Hiking in Austria's Alps:
"Weitwanderwege" Hiking Paths

Some countries have „National Paths" (the UK does), Austria has "Weitwanderwege" (which means something along the lines of "Long-distance Hiking Paths". In total, there are more than 100 of these regional or inter-regional Weitwanderwege.

In addition to these, there are plenty of pilgrimage routes that follow ancient lines running across Europe. Of the Weitwanderwege, there are 10 famous ones known as the "Great Austrian Weitwanderwege". They are numbered from 01 to 10, vary in length, often overlap with other hiking routes and all of them include Alpine or even high-Alpine terrain.

In this article, I introduce each of these hiking paths with some basic numbers and facts. If you choose to hike any of them, make sure to get decent maps and guides for planning the details of your trip.

01: Nordalpenweg - "Northern Alps Path"

Leads from Bregenz along the Northern Calciferous Alps across the provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria, Styria, Lower Austria and the Burgenland. It ends either at Rust or Perchtoldsdorf near Vienna.

Length: Approximately 1260 kilometres
Lowest Point: 123 metres (Rust)
Highest Point: 2941 metres (Hochkönig)

02: Zentralalpenweg - "Central Alps Path"

Leads from Feldkirch in Vorarlberg along the main ridge of the central Alps to Hainburg by the Danube near Carnuntum. Thus, it crosses Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Styria and Lower Austria before it enters the Burgenland. There are also options to include Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Crossing the central Alps of Tyrol and the Hohe Tauern in Salzburg, the path branches into two and offers different options. The tougher one includes the crossing of glaciers and proper rock climbing.

Length: Approximately 1270 kilometres
Lowest Point: 118 metres (Neusiedl)
Highest Point: 3,407 metres (Venedigerscharte in the Hohe Tauern)

03: Südalpenweg - "Southern Alps Path"

Crosses the Austrian share of the Southern Calciferous Alps and leads into the Styrian hills - one of Austria′s primary wine areas. Starting in Sillian in Eastern Tyrol, the path leads across Carinthia and Styria and ends in Bad Radkersburg. Most of the path follows the border between Austria and Italy or Slovenia.

Length: Approximately 513 kilometres
Lowest Point: 208 metres (Bad Radkersburg)
Highest Point: 2,678 metres (Pfannspitze in the Karnische Alps)

04: Voralpenweg - "Alpine Foreland Path"

Runs between Bregenz and Pertoldsdorf near Vienna. It crosses the Northern Alpine Foreland and thus Vorarlberg, Bavaria in Germany, Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Vienna.

Length: Approximately 501 kilometres
Lowest Point: 265 metres (Perchtoldsdorf)
Highest Point: 1831 metres (Grünalmkogel)

05: Nord-Süd-Weg - "North-South Path"

The oldest of the Austrian Weitwanderwege starts at Nebelstein near the Austrian-Czech border. From there it crosses Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Styria before it reaches the Southern edge of the Austrian Alps near the border to Slovenia.

Length: Approximately 510 kilometres
Lowest Point: 200 metres (Spitz an der Donau)
Highest Point: 2,277 metres (Hochschwab)

06: Mariazeller Wege - "Mariazell Paths"

This Weitwanderweg is actually a set of six parts that are all traditional elements of pilgrimage routes. They all lead to Mariazell, the most important Church of Pilgrimage in Austria. Official starting points are Klagenfurt, Linz, Nebelstein, Perchtoldsdorf, Eisenstadt and Graz.

Length: Approximately 1,014 kilometres
Lowest Point: 175 metres (Großhöflein)
Highest Point: 1,429 metres (Niederalpl)

07: Ostösterreichischer Grenzlandweg
 „Austrian Borderland Path"

This Weitwanderweg runs along the border of Austria and its various Eastern neighbours: The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia. It starts at the gentle hills of the "Bohemian Pains", runs across Lower Austria and the Burgenland and end in the Styrian hill area with its wine tradition and many spas. The starting point is Nebelstein in Lower Austria, the final destination is Bad Radkersburg in Styria.

Length: Approximately 697 kilometres
Lowest Point: 117 metres (Illmitz)
Highest Point: 1017 (Nebelstein)

08: Eisenwurzenweg - "Iron Ore Path"

This one runs from Austria′s most Northern point (Rottal) to Austria′s most Southern point (Seebergsattel). Thereby it crosses Lower Austria, Styria and Carinthia and follows traditional trading routes of the Iron industries.

Length: Approximately 548 kilometres
Lowest Point: 240 metres (Persenbeug)
Highest Point: 2,396 metres (Zirbitzkogel)

09: Salzsteigweg - "Salt Stepping Path"

Runs from the Totes Gebirge ("Dead Mountains") to the Niederen Tauern Range and follows ancient routes that have been used since Roman days. The Salzkammergut salt trade followed these paths for many centuries. It crosses Upper Austria, Styria and Carinthia.

Length: Approximately 437 kilometres
Lowest Point: 270 metres (Linz)
Highest Point: 2,097 metres (Karlspitze Peak)

10: Rupertiweg - "Rupert′s Route"

My personal favourite - since my hometown is part of it: It follows the travel route of Saint Rupert, who was on his way to the ruined Roman town Iuvavum (Salzburg), where he was supposed to start a missionary centre. The path starts in Bärenstein near the border to the Czech Republic, crosses Upper Austria and Rupert′s route to Salzburg, branches off to Bavaria in Germany and finally ends in Carinthia.

Length: Approximately 563 kilometres
Lowest Point: 280 metres (Stadl)
Highest Point: 2,720 metres (Zwernberger Törl)

Further Reading

Hiking Gear Checklist

Physical Geography of Austria

Hiking in Austria - Official Tourist Council

More on Hiking in Austria

Pilgrimages in Austria: Hiking with a Purpose