Innsbruck Region


Karwendel nature reserve

The Alpine World of Wonders at the Gates of the City

The Nordkette is the entrance to Karwendel, a unique nature reserve and hiking paradise. With steep slopes, lush alpine meadows, bubbling streams and spectacular views of the Zugspitze, the Karwendel highlights are plentiful. Even though this alpine world of wonders covers over 100 square kilometres of untamed countryside, it’s still not far from Innsbruck. The city’s Nordkettenbahn cable cars will transport visitors in just 20 minutes from the city centre to 2,000m above sea level, and the perfect starting point for hiking, climbing and visiting our alpine huts. Numerous mountain huts and alpine farms, such as the Arzler Alm, Unbrüggler Alm, Höttinger Alm, Rumer Alm and Enzianhütte, are easy to reach, even with small children. These huts are a wonderful place for visitors to take a break, relax and enjoy a tasty snack.

Speaking of hiking: the Karwendel Nature Park is also a great destination for multi-day hikes. There are numerous mountain huts that offer overnight accommodation in addition to being a place to stop and enjoy a bite to eat along the way. The "classic" Karwendel hike is the tour from Scharnitz to the village of Pertisau on Lake Achensee. Several long-distance hiking trails also lead through the Karwendel mountains, for example the Eagle trail, sections of the Via Alpina and the Munich-Venice tour.

Mountain bikes are, of course, allowed on any of the toll roads in the Karwendel that are open to cars; in the Tyrolean part there are also 14 bike tours. The Karwendel mountains are also a paradise for mountaineers and rock climbers. There are even still virgin peaks that have yet to be climbed.

Some big names are associated with the Karwendel mountains, from the "alpine explorer" Hermann von Barth, who is said to have climbed 88 summits in the Karwendel mountains in the summer of 1870 alone, to the famous alpine geologist Otto Ampferer. The name Karwendel, by the way, was first officially used for the entire region by the cartographers Peter Anich and Blasius Hueber in 1774. The word is of Germanic origin and goes back to Kérwentil (the "spear turner"), who owned a farm in the upper Isar Valley in the area around Scharnitz. The area was therefore referred to as Kerwéndelau and this name became synonymous with the entire vast mountain range.

Information about the Area

  • easy to reach with the Nordkette cable cars from Innsbruck city centre
  • just 20 minutes from the city to the Seegrube hut at almost 2,000m above sea level
  • just 30 minutes from the city to the Hafelekar hut
  • spectacular views of the city, the Inn Valley, the Wipptal valley, and much more
  • alpine panoramas, as far as the Zugspitze when the weather is good
  • countless hiking routes
  • climbs
  • location between 600 and 2,600m above sea level
  • countless alpine and mountain huts

Hikes on the Nordkette

We have selected some hikes for you that start at one of the Nordkettenbahnen lift stations. You can find more hikes in the Innsbruck region here.

Along the Goetheweg trail to thePfeishütte mountain hut

344 M 344 M
5.2 KM 5.2 KM
hard hard
The Goetheweg trail starts right next to the Hafelekar mountain lift station and leads east along the ridge. After a few short ascents and descents, hikers come to the Mühlkarscharte where they cross the ridge and continue along the northern face to the Mandlscharte. After a short descent, the landscape changes. Alpine meadows and mountain pines form the backdrop for the last section to the Pfeishütte mountain hut. The hut is located over 1,900 metres above sea level in a pristine alpine setting with the rugged peaks of the Rumer Spitz, the Stempeljoch and the Bachofen rising up all around it. The walking time from Hafelekar to the mountain hut is 2-2.5 hours (one way!). The walking time including the return journey to Hafelekar is approx. 4.5-5 hours. All other route options take considerably longer.   Return walk from the Pfeishütte mountain hut Route option 1: Via the Goetheweg trail back to the Hafelekar or a bit further down to the Seegrube. The Nordkettenbahnen lifts to Innsbruck can be accessed from Hafelekar and from the Seegrube.   Route option 2: Anyone who would like to return a different way can take the route down from the Pfeishütte mountain hut via Kreuzjöchl. The route goes via Kreuzjöchl, the Vintlalm mountain hut and the Rumer Alm mountain hut and ends in the holiday village of Rum. There are buses from Rum to Innsbruck.   Route option 3: From the Pfeishütte mountain hut, along scree fields, up to the Stempeljoch and then down from the ridge. Without losing altitude, a trail branches off to the right into a widely spaced larch stand. The trail meets the road by the highest house in the Hall Valley and follows it to the former "Herrenhäuser"manor houses. It is possible to take a shortcut via the former salt mine huts. From the "Herrenhäuser", the trail turns right and continues down to St. Magdalena, an alpine guesthouse and former monastery nestled in the mountains. For anyone who doesn't want to continue on foot: at the weekend during hiking season, a shuttle bus runs from here to Absam every hour (fees apply). From Absam, it is possible to take a public bus to Innsbruck. 

The Goetheweg trail to Arzler Scharte and Hungerburg

200 M 200 M
9.1 KM 9.1 KM
medium medium
This high altitude hike from Innsbruck to the Karwendel Nature Park guarantees wonderful views of the Inn Valley, the city of Innsbruck, the Wipp Valley and the Stubai Valley. In the other direction, walkers can catch a glimpse of the impressive Praxmarerspitze peak. Certain sections of the Goetheweg trail are extremely narrow and rocky so surefootedness is a must. The descent via the Arzler Scharte, in particular, is quite steep and difficult. It covers 1,300 vertical metres over loose Karwendel rocks and scree, requires surefootedness and is only for experienced mountain hikers who are in a good physical condition and wearing hiking boots. The route starts at the Hafelekar, which is the top station of the Nordkettenbahnen lifts and cable cars. The bottom station is located directly in the centre of Innsbruck. From the Hafelekar, take route 219 and follow it west as it leads downhill. The trail leads past Hafelekarspitze on the south side of the peak and then continues downhill for a short distance before following a level path on the southern side of the mountain. The trail then snakes its way briefly uphill before heading diagonally down into the Mühlkar corrie. Continue west below the Mandlspitze peak and then follow the trail steeply uphill to the Mandelscharte. From there, continue west again down to the Arzler Scharte.  The descent from the Arzler Scharte (route 217) follows a steep trail that leads south down a talus slope. The trail covers 1,300 vertical metres over loose Karwendel rocks and scree, requires surefootedness and is only for experienced mountain hikers who are in a good physical condition and wearing hiking boots. Upon reaching the forest, the trail continues straight down the mountain. At the next turnoff (not signposted), keep right to stay above the road and follow the narrow mountain path to the Arzler Alm mountain hut, where you can enjoy a well-deserved refreshment break. From there, it's just a short walk back to Hungerburg along a signposted mountain path.  

Gleirschspitze and Hafelekarspitze

550 M 550 M
3.8 KM 3.8 KM
hard hard
Innsbruck's Nordkettenbahnen lifts and cable cars take you to the start of this hike where the views are already fantastic. Continue along the Goetheweg trail up to Gleirschspitze peak. The summit cross is beautiful and the views from the peak are absolutely stunning: to the north lie the high peaks of the Karwendel mountains, to the east Rumerspitze and the Lower Inn Valley, to the south and south-west the Tux Alps, the Stubai Alps and the city of Innsbruck.

Hafelekar peak

65 M 65 M
1.5 KM 1.5 KM
easy easy
You can take the Innsbruck Nordkettenbahnen lifts from the centre of Innsbruck up to the mountain lift station at Hafelekar, which is located 2,256 metres above sea level. From there, an easy path leads up to Hafelekar peak. The summit offers breathtaking views of two different worlds. On one side, you look south over the city of Innsbruck, the Inn Valley and the landscapes beyond. In the other direction, rugged rocks reach as far as the eye can see: you are standing at the gateway to the Karwendel mountains and looking deep into the Alps. The hike from the mountain lift station up to the summit cross is not very strenuous. However, good footwear is essential. 

The Path of Perspectives

100 M 100 M
1.5 KM 1.5 KM
easy easy
The start of the Nordkette Path of Perspectives (Perspektivenweg) designed by Snøhetta is located a short way from the mountain lift station of the Seegrubenbahn cable car, which was designed in the mid-twentieth century by architect Franz Baumann as the perfect interplay between nature and technology. The trail is beautifully integrated into the landscape and the individual elements combined with philosophical quotes create spaces where you can observe and admire the landscape from various different perspectives. Photos ©Lea Hajner 
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