After days of late June rain, we finally rose to a glorious robin egg blue sky at our farm stay in the lakes district town of Altmünster in Austria. We could not have been more thrilled! Finally the sun had arrived and we could see The Salzkammergut region of Austria in all her glory. The view of Lake Traunsee juxtaposed against the incline of the Austrian Alps was even more spectacular than I had pictured in my dreams. It was going to be a perfect day for a hike and we knew exactly where we intended to go: Back to The Dachstein Krippenstein in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hallstatt and Daschstein where we would complete the Heilbronner Circular Trail on top of the Alps. We had been to the Dachstein Ice Cave a few days ago in the rain and knew that once the clouds lifted it was going to be a magical place to see.
We left Altmünster around nine o’clock and arrived in Obertraun an hour later to find a full parking lot, a far cry from what we had the rainy day before when we visited the Dachstein Ice Cave. To our dismay, the queue for the cable car was very long, filled with families, hikers and tourists who were waiting just like us to be carried up to the top. Normally I would have been perfectly patient but I had waited so long to see the sun and get out on a hike that I was getting a bit restless. Unfortunately we waited over an hour until it was our turn to continue on up however once we arrived, it was so breathtaking that I soon forgot the long wait to get there.
Austria is a country filled with mountains. Did you know that the Alps take up almost two-thirds of Austria? It is a hiker lover’s dream!
We walked off the platform of the Dachstein Krippenstein Mountain station to the surreal beauty of the Austrian Alps. At roughly 6,886 feet (2100 meters), we felt like we were on top of the world. While the majority of the visitors veered to the right towards the 5fingers viewing platform, we choose to go to the left and take a hike on the Heilbronner Circular Trail, a two-hour roundtrip hike with dazzling, jaw-dropping views of the snow-covered peaks of the Alps, the Hallstätter Glacier, and the lovely town of Hallstatt and the brilliant blue lake Hallstätter See, in the green valley far below. We would head over to 5fingers after our hike.
The circular hike follows a gravel path winding up and down the rocky landscape at the bottom edge of the Hallstätter Glacier which is the largest of seven glaciers in the Dachstein Mountains. In 2008, the Hallstätter Glacier was the size of 390 football fields (315 hectares) which is quite impressive. However, the glacier is receding. Over 150 years ago the glacier was over double this size. Like many glaciers around the world, the impact of climate change has forced it to shrink. For those who are interested, an entire exhibit on climate change can be seen inside the stone cabins at the middle cable car station Schönbergalm (section I).
As you follow the trail, you can see up to the craggy top of the Dachstein Massif at 9,826 feet (2995 m). The landscape is so achingly beautiful it is hard to not keep stopping and taking photos. Thankfully the trail is gentle and fairly easy for all abilities as long as you have a good pair of walking or hiking shoes and of course a pair of hiking poles also is a bonus. Families are encouraged to bring along their young hikers. It is a great way to open children’s hearts and minds to the beauty of the mountains and the precarious situation our planet is in.
About thirty minutes into the hike, you reach the first tourist attraction, the large metal Dachstein Shark which the kids can climb into for a fun photo opportunity. The shark and the related information placard is a reminder to the guests that this entire area was once covered by a large ocean 210 million years ago and these ancestors of modern sharks had once lived here and flourished until they became extinct roughly 65 million years ago.
As we continued our hike, the views continued to get more and more unbelievable. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
The trail ends at the Heilbronner Cross, a lovely place to stop for a picnic lunch. As we sat down to eat, we saw a family with overnight packs heading past us out into the depths of the mountains for perhaps a multi-day hike (something I’d love to do with my kids when they are a little older). I was pretty grateful for my own perch right here.
After lunch, we headed back and were pleased to discover that we were making really good time. We reached the end of the hike in two hours roundtrip as opposed to three hours suggested hiking time stated on the trail map. Although the kids were tired, we were able to get them to walk another twenty minutes to reach the adrenaline popping 5fingers viewing platform that lies right over the edge of an abyss. Of course it was crowded with tourists wanting to get the perfect selfie but we waited patiently for Sophia’s chance to get a spot on one of the five different platforms over the edge of the mountain.
The views of Hallstatt far below were quite breathtaking as well as the view of the stunning glacier directly behind. What an incredible difference a sunny day made for our visit! Quite the opposite than the other day when we were at the Dashtstein Cave in the rain.
As we descended the packed cable car I marveled at the beauty of this magnificent place. I sure hope the glaciers remain.
Pin this Post for later:
If you go:
The Daschstein Krippenstein Cable car station is located in the town of Obertraun near Hallstatt. You can purchase tickets for the cable car at the station.
There are many different tickets and prices depending on exactly what tour(s) you want to do. Each ticket includes the ascent and descent. For more information on tours and pricing, visit https://dachstein-salzkammergut.com/en/summer/summer-mountain/dachstein-in-the-salzkammergut/
There are three different cable car stations:
Second stop: The Krippenstein (mountain station / section II) to the viewing platform 5fingers, the World Heritage spiral, the World Heritage view and to the Dachstein shark, the attraction at Heilbronner circular trail.
Related posts of nearby attractions: