Are you looking for mountain views that will take your breath away? Are you wanting to feel that crisp mountain air? Are you wanting take part in some Alpine winter activities? Then you need to go to Tirol, Austria.
Look how gorgeous that is! Tirol is seriously the place to be if you’re wanting to have an unforgettably beautiful trip to the Alps. You can do all the fun winter activities, like skiing, ice climbing, and showshoeing, or you can head to a relaxing spa, or maybe go to a schnapps distillery.
I’ll share with you three winter hiking routes I enjoyed on a recent trip in Pitztal, and some other ideas for enjoying all that Tirol has to offer.
Before I get into this hike, let me explain something that may be obvious to some, but was news to me. You can’t look up any old hike in the area and try it out, especially if it’s a summer hike. In order to hike during the winter without snow shoes, the path must be groomed for walking or cross country skiing. That’s why some routes are specifically listed for winter walking; they have been groomed and are walkable without the aid of snow shoes (see the winter wanderweg sign above).
I happened to learn this on my first hike by Pitztal Glacier. The snow was so deep that if I stepped off of the tracks made from previous hikers or snowshoers, I was in snow up to my knees, and at some points my thighs! Definitely needed snow shoes. That being said, it was so gorgeous that it was worth struggling in the snow and Rasal LOVED it.
And just so you know, all of these photos were taken with an iPhone, and the extent of my editing was using the ‘enhance’ button in the photos app. The sky really is that blue, the snow that white, and the scene so magnificent!
To make it easier for you to visit these same places, I’ve made a GoogleMap with all the starting points of my hikes and the restaurants I visited so you can easily navigate Pitztal. The beginning of this hike is at a bus stop (visible in the winter wanderweg picture in the back right) and labelled Pitztal Glacier Walk in the map.
After this hike I took a walking/skiing path that follows a creek to the main town of Mandarfen for a bite to eat. The restaurant at Hotel Zirbenhof (marked on the map) had a gorgeous view of of the glacier and my salad was so fresh and tasty. I don’t think there are many restaurants in Mandarfen, but I highly recommend this one.
Right across the street from Hotel Zirbenhof is a lift to a ski area around Lake Rifflesee. This is a gorgeous and easy route for cross country skiers and hikers with downhill skiing available nearby, too. And it was Rascal’s first time on a lift!
You can use the lift at a discounted price when you’re not skiing, (see rates for the Riffleseebahn here), and the lake is visible from the restaurant at the top of the lift once you exit. Since it’s winter the lake is covered in ice and snow, but the path around is groomed for easy and flat walking.
I think this is a great place for families to get the most from a winter vacation. If you have little ones that don’t ski, you can take them on a walk around the lake while an adult takes beginning skiers on the nearby slopes. This whole region is actually great for young skiers, with special parks and discounts for certain ages.
After both of these hikes in one day, I had walked over 8 miles! I ate a good dinner, got some sleep, and headed back to Mandarfen for Day 2 of winter walking.
My last day hiking was spent on the Talloipe, a cross country skiing and walking route that goes over 20 kilometers. It starts at Pitztaler Glacier and parallels a creek with small towns spaced throughout. Maps of both the Talloipe and Rifflesee routes can be seen here. The Talloipe has access points all along it so you can tailor your hike to be as long or short as you wish. I ended up hiking from glacier all the way to Stillebach.
This is a great family hike since you can make it as long or short as you want, and it’s relatively flat. It’s obviously marked and the towns along the way are great stops for snacks or bathroom breaks. I ended up hiking around 6 miles on this route! And my stop at Hotel Stillebach for a drink was the perfect choice. It included more great views and sunshine.
These winter walks were so picturesque, and I couldn’t imagine anyone saying no to them. Other than the lift pass for the hike at Lake Rifflesee, they’re free! But, if you’re not that interested there is still plenty more to do in the area. My husband spent the weekend ice climbing, and I’ve already mentioned the great ski areas nearby. For more on the Pitztal region check out their website here, and for info on Tirol in general, check out their tourist site here.
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Tips for Your Trip:
- Bring sunscreen and sunglasses: I usually forget about these two items when I’m going somewhere cold, but you definitely need them. The SPF 30 in my moisturizer was not enough to keep my face from getting a little red from the hikes. My husband swears by Ocean Potion as a high SPF sport option.
- Layer up: When you start your hike in the early morning, it’s going to be chilly and you’ll want all your layers on. I wore long johns, my ski bib, ski jacket, snow boots, a pom beanie, and touchscreen grip gloves (These are crucial! The grip and touch capability lets me take pictures with my phone without having to take the gloves off or worry about my phone slipping out of my hands…similar here). As it warms up over the course of the day, take your layers off and stuff them in your backpack.
- Bring cash: The small villages you visit might not have ATMs, and at the ski area around Lake Rifflesee the restaurant was cash only. Better safe than sorry and carry cash.
- Drink water: You forget to drink water when it’s cold outside, but you need to stay hydrated with all the physical activity. I carry a Platypus in my backpack, and Rascal was able to drink from the creek as we walked. All the restaurants brought water for him, too.
- Bring your dog: I can’t think of a more dog friendly vacation than hiking. We saw a few other Australian Shepherds while walking, and many dogs big and small.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Alps, especially with one of these great winter walks!