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I'm interested in combining a three to five day "rifugio" based trek in southern Austria with a visit to Vienna.

In other words, I'd like to be able to fly in to somewhere nearby - Vienna, Salzburg, even Munich - and be able to conveniently drive/take public transport to the trail head. If I didn't fly in through Vienna I would want to fly out through it, thus combining a stay there with some hiking, in a place where cooking and a tent are not essential.

For an idea of the kind of place I'm looking for, I'll give two examples of places I've been to (that I liked). In Spain I flew to Barcelona, and took a bus to the Pyrenees and hiked in the St.Maurici region. In Italy I flew to Milan and drove to the Dolomites and hiked in the Rosengarten.

My prime "candidate" area is Gesäuse National Park, based on the answers below. Can anyone confirm that this is a good choice? Or offer a different suggestion?

(English) resources for finding/planning such a trip are of course also welcome. The German sites are difficult to use, even with the automatic translations.

Another thing that would be useful- in mid-July, is it necessary/advised to reserve your place in the rifugios in advance? There are some places where this is essential; in others there's no need even in high season. Obviously, if this is necessary it means a lot more planning is required; if not, I can just decide which way to go after I arrive in the park.

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Do you mean you want to walk from hut to hut, or stay in a hut and do day hikes from there? –  gerrit Jan 19 '13 at 22:17
    
I'm interested in hut-to-hut walk, either a loop or with the ability to get back to the start via hitchhiking or public transportation ... I prefer such trips over using a single location as a hub for day hikes. –  Eyal Jan 20 '13 at 8:22
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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

One such resource would the website of the Alpenverein.

On their website, you can find an intercative hut-finding service. If you click on any of the huts, you will get detailed information about opening dates, services available, possibly a link to a website, etc. Most of this information is in German. If you can't read German, you might try Google Translate. I think in most huts you can order food, but not in all, so it's best to check this at the website.

There is a wealth of information available on the Alperverein website, although most of it is only available in German. For example, Trekkingrouten lists many well or lesser known multi-day hikes going from hut to hut. There is a rough map of Weitwanderwege and information on Fernwanderwege. I'm not sure what the difference between Weit and Fern is, but it appears the Fernwanderwege are mostly the very long distance European routes — not what you're looking for.

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Fern is remote, Weit is far... –  Rory Alsop Jan 25 '13 at 19:40
    
Have you been in that area? Are there any routes you'd recommend? –  Eyal Apr 21 '13 at 11:41
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@Eyal I've rarely been to Austria, but I've been a lot to the Alps further west. I can't really recommend a particular area, but I think many places are beautiful. Just avoid the ski resorts. –  gerrit Apr 21 '13 at 13:27
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Concerning Fernwanderwege - it can be very nice to hike a couple of etaps on them, even if you´re not going the complete way. –  Paul Paulsen May 13 at 7:52
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Having just returned from our trip, I will try to provide a description of how we planned it and how things worked out.

When we arrived in Vienna we purchased a topographic map of the Gesause region at a book store. With this in hand, we decided to take a train from Vienna to Gaishorn am See, to the south of the park. The train takes three hours and isn't very expensive, especially if you buy tickets more than a week in advance.

In retrospect, I'm not sure Gaishorn was the best choice, because it doesn't have any supermarket, although nearby Trieben has two. But it did have a hotel and some restaurants, and a trail that leads to the Modlinger Hutte, the hut we planned to sleep at for our first night. (it was very pretty, and the staff were very nice)

The area of the park is one of valleys and mountain ranges, so that our plan was to hike downhill most mornings and uphill in the afternoons. In July the sun sets very late there, so there's plenty of time for a long rest at noontime.

We also ended up doing a lot of hitch-hiking, which is not for everyone, but people were very friendly and took us willingly. There are some bus routes on the roads the cross the park, but they're infrequent.

From Modlinger Hutte we descended to Johnsbach, where we had lunch (at a lovely hotel-restaurant, Gasthof zum Donner). We hitched a ride along the valley road to its eastern side and ascended to the Hess Hutte that afternoon, and slept there.

From the Hess Hutte we descended to the main park valley. Other travelers told us that this path - which involves ladders and safety cables along a cliff - is not recommended in this direction, but we thought it was OK. From the valley floor we hitch hiked to the park pavilion, had lunch, and ascended to the Ennstaler Hutte, where we stayed the night. This hut had an amazing view- one of the best I've seen, anywhere around the world, and they had a particularly cheerful staff. It's the "don't miss" place of the park, in my opinion.

The next day we descended to the park pavilion. We planned to ascend to the Haindlkarhütte, but were too tired, so we hitch hiked back to Johnsbach where we spent the night.

The next morning we ascended back to the Modlinger Hutte, and though we were planning on going straight to Gaishorn am See (where we left things and had return train tickets) we instead walked to the Oberst-Klinke-Hütte and hitch hiked from there down to the valley floor, and from there walked to Trieben.

Some conclusions:

1) Sleeping arrangements

The huts were crowded, but not ridiculously so. We signed up as (foreign) members in the alpenverein - the Austrian Alpine society - which provides a variety of benefits, including discounts at the huts and, supposedly, precedence in sleeping arrangements, but we didn't need the precedence. We didn't manage to catch any huts by phone in order to reserve our place, but it wasn't necessary.

The Austrian Alpine Society membership discounts were honored everywhere, although the staff of the Hess Hutte may have overcharged us under some very dubious circumstances - but since there's a language barrier involved, take this with a grain of salt.

Bring either a light sleeping bag or a "blanket cover" for the huts. Not all the huts have showers. You can find out about them using the hut finder site which gerrit, which was also one of the most useful planning tools that we used early on.

Two useful links: The UK branch of the alpenverein, and the Vienna English speakers branch.

2) Language

Not knowing German was a liability both in planning and execution, but everything turned out fine, nonetheless. I have never been to huts with so few English speakers, though- it will require more boldness to enter into conversation with other guests, since all the conversations around you will be in German initially- but it can be done, if you want.

3) Equipment It can rain in the park, even in July, quite suddenly. We were hailed on. Bring rain gear. Walking sticks are also essential for a park which has almost no level walking.

I'll add more information if anyone has any questions- we had a wonderful time and recommend the area. And we'll probably try another hut trek in Austria in the future!

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Thanks for the report and you're right. The view from the hut is great. May be I'll visit this hut in the next years. Problem is that the Alps are so big and a lot of places to visit. –  Kai K. Aug 19 '13 at 6:18
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The Hochschwab is a mountain range in Styria. You can find trail information with photos about this region in German or English using Google Translate.

You may want to spend a few nights at the same hut to simplify the logistics. You could plan several day hikes from the same hut.

There is a beautiful lake that people scuba dive in which is car accessible. The Brandenstein is particularly interesting because of its use of a cave as a pass on the top of the mountain. Make sure to bring a head lamp! :-)

The website was suggested to me by a fellow local hiker. The language barrier will most-likely be a challenge.

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I can recommend the Verwall-Trek. It is a trek from St. Christoph (Arlberg, near St. Anton) via the Kaltenberghütte, Konstanzer Hütte, Neue Heilbronner Hütte, Friedrichshafener Hütte, Darmstädter Hütte, Niederelbehütte und Edmund-Graf-Hütte to Pettneu. Of course you can adjust the route as you wish. I recommend to fly to Friedrichshafen or Innsbruck and then take the train to Langen am Arlberg or St. Anton. Afterwards you can take the train from St. Anton to Vienna.

About reservation: If you want to be sure to get a bed I recommend to call the huts beforehand. If this does not matter you can try your luck and may sleep on the floor at the worst. None of the hosts is going to force you to hike to the next hut.

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