of Salzburg. Extending over 350km in length, this hiking path is divided into 31 daily stages.
The popular looping hiking trek, also known as the ‘Blue Gentian trail’, has been tackled by thousands of hikers, climbers and families over the years – with people opting to do the entire 31 stages all at once, or little by little. The trail leads right through the Salzburg Pongau region with its famous holiday hotspots such as the Salzburger Sportwelt, Tennengebirge, Grossarl Valley, Gastein Valley, Hochkönig holiday region, Salzburger Sun Terrace and Obertauern. As you hike, you’ll experience colourful alpine meadows, trek through forests, come across waterfalls and pass chapels and trail-side crosses.
There are 25 towns in Salburg’s Pongau region and they’re all located deep within the valleys of the Salburger Almenweg (translated as the Salzburger Alpine Trail). All the towns offer quick and easy access to 350km of hiking trails, and hikers can descend to visit other towns on-route. There are also 120 alpine huts along the route in which you can rest and spend the night.
31 Stages to Hike and Climb
The 31 stages vary in length and difficulty, but 90% of the route is 1,000m above sea level. Many of them are suitable for beginners and families with children, but there are a few that are only recommended for experienced mountaineers.
The shortest stage is only 5km long and can be completed in about 90 minutes. The more demanding stages, suited to competent hikers, are 21km long and take walkers, on average, around 9 hours to complete. The trail has something to suit everyone.
Eleven of the stages are suitable for beginners. The easiest one being stage 13 from Stubnerkogel lift to Kötschachtal, but others include stage 22 (6km and walking time of 2 hours) from Zauchensee to Vordergnadenalm, stage 5 (7km and walking time of 2 ½ hours) from Meislsteinalm to the railway station in Lend and stage 20 (7.5km and walking time of 2 hours) from Kogelalm to Flachau.
The first 29 stages are suitable for advanced hikers (ranging from 5km to 21km in length) and eight stages (1, 3, 5, 18, 21, 28, 29, 31) are recommended for mountaineers.
Suitable for the Whole Family
The easier, shorter stages of the trail are suitable for families, even ones with small children. There are 21 stages in total that are recommended for families, depending on age and experience.
The family-friendly stages include number 27 to Moosalm in Filzmoos, which also has a petting zoo and children’s playground, the themed trails of ‘Alles Alm’ in Obertauern and ‘Flori’s Adventure Trail’ in Flachau, as well as the two adventure mountains ‘Geisterberg’ in St. Johann-Alpendorf and ‘Wagraini’s Grafenberg’ in Wagrain.
Children can collect a hiking stamp for completing each stage and the bronze hiking pin is awarded after they’ve completed their first stage. The stamp collection book is available in all tourist association offices in the valleys. The Salzburger Almenweg is well marked with the insignia of the blue flower of the Gentian.
If you fancy taking your four-legged friend along, dogs are welcome on all stages of the alpine trail. But if you are planning to use the huts, make sure to ask the hut owners for permission to sleep overnight with your dog beforehand. Stage 2, in the Arthurhaus on the Hochkönig, is a popular choice for dog walkers as there is a playground, complete with a swimming pool and obstacle course for dogs.
Visit the Pongauer Alpine Herdsmen
Whilst hiking the Salzburger Almenweg, it’s worth dropping in on the locals in the alpine pastures, to learn local traditions and hear their stories. Visitors can also take part in activities such as milking the cows, learning to yodel, cheesemaking and even a little magic!
The locals are excellent hosts and storytellers, but of course they also know everything there is to know about the local area and the trail you are on. Where and when to see the Chamois (a species of goat-antelope native to mountains in Europe), what the weather is up to and the most entertaining local myths and legends.
Spending a day with them is a truly unique experience that enables you to be submerged in the local culture and traditions. The alpine pasture of the Salzburger Almenweg is an ancient cultural landscape, thanks to the people that live there, dedicated to upholding the traditions.
Not to be missed sights include the rustic huts of Tauernkarleitenalm in Obertauern with its 100-year-old smoking kitchen, the 150-year-old Präau Hochalm in Dorfgastein with its ‘Honeymoon Suite’, and the Aussteigerkammerln and the Weissalm with their open fire places in Großarl.
Experience the Local Delicacies
After all that hiking, there’s no doubt you’ll be ravenous, and you won’t stay hungry for long!
Using traditional methods passed down through generations, visitors can experience the region’s famed spicy grey cheese, mountain farmer’s mozzarella and dough cheese, all made from fresh cow’s milk. You can also try freshly baked bread, cooked right there on the mountain.
The locals also produce a delicious syrup made from wild herbs and elderberry, and an alcoholic schnapps made from rowan berries and pine cones. Make sure you taste the local doughnuts too, which are baked in clarified butter.
In Großarltal, hikers can also experience the ‘Großarltaler Mountain Secrets’: in each mountain hut there is a special dish to try such as Kasnocken (cheese noodles) or Bauernbratl (farmer’s roast). Other local products to try include herbal salt, blueberry vinegar and hay milk soap, all of which are produced in the Bürglalm, the Pronebenalm or the Dientalm.