What looks like a weird photo wallpaper or maybe a bit too much photoshop is a quite accurate depiction of what hiking in Tirol looks like. For five days, I ventured into the Alps with four friends and the dog, to explore the deepest valleys, the steepest slopes, and the fluffiest Kaiserschmarrn in the most lovely Stubaital in the heart of Tirol. Read on to find many reasons why you should do the same thing…
Hiking is one of my favorite vacation activities – and while I enjoy walking in Brandenburg or along the many coasts of this country, nothing beats the exhaustion and excitement involved in alpine hiking. Walking up 1000m, short on breath and sweaty, and being rewarded with stunning views, and surprised by the dreamiest valleys when you thought you already reached the top is very hard to beat. This was my first time in Tirol, but thanks to the many hidden plateaus with cute chalets, it certainly wasn’t my last.
We decided to rent a chalet through Airbnb, and found a wooden house in the last village before the end of the Stubai valley: nestled up the mountain and embraced by a dark forest were a mere five or six buildings and many more animals – when we arrived, cows were slowly walking up the same road we had to pass, with serenity and poise only free-roaming cattle posses. Cows insist on their right of way in Tirol, and why shouldn’t they, they’ve been here before we even thought about traveling south.
We stayed in a typical Tyrolean chalet built of beautiful, weathered local wood and spacious enough to house all five of us. With a small terrace overlooking the valley and breakfast service included, it was the perfect and most relaxing spot to start and end our hikes.
The coming days the only question we had to answer was which hiking path to choose next and how many meters we dared to ascend. Many of the paths started at our chalet or just a couple meters down the road, and so we packed our bags and went ahead. Stubaital’s trails are steep and narrow, nothing for the insecure walker or someone with serious fear of heights. More than once we met descending hikers giving us words of support, or resting ones wanting to know what we thought how far the next mountain lodge was. But the reward for hours of nothing but climbing a hill is always worth the hike. Here are two hikes I want to recommend you in the Stubaital:
Start at the Grawa waterfall – which is a beautiful sight and easily accessible, thus quite crowded, and the local lodge has a delicious Kaiserschmarrn. Start ascending the trail to the right of the fall, and don’t ever give up, even if the hike seems endless (and steep). You will reach the end of the ropeway conveyor eventually, stay on the path, turn the corner and discover the breathtaking plateau on the way to the Sulzenhauhütte. It instantly reminded me of the moment in “Land Before Our Time” when Littlefoot finds the Great Valley. Several waterfalls flow down the harsh mountains and join in an ice-cold and crystal clear stream. You’ll once again meet many free walking cows – since I traveled with my dog, I rather avoided getting too close and made sure I could quickly unleash her if need be so she can save herself and I don’t get in harms way. I’m not kidding, hikers have died in cow attacks when a herd tried to protect their offspring.
Sadly, we were too late in the day since we had wasted half a day to go up the aggressively advertised glacial route only to find nothing but a giant winter ski resort in summer hiatus, which isn’t a pretty sight. So we neither had a Germknödel at the lodge nor hiked on to the Sulzenauhütte which sits on the cliff overlooking the plateau. Definitely on the to-do list for next time, the view up there must be amazing.
The other hike took us first to Bsuchalm – more a recreative walk than a hike, don’t miss the wild raspberries along the way! – and from there all the way up to the Nürnbergerhütte. The hike up there is no joke, a narrow, rocky and steep trail leads you around several curves for about an hour before you even get a first glimpse at the Hütte, which still looks incredibly far. However, you do meet very curious and friendly goats on your way and the path is crossed by a refreshing stream several times, and the hut is not as far as it looks, so keep on walking!
Nürnbergerhütte is part of the so called Stubaier Höhenweg connecting several lodges and is frequented by many professional hikers. Their professionality finds it most visible expression in the gear – we were literally the only ones not completely clad in hiking clothes – with one of us wearing sweatpants, the other dressed as if going on the golf course with a sweet sweater around his shoulders, and the rest making use of their running attire in neon bright colors, we diverged from the norm and earned us some questioning stares. Nevertheless, except for a good pair of hiking boots to protect your ankles, you probably won’t need any of the advertised gear if going for a day or two or even three or four of hiking in sunny weather. Don’t let marketing fool you.
In the evenings after descending from the mountain, the only thing we did was hanging out on the terrace of our chalet, watching the clouds, listening to the wind in the trees and giving our feet some well needed rest. Before getting up the mountain again the next day.
Hiking might get you addicted, just be warned, the nature in Tirol is so stunning, you might wanna catch the view from up the mountain top again and again and again. We could’ve hiked for weeks in this valley alone, testing out the many different culinary treats in the lodges – like the Kiachl, a deep fried yeast pastry topped with either sauerkraut or sweet lingonberry that tastes best eaten after hiking up at least an hour. And one last tip, avoid the lodges that can be reached by cablecar or – even worse – car. I personally don’t like to share my moment of sweaty mountain glory with people who didn’t make a physical effort to be there. But that might just be me.
Disclaimer: we were invited by Airbnb to stay at the chalet for four nights free of charge.