Picture a small city, nestled in a valley- a beautiful teal blue glacial river runs through the middle. Topping off the old European architecture are megalith peaks. Students on commuter bikes or athletes on mountain bikes whiz around the cities countless bike lanes. No matter where you are, a walk in the woods or a gondola up a mountain is only 15 minutes away.
Welcome to Innsbruck, Austria. It’s proclaimed itself Europe’s “Bike Capital” and it is a naturephile’s dream. It’s the capital of the Austrian province of Tyrol and the worlds biggest alpine city.
Innsbruck is a famous spot in the ski world. They’ve hosted the winter Olympics twice and boast 9 different ski-resorts accessible from town. But there is also a thriving summer sports scene in Innsbruck. Biking, hiking, and climbing all easily accessed from the town center.
Here are 10 suggestions for spectacular summer activities, to get you started researching your next outdoors holiday in Austria.
1. Summer Glacier Skiing In Stubai
That’s right. Our first suggestion isn’t even a summer sport. While most resorts shut down in April, Innsbruck works a bit differently. Snow is guaranteed from October to June only 45 minutes from town at Stubai Glacier. This year they’re finishing their season on the 10th of June. Even if you thought it might, spring skiing won’t even break the bank- a full day pass only costs €40.80 (roughly $45).
With 13 miles of pistes and promised “corn snow” all year round, Stubai Glacier is not only a novel ski holiday but a shockingly good one.
2. The Inntal High Trail
If you’re looking for a place to start a hut to hut hike, the intermediate level Inntal High Trail takes 6 days. It departs from the top of Patscherkofel Gondola which is visible from town. The gondola is only a 20-minute bus ride from the city center.
3. The Eagle Walk
If you want a bit more of a challenge, read up on the famous Eagle Walk. In full, it’s 250 miles and 33 days long. The mid-section of the walk passes Nordkette – only a short gondola from Innsbruck (seriously, the gondola starts in the city center). You can continue along the route about 124 miles each way from here.
From Innsbruck, you can break the Eagle Walk in half. Either walk all the way out to Kitzbuhel in the East, or Switzerland in the west. You can also hop on a bus back from one of the many towns the walk passes.
If you do decide to go hut hiking this summer, make sure you book your accommodation in advance. Huts and guesthouses do fill up over the summer. Turning up without a booking means you could be left out in your bivy bag!
To read up on all Tyrols Alpine Club refuge huts, check out Tyrol Tourism’s list here.
Notes on Hut to Hut hiking – In typical Austrian fashion, shed some pack weight and try hiking Hut to Hut. Austria’s alpine refuge huts are scattered throughout the Alps and offer you varying levels of comfort. If you’d like to, you can pack all your food, sleeping bags, and cookware and stay in a bare bones hut. Or if you’d prefer to pack light, some huts offer luxurious accommodation including multi-course meals, linens, and even hot showers.
No wild camping: In Austria, like many other parts of Europe, wild camping is illegal. If you set up an emergency bivouac you may stay for one night, but only in certain areas. If you ask a landowner they may allow you to camp but it is easier and better to just stay in the many alpine huts in the region. Locals do know a few spots, but if you absolutely must sleep in a tent I wouldn’t recommend risking it. Either stay in a campground or holiday somewhere more open to wild camping, like Norway.
Leaving from Innsbruck or nearby there are several beautiful multi-day treks. If you aren’t descending back to Innsbruck, they all offer a place to lay your head after a long hike.
You can find pre-planned routes, but with some extra work, you can also plan your own route through the Alps. Austria has a superb public transit network, so you don’t even need to make your trek into a loop. Take the through route and hop on a train back to Innsbruck when you finish.
Nobody can say no to a good walk. No matter your fitness level and ability level. Unfortunately camping in Austria is restricted, but if you’re not against staying in Alpine Refuges Tyrol has some of Europe’s finest walks.
4. Build Your Own Hike Up Hafelkar
If you aren’t interested in taking a hut to hut walk, you’ll likely be chasing a few great day trips. On the North side of Innsbruck looms the Nordkette. They’re an impressive collection of mountains topped with Hafelekar Peak, 7,657 ft. These mountains are within anyone’s reach using a cable car network leaving from the town center. You read that right, the gondola runs from the town center.
The Nordkette standing tall over the city of Innsbruck.The ride to the top has a few stops along the way, including Alpenzoo (showcasing alpine animals) and the town of Hungerberg. Hitt and Sohne Café in Hungerberg is a personal favorite of mine.
If you’re going to the summit, the walk from the town center takes about 4 hours. The walk from the last stop on the lift takes about 15 minutes. Save your knees and take the gondola to the bottom or take the local bus from Hungerberg.
Something Less Busy? Being accessible from town, Nordkette tends to be alive with tourists looking for an easy view. If that sounds too “on the beaten track”. The good news is Innsbruck has a lot of other great day hikes. You can either take a loop through the surrounding wilderness on any other side of the city or walk out and ride back on public transit.
The website kompass.de has a great interactive map for planning expeditions. Their shop in town is a good spot to buy your maps when you arrive. Below are 3 iconic Austrian day trips at varying levels of difficulty.
5. The Wolfsklamm Day Hike
(Easy, up to 3 hours) This is a refreshingly cool trip you can take on a hot day. It starts in the village of Stans, which is a 45-60 minute train journey from Innsbruck.
It’s an easy 1-2 mile hike following a flowing mountain river through a narrow canyon. At the mid-point of the hike, there is a monastery you can stop at for lunch, or you can pack your own food.
6. Reither Spitze Day Hike
(Moderate, up to 4 hours) This is a one-way high alpine walk that takes you to the summit of Seefielder Spitze, 7,287 ft. You should beat the tourists on the gondolas by starting early on the train to Seefeld in Tirol. You’ll catch a gondola most of the way up and spend most of your walk along a ridge line, working your way to the peak of Seefielder Spitze. From the top, you’ll get stunning views to Innsbruck over the villages below. Then you’ll take a gentle descent into the treeline to your bus back to Innsbruck.
As an alternative, you can skip the bulk of the descent and simply turn back after Seefielder Spitze to catch the gondola down.
7. The Schaflegerkogel Loop Day Hike
(Moderate to difficult, up to 7 hours) This is one of the nicest hikes in Tyrol, and its difficulty and size mean you’ll find few people walking on it. Unfortunately, without a car, you won’t be able to do this one.
The hike departs from the last parking lot on the road from the town of Grinzens. It follows along a ridge to 4 peaks (the last peak you summit, Schaflegerkogel, gives this hike its name). The walk offers phenomenal views along the mountaintops before descending into a lush valley.
There is an Austrian mountain refuge hut 30 minutes from the end of the hike. It’s great for some drinks and a quick rest before heading back to the car.
8. Rock Climbing on Nordkette
You can’t mention mountains without talking about climbing. Innsbruck is the mountaineering capital of Austria, and home to some of Europe’s best multi-pitch and single pitch sport routes (and a world-class indoor climbing gym of course!)
The Nordkette Climbing Arena is only 20 minutes from Seegrube station on the way up Nordkette and a great place to start your climbing holiday. There are roughly 40 routes here with grades ranging from 5.6 to 5.14d. The majority of the routes are single rope climbs equipped with top rope carabineers but there are also few sport climbs.
You can also check out Martinswand, just outside of town, for a lot of great multi-pitch climbs.
Traditional climbers will want to start planning your climbing trip with a browse on https://www.alpenvereinaktiv.com/en/. There are plenty of great faces, boulders, and crags only a short distance from the city or local transit stops.
9. Mountain Bike Safari
Innsbruck is a mecca for downhill biking. The town itself is flanked with over 10 separate ski resorts, which means in the summer there is no shortage of lift operated terrain.
The town is also great for bike touring, with 370 miles of mountain bike trails and 140 miles of single track. You can rent anything from a hard tail to an e-bike in town and head to the hills. Pick your perfect trail here, on Innsbruck cities interactive map.
If you love going fast and going downhill, look into Tyrol’s Mountain Bike Safari. It’s a 415 mile, 15 stage trail with 10,500 feet of elevation gain – half of which is serviced by lifts, so you’ll spend less time going up and more time flying down!
10. Bike Trail Tyrol
More into touring than downhill? You can try to bite off a piece (or all) of Bike Trail Tyrol. At 620 miles it is the longest trail in the Alps. With an elevation gain of 88,500 feet and 32 stages, it is arguably the best way to experience Tyrol’s faultless beauty. The trail doesn’t leave directly from Innsbruck but it is a loop and stage 24 starts close by.
Soak Up The City!
So this one might not be particularly outdoorsy, but the culture is a good way to finish talking about Austria. Innsbruck might be fantastic for hiking, biking, and climbing (and ski!) but we can’t discount a night in town after a long day on the trail. Practice the language, cozy up to locals, and enjoy the cities burgeoning music scene with a stein of Austrian beer (they make great wine too!)
Austria is one of the friendliest parts of the German-speaking world and it would be a shame to come here and miss out on that. And who knows, maybe the locals will share some activities that haven’t made it online just yet.