PHOTOS FROM: Innsbruck Tourisms
Eighty years into its existence and the Alpenpark Karwendel continues to mesmerise its visitors. Covering an area of 727sq.km., it is not only the Tyrol’s largest nature reserve but also one of the most impressive landscapes of the region stretching all the way to the city borders of Innsbruck.
The park is characterised by wild rivers and primeval forests, comprising almost the entire Karwendel mountain chain and the area from Innsbruck to Lake Achensee.
The nature park comprises a total of 11 protected areas, all of which can be experienced along special hikes and tours. These protected landscapes include cultural treasures, as well as some natural conservation areas and quiet zones.
Alpenpark Karwendel is home to ancient forests, pristine creeks and gorges which are dotted with fixed-rope routes. It is also where you can find rare plant species and unique botanical rarities such as orchids, the Eurasian smoketree and the hop-hornbeam.
There are also lots of opportunities to witness nature in flight with birds like the common sandpiper, rock ptarmigan, eagle, and the largest lammergeier in the Alps. On the ground, local wildlife like chamois and alpine ibexes sometimes venture very close to hikers.
A veritable natural gem is the small – but quite unique – nature reserve Martinswand and Fragenstein in the Zirl-Innsbruck area with its fascinating botanical variety. An unusually hot microclimate provides perfect conditions for the so-called “foehn flora”, consisting of thermophile shrubbery and dry grasslands.
Another highlight of the nature park is the Ahornboden in the rear Risstal valley, which is characterised by the most impressive sycamore forest of Europe. Sycamores have existed in Europe since the Ice Age, however pollution has pressed this tree species to near extinction. At Ahornboden, this forest has found a protected ground.
Mountain biking is permitted on all toll roads throughout the Karwendel which are accessible by car; in addition to this, a further 14 routes have been opened up to cycling in the Tyrolean sections. The Karwendel is also known as an Eldorado for alpinists and mountain climbers, with pristine peaks that have not been conquered yet.
For freeriders, the Nordketten Singletrail is one of Europe’s steepest, longest and most difficult mountain bike descents, located amidst picturesque mountain scenery at 1,900m. Accessible via the Nordkettenbahn in Innsbruck, the trail features 4.2km of technically demanding paths and 1,030m of difference in altitude with banked turns, rock drops and root passages to provide a technically-diverse range of rides for experienced bikers.
To experience this, you can rent your bike from BikeBörse (www.dieboerse.at), which offers comprehensive packages from May to October including bike delivery and pickup your hotel. If your prefer to watch experts in action, you can attend the spark7 Nordkette Downhill.Pro (July 20, 2013).
One of the best aspects of hiking in the Karwendel is its convenience – the trails are easily accessible by public transport (whether it’s by cable car or bus) and there are plenty of mountain huts for refreshments and/or overnight stays.
The closest and most accessible protected nature reserve to the city of Innsbruck is the Nordkette, which is the traditional local recreation area for its citizens. Here you can find ample opportunities for hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking; there are also numerous alpine lodges or chalets like Höttinger Alm, Rumer Alm, Thaurer Alm or Enzianhütte, all of which are easily accessible, offering a comfortable place to rest and sample tasty local fare.
Recently a direct link was added, connecting Innsbruck city centre with the higher reaches of the Alps. Once you reach the top, the Hafelekar is a starting point for several rewarding walking tours, hikes and fixed-rope climbing.
Another protected nature reserve close to Innsbruck is the Vorberg reserve, situated on the southern edge of the Karwendel range and is a hiking region known for its easy tracks. A nature trail through the forest, impressive gorges and waterfalls – such as the Fallbach waterfall – along with distinctive rock formations, ensure this reserve provides a breathtaking backdrop for hiking adventures.
The Alpenpark Karwendel is not only ideal for leisurely day trips, the Karwendel also plays host to several long-distance hiking trails, including the Adlerweg, parts of the Via Alpina trail, the tour from Scharnitz to Pertisau (Achensee lake), and the route from Munich to Venice.
For a scenic hike, you can tackle the most attractive sections of the Adlerweg trail, a hiking track stretching through the entire province of Tyrol, leading from the Hafelekar cable car station along the Goetheweg trail to the remote Pfeishütte.
This challenging alpine hike for the more experienced visitors is among the most beautiful hikes in the greater Innsbruck region. You set off in the city centre, taking the Nordkette cable car up to Hungerburg station, continuing up to the Hafelekar, leading you past numerous mountain lodges with ample refreshment stops. From the Hafelekar summit station, continue east, following the well-secured Goetheweg trail across the Mandlscharte ridge all the way to the Pfeishütte. Once you’ve reached your destination after a 5-hour hike, you can enjoy the culinary delights of this mountain lodge, before returning along on the same path.
Those who want to explore more of the mountain can extend this trek to 3 days. The Pfeishütte provides fine shelter for the first night, and the tour from the Hafelekar to the Pfeishütte provides an opportunity for the more experienced hikers to conquer three further summits: Kaskar-Spitze, Praxmarerkar-Spitze, and Rumer-Spitze. On the following day, the trail will lead you along a 3-hour trek across the Wilde-Bande-Steig to the Hallerangerhaus. Secured with steel cables and iron hooks, this is a trail where a secure step is required.
The last section – with a walking time of about 3.5 hours – runs from the Hallerangerhaus to Herrenhäuser across the Lafatscherjoch (or alternatively across the more picturesque Isstal) before ending at the village of Absam from where there is public transport back to Innsbruck.
While there are no direct flights to Innsbruck, there are connections via cities across Europe, including Frankfurt, London and Vienna. Innsbruck is also easily accessible by rail and bus from any major European city. For more on Innsbruck and its surrounds, visit www.innsbruck.info.