Salzburg is Austria’s fourth largest city and sits just a few kilometers from the German border on the northern boundary of the Alps.
Home to some of the best-preserved Baroque architecture north of the Alps, the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Salzburg is also known for being the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and is a lively university town.
However, the city’s close proximity to the natural splendor of the Alps is perhaps its greatest asset and part of what makes Salzburg a year-round tourist hotspot.
From hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing in the summer to skiing and ice climbing in the winter, outdoor adventurers of every persuasion are sure to find something to do.
“Surrounded by a very diverse environment, the mountains in Salzburg are perfect for all sorts of mountain sports,” Daniel Toferer, a local IMFGA-certified mountain guide, told Explore & Share. “It’s an absolute wonderland here in the mountains and I feel very privileged to live here.”
Daniel has been exploring the Austrian wilderness since he could walk and has been guiding since he received his certification in 2018.
He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to share with us his favorite spots around Salzburg.
Towering 3.789 meters above sea level, the Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria as well as the Eastern Alps. The peak is also one of Austria’s most well-known and draws thousands of eager mountaineers to its slopes each year.
“People who want to climb Grossglockner should be healthy and in good overall shape, being able to hike and scramble for five hours at least,” Daniel says.
While previous mountaineering experience is required, endurance is the key to a successful climb: “the better your endurance is, the more enjoyable it is to climb to the summit,” the guide explains. Surefootedness and having no fear of heights also adds to a good experience.
Having the proper gear is another key aspect for this ascent. According to the guide, the basics include weatherproof clothing, two types of gloves and a pair of modern lightweight mountain boots (semi-automatic) where crampons can fit. “A pair of mountain-boots in perfect shape is very important, otherwise, the trip can turn out into a nightmare of pain”, Daniel says. He usually provides his clients with the rest of the equipment: crampons, a harness, and a helmet.
Most potential climbers take the normal route to Grossglockner, which is the most accessible and most commonly used. The ascent generally takes two days, with a night spent at Erzherzog Johann Hut.
The views from the summit are incredible, with amazing vistas out over Piz Bernina and the Adriatic Sea. The peak is located within a national park, so plenty of unspoiled alpine scenery can be seen in every direction. A worthy reward for the intrepid climber, for sure.
Keep reading about this ascent on our guide to climb Grossglockner
Difficulty level: Sustained
Best time for this trip: June to September
How to get here: From Salzburg, the Grossglockner is a three-hour drive south on the E55, 311 and 108. By public transport, it is a five hour trip to Grossglockner and requires multiple trains and/or buses.
The mountains around Salzburg are not just great for climbing in the summer but also serve as excellent spots for ice climbing in the winter.
Rauris, a small market town that was founded nearly 2,000 years ago, sits just to the south of Salzburg. Nestled among the Sonnblick subrange of the Alps, the picturesque village is located near several valleys that are locally renowned for their excellent ice climbing.
“In the Gastein Valley, you have a choice of five-star ice climbing routes, such as the ultra-classic ‘Mordor’, a big 300-meter WI5 waterfall,” Daniel says.
Along with these types of challenging routes, the area is also home to plenty of smaller and easier icefalls, making the destination perfect for ice climbers of any level.
“The best way to get people with no experience on the ice, so that it’s safe and enjoyable, is a beginner ice course or a trial-day on prepared top ropes,” Daniel says.
These courses are also offered in Rauris and teach you a lot about the sport, from the correct use of crampons and ice axes to proper belaying techniques.
Scenic views out over the surrounding evergreen forest and of the imposing Sonnblick Mountains serve as the perfect backdrop to any type of ice climbing adventure.
Difficulty level: Easy
Best time for this trip: December to April
How to get here: From Salzburg, Rauris is just 1.5 hours away by car on the E55, Route 159 and 311. It is substantially more difficult to reach by bus and train.
At 2.995 meters in elevation, the Dachstein casts an imposing figure over the surrounding Austrian countryside.
Sitting on the border of Styria and Northern Styria, the peak commands impressive views of the surrounding mountains and presents rock climbers with one of the most storied big wall climbs in all the Alps.
Dachstein’s 900-vertical-meter south face attracts thousands of intrepid climbers each year. After making a two-hour hiking approach toward the peak through mostly exposed terrain, you will gear up and prepare for the six-hour ascent.
The climbing is mostly rated as UIAA VI+ and is quite long and strenuous, meaning any participant should be pretty physically fit. Along the way, you will mainly be climbing chimneys and cracks until you come to the 30-meter roof, which you will traverse to reach the summit.
From here, the views are impeccable and are more than a worthy reward for all of your efforts.
The trip concludes with a hiking descent down one of the various trails from the top, capping off what is sure to have been an eventful and scenic day.
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Best time for this trip: July to September
How to get here: From Salzburg, Ramsau is only 1.5 hours east of Salzburg by car, traveling on Route 8 and Route 93 (both in Germany) before finishing off on Route 175 and 171 (in Austria). As with the previous one, getting here on public transport is much more time-consuming.
Stretching across the Limestone Alps in north-central Austria, the Königsjodler via ferrata on Hochkönig is one of the longest and by far the most famous in the entire country.
Situated not too far, about an hour south of Salzburg, it is a must-do for any via ferrata enthusiast. According to Daniel,
“This is a pretty challenging climb, not because of the difficulties but due to its total length. It is one of the longest and most challenging via ferratas in the Eastern Alps.”
Starting off in Dientner Sattel, you will begin this incredible adventure with a 2.5-hour hike through pretty easy terrain until you reach the base of the limestone massif.
After clipping in, you will begin to climb up the iron path along Taghaubenscharte. Climbing along exposed ridgelines and over bridges, you will make the steady five-hour ascent until you reach the summit of Hochkönig.
“On a perfect day, the view is just amazing: you can see the whole mountain range and a lot of famous peaks in Austria,” Daniel says.
After enjoying the spectacular views from the summit, it will be time to make a decision.
You can either head back down the via ferrata and hike back to town or spend more time exploring the massif, climbing to various minor summits. This means you will need to spend the night in the Matrashaus, a classic Austrian mountain hut.
Regardless of what you choose to do, you will not regret taking on the challenge of climbing the country’s longest and most famous via ferrata!
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Best time for this trip: June to October
How to get here: From Salzburg, Hochkönig is just an hour and 10 minutes away by car, traveling on the E55, 159 and 311. By public transport, you can take three buses from Salzburg to get to Dientner Sattel in about two hours.
Less than an hour east of Salzburg is the stunningly beautiful Lake Fuschl. Surrounded by small mountains and hills, it is the perfect place to head for an easy going day trip that still offers fantastic views.
Schober-Frauenkopf is among the best climbs available around the lake. Offering an easy ascent and boasting incredible panoramic views of the area, this climb is perfect for participants of every level.
Beginning with a pretty easy half-hour approach to the base of the peak through a verdant evergreen forest, you will put on your gear and get ready for a pretty simple climb.
For the next two hours, you will make a pretty logical ascent along a ridgeline up to the summit. None of the going is very difficult, with the trickiest parts rated at UIAA III.
Throughout the climb, there are plenty of great opportunities to get photos of the surroundings and this is especially true once you reach the summit.
With panoramic views out over Lake Fuschl as well as the surrounding mountains, it’s no wonder that the little climb is a weekend favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Difficulty level: Easy
Best time for this trip: May to November
How to get here: From Salzburg, Fuschl is just 20 minutes away by car, traveling east on Route 158. By public transport, you can take bus 150 from Salzburg as well, which takes 50 minutes.
If you end up making your way to Austria, try and spend as much time as you can exploring the small, but scenic country. Outside of Salzburg, there is, even more, to see and experience. Don’t miss out!
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