Favourite Hiking Tours in the Salzburger Saalachtal
The favourite hikes of locals in the Salzburger Saalachtal
Gentle mountain ridges with green alpine pastures; the craggy peaks of the Steinberge; well-trodden trails and hidden paths; breathtaking views and impressive natural wonders. Countless hiking routes in the Salzburger Saalachtal provide unforgettable moments and every step in the mountains brings peace and joy to the soul. No-one knows the peaks and trails of the Salzburger Saalachtal better than our local passionate mountaineers so we asked them to share their favourite tours in the mountains with us in the Holiday Magazine.
For early-risers: Sunrise hike to the Sonntagshorn
Christoph Pfaffenbichler, Junior Manager of the certified hiking hotel Schütterbad in Unken spends a lot of his free time out and about in the mountains. When the qualified hike and bike guide isn’t brandishing a saucepan in the family hotel or guiding guests in the surrounding mountains, the 28 year old outdoor enthusiast can be found on his bike or in a kayak. His absolute favourite hike requires an early departure from his warm bed. He explains, “I am more than happy to get up in the middle of the night for a dawn hike to the Sonntagshorn. The Sonntagshorn is the highest peak in the Chiemgau Alps at 1961 m and offers amazing long-distance views. Ideal conditions for enjoying a spectacular sunrise! In the summer I set off on this hike at 3 am because the first sunbeams peep over the horizon at around 5 am.
I park my car in the carpark in Heutal and set off in complete darkness on the 2 – 2,5 hour ascent. My head torch illuminates the path which follows the Lahnerbach moderately steeply upwards to the Hochalm. Even the mountains seem to be asleep; I am surrounded by absolute stillness. Only the rhythmic jingling of the cowbells accompanies me until just below the peak. Here a purple streak looms on the horizon, a tell-tale sign that the sun won’t wait much longer.
I choose the difficult West ascent which requires surefootedness. The border between Germany and Austria runs exactly along the line of this ridge; the Sonntagshorn separates Ruhpolding from Unken. The easier climb is reached from the southern path. When I arrive at the summit cross, it isn’t long before the first warming sunrays appear over the horizon. As soon as the sun rises above the peak of the Predigtstuhl the view is infinite. The 360º panorama shines in golden sunlight from Chiemsee and the Chiemgauer Alps, the city of Salzburg and the Loferer Steinberge to the Kaisergebirge. On the way back to the valley an abundant mountain breakfast awaits at the Jausenstation Hochalm.“
Three questions for Christoph Pfaffenbichler about his favourite hike:
What is special about this tour?
Christoph Pfaffenbichler: „The Sonntagshorn is a much-loved and well-trodden peak. You are never alone on this mountain on fine days. However in the morning, at dawn, the peak belongs to me alone! And the sunrise on this mountain is a unique experience.“
What if your stomach starts to rumble after your ascent?
Christoph Pfaffenbichler: „As a reward for this early morning outdoor adventure, I treat myself to a mountain breakfast at the Jausenstation Hochalm halfway back to the valley. Here the table groans under the weight of muesli, fruit, eggs and local alm products served to hungry mountaineers.“
What is the best time of year for the hike?
Christoph Pfaffenbichler: „Anyone who, like me, doesn’t really like getting up so early, should postpone their sunrise hike to a fine autumn day. Heutal is bedecked in the brightest colours and the sun rises at 7 am so you only need to set off at 5 am for the hike.”
Leisurely family hike to the Kallbrunnalm
The Bavarian-born Katharina Unterweißacher first came to the Kallbrunnalm as a child to visit her Grandma who was a milkmaid on the alpine pasture. Katharina later found not only the love of her life here but also a very special patch of nature which has a hold over her even today. She laughs, “The Kallbrunnalm is MY alm.” These days Katharina Unterweißacher is a farmer’s wife at the Peslhof in Weißbach and an alm guide for the Naturpark Weißbach. She tells us about her favourite hike, “One of the walks which I undertake with guests as part of my job as Naturpark guide is also my personal highlight.
I start the hike from the Pürzlbach carpark. The walk begins on a forestry trail from which a fantastic walking path branches off far from dust and noise and leads up to the Kallbrunnalm. If you keep your eyes open you will find numerous mountain herbs along the path, such as the native yarrow, wild thyme or cleaver. The path passes above the feeding houses of Pürzlbach and there is a wonderful view from here of the mountains from Lofer to Leogang and the summit of the local mountain Hochkranz.
I still enjoy this idyll even after so many hikes. The biodiversity of the flowers and herbs and the mountain panorama enthral me today just as much as the first time. The path continues until we reach the green alpine pasture of the Kallbrunnalm at around 1500 m above sea level. The Kallbrunnalm is the largest shared alpine pasture in the Naturpark Weißbach and is farmed by 14 Salzburger and 16 Bavarian farmers. I reach my destination after around 1,5 hours walking – the Käsehütte. The cultivated alm offers numerous cheese specialities and I settle down on the terrace to enjoy a leisurely snack before I head back to the valley. This alpine pasture has something which captivates me and so I come up here twice a week in summer to visit my cows.”
An interesting fact on the way up?
Katharina Unterweißacher: “Definitely the feeding houses. In the past the cattle were brought here after the homecoming from the pasture in autumn. The cows could be fed with hay here so it wasn’t necessary to bring the hay to the main farmhouse. The cows would be kept at the feeding houses until Easter, far from the farmhouse. The shingle roofs of the alm huts are interesting and I enjoy explaining to my guests how the shingles are split and arranged.”
A culinary highlight on the alm?
Katharina Unterweißacher: “The name says it all, so I love to eat a Käsebrot (cheese sandwich) at the Käsehütte (cheese hut)! I show my guests how they can very easily make butter themselves by shaking a glass of cream.”
A rewarding detour?
Katharina Unterweißacher: “You can walk to the Dießbachstausee from the Kallbrunnalm in around half an hour. Nature lovers will find a wonderful place here to linger by the still water. There are a lot of stories surrounding the Dießbachstausee – legends, but also true occurrences. This area was once an alpine pasture as well before it was flooded in the 60s for the reservoir.”
For experienced mountaineers: The Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte in the Loferer Steinberge
Waltraud Lohfeyer is a hiking guide for the Tourist Office Salzburger Saalachtal. She loves the mountains and loves to lace-up her hiking boots in her spare time as well. She knows the peaks of the Salzburger Saalachtal like the back of her hand and one of her favourite hikes leads up to the karst areas of the Loferer Steinberge. The Schmidt-Zabierow Hütte at 1966 m above sea level is a rewarding destination for fit mountaineers. Waltraud Lohfeyer explains, “The fastest participants in the “Stoaberg-Lauf” can reach the hut in 42 minutes, however fit hikers should plan on 2,5 to 3 hours for the ascent. I set off from the Loferer Hochtal, choosing the shortest route to the hut. A wonderful path leads uphill through the forest over several stages.
Above the tree line, where the terrain becomes rocky, I enjoy the fantastic view of the Salzburger Saalachtal. About halfway up, there are large areas of alpine roses which bloom in June presenting a beautiful contrast between the bright red flowers and the limestone rocks. You catch the first glimpse of the hut about 30 minutes before you reach it. The host at the hut, Katharina Filzer, cooks most of the time in the Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte herself. Of course, I pay a visit to Käthe, as we like to call her, to reward myself with her legendary Linzertorte (a delicious cake) and coffee.
I conquer one of the surrounding peaks on most of my visits as well. These summits require surefootedness, alpine experience and a head for heights. Then I return to the valley via the same route. I love this hike as I have a view of this beautiful mountain range from my own breakfast table. When the sun rises and the Loferer Steinberge appear in the golden sunlight then I know that I must head up to the Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte again.”
What is the best time for this tour?
Waltraud Lohfeyer: “This hike is enticing throughout the entire summer but it is an absolute highlight in June when the alpine roses bloom.”
What do you need to pack in your rucksack for this hike?
Waltraud Lohfeyer: “I recommended hiking poles for the way back down through the forest to take the weight off the knees. Anyone who wants to make use of the fantastic via ferrata practice area just below the Schmidt-Zabierow-Hütte should also pack a via ferrata climbing set and a helmet in their rucksack.”
Can you recommend a great tour for people using the hut as a base camp?
Waltraud Lohfeyer: “After a night at the hut you could climb the Ochsenhorn the next day if the weather is stable. The path is exposed and requires surefootedness and a head for heights but you are rewarded with the highest peak in the Loferer Steinberge. The summit cross on the Ochsenhorn is one of the most unusual in the Alps. If you have doubts about the tour or want to climb the difficult West Ridge, you can book a mountain guide via the hut host Käthe.”
All of the routes recommended by our locals can be undertaken by those with sufficient mountain experience. You will find details of all hikes in our database. Certified hike and bike guides accompany guided tours.